I’ve been reading the letters of the New Testament via bibleplan.org. Today I read Rom 2 and was blown away by verses 17-21. I’m so NOT a bible teacher but I can give a little context. Paul is writing to the church in Rome. See details in Romans chapter 1. He is laying out the sin problem we humans have and how none of us are immune.
Now when I read this, since I’m not Jewish, I substitute the word “Christ follower” in v 17
17 You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. 18 You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. 19 You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. 20 You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.
21 Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? 23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.” – New Living Translation
Again, I am not a bible teacher. I can just tell you what comes to mind when I read this:
- Hypocrisy is not a good thing.
- If you’re boasting about following all the rules, you darn well better be following all the rules without a slip up.
- There’s no possible way to perfectly follow all the rules so boasting automatically causes hypocrisy.
- So then, those who don’t follow Christ, see you and think bad things about God because of how you say one thing and do another.
OK, so that sucks. Fortunately, Paul, well Jesus really, lets us off the hook so to speak by the time he gets to Romans 5.
All this to say, do non-believers/followers in Christ (and/or our children) blaspheme God because of you me?
Something I read today stood out:
From 1 John 2:1-2 “…we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the one who turns aside God’s wrath, taking away our sins, and not only ours but also the sins of the whole world.” The whole world.
So why do some Christians demand change in non-believers’ actions? The actions aren’t the issue if you believe the above. We need to stop expecting non-followers of Jesus to “clean up their act”. ITS NOT OUR JOB. Instead, we (and when I say “we”, I mean “I”) might want to put more energy and resources toward introducing the whole world to Jesus who actually has the ability to make changes in others, if necessary and AS HE SEES FIT. I’m just sayin’.
Cool bible reading for me this morning out of 1 John 4 especially verses 18-21:
The Message phrases it this way…
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.
That last verse is my favorite. John Wesley’s commentary says this about verse 21(bold emphasis mine)…
And this commandment have we from him – Both God and Christ. That he who loveth God love his brother – Every one, whatever his opinions or mode of worship be, purely because he is the child, and bears the image, of God. Bigotry is properly the want of this pure and universal love. A bigot only loves those who embrace his opinions, and receive his way of worship; and he loves them for that, and not for Christ’s sake.
Is there anyone in your sphere of influence whom you show fear of God (not reverence, but the fear of punishment) as opposed to the love of God?
On my pastor’s recommendation last weekend, I decided to read through the book of Romans this week. I thought maybe it could help me get a handle on some things. Namely, why I lack the courage to receive good things from God like health, living freely, peace of mind. And, as I’m reading, a few things do jump out and that’s all fine. Then I get to Romans 6. The passages are familiar to me but always come across as “Therefore, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” The New American Standard translation says in Rom 6:4 “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” or from The Message “That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.”
Could my inability to easily embrace this newness of life be about baptism?
I was baptized as an infant. I was baptized as an adult when I first accepted Christ. I was not immersed in water. I was sprinkled with it. My old church did not do dunking until the next year. Long story. For the last 17 or so years, I lamented that I never got to have a “proper” baptism but didn’t feel I should get re-baptized just because I didn’t get what I wanted. My sprinkling was a public declaration of my faith and it was very meaningful to me then. Yet something is missing every time I hear about or participate in someone else’s baptism. And something is missing every time I read or hear this scripture. I can’t identify with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Would having a full immersion baptism finally fill in the gap after all these years? Would getting baptized again be just an exercise or would it solidify a sense of unity with Christ? For me its not about a public declaration anymore. A private baptism would be fine too, I think. Things I’m pondering with my church now as we prepare for our annual baptism celebration in August.
Thanks Paul for a “coincidental” post on having a relationship with Jesus vs. religion which was a theme this weekend at The Orchard. Scott related the story of Mary, Lazarus’ sister, who at one time sat at Jesus’ feet, hanging on his every word. Yet when Lazarus dies contrary to the message Jesus sends that his illness will not end in death, Mary is not the first to greet Jesus when he finally arrives 4 days after Lazarus dies. She stays in the house until Martha tells her Jesus is asking for her. She tears out of the house to meet Jesus and throws herself at his feet in agony–possibly anger?–and cries out “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Yet later she is the one who pours expensive perfume on his feet in blatant unashamed worship.
Definitely a woman with a genuine relationship with Jesus. An ebb and flow of devotion, doubt and worship. We see she did not have all the answers. And Jesus did not scold her for that. He was sympathetic and mourned with her even though he knew everything would turn out fine. She didn’t always do the politically correct thing either and was actually defended by Jesus, again not scolded. There is something freeing about reality. Scary too but most definitely freeing if you’re willing to go there.
Sorry, there’s lots of links to reference these stories. For the full scoop, check out the book of John in the bible, chapters 11 and 12.
Doug and I got to talking tonight about what constitutes spiritual growth and if there is a tangible yard stick. When someone tells you, “I just don’t feel like I’m growing” or something similar, what does that mean?
We got to wondering how people measure their own spiritual growth. Some of the things that came to mind…
- I am more like Christ today/this week/this year than I was yesterday/last week/last year–and what does “more like Christ” look like?
- I feel better about my walk with Christ
- I know more about God, I see God at work
- I pray more, I read the bible more, I understand more spiritual things, I’m serving/participating more, I give more financially
- I enjoy church more, I go to church more, I have more church friends than I used to
- I’m in a small group/bible study group
- My life has changed for the better: emotional healing, addiction recovery, greater ability to resist temptation, increased self esteem
- I’m not standing still
- I’m more loving than I used to be
What do you think?
Thanks to Michael for posting this video.