Freedom to Love
“A Call to Unity Before it is Too Late”
We live in a country that, for centuries, has had freedom of religion. We live in a country that, for years, was not susceptible to failure, minus failing from within. The Church had relevance, was effectual, and set the spiritual temperature of this great nation. The majority of people, even ones who did not claim Christ, still had respect for God and authority. America was far from perfect, and I could write a book about those imperfections, but America still had it’s respect. Even as flawed as America was, it had it’s principles that it “hung it’s hat on” – principles that made it great. Principles based on the belief that we ought to Love God and love each other. Even an infidel can appreciate the civil concept of “treating others as you would like to be treated.”
Fast forward. It’s 2016. Who has changed? Well, we know God hasn’t changed. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Sin hasn’t changed. Sinners have not changed. I can tell you who has changed: The Church.
Our Position hasn’t changed. We are still accepted in the beloved, just as saints of our nation’s early days were. Saints still receive eternal life and we are placed on the way to Heaven, with all our saved loved ones, set to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords for all of eternity.
Our Purpose hasn’t changed. We are still ordained by God to be like Christ and to live for eternal purpose (True Holiness).
Our Power Source is still the same. Be filled by the Holy Spirit by surrendering to God’s will and allowing Him to live through us.
So, what has changed? The once willing vessels are much less willing to be vessels. What has caused this? I can only provide some answers from my own life. I am guilty of some, have seen some, and have looked back through history for some. Maybe you have some of your own, feel free to comment. Some of these problems are too late to fix, some of them can change with a prayer of help to the Holy Spirit and then choosing to let Him reign! Without further ado, here we go.
1) The Church sacrificed it’s role to the government. Somewhere in our history, we got the idea that Christianity could be carried out by our government. This was a complete and total failure under Constantine and became a total failure in America as well. We let welfare become the government’s job. We allowed the government to define marriage (beginning with refusing to allow black folk and white folk to marry) to where, something that isn’t any of the government’s business, has been defined by them. If it truly is God’s definition, why are we allowing government to define it?
Suddenly, we were legislating charity and morality (in areas that were none of the government’s business). You can’t legislate charity or a person’s character. You can only enforce laws that protect the rights of all citizens as long as those rights do not impose on the physical well-being of others. As far as I can tell, this movement began in the late 1800s and by the 1970s, the Church was so unconcerned with reaching others, and showing love, that young adults were going to Woodstock, seeking love, instead of going to their own parents.
But, let me summarize, this concept with one example: You can’t get people to sacrifice freedom for “free stuff” if their friends, neighbors, and local church is lovingly providing for them. That said, very few people are going to ask for help when they are going to be looked down upon. It’s much easier to stand in line at the local welfare office, fill out paperwork for someone you don’t know, and receive money from an authority miles away, then to ask for help from someone who will then make you a topic of conversation at the next “People Fry”. “Do you believe how lazy they are? Get a freakin’ job for crying out loud!”
Help from the local level is superior. If it is done in love, people improve, they grow, they mature, because they are held accountable by people they know and interact with. However, if accountability turns to upturned, “holier than thou” noses, it becomes toxic.
Now, sadly, we willingly let the needy run somewhere else, we are glad to let the government take care of it, but at the same time, complain that those we refuse to help, run out and vote for more Big Government. Why, when I hear of Soup Kitchens and Homeless Shelters, actually being run by a Church, is it such a pleasant surprise? It should be normal. That’s who should be running them.
“Charge them that are rich in this world…”
The Church needs to get back to humbly loving and serving others, even those who politically, we don’t want to have patience for. Give to them, because we have, and the reason we have, is to help others, Church! I detest the government taking from me to give to others, not because I don’t want to see others helped, but because 1) they take their cut, 2) it’s not their job, and 3) they are robbing the Church of it’s blessings. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;” (I Timothy 6:17-18)
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” (Galatians 6:1-4)
2) We don’t let #1 happen if we don’t have #2: We do not see things as God sees them. The greatest mis-definitions I’ve found in Scripture, by men who love God, are the way they define Holiness and Worldly. I know how these mis-definitions affected me, and I believe, looking back, they have affected the entire Church the same way.
a) Worldly: If worldly is watching the music, fashion, and styles of the world and not doing it, then it is, of itself, worldly, by the Bible’s definition. Worldly means to be more concerned with the temporal than the eternal. By preaching against worldliness, we’ve made people more worldly. It’s like telling someone not to look at nakedness, by showing them a naked person. The Church has created worldliness by preaching a mis-definition of worldliness. Someone, with a straight face, tell me that the Church, over the last hundred years, hasn’t wasted a ridiculous amount of time on talking about the world instead of focusing on the One we are to pattern our lives after: The Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is worldly because it is guilty of making more of the world and it’s temporal issues than it makes of the Kingdom, and eternal things. I spent years of my life focused on trying to “not be worldly”-the whole time making myself worldly.
b) Holiness: If Holiness is cleaning up our lives so that we can serve Christ, we will never serve Christ. Our first clue? Liberty. Why do we have Liberty? To serve others in love. Liberty allows us to be filled by the HOLY SPIRIT. What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance:against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Holiness is not being clean enough to serve God – or something we achieve by being. Holiness is an attitude of surrender that leads to the Holy Spirit DOING THROUGH US. Holiness is surrendering to God, to be used for His purpose. I personally spent years “trying to be holy” while I let those who needed me to be “Christ to them” pass me by.”
Apathy and Fear have an easy excuse when Worldly and Holiness are misdefined in favor of a flesh that never wanted to serve God anyway. Our flesh enjoys being “able to do something” to serve God. Paul closes Galatians chapter five with “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” The flesh enjoys being able to rank itself against others by “I don’t do that, but they do!” When Church leaders fall, in America, Christians are often just as loud and happy to hear about it as the lost.
My first pastor said something to me, I’ll never forget. I had just been kicked out of Bible College for listening to Southern Gospel music, and after he was sure to let me know that he wasn’t condoning my rebellion, he said this: “There is a whole world out there, lost, dying, and going to Hell, without God – and we are busy fighting over Southern Gospel music. God help us.”
If we believe in Hell, and we believe in Heaven, ultimate suffering and ultimate reward, and that it is all based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ – then why are we wasting so much time on everything else? If you want to know what “Worldly” and “Unholy” is, THAT’S IT, RIGHT THERE.
Set your focus on eternal things! – “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
3) “If they aren’t against us, they are for us!” – In the words of Sho Baraka: “Sometimes I’m confused with who is my opposition. I think I heard cheers when I fumbled the ball, they claim they’re on our team but they are praying for our fall!” Better yet, the words of Jesus: “And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us:and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not:for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:38-42)
You know, if you’ve been around the Church at all in this generation, or the previous bunch, you’ve probably noticed something. We tend to like to categorize ourselves based on things that we were never told to categorize ourselves on. You know, aside from the Gospel, and the foundations of that Gospel, which can not be denied by someone who truly knows Christ (as in, His Lordship, His Virgin Birth, His Deity, His Part in the Godhead), there isn’t much to separate over in the Word of God. Yet, we have so many denominations, so many “flavors” of Christianity.
It’s not so much that we go to different places to worship on Sunday morning but that we refuse to fellowship and/or verbally attack each other over issues of little consequence and, usually, that are very gray in Scripture.
Example: Tim Tebow uses his platform to share the Gospel and some attack him because he plays football on Sunday. Forgetting, apparently, that Jesus placed our service to Him over any day of the week. Also, apparently forgetting, that MANY churches now, offer a Saturday night service for those who work on Sunday. You know, we can often point the finger long before we’ve looked at what the other possibilities are. Or they are upset he dates women who don’t share his same opinions on apparel or music. Hey, maybe they don’t see those secondary issues just the way we do. Instead of allowing Tim Tebow to live life for Christ, we stick his life under a microscope and make the Church look very small. We take issues that are local Church issues and put them on display for a lost world to see. Shame on us. Surprise Christian! Not every Church in America sees it like you and/or I do! “How dare Tim Tebow be good looking, successful, AND claim to be a Christian – but not fit my idea of what a Christian should be!”
The Bible is pretty clear. If someone is preaching the Gospel – leave them alone! As a parent, nothing grieves me more than to see my kids say hurtful things to each other, especially when it’s over things that have zero relevance to what our family is all about. They fight over issues that don’t even matter to our family’s goals and purposes. I can not imagine how it makes God feel to watch us fight over such irrelevance when He gave His life on the Cross to pay the sins of humanity.
As I have gone from Independent Baptist, to Southern Baptist, to Non-Denominational (with a history of Assembly of God), and as I currently attend an Independent Baptist Church (my Dad-in-laws)-I’ve learned that doctrine is pretty much the same in the areas of importance, in spite of what many would claim. I have friends who speak in tongues. I don’t understand it. But, they are some of the finest Christians I know. And though I am sure they exist, I have yet to meet the woman who speaks in tongues just to get attention. I know plenty of Christians (including myself) who only study the KJV. But, I’ve met an awful lot of Christians, who seem to have more love for God and others than me, who aren’t reading a KJV. Apparently, there is enough Truth, even in an NIV, for a Christian to mature to be like Christ. Shar and I currently go to a Church that does not share my appreciation for all types of music. That’s OK. When I’m there, we only sing or play music that is acceptable to the Church because we are not more important than the goals and mission of the Church. When I’m home, it’s a totally different story. We worship God loud and in the styles of music that personally cause us to meditate on His Truth and our worshipful to us (Shar and I are even different so we respect each other, as well). In short, none of us are more important than the Gospel and the eternally relevant Mission of the Church. Therefore, we have no business separating from other Christians, and speaking unnecessary, hateful, or even Truthful words, over issues that aren’t bigger than the Gospel and the eternally relevant Mission of the Church. We didn’t all grow up the same, we have all sorts of different backgrounds the viewpoints. But, we can unify behind the mission of the Church as it pertains to the commands of the Word of God!
As I have gone from Independent Baptist, to Southern Baptist, to Non-Denominational (with a history of Assembly of God)-I’ve learned that doctrine is pretty much the same, in spite of what many would claim. I’ve worshipped God in every Church I’ve ever been a part of.
Some great advice from a preacher named R.V. Stanley, that he told me a long time ago, but I haven’t always practiced: In the words of R. V. Stanley: “I ask myself three questions before I say anything: Is it True?, is it Helpful?, and is it Necessary? If it’s not all three, I try not to say it.” Don’t agree with your brother 100%? Ask yourself these three questions.
Christians, we have allowed ourselves to be legislated to irrelevance, “preached” ourselves to irrelevance, and argued our way to irrelevance.
The salt has clearly lost it’s savor.
How about we get back to loving and serving others, preaching the Gospel, and celebrating and fellowshipping over the Gospel – whoever is preaching it. Speak Life.
Love God, love others. Focus on the Kingdom.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” – John 13:34-35
We’ve been given Liberty, not to sin, but to serve one another in love. It was Bonhoeffer who said: “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” Surrender your faults and failures to the One who will live eternal purpose in you! Yes, you can trust Him, He loves you!