Christmas, A Cure for the Pain of the World

Defenses of Christmas aren’t much better than the attacks. Remember: cynics get intelligence, believers are good hearted, dimwits. Defending anything based on religion, such as Christmas, must rely on feeling and not intellect, says our culture. Christmas is good, because it is about family, as if family is an unmixed blessing for most people. Christmas is good, because it is about “belief,” especially in the spirit of Santa. Since Santa does not exist, and recent holiday movies demand we believe in him, this seems like a call to madness. Christmas is also supposed to be about the “child within,” but in a culture in dire need of grownups this seems dangerous as well. Jesus once said to be like a little child regard to humility, but irrational Christmas marketers aren’t saying that. Christmas seems to involve believing in the unbelievable in order to regress to childishness.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God and Man. If true, it is [a pivotal] moment of history. If false, it is useless. Best reason and best experience argue that it is true. My heart bears witness to His gentle Voice. My mind demands that I accept the truth of history. This moment when Heaven and Earth were brought together is the answer to the pain of our existence and that is the very problem with both cynicism about Christmas and most defenses of the holiday.

The cynics see a world of pain and embrace it. Chaos is basic to their vision of the world, but their very rationality denies this view. The defenders act as if platitudes can solve problems. Warm hearts are not enough against cold reality.

Christmas is for a world of pain. Christmas is good news, because it shows God comes down to Earth and saves us. Such news makes merry, but remains realistic. It is for sin, but about redemption. It denies nothing about human hurts, but does not rest content in them.

~John Mark Reynolds

Let’s Talk Bluntly About Race

This is convicting and encouraging and exhorting and more. It is a must-listen by Matt Chandler about Racial Reconciliation.

And Darrin Patrick brings together a diverse group of people to discuss racial issues:How should we respond to Ferguson?

 

A Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond? by Ed Stetzer

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/november/decision-in-ferguson-how-should-evangelicals-respond.html

“I think it is of utmost importance that all Christians, but specifically white evangelicals, talk a little less and listen a little more.”

We need to put our guard down, open up, and lean into this discussion so that we may learn, change, and most importantly display the light of the Gospel to the watching world.

Update 11/26/2014
Good thoughts from Thabiti Anyabwile – “Justice–that perfect justice ushered in by the Perfect Judge and Lord–will be final. When He comes it will be good news for those who love His appearing, and it will be eternally devastating news for those who love unrighteousness. His justice will not be blind; it will be perfectly informed, comprehending all the facts and all the intents of the heart. His blazing righteousness will be the undoing of everything corrupt and in His kingdom there will be no evil. I wait with panting for that Day. Until then, I labor with the faith and resolve that comes from knowing such a Day is coming and we’re called to live in light of it.”

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2014/11/26/why-i-believe-the-grand-jury-got-it-wrong-and-injustice-triumphed/

“both sides are living under their own separate stories but the way forward requires us to live into the same story.”

http://gracemosaic.org/2014/11/ferguson-a-way-forward

Thoughts on Ferguson by Voddie Baucham – “In the end, the best lesson my children can learn from Ferguson is not that they need to be on the lookout for white cops. It is far more important that I use this teachable moment to remind them that “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (). Moments before his death, Michael Brown had violently robbed a man in a store. A man doing the best he could to make a living. Minutes later, Brown reaped what he sowed, and was gunned down in the street. That is the sad truth.

My sons have far more to fear from making bad choices than they have to fear from the police. The overwhelming majority of police officers are decent people just trying to make a living. They are much more likely to help you than to harm you. A life of thuggery, however, is NEVER your friend. In the end, it will cost you . . . sometimes, it costs you everything.”

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/thoughts-on-ferguson

Update 12/1/2014

A response to Voddie Baucham by Alan Noble.

http://christandpopculture.com/sins-part-system-vice-versa-thoughts-voddie-bauchams-thoughts-ferguson/

 

But let’s remember: As Christians in this life, we walk in two worlds. Sometimes justice isn’t obvious. Justice is not always swift but it is sure. Jesus, the Son of David will administer justice and equity to all his people. The Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever.


Listen

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (ESV)

What Wondrous Love!

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside his crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.”

The Word Was “A God” ?

Much has been made by Jehovah’s Witnesses and other groups of the absence of the article in : “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was A God,” is the preferred translation of such cults. There are good grammatical reasons to reject this translation and interpretation, but Arthur Wainwright (The Trinity in the New Testament, currently in print from Wipf & Stock) provides some additional contextual reasons. He points out that “THEOS is used with or without the article indiscriminately in the New Testament. In the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel it never has the article except in and 2. In , and 18 it appears without the article” (p. 60).

So if the anarthrous form means “a God,” then, if one is interested in consistency, these other verses should also be translated as “a God.” Thus, John was a man “sent from a God” (v 6), and we become “children of a God” (v 12) through the will of “a God” (v 13). And “no one has seen a God at any time” (v. 18).

How does the New World Translation do? is translated, “There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of God: his name was John.” is, “However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God.” And is, “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him. ” In short, the translation of is, shall we say, something short of consistent.

Peter J Leithart.

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (ESV)

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (ESV)


Listen)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:12 (Listen)

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

John 1:13 (Listen

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:12 (Listen)

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

John 1:13 (Listen)

13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (ESV)


Listen

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (ESV)


Listen

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (ESV)

18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (ESV)

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (ESV)

Recommended Reading

We need a passion for Christ that cannot be quenched, a passion that is acted upon not merely fondly thought about and rooted for.

I am currently reading Dangerous: Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will. And while I am thinking hard about a passion for Christ and acting upon it, I read this:

There comes a point where you have to get tired of being inspired. We have entire industries that flourish on the idea of ‘inspiration.’ Songs to get you pumped up. Movies to make you feel heroic. Sappy Christian stories to ‘inspire’ you. At some point you have to get tired of reading books and watching movies about people who do interesting, courageous things, and begin to do those things yourself. Or let the dream die.

You need to read Dangerous by Caleb Bislow. It is, well, inspiring. He makes me want to go against the grain of conventional thought in missions.

Lots of praying to do.

And in our doing and acting on our passion for Christ (or Christ’s passion in us acting upon, in, and through us), as Christians, we need to know what other religious sects believe. Not everyone who claims Christ are true believers or claiming the true Christ – or denying Christ for that matter. With that said, we need to know what others believe. Here are three religious sects you should be aware of and know what they believe so you can share Jesus effectively.

Facts on the Mormons by John Ankerberg.

Facts on the jehovah’s Witnesses by John Ankerberg.

The Facts on Islam by John Ankerberg

Every so often I ask people questions. Not because I don’t have answers. I do have answers to these questions. But I like to get other people’s perspectives. Some answers are what I call Jesus Juke answers – you know the answers that spiritually trump all other answers – which drives me nuts. It’s like people don’t realize these other books and resources are good gifts of God through people writing books and resources to help, as well – so we can better prepare and think rightly about Scripture so we are prepared properly for the battle of engaging others for Christ. But I digress…

The first question I asked some friends:

1) What are your top 3 books that have helped you most in apologetics / sharing the Gospel to people?

Slightly different, although, very much related to my last question:

2) What books / resources have you used that prepared you to share the Gospel with specific people groups? (i.e. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc…)

I will share some of the answers I am given.

The Most Important Lessons Children Should Learn Before They’re Adults

1) That Children Would Fear the Lord


“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments….”


“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with >all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”


“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”


“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”


“The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”


“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”


“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm”


“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”


“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”


“then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”


“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”


“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”


“But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,”

 

2) That Children Would Love God and Others as They Love Themselves


“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”


“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”


“And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”


“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”


“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”


“‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

–39
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

–31
“‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”


“So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'”


“For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well …”

3) That Children Would “One Another” Others
Greet one another – , ; ;
Comfort one another –
Forgive one another –
Build one another up – ;
Serve one another –
Bear one another’s burdens –
Encourage one another –
Meet with one another –
Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving toward one another – ;
Receive (welcome) one another as Christ received us –
Care for one another –
Minister one to another –
Show hospitality to one another –
Pray for one another –

 

And I pray we adults may learn these, too.


Listen

that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (ESV)


Listen

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (ESV)

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (ESV)


Listen

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (ESV)


Listen

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
is riches and honor and life. (ESV)


Listen

33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor. (ESV)


Listen

23 The fear of the Lord leads to life,
and whoever has it rests satisfied;
he will not be visited by harm. (ESV)


Listen

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever! (ESV)


Listen

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. (ESV)


Listen

then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God. (ESV)


Listen

27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death. (ESV)


Listen

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (ESV)


Listen

17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children, (ESV)


Listen

30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (ESV)


Listen

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (ESV)


Listen

27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)


Listen

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (ESV)

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (ESV)


Listen

18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (ESV)


Listen

19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)


Listen

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (ESV)


Listen

30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (ESV)


Listen

27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)


Listen

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)


Listen

14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (ESV)


Listen

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (ESV)

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. (ESV)

20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (ESV)


Listen

12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. (ESV)


Listen

14 Greet one another with the kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (ESV)


Listen

18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (ESV)

13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (ESV)


Listen

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (ESV)

11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (ESV)


Listen

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (ESV)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (ESV)

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (ESV)

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (ESV)

32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV)

10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (ESV)


Listen

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (ESV)


Listen

25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (ESV)


Listen

10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: (ESV)


Listen

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (ESV)

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (ESV)

Top 10 Books to Read for 2014

I’ve made a list of books I want to read for 2014.

  1. Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul’s Religion (Classic Reprint) by James S. Stewart
  2. Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study by Constantine R. Campbell
  3. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher J. H. Wright
  4. The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist by Craig Groeschel
  5. Calvin’s Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension by Julie Canlis
  6. The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology) by G. K. Beale
  7. The Priesthood of Christ by John Owen
  8. The Doctrine of Jesus Christ by T.F. Torrance
  9. Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons by T.F. Torrance
  10. Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction by Michael F. Bird

Rule Keeping in a City of Elder Brothers

I live in a very Elder Brother kind of city.

Sure, there are ever-growing pockets of Younger Brother elements here, though.

But for the moment, my focus is this Elder Brother element.

I am, of course, reflecting on the parable of the two sons in .

Much of the focus people have on this passage is on the Younger Brother. Rightly so, mind you, but it’s not the whole of the focus we should have.

It should be obvious the Younger Brother was only after the Father’s stuff. He wasn’t interested in the Father himself (v.12). The Younger Brother threw off all of the Father’s rules in order to gain the Father’s stuff. But notice the Father was gracious, merciful, and loving to the Younger Brother, in that, the Father came out to meet the Younger Brother (v. 20). The Father loved the Younger Brother and entreated him to come.

What might be less obvious: the Elder Brother did the same thing only in the opposite way. The Elder Brother kept all of the Father’s rules in order that he might get his Father’s stuff (v. 29). However, the Father came out to the Elder Brother to entreat him to come (v. 28).

The Father is Good to His sons.

The point I want to bring out: Rule keeping does not necessarily equal true spirituality or true Christ-likeness.

Forcing others to keep rules for the sake of rule-keeping does not discipleship make.

Forcing others to keep rules does not heal those who are hurting. Forcing others to keep rules does not settle a trouble heart. It does not remove fear.

In fact, since rule-keeping is performance-based, fear of man will be heightened. It does not produce the fear of God.

The song, Start Over says,

“To the broken hearted that wished that they’d never been born, never been torn, never sinned, never disobeyed, I know you think there’s no hope, but that ain’t true, I know you feelin’ regret
(Like I) brought this all on myself
(Like I) messed it up big time, and this time I don’t deserve God’s help
(Thinking) how can God forgive me after knowin’ what I did (can He?)
After knowin’ that I hid from Him, and I stayed away and backslid
Jesus came for the sick (so true)
Jesus came for the weak (amen)
Jesus came to give good news and have set the captives free (amen)
Jesus came for the poor (amen)
Jesus came with the keys
Jesus came to remove the chains so the prisoners are released.

Rule keeping does not do this. It binds prisoners to what other people expect them to do. And when the rules are broken or not lived up to, shame and guilt rule.

Hurting people do not need rules. They need the Savior. They need Jesus.

What do I mean by all of this?

South Carolina, but more specifically, Greenville is supposedly the buckle of the Bible Belt. But Greenville has become a city of Elder Brothers.

Don’t get me wrong, there are loving, kind, generous, gracious, Christ-like people here who reach out to those in need.

These Christ-like individuals are the exception, not the rule.

As a result of this Christian bubble, or better stated, Moralist Bubble, aka Elder Brother Bubble, we have failed to transform our culture.

Case in point: South Carolina has been ranked number one in domestic violence, more specifically men killing women. In the nation. Again.

Not to mention the number of sex offenders.

“See, His love is deeper than the ocean floor
Run to His arms like an open door
God the Father sent the Son
So men can come and be free and ain’t gotta run no more
Come to me, all who are weary; with heavy burdens, I’ll give you rest
Separated you from the sin, as far as the east is from the west
Thrown in the sea of forgetfulness
What sin? What offense?
And when them waves come crashing in, I’ll calm the winds in your defense
So, whatever it is that you’ve done
He put that punishment on His Son
You’ll never come under His condemnation… Satan and his accusations
So, dry your eyes, lift up your head
Hallelujah! God is not dead!
Plus He gave us His peace, and He took our guilt on the cross instead
Took our place and now we embrace
A clean slate with the eyes of faith
We know unfailing love, unfailing love, it’s not too late, start over.”

We don’t need more rule keeping and putting people on probation which is unwaveringly inept and powerless to change lives. We need the cross.

15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (ESV)