Legalism, joyless faith, persecution, and carts that get before their horses

How can God stand to witness the things that we find so disheartening, any more than we can?  How can He have watched the horrific things that we know to have happened in the history of this world?  I suppose to answer that, we could go to the example of Lazarus.  No one understood at the time, why Jesus took his jolly time getting there to prevent Lazarus from dying.  It seemed all so unnecessary for Lazarus to have died, when Jesus so easily could have prevented it.  But isn’t that the point; the fact that death is subject to Christ?  Isn’t that the lesson there?  Death has to give back what it takes, if Jesus commands it to.

It is so hard from our human perspective, to accept that there are workings taking place we know nothing of because they are invisible to us.  I don’t know about you, but I have to work extremely hard to maintain a perspective that keeps God in the forefront, and all else in order behind the fact of Him.  That sounds like a strange sentence, I suppose.  But He does tell us He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that were made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21) So, should we cease to glorify God in the face of things discouraging, and cease being thankful, does that open the door to “vain imaginations”, you know, all those pesky “what-ifs” we tend to conjure up?  I know that this passage has a much different application in regards to those who reject Him entirely, but does that preclude there being an application also for those who do follow Him?  Does doubt invite darkness?  I mean, without faith, it is impossible to please Him.  So, wouldn’t doubt be a move away from that which pleases Him?

It is normal for doubt to pop up, just like temptation to other things, but we have to extinguish them.  Immediately.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;  (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

“Every thought”, you say?  That doesn’t just apply to lust and covetousness?  How about anxious thoughts?  Worry?

Sometimes I just have so much on my mind and in my heart, that it is difficult for me to narrow it down to a single issue.  I get frustrated with myself for getting discouraged by what I see happening, because I do know that it is all going according to what Scripture warned us to expect.

We have seen a lot of copy devoted to the subject of judgment coming to America.  The reflexive response for many of us as we witness the sheer arrogance of our Supreme Court and President, is to run for cover.  Surely after what God did in the days of Noah, and at Sodom, wrath is coming.  The problem with that expectation is that we are living in the age of Grace at the moment.

Christians right now, myself included, find themselves asking why God doesn’t put a stop to this train wreck that is happening to our nation right now.  But now wait a minute.  Are we forgetting that scripture also says judgment begins in the house of the Lord?  What does that mean?  Does it mean that the shape this world is in right now is due to our own failure to be salt and light, and that before He deals with the reprobates in the Supreme Court, The White House, under the ISIS banner, etc., He is going to deal with the failures in the church?

It does amount to persecution for the Believer to be penalized by civil law, for refusing to disobey laws clearly set forth by God Himself. It sets up a conflict.  But if civil law never conflicted with God’s law, in times like these, what would differentiate to a lost world, the true sheep from the pretenders?  We can be upset that guys like the Pope and Todd Bentley and Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist fame, for “giving Christianity a bad name”, and we can be indignant because the arrogance of the Supreme Court threatens our freedom to worship and practice our faith, but in light of Hebrews 12:3-4, should we?  (For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.  He despised the shame of the cross, but He endured it for the joy that was set before Him)  In other words, on the other side of the cross, He knew that He would sit at the right hand of the throne of the Father. The self-righteous law-keepers who believed they were sinless, accused the one and only sinless man who ever lived, of breaking the law, and put Him on trial.  And we get indignant that the Supreme Court is infringing on our “right” to obey God without bringing down civil and/or federal recriminations on our heads?

Our own tribulation is only meant to perfect our faith.  Yesterday I reblogged a post from Jasper and Sardine, about ministers who were encouraging churches to raise the Christian flag above the American flag.  I think there is something to that!  I think we Christians got their patriotism and their Christianity all jumbled up together at some point, and well, that is definitely a cart before the horse situation.  We ought to vote, we ought to contact congress, because we can, (not that it makes much difference now), but we let that take the place of praying.  Beseeching God, who is the one who gives men their power.  We are conditioned to go “up the chain of command” but that is a man-made policy.  Jesus rent the veil, and we have direct access as Christians to the throne room.  But we become enamored so easily with human government.  “Self”-government.  And what we can do, our own busyness.  Busy busy world.  Running to and fro, increasing our knowledge, writing more books, improving and “evolving” our technology.  Wow. Yay us.

Professors are proud of their degrees.  Preachers are proud of theirs too.  And Christian do-gooders are proud of their good doings.  (But then, so are godless atheists and social justice proponents, whether religious or not).

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We aren’t sinners because we sin.  We sin because we are sinners.  We don’t make ourselves good by what we do, nor by what we abstain from doing. All our goodness is filthy rags. All means all, mister!  Whether we are saved or lost.


You heard me!

Legalism is self-condemning. That’s the irony.  The Law can only show us our utter inability to keep it.  It is a schoolmaster to show us our sinfulness.  It is a mirror.  Fundamentalists are proud that they keep the “old paths”, Holy Rollers are proud they speak in tongues.  Unitarians are proud they accept everyone and never speak of condemnation or hell.

I kind of get flack from some people sometimes, for my focus on the “negative” things of this world.  There is a whole religious movement in “Christianity” today, that says your thoughts are like magic, and will fulfill themselves in your life, so if you think only positive things, your life will be good.  That is a nice thought, but it’s a bunch of hooey.

Speaking just from a personal perspective, though, I see it as cheating for folks to turn a blind eye to the misfortunes and suffering that are a very real fact of life in this world, and then revel in their “positivity” and tell me that the reason they are so happy and carefree is because they don’t focus on the negative, and the reason I have health problems is probably because I think to much about the tragedies and problems in this world.  Lol.  The actual term for that is denial.  And so many professed Christians live that way.  They are no different from the world elites.  There is an arrogance in that attitude that is a stench to the nostrils of the unbeliever, and to God Himself.  Not to mention the Christian who lives with paraplegia, chronic pain, a Down Syndrome or autistic spectrum son or daughter, you get the idea.  That attitude makes as much sense to me as the uber-pious who respond to those surveys of Christian men who indicate that everything from an errant bra strap, to slacks on a woman, to peep toe shoes, troubles them with lust.  Seriously?  Ok, look, I admit that modesty is practically extinct, and I get that these things can be an issue, but from the results of those survey’s, you would think that the Birka is in order for all Christian women as well as for the Muslims, but there is one slight problem with that.  Since rape is as prevalent in cultures where women wear Birkas as anyplace else.  When asked how, exactly, slacks on a woman causes lustful thoughts, the answer is that, you know, it draws the eye to the crotch.  Yeah, so it’s okay for a man to wear an article of clothing that draws the eye there, but it is wrong for a woman?

Double standard.  Period.

The same goes for the professing Christian who is proud in his “separation” from the world because of all the things that he abstains from.  Let me tell you something.  I am a sinner.  When the world looks at the squeaky-clean church-goer, and says you’re no better than me, the world is right.  And I had rather sit among the foul-mouthed sinners who know they are not good, than the church folks who believe they are.  We are not good, and getting salvation through Jesus Christ doesn’t make us good.  To believe we are good is a misconception after we have been redeemed, just like it was before we were redeemed.  We are not good, we are just redeemed.  God pulled us out of the trash heap, and He has plans for us, but there was absolutely nothing about us that earned us the status of being one of the rescued.  It was only in confessing our sinful condition, our inability to redeem ourselves, and trusting Christ as redeemer, that we are set apart.  We don’t actually do the setting apart.  He does.

He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.  He was brought as a lamb for the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb (mute), so He opens not His mouth.  He was numbered with the transgressors.  (Isaiah 53: 7-12)

You know what?  I don’t like the idea of persecution either.  I am struggling with the fact that one huge part of the church seems to be all about the “good life”, while another is under the delusion they are going to conquer the world for Christ, and yet another seems to feel that they are keeping their garments clean all by their own efforts and maybe by their abstention from certain things, and staying away from lowbrow sinners, the ones who are sowing to the flesh and unrepentant and unapologetic, and wear pants and have tattoos and piercings.

Faith becomes joyless in religious legalism.  That was the problem of the religious Jews, and it is the problem of religious Christians as well.

The scriptures told us that the Kingdom of Heaven would harbor all kinds nestled in it’s branches.  It is God who separates the wheat from the chaff.  Humans can’t recognize the subtle difference, so He instructed us to let it all grow there together, and He will separate it on the threshing floor.

Well, what is the threshing floor if not persecution?

God often uses the ungodly to chastise His children, did you know that?  I’ve tried many times to live up to certain expectations placed on me by “the church” or Christian leaders.  Too often it is a false yoke.  The Scribes and Pharisees were experts at the false yoke.  But a lot of churches are pretty adept at it as well.

I don’t mind chastisement.  I would rather the Lord chastise me, than to go my own way to my own detriment.  It’s never fun, of course, to be chastised.  But you’re “none of His” if you’re never chastised.  Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth. If I am guilty of cynicism toward church experiences I have had, then may the Lord address that, but I refuse to pretend.  The Bible tells us we should “be of good cheer” because Christ has overcome the world.

You can have cheer, and joy, and peace in your heart, and not necessarily go around displaying that in the form of an ever-present smile for your facial expression.  Is it appropriate to be “cheerful and joyful” at a funeral?  Serious sin is being celebrated as virtue in our world today.  Is that a condition in which cheerfulness and joy are appropriate?  Are we not to mourn with those who mourn? Are there not Christian mothers and fathers who are losing their kids to the homosexual lifestyle?  Are the gays the enemy? NO, we wrestle not against flesh and blood!  Is that getting through?  How often does Satan persuade you to disdain the sinner? To be angry with the agents God put in your path to frustrate you because your attention is on the wrong things?

I embrace the treasures of God’s promises to His children in His Word.  I know that I have riches beyond measure, and blessings awaiting me that I can’t even begin to imagine.   But right now, we are coming to the end of the age of Grace.  I still have friends  who adamantly refuse to allow me to speak about that in their presence.  Professing Christians, I mean!  I am not about conviction.  That is way above my pay grade.  That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.  Both in the saved, and the unsaved.

God said I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God who shows mercy.  For the scripture says to Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show My power in you, and that My name might be declared throughout all the Earth.  Therefore has He mercy on whom He will, and whom He will, He hardens.

You will say then to me, why does He yet find fault?  For who has resisted His will?  Nay but O man, who are you that replies against God?  Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why have you made me thus?  Has not the potter power over the clay?  Of the same lump to make one vessel to honor and the other to dishonor?

What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessel of wrath fitted to destruction? And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had before prepared to glory? (See Romans 9).

When we remain steadfast in our faith in the face of persecution, our faith is “proven” to be genuine.  That strengthens our faith, it Glorifies the Lord, and it attracts the skeptics and doubters who would like to have something to believe in that is real and worth suffering and possibly even dying for.  We aren’t going to win over the lost by showing them how good we have it being a Christian. (Or how good we are “as” a Christian). The devil is the one offering that deal. Sorry to be so blunt and buzz-kill-ish.  But that is the truth.  There is no place in scripture where God promises a great, prosperous, successful, thriving life here in the Earthly realm.  It’s just not there.  Jesus promised us the world would hate us, because it hates Him.  So we are to go to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  What does that even mean?  Have you wondered?

Everyone in the world wants to be “in”.  They want to be “in the know”.  The want to be “in style”.  They want to be accepted in the clique, voted into the club, admitted into the Ivy League, yada ad nauseum.

Come out of her! (Babylon the Great- Revelation 18:4)

Go to Him outside the camp, (Hebrews 13:13)

Go out of the land of Egypt, the land of Pharaoh (Exodus)

Go out of Babylon (Jeremiah)

Go out of that city which will not receive you and shake off the dust of your feet (Luke)

Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. (Jesus in Luke 14)

Some day soon we are going out of this world. One way or the other.  For me, the sooner the better!  I know where I am headed and have no illusions about having earned it, and  no fears of having lost it. I got “passage” there secured by the King of Kings who cannot lie. It’s available to “whosoever will”. It’s what you might call a “done deal”. Because He is outside of time and I am hidden in Him.  Sounds mysterious, right? Only to those who won’t read the Book!  It’s all there in black and white (and red).

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