Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

What do you believe?

Martin Luther by Ferdinand Pauwels

Martin Luther by Ferdinand Pauwels

Tomorrow much of the world will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses, when a brave Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed a revolutionary document to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany (see http://www.luther.de/en/95thesen.html).   The document, consisting of 95 parts, denounced his church’s practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin, which ran contrary to Luther’s Bible-based belief that that salvation could be attained through faith and by God’s grace alone.  I call him brave, because Luther’s act put him at risk of excommunication and possibly even death.

When called before the Catholic Council (Reichstag) in the city of Worms and ordered to renounce the document, Luther refused, saying  the famous words, “Hier stehe ich. Ich kann kein anders.” (Here I stand.  I cannot do otherwise).   Rather than renouncing his 95 Theses,  Luther eventually renounced his monastic vows and married a former nun. His act of faith rocked the Catholic church and ultimately spawned what today is known as the Protestant Reformation.

What would you do if your Christian faith were challenged?  What if someone asked you about your Christian beliefs?  How would you reply? I’d like to think I’d be as brave as Luther, but in reality I probably wouldn’t. How many people are willing to risk everything for Christ? Recently, we’ve heard stories of Christians in Iraq and Syria identifying themselves to ISIS terrorists and being executed, rather than hide their Christian faith. How would you respond?

Have you ever really thought about what your Christian faith means to you?  Sure, you might recite the Apostle’s Creed or Nicene Creed at church every week, but did you ever really stop to think what those words mean?   I’m an Anglican.  My denomination, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), subscribes to three creeds:  the Nicene, Apostle’s, and Athanasian.  Unless you’re a relatively new Christian, you’re probably familiar with the first two, which are worded very similarly.  The Athanasian Creed is a bit harder to digest, as it  clearly discuss the three persons comprising the Holy Trinity, one of the most controversial tenets of the Christian faith.  It is accepted by many Western churches and often read at Trinity Sunday worship services in lieu of the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed.

I challenge you to set aside some quiet time and seriously consider the question, “What do I believe?” I can assure you that of the three great world religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the average Christians is the least well-equipped to answer this question.  Islam and Judaism emphasize reading and memorizing scriptures much more than does Christianity.

Here are a few things to consider if you accept the challenge.

  • The Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:19) – Do the words of the Bible or the Athanasian Creed’s take on the Trinity cause you to question your own beliefs?
  • Your Body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) – Do you treat your body as if it is the Temple of the Holy Spirit? (Think about what you put into it).
  • Divorce (Matthew 19) – Do you accept Jesus teaching on divorce? He opposes it.
  • Abortion (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5) – What are your beliefs about the early stages of life?
  • Gay Marriage (Romans 1) – What are your beliefs on gay marriage?
  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart (Mark 12:28-34) – Do you love God above everything else, or is something (addiction, idolatry) getting in the way?
  • Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-34) – Are you at peace with your neighbor?
  • Sin (Romans 7:14-25) – What is sin? Are you a sinner?                   

This is a tough challenge—not something you can think through in a few minutes. Matthew 9 tells the story of a man who is imploring Jesus to heal his young son, who has an unclean spirit (demon) plaguing him.  Jesus says to the man (ESV), “If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” I submit that most Christians who take the challenge will find themselves crying, “Help my unbelief!”

 “Today, many churches are taking God’s laws and saying, ‘These no longer are in effect.’ In Luther’s time the Church said, ‘You need to buy indulgences to be forgiven of your sin.’ Today, more than one church says, ‘Sin? What is sin?’” 

                                                                  Ken Klaus, Pastor Emeritus, The Lutheran Hour 

Back to Scripture: The Protestant Reformation and the Five Solas   https://www.christianheadlines.com/slideshows/back-to-scripture-the-protestant-reformation-and-the-five-solas.html

 

Winning Isn’t the Goal

Wrestling

“Defenders of the faith are inclined to be bitter until they learn to walk in the light of the Lord. When you have learned to walk in the light of the Lord, bitterness and contention are impossible.” —Oswald Chambers

If maintenance on a house is neglected for years, the house eventually becomes derelict.  Once a house has been neglected for too long, the owner is faced with two choices: save it by performing a costly renovation or simply demolish it and haul away the rubble.

Saving a house through renovation requires a sizeable investment of time, patience, and tender loving care—not to mention the monetary investment. Demolition, on the other hand, is the easiest path.  It simply requires that the house be vacated and demolished.  It is faster than renovation and usually much cheaper, but in the end there is no shelter remaining.

According to my unscientific observations, in many ways modern Christianity is like a house that has become derelict. The greatest threats to this house (the Church) come not from the outside, but from the inside where in many places the foundation is crumbling and the framework is rotting.  Just like a real house, repairing the damage the Church has suffered in recent years, much of it self-inflicted, will take a large amount of time, patience and tender loving care.  The Church today needs a major renovation.

Many Christians are disturbed, even outraged by social changes they perceive as threats to their religion.  Some of the most controversial perceived threats are the gay marriage movement, the “pro choice” abortion rights movement, prohibitions on prayer in public schools and prohibitions on the display of the Ten Commandments and other religious symbols on public property. There are many, many other examples, but these four seem to frequently make the news.

Some Christians have become activists against these perceived threats. While activism aimed at keeping the government from encroaching on the freedom of religion is certainly appropriate, Christians must be careful to follow in Christ’s footsteps and show love to those who disagree with them and even to those who might hate them!

Some Christian activists exude anger and hate, contrary to Christ’s teachings. In isolated instances, there has even been violence and threats of violence. Extreme examples of activism, like that displayed by the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, have made national headlines and are harmful to Christianity as a whole.  Members of this church have adopted a radical anti-gay stance that includes picketing funerals carrying signs declaring “God hates fags.”  The church’s website claims its members have participated in over 50 thousand pickets.

While the Westboro example is extreme, there are many other examples where Christian churches have become embroiled in nasty political battles. Rather than worrying about perceived threats from the outside, Christians would benefit more from focusing on the real threats from within the church.  Indeed, we see that much of the hate and anger exuded by some Christians today is directed towards fellow believers, as denominational infighting is ripping many mainstream denominations apart. How can we expect the lost to listen to us when they see the shameful behavior Christians display towards one another?  How can we hope to convince them we offer a better way?

In Revelation 2:3-4 (NIV), Jesus admonished the church in Ephesus for “having left your first love,” indicating the church needed to get back to the basics.  This ties in directly with Colossians 3:8 (NIV), where St. Paul tells us to put away anger, wrath, and malice; instead, he says in verse 12, we must, “…put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.”  This is the model Christ gave his followers through many examples in his own life; it is the model Christians should adhere to in our actions towards believers and nonbelievers alike.

Far from trying to overturn Roman rule, as many Jews had hoped he would, Jesus did not resist Rome’s temporal authority. When asked whether the Jews should pay taxes to Rome, Jesus replied, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21 NIV)

When interrogated by Pontius Pilate, the cruel Roman Governor of Judea, Jesus did not question Pilate’s authority.  Instead Jesus told the man who could release Him or order His crucifixion, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36 NIV) Afterwards, when addressing the Jewish leaders who had delivered Jesus to him to be crucified, Pilate said of Jesus, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:38 NIV)

Around 312 A.D, during the reign of Emperor Constantine, Rome recognized Christianity as a legal religion.   This remarkable feat, going from persecuted underground church to a legal religion recognized by the Empire, was accomplished not through violent revolution, but by years of adhering to the tenets of the faith while suffering terrible persecution.

It was not political activism that ultimately convinced Rome to accept Christianity, but perseverance and faithfulness to Christ’s teachings by the early Christians. The tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering displayed by Christians prevailed over Roman cruelty and oppression.

John 3:17 (NIV) tells us, “…God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Will the modern Christian Church continue to demolish itself from within or will it choose the more difficult path and renovate?  In the meantime, will the Church show hatred and cruelty towards those it disagrees with, or will it win them over in the manner that Christ commanded?

When you come across someone you disagree with, or someone whose behavior you condemn lying injured by the side of the road, what will you do?  Will you stop to give help or simply cross the road and pass by on the opposite side? Jesus answered this question in the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)

If we are commanded to so show so much concern for a stranger’s physical wellbeing, shouldn’t we care even more about his or her spiritual welfare?  Think about this the next time you become angered by something in our changing society or something in Christ’s Church.

Our time would be better spent repairing our own house than trying to demolish the house of our neighbor.  Remember that the kingdom we serve is not of this world (John 18:36).  Winning arguments with those we disagree with isn’t the goal of Christianity—the goal is winning souls for Christ.

Ephesians 5:2 (NIV) tells us,Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.”  If more Christians would focus on doing this, everything else would simply fall into place.