Just Do It! (Research Paper for Practical Christian Theology, Crown College – MN, 2015)

09/07/2015 § Leave a comment

The mission of Nike, Inc., a renowned international athletic shoe and apparel company, is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world,” and they quickly add, “if you have a body, you are an athlete” (Nike, n.d.). Nike started from humble beginnings where employees were selling shoes out of their cars to become the world’s leader with global revenues of over $27 billion (U.S.) dollars (Statista, 2015).

The name “Nike,” originating from the Greek goddess of the same name standing for “victory,” (Wikipedia, n.d.) has been around for over forty years, and over that time it has defined and redefined the sports fitness industry, but not without its own missteps. It misjudged the popularity of the aerobics and fitness movement in the mid 1980s and veered off into the casual shoe market. Its growth also outpaced its management and effective decision-making (Willigan, 1992), and it had slipped from its position as the top-selling shoe (Taube, 2003). To reverse this trend, Nike hired Weiden+Kennedy, a well-known advertising agency, and they came up with the one of the top slogans of the 20th Century, “Just Do It” (Wikipedia, n.d.), which made its debut for the company in 1988. The words “just do it” propelled Nike’s popularity to its top position in the industry. Three years after the debut of “Just Do It,” the company had tripled its revenue to over $3 billion dollars, and has not looked back since (Willigan, 1992).

“Just do it” may be a catchy slogan with staying power, but it is the language of today’s lifestyle to spur people to get up and move. It is associated with good health, getting and staying in shape, and remaining active in all parts of life. This also has application within our faith.

Consider that the words “just do it” for Jesus Christ reflect a healthy relationship in service for Him. James expresses this very clearly as he addressed believers in Christ with the importance of a working faith:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 ESV)

A servant of Jesus Christ absolutely needs to live under the premise of “just do it” in order to live as Christ provided His life as an example for us. We are to live as servants of Christ in a world where servanthood is more of the exception than the rule. We live in a world where many have adopted “an independent, self-sufficient, survival-of-the-fittest mentality” (Swindoll, 1981). God has called us to be distinct in a positive way in the world, and to make a difference. The difference is living the “just do it” way as Jesus did:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life-—a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Jesus provided a demonstration of what it is to be a servant by washing the feet of the apostles. He provided an explanation for them when He was finished:

When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:12-17).

Jesus showed them the power of servanthood, which is the essence of living a Christlike existence. To be in service for Christ is to live for Christ. He assures those who are living for Him that He will always be present in whatever is being done in His name:

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26 ESV)

You can see how “just do it” can be a launching point for a person who is eager to serve Jesus Christ. Being a servant requires a willingness to do it and it takes practice to begin to master it. But what if you don’t know where to begin this process? In this instance, the best place to begin is the beginning.

  1. Just do it (now)!

Being a servant begins with a willingness to do something that will bring a positive change in someone’s life. It does not necessarily require that you need to use any special talent or ability. It may be moving furniture to reorganize a room or to help someone move from an apartment to a new home. It may be standing at the church doorway and greeting people while handing out the week’s church bulletin. Sometimes, it means buying a meal or even some groceries for a family who is in need. In a world where people are more often self-focused then not, the ability to step out and simply do something for someone is refreshingly distinctive. It’s the beginning step in a life of servanthood.

  1. Just do it without expecting anything in return

There is a way to treat people, and being a servant is no exception to this. A servant in Christ is to live in such a way that it is natural to do the right thing for someone, and to not expect anything in return or create a burden of obligation for the other person.

The essence of “doing what is right” is the foundation of what Jesus Christ represents:

Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—-this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 HCSB)

The ways of the world normally see acts of compassion with suspicion. For some people, it is difficult to accept a person’s help because it is a societal norm that the help is to be reciprocated. As a servant of Jesus Christ, your acts of service are performed with a heart for Jesus and without any need or expectation for the person to do anything in return. The moment that the burden of returning the favor is left in place, that is when Christ’s presence is less visible, and when He is less likely to be glorified as you serve. We serve Christ freely and without any burden for ourselves and for others. People need to see the light and airy love of Christ in everything that you do in service for Him:

“Come to Me (Jesus), all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB)

Our service for Christ, as we develop our heart for service, should also be an expression of what it is to live a life of freedom for Him (John 8:36).

  1. Just do it…and put some heart into it!

A servant for Christ not only demonstrates the example of Christlike behavior to others, but also learns the perspective of servanthood with the heart and mind of Jesus. As you learn more about Jesus through His Word and live in obedience to Him, He will most certainly transform you as you live as His example before others. Being refreshingly distinctive from the world means being set apart in a positive way. People will see your heart for Christ in what you do. “To be set apart involves changing from your old self to not only become a new creature, but a creature that becomes more and more Christ-like every day” (Gaines, 2015).

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 HCSB)

Swindoll notes that a servant for Christ must change to avoid the world’s reasoning and conform to the thoughts of Jesus:

“How? By a radical transformation within. By a renewed thought pattern that demonstrates authentic godlikeness. Living differently begins with thinking differently” (Swindoll, 1981).

Living for Christ in this renewed mind will allow you to see the compassion of Christ in everything that you do for others.

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” (Luke 7:11-16 ESV)

Your servanthood with a heart for Jesus will be seen by people who don’t know Him personally as a wonderful introduction (and perhaps an invitation) to who He is. A servant for Christ truly is a light in a very dark world:

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 HCSB)

Chuck Swindoll noted that the opportunities to reach the lost, through servanthood, are limitless, and in your service, you personally receive joy in your accomplishments through your fellowship with Jesus Christ:

“In every town, every neighborhood, and on every block there are lonely and sometimes unlovely men and women who need to experience the love of Jesus. In every city there are children who have never known a gentle touch or a loving smile.” “There are acts of love and mercy that God has already prepared for you, so that you might share in His joy–so that you might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Swindoll, 1981).

A life of servanthood for Jesus Christ is a life that embodies ministry in fulfillment of His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Your obedience and faithfulness to Him will be a witness for Him in everything that you do. Now, all that you need to do is “just do it.”

 

References

Mission of Nike, Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2015, from About Nike website: http://about.nike.com/

Statistics and facts on Nike (2015). Retrieved July 18, 2015 from Statista.com website: http://www.statista.com/topics/1243/nike/

Nike – Mythology (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nike_(mythology)

Willigan, G. (1992). Article – High-performance marketing: an interview with Nike’s Phil Knight. Harvard business review, July-August 1992 Issue. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from HBR.org website: https://hbr.org/1992/07/high-performance-marketing-an-interview-with-nikes-phil-knight

Taube, A. (2013). 25 Nike ads that shaped the brand’s history. Business insider inc. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from businessinsider.com website: http://www.businessinsider.com/25-nike-ads-that-shaped-the-brands-history-2013-8?op=1

Nike, Inc. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nike,_Inc.

Swindoll, C. (1981). Improving your serve. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN.

Gaines, M. (2015). Message – Set apart for a purpose. Akron Alliance Fellowship Church. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from akronalliance.org: http://akronalliance.org/2015/01/11/set-apart-for-a-purpose/

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The Ferguson Decision Goes Deeper Than We Care To Go

11/26/2014 § 1 Comment

The St. Louis County Grand Jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department, who is Caucasian, for the shooting death of Michael Brown, who was a young African-American, was not surprising to me at all. I’m confident that the rule of law (a term that was used a lot in reviewing this case) was upheld in the review of the evidence. I’m also not surprised by the variety of responses to the decision. Some were in favor of no indictment, while others wanted to see Wilson tried as a criminal. Those that believe an injustice has taken place will take the streets in protest and even overturn cars, burn down buildings, and steal from people who are not even involved in the case or the decision. Of course, the response to the response will largely condemn such behavior, but it does little to address the real issue. If anything, rioting creates a greater divide of the races and establishes imposing boundaries that surround any future dialogue about race.

This is true for evangelicals, as well. Ed Stetzer’s blog post about this issue is absolutely worth reading (I reposted it on my blog) because it does strike at the core of the deep-seated issues of race that go back to the days of slavery and the entrenchment of mistrust between the races throughout American history. Stetzer is right that evangelicals should not jump the gun and merely condemn the violence that comes from this decision. He’s also right that people do need to talk less and listen more to blacks about their own experiences. There is a need for unity within the body of Christ and we are to reach out to others to hear the other side of America from a largely oppressed and misunderstood race.

But once people do these very things, which can and will create greater understanding, what comes next?

These messages are certainly helpful and are meant to be an encouragement to evangelicals and to anyone who wants to gain understanding, but I also think it’s too much to ask people to completely ignore the bad behaviors or foolishness in the aftermath of the grand jury decision that create even more conflict, and yet require someone to have a dialogue about race. The vast majority of people, regardless of race, do not think it is appropriate to trash cars or neighborhoods to get attention. In fact, racial conflicts have often perpetrated the excuse for mobs to steal from others in some sort of Robin Hood-like entitlement. This has nothing to do with race, or even anarchy. This has everything to do with unrighteous justification of a philosophy–it is all about personal sin. Even during the Civil Rights Movement, arguably the most volatile time of unrest within this country, the overall message perpetrated by Martin Luther King and other leaders was non-violent protest, even in the face of the most extreme racial hatred and bigotry. I would not advocate for people to dialogue with those who blatantly sin and use justification for doing so. It won’t work because they won’t listen anyway.  It certainly didn’t work during the Hough riots in Cleveland or the Watts riots in Los Angeles in the Sixties. All it did was irreparably harm innocent people and destroy neighborhoods. Neighborhood rioting didn’t solve any problems about race, and it won’t do it in Ferguson, either. We need to find the right audience for such a dialogue.  That is the challenge for all people in this discussion, and especially for the evangelicals.

Truthfully, we don’t want to talk about sin in this discussion. We won’t even talk about it as we should among ourselves.  We can readily point to others about their behaviors but we fail to acknowledge our own sinful behavior. We certainly won’t see it or bring it up in the media. We barely cover it within the walls of the church. Can we be honest about what creates the racial divide and start with our own sin?  Our own need to be humble before God?  Our own need for repentance?

Has their been injustice perpetrated by whites over blacks throughout history? Absolutely. Has there been white collar crime? Of course. Has there been black-on-black crime? Undoubtedly. Have people been swindled of their life savings?  Have people been treated unfairly and suffered loss?  Life is filled with injustices. God addresses these and all such injustice perpetrated by any man or woman, and it’s all the same to Him–it’s all sinful behavior:

But we know that the law is good, provided one uses it legitimately.  We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching based on the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:8-11 HCSB)

And this is the area that needs to be addressed after all of the dialogue takes place–the acknowledgment of sin. As tragic as the Michael Brown case is, Michael Brown was far from innocent. If anyone is being brutally honest about this case, the tragedy is not the perception of injustice from the lack of an indictment. It is the loss of a young man’s life who was clearly not following the Lord.

There is certainly a need for overall sensitivity to what is going on (and not merely brushing this off as not affecting someone who doesn’t live in Missouri), but in my opinion there should be a greater call for moral accountability for everyone involved. This needs to happen with the police, and it also needs to happen with the people they are sworn to protect. The concept of mistrust is well earned on both sides, because crime is rampant and because police have struggled with public anger and even within their own ranks of those who lawlessly exercise too much authority. All of this is rooted in selfishness, which is the foundation for all sinful behavior. Rather than pointing fingers at the races, can someone take a stand for righteousness?  It starts with one person.  Can it begin with you?

The people in Ferguson (or anywhere else) don’t get a pass on this issue if they choose to ignore the truth about Michael Brown’s case. There is seldom a good outcome for a person who willfully commits sin–there will eventually be a consequence. Full blown sin can indeed lead to death (James 1:15).  I believe that once we see people begin the effort to really address these issues personally and within the family unit, which means going back to the basics, we will begin to see a like-minded approach to unity and reconciliation between the races. The evangelicals need to take the lead in these discussions.  Let’s not treat sin as the third rail to avoid in such dialogue. It’s too late for Michael Brown, but it’s not too late for those who humble themselves before Jesus Christ and seek his truth, wisdom and knowledge. We all have a responsibility to seek Christ and children of all races to raise and bring up in the right way under His guidance.

I’m thankful that we have a Savior that gives us everything that we need, including mercy and grace, to forgive me for my sin and to help me when I need it most. That is what everyone needs to talk about. That’s how we need to go deeper than just talking about race.

The Wayward Child

10/14/2013 § Leave a comment

As an adult with children, I always wanted the best for each of them as they grew up, and I often imagined how life would be for them once they became adults.  All loving parents want to see our children succeed in their education, and once they get older, their careers and even finding the perfect spouse.  Each of these are significant life milestones, and in all of them, it is our hope that our children look to the Lord in all of their life choices and decisions.  That is easily the most gratifying result that we want to see from our children…living a life that is holy and pleasing to God.

Proverbs 22:6

Teach a youth about the way he should go;

even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Unfortunately, the challenge that parents of a Christian household often face with their children is far from what they envisioned when they raised them with the instruction of what it is to follow Jesus Christ.  At one point, it appeared that a son or daughter was obedient and responsive to the instruction, but one day, something must have happened where the tide had turned.  The turn occurs because our children possess the very same thing that we possess…free will.  They have the ability to make choices, both good and bad ones, in the same way we do.   We remember how we came up over the years and the choices that we made, and we don’t want our children to make the same mistakes.  Our prayers have been, and will continue to be, that our children’s good choices will far outweigh the bad ones, and that the bad ones will not be as costly to them.  The proverb of teaching the child is true…the child doesn’t forget what they have learned.  It is not just your desire, but also God’s desire for the child to remember what was learned, to understand it, and to make the decision to completely live for Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:16

And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

What a blessing it is when our child, who is obedient to the Lord, grows with this same philosophy as an adult!  When our child veers into a different direction–one that is contrary to living a Christlike existence, we are deeply affected because it leaves the parents with feelings of helplessness, and even regrets that perhaps something could have been done differently that would somehow have made the child behave differently.  The reality is that a child raised in a Christlike household may or may not follow that same teaching as an adult, and parents will beat themselves up with regret and blame that doesn’t change the behavior.  This message is about those children who keep parents up at night.  In moments like this, it is very important to  remember God’s love and grace, and look at ways to manage our interaction with the wayward child.

First, before you interact with your child, you need to examine your own behavior.  You cannot effectively minister to other people, let alone your child, unless you are paying very close attention to your level of obedience to Jesus Christ.  You need to go through a self-examination of your life and your attitude.  This allows you to truly listen to what the Spirit is saying to you and be aware of the leanings of the Spirit.  It starts with the most important commandments as noted by Jesus Christ:

Matthew 22:34-40

34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command.

39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

In order to love your wayward child (and you do love the child even though there are times when you are disappointed or angered by his or her behavior), you need to draw upon the basic principles of your faith in Jesus Christ–loving the Lord with all of your heart, soul and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself.  Both of these commands of Jesus Christ have a profound effect upon your life and the consistency of your behavior.  Others, who observe your behavior, and especially your child will see your love for God.  What is the one thing that you do that can have an adverse effect on your child and how he or she responds to you?  It’s your inconsistent behavior.  As a prime example, you can’t address the sin of another person without addressing your own sin.

Matthew 7:1-5

1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Let’s look at the context of this verse when coupled with the second great commandment that Jesus mentions in Matthew 22:39 (Love your neighbor as yourself) with where He draws it from in Leviticus 19:

Leviticus 19:9-18

9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap to the very edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 You must not strip your vineyard bare or gather its fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the foreign resident; I am Yahweh your God.

11 “You must not steal. You must not act deceptively or lie to one another. 12 You must not swear falsely by My name, profaning the name of your God; I am Yahweh.

13 “You must not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages due a hired hand must not remain with you until morning. 14 You must not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you are to fear your God; I am Yahweh.

15 “You must not act unjustly when deciding a case. Do not be partial to the poor or give preference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly. 16 You must not go about spreading slander among your people; you must not jeopardize your neighbor’s life; I am Yahweh.

17 “You must not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. 18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

This part of the message is very important when it comes to the nature of developing a loving and consistent interpersonal relationship with your child.  God’s love is always to be the foundation of your interaction with anyone, let alone your child.  You must remove any hint of hatred or animosity in your dealings with your wayward child, for it is when they see your love and concern it paves the way for your ability to minister to them in the truth of God’s Word when the Spirit provides the opportunity to do so.  Your sin and transgressions that God commanded the people of Israel not to do in Leviticus 19 can block your ministry to the child and show you as less credible in their eyes.

Hebrews 10:22

…let us draw near (to Jesus Christ) with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

Another important point to consider here in this relationship is to take the focus off of yourself, which essentially means you need to give yourself a break.  What does this mean?

1.  Acknowledge that you did the best you could as a parent.  You weren’t perfect, but you presented the gospel message to your child, and they heard what was necessary for them to effectively discern right from wrong.  There’s no good energy spent in regret over the past or what might have been.

2.  Acknowledge that you can’t control their behavior.  The choices the child makes are on the child alone, and not you.

When you decide that you did everything you could as a parent and that you can’t do anything about your child’s behavior, it comes down to taking the humble approach and doing the most important thing that you can do for your child…prayer.  Your communication to God is the natural response when God communicates with you through His Word and through His Spirit.  Your prayers make a difficult situation bearable and put your faith and trust in God in action.  He hears your prayers in the midst of your affliction and provides, first and foremost, peace to your soul and rest for your body.

Psalm 31:7-8

7 I will rejoice and be glad in Your faithful love

because You have seen my affliction.

You have known the troubles of my life

8 and have not handed me over to the enemy.

You have set my feet in a spacious place.

Matthew 11:28-29

28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.

Isaiah 40:30-31

30 Youths may faint and grow weary,

and young men stumble and fall,

31 but those who trust in the Lord

will renew their strength;

they will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary;

they will walk and not faint.

James 1:5

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

This endeavor is not a sprint…it is a marathon.  Your in it for the long haul because you want the best for your child, and you don’t know or when God is going to reach your child to change the behaviors and, eventually, the outcome.  This will always be part of God’s mysterious ways that He draws people near to Himself, but always remember that He loves your child more than you ever could, and He wants the very best for all of us.

Jeremiah 29:10-11

10 For this is what the Lord says: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

I deliberately included verse 10 here to show that even as God has plans for our hope in the future, we need to remember that our time and God’s timing can be much different.  In our prayers, we can certainly pray for change, but we must respect God’s timing in everything, including how He acts as a change agent for our wayward child.

An important aspect of your ministry to your wayward child is how you interact with your child.  No matter how you feel about what he or she is doing, you are to always show yourself to be open for the child to come home or to have social time.  You don’t condone their sin, and you establish ground rules as to behavior if the child is there for a period of time, but they should always see the love of Christ in you when they look at you.  Love the child in the midst of your disappointment.  This is admittedly tough to do, but with God’s help, you can do it, and you can shine for Christ while doing it.  You are to regard your child in the same way God sees you (1 Samuel 16:7b – “Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”).

Understandably, your ongoing prayers for help and guidance in maintaining the proper attitude will go a long way in this area.  Pray for the right words and the boldness to remain steadfast in righteousness.

Proverbs 16:7

When a man’s ways please the Lord,

He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

In the same way that you are looking for the right words to say, keep your communication open with your child.  Send emails and texts to keep in touch when you can (texts are brief, while emails will have more substance).  Take an interest in the things that interest them (as long as they are not contrary to living for Christ).  Have lunch or dinner with them, and keep the conversation as light as possible.  All of this is to build upon your relationship.  Even though this is your child, it is still an adult-adult communication that is taking place.  Keep your focus on the love of Christ throughout your communication, and keep the lines open, free and clear.

All of this effort is to keep the focus on the saving grace and love of Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:16

And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

John 10:7-10

7 So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

In order for you to keep the door open for the child to enter the door for Christ, you have to provide the path for the child to pursue Him at the appointed time.  We have the blessed assurance that Jesus Christ will welcome your wayward child at a moment’s notice.  That day will indeed be a day of praise and thanksgiving.  Keep your child before the Lord and bathe the matter in prayer, but remember to seek Him with righteousness in everything that you do, and God will hear your appeals.

Psalm 34:17-18

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,

and delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near the brokenhearted;

He saves those crushed in spirit.

Proverbs 15:29-30

29 The Lord is far from the wicked,

but He hears the prayer of the righteous.

30 Bright eyes cheer the heart;

good news strengthens the bones.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

“No One Can Judge Me” – A Christian Cop Out

10/09/2010 § Leave a comment

Living the Christian lifestyle is hardly an easy task—in fact, it is very difficult to get it right some of the time, and it is almost impossible to go from day to day without stumbling under a transgression or two.  That being said, it is easy to overcome these difficulties as God has made the permanent provision for forgiveness of sin through a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  As we exercise our free will, our declaration of faith keeps us in a healthy fellowship with God.

We also, in contrast, can make the conscious decision to live a life that dances on the edge of fellowship with God—somewhere between sincere repentance on an occasional basis (most likely when things are not going well in life) and going from ride to ride in the Carnal Carnival.  If that seems like a wide swath between borderline to very bad behavior, you’re correct—it is.  A very good analogy to this can be seen as a comparative to the intent found in Scripture in Matthew 7:13-14.

Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.  How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

Note that this verse, which is referring to the pathway to the entrance to the Kingdom of God, has a consistent correlation with a person’s life decisions.  Is it fair to conclude that those who choose to live for Christ are willing to do so with the reverence as to whom Jesus Christ are the few, and others that choose not to follow Christ and make decisions to go their own way are the many?

Speaking of the few and the many, there are many Christians, people who proclaimed that they are saved by grace, who are living a dangerous existence.  These so called believers are bent on living on the edge—living in the world and also of the world—proclaiming Jesus during the day and creeping around at night.  This is not a criticism or characterization to the few believers that have moments of weakness, repent, and maintain a regular fellowship with God because their attitudes are based in the sincere desire to seek Jesus and please Him with obedience.  Well, what about those who are either part-time church attendees or outside of this fellowship?  I am speaking, in fact, calling out the double-minded persons who profess Christ and, at the same time, summarize their overall behavior with the infamous comments, “Well, God made me that way!” or, “Nobody’s perfect!” or, “No one can judge me!”  Really?

The distinction needs to be made about this behavior to encourage those who are seeking God with sincerity of heart and those who are play-acting their Christianity, because it is very important for each of us to remain focused on the commands of Christ, and to admonish those who are clearly not doing so.  Scripture addresses this very clearly with stipulations if the person involved is in the body of fellowship, and your conclusion of the matter will have the endorsement of Christ Himself:

Matthew 18:15-18

“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.  I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world.  But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler.  Do not even eat with such a person.  For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside?  But God judges outsiders.  Put away the evil person from among yourselves.

More about judging within the body later.  One more verse:

2 Thessalonians 3:6

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother who walks irresponsibly and not according to the tradition received from us.

The believer who utters the defensive comment “God made me that way!” or, “Nobody’s perfect!” or, “No one can judge me!” is what I refer to as a “Christian cop out.”  With the basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian, note the reason for using the “cop out” term.  A simple definition of “cop out” is to avoid taking responsibility for an action, avoid fulfilling a duty or responsibility, or to fail to live up to expectations (Wikipedia).  It is to perform in an insufficient, negligent, or superficial manner (Wiktionary).

A cop out, in this application, does not apply in philosophy to the non-believer.  1 Corinthians 5:9-13 affirms this.  A non-believer is only going to behave according to where he or she is accustomed; therefore, it is expected that a non-believer will behave in a worldly manner.  A Christian, on the other hand, takes on the additional responsibility of living in obedience and reverence for Jesus Christ.  The expectations are vastly different for a believer’s behavior over a non-believer’s behavior.  Interestingly, even non-believers have that same expectation of believers.  They can tell the difference, and they know the difference between believers and non-believers, and it is the differences in behavior that can eventually lead non-believers to become believers.

Why am I picking on believers that are Christian Cop Outs?  For three reasons…

  • To identify these persons and their behavior for what it is—inconsistent in fellowship with Jesus Christ and a poor testimony to believers and non-believers alike.
  • Their philosophical views will invariably allow for worldly viewpoints and philosophies to filter into the church and the body of Christ.
  • To denounce this philosophy as a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with one’s Christian faith and with others who could be won for Christ.

First, let’s address one of the comments that may come forth as a Christian cop out—for example, “No one can judge me,” or “You can’t judge me.”

The comments are born out of a scriptural reference, and of course, it is taken out of context for the purpose of justification of one’s behavior (a cop out).

Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye?  Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Be mindful, however, on what prompts the first 5 verses…look at verse 6:

Matthew 7:6

“Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.”

Also, remember the narrow gate in verses 13 and 14, and look at verses 15 and 16 of Matthew, Chapter 7:

Matthew 7:15-16

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruit.”

It is clear that in order for us to make a conclusion about someone or something, we have to make a judgment.  Scripture is providing us examples of persons to be wary of, especially the false teacher or prophet that intentionally deceive others to accomplish his or her goals.  In this context, the verses in Matthew Chapter 7 warn against hypocrisy, but there is nothing in scripture that claims we should never judge someone.  In reality, we do it all of the time as we make our best efforts to live our lives in righteousness:

Proverbs 31:9

Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.

Luke 17:3

“Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

John 7:24

“Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather, judge according to righteous judgment.”

One may argue that to judge someone means to condemn him or her as if you were God.  Your response would be that it is true that God sets the standard and will pass judgment at the appropriate time.  You are the bearer of the information on behalf of God.  If the Spirit moves you to speak and provide this information, let it flow.

Psalm 119:11-13

I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.  Lord, may you be praised; teach me Your statutes. With my lips I proclaim all the judgments from Your mouth.

Therefore, with this evidence, the believer’s comment, “You can’t judge me” is defiant in nature and is in direct contrast to the very nature of a believer dying to self and living for Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

Which brings me to our first reason for identifying this philosophical cop out for what it is—an inconsistent walk with Christ and a poor testimony for all to observe.  It is easy to see that the lifestyle will not match the spoken words of a person in spiritual conflict.  There is no sincere effort to take God’s Word to heart and to break free from the ways of the world.  No one can take what you say seriously because it can’t be supported by where you go, who you choose to hang out with, or how you dress.

Inconsistency in your life comes from instability in your thought process.  It comes from failure to seek God’s wisdom through prayer and study of His Word.

James 1:5-8

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith without doubting.  For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect anything from the Lord.  An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

Next point—Christian cop out behavior encourages compromise of the faith by allowing sinful behavior to be the norm rather than the exception.  There is division within the body of Christ because of the foothold gained, for example, by advocates of the homosexual lifestyle.  Rather than stand up for what God’s Word proclaims, many believers “cop out” and remain silent on areas where God has been clear with scriptural doctrine on this and similar subjects.  While proponents of the homosexual lifestyle advocate tolerance, God declares that He loves the person but hates the sin.  Many in the body of Christ fear derisive comments and reprisal from those who support alternate lifestyles, and, as a result, claim that it is OK to allow such doctrine in our churches.  The backlash from a lack of acceptance comes from the deception of Satan himself.  To cop out is to shrink from your responsibility as a believer in Jesus Christ.  God has declared that we have a responsibility that must be fulfilled:

2 Timothy 2:19

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness.

As in any area where sin is present, God wants us to remain in the world but not of the world, and to be prayerful to Him to give the proper response, when called upon, at the appropriate time.  God’s Word is never to be compromised by His people—it is to be communicated, corroborated (supported with evidence or authority, and clarified (made as easy to understand as possible).

Which leads to our third point with a cautionary verse:

Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My father in heaven.  On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’”

What does this mean?  Just because someone is giving the appearance to serve the Lord and acting on His behalf does NOT mean that this person has been saved by grace and will inherit eternal life.  To live as a Christian cop out artist is to play a dangerous game with your soul and with the lives of others within your sphere of influence.  Why?  If your life as a believer is so easily thwarted by the desires of the flesh and worldly behavior, it is a clear indication that there is a lack of confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit through the presence of Christ in your life.  Please understand that the comment about your soul is not implying that you would lose your salvation.  It does refer, however, to how you are testing to see how far you can go outside of God’s will for your life before you become an apostate, which is one who ultimately denies Jesus Christ and faith in Him as your Lord and Savior.  If your behavior cannot be distinguished from that of an unbeliever, you are on what I would characterize as “spiritual life support.”  While you may think you are doing just fine, in reality, your spiritual heart is barely beating and is likely being kept alive by the prayers and petitions of others who are concerned for your well-being.  The more that one practices sin, and becomes comfortable with it, the less likely that the same person will seek the Lord in repentance.  One dire excuse that can be seen as a cop out is that one’s sin is the result of “bad breaks” or “God coming down on me.”  This is another great deception and another game that one will play to see how far one can go in their so-called fellowship with Christ.  God will not be mocked by such foolishness.

James 1:13-15

No one undergoing a trial should say “I’m being tempted by God,” for God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.  But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

It also stands to reason that a person who declares they know the Lord and yet continues to abide in sinful behavior may very well not be saved to begin with.  Consider this scriptural litmus test:

1 John 2:3-4

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him (Jesus): by keeping His commands.  The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” without keeping His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected.  This is how we know we are in Him:  the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.

A Christian can never cop out when he or she is faithful and obedient to God’s Word…while it is true to say that none of us are perfect, it is not an excuse to sin and remain into sin.  We have the ability to make the decision to turn from sin and focus on the best that God has in store for us because the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to succeed in Christ and overcome any temptation that we face.  We must be our own advocates of remaining faithful to Jesus Christ and not make any excuses for our behavior.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is:  fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity.  For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

For openers…

09/11/2009 § Leave a comment

I’ve concluded, not in recent days but over time, that the information we receive on a daily basis is highly sanitized and controlled by persons who desire to present their own agenda.  I have also learned, even more recently, that the mainstream is becoming less and less mainstream.  The voices of truth and reason are less and less prevalent, and it seems that civil discourse is becoming a rarity.  I know what I believe when it comes to my faith and service to Jesus Christ, my political leanings, my passion for righteousness, and I know that others feel much the same as I do, except that we are always facing a dumbing down or politically correct society that is actually disguised as one that persecutes Judeo-Christians.  The hostility towards believers is often astonishing to me, but not surprising.  It’s OK to talk about other religions or religious tolerance but not necessarily about Christ.  It’s OK…I don’t mind being a voice in and from the wilderness.  John the Baptist was a voice from the wilderness, and his message was revolutionary.

All of us should have an opinion about something.  It’s terrible if you always check the box next to “No Opinion.”  Consider that, as long as we have freedom of speech, we should use it to the best of our ability.  If something bothers you, it doesn’t always serve us well to keep quiet.  Speak up at the proper time, but do so with intelligence and civility.

I like many different subjects, and I aim to weigh in on many of them as often as I can, especially as things bubble up in the media or as events unfold.

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