I’m a bit of a critic. At times I’ve felt guilty for failing to be more positive. After reading Oman this morning, I feel a little less so.
A half and half morality always means a hopeless view of humanity; whereas a view of man as involved in a widely organised and radical corruption, always means a high estimate of his possibilities and a universal sense of the moral significance of life. –Grace and Personality
The gospel teaches that we live in a world infested with evil which permeates the hearts of every person. We were made to reflect the very glory of God, but have chosen instead to make our own destiny to our own destruction. These truths hardly call us to “accentuate the positive.”
That last phrase reminds me of a story which Bani, my friend from Albania, told me about living under the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha. Bani said that under communism the least mention of a fault in their society could get a person incarcerated. He spoke of a man who went to the store for potatoes to discover that they had run out. Later, that man met a friend for coffee and mentioned that there had been no potatoes at the store. An informant at the next table reported the man and he was thrown into prison. Apparently, the correct response to the question, “Why didn’t you get potatoes?” was, “I changed my mind.”
There is an optimism which hides corruption and a pessimism which reveals glory.
Most pessimistic of all is the teaching of Jesus. The highest morality turns out to be mere respectability, the purest religion mere formalism, and the insincerity is such that the Prince of this world is the Father of Lies. Nowhere, nevertheless, is the Kingdom so real or so near.
Jesus came to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and a judgement to come. He passed that call on to us (John 16:1-11).
We’re told that Donald Trump is a “baby Christian” and that we should not judge him. A person needn’t have a particular understanding of “Christianese” nor must they attain some sort of religious performance before I’ll acknowledge them as a brother in Christ. We are all in process. And yet I can’t accept that Donald Trump is a Christian for the simple reason that he has never disavowed his former life. In other words, I see no evidence of repentance from him. Ezekiel gives a hallmark of those who are born again:
Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. – Ezekiel 36:31
For comparison, let’s consider another wealthy, scandalous man. Perhaps you remember Zacchaeus from Luke 19. He was a rich man who had acquired his wealth by betraying his own people to the Roman Empire as a publican. Those who held this office were hated not only because of their disloyalty to the people to God but also because they used their protected status to extort additional funds from the populace for their own personal benefit. Zacchaeus had gotten rich on the backs of honest hard working citizens and everybody knew it. But Jesus didn’t scorn and exclude him like the rest of the Jewish people in Jericho had. Instead, Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. Zacchaeus gladly welcomed him.
Christ’s willingness to share a meal with Zacchaeus wasn’t an affirmation that the man was saved, though. Instead, it was an invitation to repentance. Zacchaeus understood and responded with these words,
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” -Luke 19:8
This is what repentance looks like. In the presence of Christ, Zacchaeus saw his greed as the soul destroying disease it had been and he came to loathe himself for it. He couldn’t remain the same. Christ saw this change of heart and declared that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ household. Zacchaeus was saved before he did anything, but not before he repented. One might say that our love for sin is the very thing we need saving from and that coming to loathe ourselves for our sin is the very essence of salvation. By this definition, can we say that Donald Trump is saved?
You might be voting for him because of his professed stance on a particular issue, but please don’t fall under the delusion that his man represents Christ in any way. I don’t mean to be judgmental. I’m just concerned that some religious leaders’ attempts to baptize his reputation will further water down what it means to be a “Christian.”
The following article is about atheism and philanthropy. Notice that of the $430,000 raised for cancer research in 2012 by “atheist groups,” $215,000 came from Stiefel (who is independently wealthy) and that a large portion of the remainder came from Christians. No wonder Stiefel doesn’t want to entirely alienate religious people. Obviously, he recognizes that they’re the ones who give.
CNN Belief Blog
How can we live in joyful anticipation but not get all fanatical? Click this link for my most recent talk on end times: Next
I’m reading Luke this week with my LTG. In chapter 24 vs 28 Luke tells of how Jesus nearly walked on by his disciples once they reached their destination. He had to be urged strongly before he would join them for a meal.
At the meal, they came to realize his identity.
This is how Jesus works. He introduces himself but will not invite himself. When a person hears his story with burning heart, they will not let him pass by. They may not have yet grasped his identity but they will not be denied the opportunity to get to know him better. He waits to break bread with such as these. With such as these he carries on his polite revolution.
In Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand tells the story of Piotr, a Russian soldier occupying Romania who came to faith through this story. Out of all of the amazing stories of Jesus recorded in Luke, this one struck a cord. Piotr commented, “The Communists are impolite. They force us to listen to them from morning to late in the night…We have to listen continuously to their godless propaganda whether we like it or not. Jesus respects our freedom. He gently knocks at the door of our heart.”
God is looking for a relationship of love. Love does not behave itself rudely. He means to overturn the hate and hurt of our world but he will only heal and help the willing. Those who have experienced him willingly join his cause. This is the polite revolution.
There is only one religion given by God and Christianity is not it. Give a listen and see what I mean.
Except for these Chains
So I’ve coined a new saying, “When you’re right, you’re Nathan.” Just kidding. But how do we hold to truth without coming off as arrogant or judgmental? Acts 17-18 holds an important message for Christ followers in this regard.
I cannot endorse homosexual marriage. Sometimes I wish I could. I don’t want to come across as bigoted or intolerant. I don’t want to erect unnecessary hurdles to people coming to faith in Christ. I don’t believe that anyone woke up one morning and thought, “I think I’ll be sexually attracted to someone of the same gender today.” That being said, I cannot endorse homosexual marriage because the Bible universally and unequivocally denounces homosexual activity.
For me, the choice is to either denounce homosexuality as one sin among many or deny my faith in the message of the Bible. I will not choose that latter. So does that make me a Pharisee or a bigot? I’m sure there are many who would say, “Yes.” Because they say it does not make it so no matter how many say it or how loud they say it. No one’s words can change the truth of who I am or what I believe. For that reason, I give anyone full permission to disagree with me or to say whatever they like about me. I would appreciate the courtesy to be allowed to share my convictions, though.
By now, everyone as heard about Dan Cathy’s comments and their repercussions. I think, though, that most people are missing the lesson to be learned here. The main issue which the last two weeks have brought to the fore is free speech, or for that matter, free thought. Mr. Cathy is a private individual who can believe and say whatever he would like to say. He can spend his money or his company’s money in ways that he deems are worthwhile. Should his stance be incorrect, those who oppose him have nothing to fear.
I believe in free speech for everyone. When opinions are stifled no matter how egregious they may seem to our sensibilities, everyone loses. When we muzzle one person or fail to tolerate dissenting opinions, we narrow our vision as a society and eventually become blind.
I didn’t go to Chick fil A yesterday. I don’t like crowds and don’t prefer their food. I do however like Starbuck’s coffee. So I’ll be there tomorrow morning supporting their CEO’s right to his opinion and my caffeine addiction.
I’ll close with this landmark quote from Martin Luther which I believe applies to the current debate:
Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.
On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.
In this election year, how should Christians react to the government? What involvement should we have? Acts 12 has some answers.
The Kings of Earth, but…