Thursday, January 24, 2013

Were you raised in church? (part 1)

In my short tenure of being a Christ follower (6 years), I have started to notice a disappointing pattern in Christian circles. But before I completely show my hand, let me take you through the quick process of how I got to the realization of this trend. 

Melissa and I got married in July of 2010 and moved to Kansas City where we now live and where I attend Calvary Bible College. Since then we have become friends with several new people that God has blessed us with and we have continued friendships with those we met back home in Sedalia. 

Many of our friendships have been formed through young, married, childless couples like ourselves (though several of our friends have/are having children). As we got to know these couples more and as we shared our lives with them, I started to recognize a common thread between us all. The most obvious "tie that binds" us is that we all are Christians who love and serve the same God. However, there seemed to be another dynamic I was sensing. 

As I thought about it, we each had the same husband-wife history in our relationships. Starting with the first real friend I made at CBC and his eventual marriage, to the next married couple, to the next, and so on, the husbands and wives were seeming to have the same type of pasts. Each of the husbands (my friends) is a lot like me-- they were either non-Christians growing up or they were "prodigal sons" belonging to parents waiting for them to return to God. The wives (Melissa's friends), on the other hand, are like Melissa-- they were the good girls raised in Christian homes who never strayed, but loved Jesus and loved their daddies.

I can honestly say that off the top of my head there are five couples (not including my own marriage) that fit this mold and with whom we are friends. Why is this so?

Well I asked myself this and my immediate thought was that women who love Jesus desire a husband who loves Jesus and guys who have been saved later in life tend to carry more passion in their lives than those who have been going through the motions for years. 

Now this is obviously a generality and by no means an absolute blanketing truth. However, Jesus touches on this issue in Luke 7. Jesus had been invited to a Pharisee's house for dinner. The Pharisee, whose name was Simon, likely wanted to quiz the Christ and catch Him in err. However, when a sinful woman found out about the meeting she came to the Pharisee's house to show her love for Jesus. 

The woman took an alabaster flask of ointment and came to the feet of Christ. Broken and full of devotion, she began to cry and wet His feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair. She then took the ointment and anointed the holy feet. She kissed His feet and, as if the Pharisee was not even there, showed Jesus the love He is due. 

The Pharisee responded negatively, saying that if Jesus really was who He said He was, He would shew off the woman because she was sinful. At that point, Jesus tells an interesting parable. Here it is in the NLT:

“A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
Luke 7:41-42

The obvious answer to this question is that the one forgiven more debt would be the one who loves the forgiver the most. This was Simon's answer and Jesus tells him that he has judged rightly. Now look at what the Messiah goes on to say:

Then turning toward the woman He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  
Luke 7:44-48

Now think back to my quandary concerning the married couples. These guys who have been saved later in life, as I said, "tend to carry more passion in their lives than those who have been going through the motions for years." In light of this passage, how could this be?

The answer appears to be that the formerly non-Christian and the prodigals have experienced more of the world and have built up a bulkier list of sins than the others. They have gone out drinking, done drugs, had sex, listened to the worst music, etc. They were of the world and had, as Jesus says "many" sins. Therefore, because of their many sins which have been forgiven they now, like the woman, love "much."

This conclusion seemed incredibly logical to me and appeared to fit Jesus' words. But it was unsettling for a couple of reasons:

1) It cannot be necessary to go out and rack up a long list of sins in order to be enabled to love Jesus "much."


2) There is no such thing as being "forgiven little" in the eyes of God. 

In addressing the former, it would be impossible for the Holy Father to will for men love Him very much via sinning greatly and, in turn, being forgiven of that sin. Speaking to the latter, anyone who is forgiven of their grave and evil sinful actions against God through the grace of Christ has not been forgiven "little."

So what in the world is Jesus talking about?

Well I think the answer lies in the outward expression that I have been seeing patterned by the Christians I hang out with. 

Some of my absolute nearest and dearest friends have been to jail/prison. They have used/sold drugs. They slept around. They did not want anything to do with Jesus or "religion."

They were forgiven. They are now absolutely on fire for Christ.

Some of my other friends grew up in church and have no remembrance of being absent from church for any length of time. Some of them went to Christian school or were homeschooled. They never tried drugs (for the most part) and never slept around. 

They were forgiven. The majority are sadly incredibly apathetic. 

Neither one of these groups were any more condemned than the other before being saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Neither one of these groups were forgiven of a small matter at the point of salvation. Both groups consist of men who were once enemies of God but have now been brought near by the blood of Christ. Both groups are indwelt by the Holy Spirit-- God Himself. 

So if neither group was "forgiven little," why does one group tend to love "much" whereas the other tends to be complacent? 

It all has to do with understanding what you have been forgiven of.  

Are you a believer in the resurrected Christ for the remission of your sins? If so, you are a new creation-- you are the righteousness of God-- you are ready and set to walk in the good works that God prepared for you before the foundations of the world. 

However, if you do not understand that at one point in your life this was not you, you have no reason to express joy, gratitude, love, or devotion to God because of the conversion. 

You see, Jesus did not mean that the Pharisee was a "good boy," who, if he were to eventually be forgiven, could not love much because he kept such a good track record. Pharisees were the "brood of vipers." Matthew 23 is sufficient to prove what Jesus thought of these Jews. 

Jesus meant that the Pharisee needed to realize that he was no better than the woman. The "keeper of the law" needed to understand that he was a violator of the law and no good deeds could ever reverse that. When he takes on this reality and believes Jesus for the hope of salvation he too loves much because of that incredibly deep forgiveness. 

I imagine the conservative homeschoolers and former AWANA cadets struggle with this. If this is you, you've heard this Jesus stuff your whole life. You have been in the light as long as you can remember and the darkness seems completely foreign. A lifestyle of sin feels contrary to everything you've ever known. 

If you feel like you struggle with the same sin as the Pharisee, then to you I would say to think of your sanctification. Not only were you made a friend of God in salvation, but you are continuously being made to conform to Christ's image despite your sinful tendencies. As you repent of your pride, selfishness, greed, lust, what have you, God is granting you forgiveness through Jesus Christ, the Advocate. 

You have been forgiven much. Love much. 

Now I should say here that these are generalities. My former youth pastor, who discipled me, was raised in a Christian home, got saved when he was four, went to Christian school, and graduated from Bible College. However, he is a devoted man of God who was used to influence me greatly by the Word of Christ. 

Inversely, there are those "real bad" sinners who get saved and never really catch fire for Jesus. So just know that these are generalities, yet they are patterns that I have been noticing. 
Anyway, there it is. It has been on my heart lately and I hope you have been encouraged in the Lord. We are all tempted to become apathetic, but in Christ we have an upward call to be on fire for the Father by the power of the Spirit. 

Ask to be filled with with the Holy Spirit who is able to guide, teach, direct, and comfort you. 

God bless. 

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