Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Zeal vs. Love

As some of you know, I read online articles a lot. Some are sports related, but since football season has ended my sports reading tends to go down a bit. A lot of the articles I read are related to Christianity. I feel it is important to keep myself up to date on what people are saying and discussing on this matter. I don't know why, but part of my character seems to be apologetic by nature. I readily jump to the defense of my Savior and His holy Word when its authority is challenged. I don't say this to my credit. I believe it is something that God is working in me. But sometimes I allow my zeal for truth to overshadow my compassion for the lost.

I recently read and article about a Unitarian minster named Marilyn Sewell who interviewed an avowed atheist, Christopher Hitchens, about his new book. Most of the things about the article didn't shock me. She was liberal in every sense of the word, and he adamantly apposed any type of religion. One thing catch me off guard though. She asked a question, and his response showed me that he, an atheist, knew more of Christianity than she did, and she was the one claiming to be a Christian. The transcript goes as follows:

"The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian."

He at least understands what he is rejecting. But she on the other hand does not seem to grasp the basic foundations of the religion she claims to follow. It is stuff like this that brings out the apologist in me. I rise up in my zeal for the truth (which I should). I get angry that someone who claims to follow Christ rejects one of Christianity's basic principals in front of an atheist that they should be sharing the gospel with. All of this is a legitimate response except that I neglect to see them as God does. They are as I was: lost in sin with no hope. I fail to have compassion and see them as someone whom Christ died for.

See, between zeal and compassion there is a fine line. I am to adamantly defend God's truth, but I am to also recognize that even I would not know God's truth if He had not, in His great compassion for me, revealed it to me. We Christians need to never forget that we would be backward in our thinking too if God had not intervened. Lost people act lost because they are lost. They do not know Christ like we do therefore they cannot see things the way we do. In compassion for them, we should live as Christ would have us to in front of them. And maybe through this we may see them come to know him, so they too can experience His redemption as they are drawn to Him.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Truly Justified

I recently read an article that surveyed protestant pastors asking them who they believed to be the most influential pastors of our time. Of course number one was Billy Graham. There were other familiar names on the list such as John MacArthur, Rick Warren, Chuck Swindoll, and Charles Stanley. In all truth, there was only one name on the list of the top ten that I didn't recognize, Barbara Brown Taylor. Being that I didn't know who this was I clicked on her link and was directed to her web page. On her page, there was a link for a website, www.explorefaith.org, that she said spelled out her beliefs. Since this is mostly what I wanted to know, I went to the website. It seemed normal at first, but the more I read the more I began to see how pluralistic this organization was. Pluralistic means they believe Jesus is a way to God but not the only way, and that all world religions are a valid way to God. Many of the churches basic doctrines were being distorted. What struck me the most was an article entitled "What is the significance of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus?" Their answer to the question broke my heart.

One paragraph really explained their whole though:

"then there's the cross as the once and for all sacrifice for sin. If we literalize that language, as…much of conventional Christianity has done, the only way God can forgive sins is if adequate sacrifice is offered: Somebody has got to be punished, and that person is Jesus. Also only those people who know and believe in that story can be saved. Thus, literalizing that language is a slur on the character of God. If you see Jesus' death as part of the divine plan, as part of the will of God, that suggests that God required the suffering of this immeasurably great man. It is never the will of God that an innocent person be crucified, and to suggest that is to suggest something horrible about God."

Another person said:

"There are a lot of versions of the atonement doctrine in Christian history—The “substitutionary blood sacrifice” version of the atonement is the least compelling theological explanation of the cross for me."

To them it was impossible to see the crucifixion as God's will or part of His divine plan. To them it would have been horrible of God to stand by as His only Son died. They act as if Christ's life was taken from him in a radical political move rather than Christ laying his own life down as scripture says. To believe this about the crucifixion is to disregard scripture.

Yes the cross was gruesome and horrible, but without it we as Christians have no hope. The Bible clearly points out that Christ's death on the cross for the sins of the world was God's plan from the very beginning. And I would also like to point out that if humanity was not diseased with sin the cross would not have been necessary. God is not horrible for allowing Christ's suffering. If anything, it is a display of His great love for us in that "while we were sinners Christ died for us." Christ took the punishment for our sins so we wouldn't have to. The cross will forever be a display of both the seriousness of our sin and God's great desire to reconcile Himself to us, even if it meant the death of His Son. See, Christ IS the only way to God. HE is the only one who can stand before the Father on our behalf. HE is the only one who can free us from our sin. HE is the only one we can trust for salvation. To water down this truth is to destroy the very foundation of Christianity

May we never forget the beauty and the glory of the cross of Christ.