Decisions, decisions…what will I ever do?

No doubt you have been asked at least once, who you were voting for in this presidential election cycle.  And no doubt you have been as troubled as everyone else over the distressing state of affairs and the disgusting lifestyles and character of the candidates that have been put forth by the various political parties–conduct and character so repugnant that we could easily be persuaded to forgo the election this year.  Believe me when I say that I have been as troubled as everyone else.

Just under 30 days out from the election, I’m increasingly incensed by the ‘corruption’ and ‘carnality’ of the two main candidates.  For me, this choice is more than a simple ‘hold your nose and pull the lever for one of them’ type selection.  The candidates are so flawed that any choice is fraught with ominous consequences.  ‘So’, you say.  ‘What are you going to do?’   And, ‘how are you going to decide?’  Well, currently, I’m considering two scriptures.

First, I’m meditating on I Timothy 2:1f, where God inspired the Apostle Paul to write this counsel:  ‘I urge you, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority (at the time it was Nero), that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.’  As I consider these words, I realize that I do have a choice if I choose to vote.  I can choose the candidate that affords me the best opportunity to live in ‘peace’ and ‘quiet’ with godliness.  I do not expect my chosen candidate to model Christ’s character.  (Some days, I wrestle with that myself)  After all, our governmental system is not a ‘theocracy’.  I’m reminded that we are not choosing a church leader.  But, since we are choosing a candidate for president of the US, which one affords us the best opportunity possible to live in peace and quiet.

Next, I’m considering Nahum 1:9, which reminds me that ‘Whatever they plot against the Lord, He will bring to an end…’.  This text tells me that God does not countenance those who attempt to subvert His Sovereign, creative designs and intentions.  So, I ask, ‘Is there a candidate that supports God’s design in marriage, in issues of life, in the freedom to practice godliness and in the protection of my family?’  Honestly, no candidate, in my humble opinion, satisfactorily models God’s designs.  So, I take the next step and ask myself which, if any, party platform more nearly resembles God’s designs and intentions.  Here, we may find a significant difference, not in the candidate, but rather, in the platform on which that candidate stands.  Now, my choice may come into clearer focus because the party platforms vary widely in their affirmations and exclusions of God and His designs. It may be wise to read each platform and consider the standards upon which the candidates stand and consider the people to whom each candidate is obliged.

So, as far as I am concerned, I will be voting I Timothy 2 and Nahum 1 on election day.  And at the end of the day, my conscience will be clear.

 

So What’s All the Fuss About?

Sometime during my middle teen years, I became aware of groups of people who felt a need to protest.  Because we had yet to purchase a TV, I only ‘heard’ about the marches.  There were anti-war protests, P.E.T.A. protests, anti-nuclear protests, anti-global cooling protests (yes, at one time global cooling was all the rage and a ‘hot’ button issue), anti-prayer in school protests, anti-whaling protests, anti-government protests and the like.  Men ran to Canada to escape the American Army draft.  Women burned articles of clothing in protest.  Farmers poured milk down the drain in protest of poor milk prices.  It was really ‘protest ad nauseam’.

Despite the rationale given to promote each march,  all protesters had this one motive in common:  ‘an unjust circumstance existed that they intended to correct using all of their available resources’.

Much effort and expense has always been expended in order to ‘right’ perceived  ‘wrongs’.

Without appraising each march or arguing the propriety of each effort, one thought has often recurred to me:  WHY HASN’T ANYONE EVER PROTESTED THE INJUSTICE OF GOVERNMENTS PUTTING PRISONERS IN A PRISON CAMP ON THE PLANET JUPITER?

You say, ‘now wait a minute, pastor.  Have you lost your mind?  That’s a stupid thought.’  To which I say, ‘Is it?’  To which you say, ‘Of course it is’!  To which I say, ‘Ok, Ok, it is’.

So what’s the point.  Just this–NO ONE PROTESTS THAT WHICH, TO THEM, IS UNREAL.  And there’s the point.  A protester only protests that which is a real circumstance that, to them, is so important that it deserves their attention and intentions.  Only ‘real’ issues deserve the investment of time, talent, tissue and treasure.  And that’s the reason no one is protesting the use of Jupiter as a prison camp site.  It’s not real!

Now, consider this:  What’s the reason atheists protest anything God?  Why do people react so vehemently to the use of the Bible in school?  Why do people want to stop prayer in public gatherings?  Well, we know the answer–BECAUSE– God, the Bible and prayer are REAL.  And people of rebellion are extremely uncomfortable around the ‘realness’ of God, the Bible and prayer.

So, whenever you feel the pressure of opinion against your faith, even if it comes from within yourself, remember this:  people only protest what is real.  In such a case, dissenters deserve our prayers and concern and God deserves our fidelity.  Let’s faithfully and lovingly live out Romans 12:16-21 all for the glory of God.

 

So what do we say…Part 2

If anyone would have had a good reason to want to alter her/his genetic assignment, it would have been Jesus.  But, why didn’t He pursue that?

When we ‘look unto Jesus’, we never see any vestiges of self-interest, whether self-actualization or self-aggrandizement.  So we don’t see Him scurrying about in a restless pursuit of self-fulfillment.  Quite the contrary.  We see a ‘human being’ (though also God in the flesh) determined to make nothing of self and everything of God, the Father.  Jesus’ values and virtues were all funneled together into His relentless involvement in the things of God.  Therefore, we see Him much preoccupied with several convictions.

First, Jesus was preoccupied with an acknowledgement of the POSITION of GOD.   Jesus once said, ‘No one has ever seen God, except the One and Only Son, Who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known’.  John 1:18.  And when He talked about God, Jesus said that God is ‘Our Father Who is in Heaven.  Hallowed is Your Name’.  God exists in such a position that Jesus Himself was compelled to ‘humble Himself’ before God.  Jesus carefully lived before Him Who is ‘High and lifted up’.  There was no room for living for self.

Second, Jesus was preoccupied with the advancement of the PRINCIPLES of GOD.  Twice Jesus mentioned His preoccupation with the will of God.  He said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him (the Father) Who sent Me and to finish His work’ (John 4:34) and ‘I have come not to do My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me’ (John 6:38).  This conviction left no room for living for self.

Third, Jesus was preoccupied with the acceptance of the PURPOSES of GOD.  On the night of His betrayal by Judas Iscariot, while wrestling with the realities of what that betrayal meant as it played out over the next 24 hours, Jesus said, ‘Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me, but nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done’.  (Luke 22:42).  Jesus’ conviction concerning the purposes of God regardless of the pain associated with those purposes left no room for living for self.

In light of the example and teaching of Jesus, my thoughts about ‘transgenderism’ are these…

Perhaps those who struggle with their unique personal identity and gender assignment, who struggle with being ‘trapped’ in an assignment that they do not like or want, who long for a way of dealing with the feelings of longing for relief, could benefit from following Jesus’ example and put God above self and faith above feelings.  Perhaps this would allow them to find enough strength to exchange the effort of ‘reordering culture’ (a temporary relief at best) for the enjoyment of discovering a ‘relationship with Christ’ (a permanent freedom at the least).

As one of our beloved songs suggests ‘…reach out to Jesus, He’s reaching out to you’….

So what do we say…Part 1.

Most of us will only ever overhear conversations about or read articles addressing ‘transgender’ issues.  Rarely and probably most reluctantly would we ever be drawn into a discussion of this extremely volatile subject.  With no lack of emotions and little limit to the preponderance of opinions, it seems best to simply stay a bit in the background and quietly live out our faith unless we are asked to offer a personal assessment.  But, what if we’re asked to contribute an opinion?  What should we say?  How should we respond?  What Biblical advice/counsel would we give?  How should we feel about the feelings of others who want desperately to change who they are?  What would Jesus say?

These are questions I’ve thought about and today and tomorrow I’d like to offer a response.

As with all issues related to life and godliness, it is safest to begin at the place all substantive discussions should begin–‘looking unto Jesus’.  (Hebrews 12:2)  And as we look at Him, we see one undeniable fact that relates directly to the ‘transgender’ conundrum:  in His birth, Jesus received a ‘genetic assignment’ that affected Him far more profoundly than any female or male assignment would ever affect us.

For humans, our reality could only ever be one marked by the combination of x/y human chromosomes, resulting in an emotional affinity associated with that genetic distribution.  We would either accept or aggressively disdain our assignment.  We may ‘like’ being female or male.  Or we may not like being either.  But our feelings will only ever be about being a human male or female, no more or no less.

Jesus, on the other hand, was called upon to receive an identity completely different from Who He was–an identity that remarkably altered His existence.  God explains it like this in Philippians 2:5-8:  ‘(Jesus)…being in His very nature God, did not think that equality with God was something to be grasped.  But, He made Himself nothing, taking upon Himself the form of a servant and was made in human likeness.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’.

Think of it!  Jesus, though being God (limitless and without need), was assigned a human (limited and needy) genetic makeup.  Along with that assignment, He experienced the trauma of being mocked, misunderstood, ridiculed, challenged, falsely accused, spat upon, beaten, tried in a corrupt court, crucified and speared.  And it wasn’t as if He was undisturbed about His assignment.  Once He said that He was ‘exceedingly sorrowful to the point of death’ (Mark 14:34).  Another time He asked Father God if ‘this cup might pass from me’ (Luke 22:42).  Surely, Jesus was not without reason to not only question His assignment, but to long for its removal.  But, WHY DIDN’T HE TRY TO CHANGE HIS GENETIC ASSIGNMENT so that He could feel better about His life?  Why didn’t He use His creative and unlimited power to ‘re-assign’ for Himself a more desirable and freer makeup?  Why didn’t He just ‘re-assign’ Himself into His ‘God-hood’ and simply tell/force/require  everyone around Him to not only accept it but to champion it?  Why?

 

Rights… Privileges… or Both Part 2

Last time I wrote, my topic was the Syrian refugee event and the call to immigrate a large segment of that war displaced population.  Without revisiting those thoughts, I’d like to simply add just one more.

Some have chosen to argue for immigration of Syrians because …’after all, Jesus was a refugee’.  The argument goes that Jesus was displaced by violence, forced to flee hostile forces and seek safety in foreign lands.  And if Jesus was just a man being bandied about by other men, then I suppose that rationale is plausible and emotionally compelling.  But, is it true?.

When Jesus was introduced to the world, His name was ‘Immanuel’ which means ‘God with us’.  Jesus was both God AND man with us.  And as such, He could never have been a refugee.  And here’s why.  The scripture says of Him…

‘…I (the Lord) have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.  If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.’  Psalm 50:9-12

And

‘…He (the Lord Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.  He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.’  John 1:10-11

That being so, then Jesus was not a refugee, because He was in the world He created and was sustaining by the power of His own word.  He wasn’t out of control, a mere pawn, before a more powerful monarch.  He wasn’t without the resources to fight back, for even a thought could have marshaled the legions of angels to destroy the world.  No, He wasn’t a refugee.  But, if we change just one letter in the word, we can then see the truth.  Let’s change the letter ‘g’ to the letter ‘s’, for the sake of clarity.  I realize that that change won’t be phonetically correct, but it will be doctrinally right.  Jesus was not a refugee.  He was a ‘refusee’, One that was rejected by all that was His own!  What a thought…Jesus, Our Creator (Colossians 1:16),  our Sustainer (Colossians 1:17), our Redeemer (Colossians 1:13) and our Comforting Hope (John 14: 1ff) coming into a hostile environment to free us from our bondage.

The issue was not that Jesus was a refugee.  It was that Jesus was a ‘…despised and rejected Savior…’  Isaiah 53.

Actually, we are the ones who are being dominated by a hostile force.  We are the ones with a great enemy that we cannot defeat on our own.  We are the ones under hostile aggression by the enemy of our souls.  And our only hope of salvation comes from the One who ‘loved us, came to us and gave Himself for us as an atonement for our sin’ in order to set us free.

If we celebrate anything related to the Syrian refugee issue, let’s not celebrate how philanthropic and benevolent we would be to welcome Syrians to America, but rather,  let us celebrate our Savior Who came to rescue and deliver those who were lost.  John 14:3.

Rights…? Privileges…? or both?

Currently, much national attention has been directed toward the world wide plight of refugees, especially those in war torn areas like Iraq or Syria.  Depending on your own personal or political persuasions, your reactions to our common conversation could be quite varied.  Certainly our hearts go out to those overwhelmed by violence, persecution and the results of aggression.  Our civil compassions tend to create in us a desire to help–and rightfully so.  Yet, one part of the refugee dilemma is not being discussed.  It is that oversight that I’d like to high-light here.

Listening to the main stream of thought, a person could be persuaded to conclude that we, America in general and Americans specifically, are somehow obligated to offer ‘carte blanche’ admission to our country and its resources to those affected by political, economic or personal trauma.  We, so goes the reasoning, the recipients of such blessings as we enjoy, must allow others with less opportunity to gain unfettered access to all that the United States has been allowed to accrue.  And though that view carries with it plausible arguments and laudable  emotional assertions, public agreement is far from unanimous.  Indeed, even in the church, many disagree with the open access precept and are often vilified for holding such a contrarian view.

To me, the discussion would be better served and more biblically advanced by asking one simple question:  ‘Is access to the United States a RIGHT or a PRIVILEGE or BOTH.’  If it is a ‘right’, then US authorities should never restrict access to our Country.  ALL must have unfettered use of the United States and its resources.  But, if access to the US is a granted ‘privilege’, then it must be asserted that no one has an inherent right to live in our country and require use of its resources.  How we answer this ‘rights vs privilege’ question will greatly affect our choices.  And how we answer should be significantly impacted by our understanding of how God functions.

As we discuss this issue, let’s ask ourselves a few questions about how God views Heaven.

Now, most of us would agree that Heaven is a marvelous place where God is Supreme, all things are good, resources are abundant beyond our imagination, trauma doesn’t exist and love and peace perpetually flourish.  As He sovereignly oversees Heaven, God decides who gains access to Heaven based on a person’s response to Jesus:  the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one gains access to Heaven except through the Lord Jesus.  Fail to fulfill the Lord’s will regarding Jesus and access will certainly be denied.  NO ONE has a right to Heaven until God grants that privileged right.  As He teaches in John 1:12, ‘AND TO ALL WHO RECEIVED HIM, TO THEM THAT BELIEVED IN HIS NAME, TO THEM HE GAVE THE RIGHT TO BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD.’  Some might argue that they have a ‘right’ to Heaven because they go to church.  Others say that they have a right to it because their name is on a church membership roll somewhere.  Many conclude that they deserve to be in Heaven because they have been morally good, philanthropic or compassionate.  But that is just not true.  None of those people, so labeled, has any right to access heaven.  That right is reserved for those who have received and faithfully acted upon God’s prescribed plan.  There will be no exceptions.

In a way, at least figuratively speaking, the US is somewhat like heaven on earth to some.  Those of the most impoverished among the world’s nations could conclude that life in the US is good almost beyond description.  And, relatively speaking, we live an almost ‘palatial’  life style here.  By comparison, even the most ‘down and out’ among us live far better than even the most prosperous in some other countries of the world.

So I ask, ‘Does any and everyone deserve the right to be in America simply because they see us as well off and see themselves as in need?  Do they deserve access because they are in need of it and want it?’  Or should access be based on someone’s willingness to adhere to a prescribed set of non-negotiable rules?  Should those rules be set and administered to the best of our ability, for the most certain security of those granting the privileged right and for the most compassionate expression of concern for those less blessed among the world’s needy?

As for me, let us offer to anyone access to America who has as a life goal to lift America up to be the best she can be for the Lord, who is willing to pay any price for that privileged right and who is fiercely passionate about protecting the genuine spiritual heritage of America, our national security and the Biblical/Godly mandate of Almighty God.   And, let all others be asked to remain away and be required to wait until they are ready to assume the responsibilities that accompany the privileged right of access to America.

 

 

 

A Business…?

‘Rich in Faith’, a new reality show appearing on Wednesday evenings, is a program developed for Oxygen Media by MTV executive, Rod Aissa.  Serving a targeted audience of an 18-34 year old female demographic, ‘Rich in Faith’ seeks to turn the viewer spotlight on young media type pastors.  One episode features Rich WilkersonJr. and his wife DawnChere and follows them as they grapple through decisions faced as they balance family and home life, during the process of starting a youth-oriented, celebrity Miami church plant.

“The Wilkersons are appealing”, said Aissa.  “And the fact that their ‘business happens to be religion‘, brings an added dimension”.

Hmmmm…Their ‘business happens to be religion‘.

Is that the way the world is now perceiving the church?  Do they see the ‘Gospel Bearing Ambassadors of Jesus’, the church, as a business venture bringing the goods?  Really…?  Dave Johnson, Parents Television Council Advisory board member commented that TV executives are now beginning to produce a mixture of reality TV and faith that appears to be more like the ‘old circus, with a sideshow tent’ than it does the real church.

But, can we hardly blame culture?  They simply read our actions and react to our preoccupations.

We say that we are all about the Person of Christ, but we seem to be preoccupied with marketing a package to consumers.

We say that we are all about adoring Jesus, but we seem to be preoccupied with advertising Him–the greater the shock factor the better.

We say that we are all about faith–how Jesus is proclaimed, but we seem to be preoccupied with focus groups–how we are perceived.

We say that we are all about giving compassion, but often we seem to be preoccupied with gaining contributions.

Let’s consider our Lord’s words, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me’.  Matthew 16:24.   A good call is that, if we are to be more than a business in search of customers…

 

Purity?

One of my favorite Bible prayers is one of Paul’s recorded for us in Philippians 1:9-11.  There Paul says that he prays for the Philippians’ …’love to abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, that they may discern what is best and be pure and blameless until the Day of Christ Jesus…’.  (NIV)  Paul wanted, among other things, for the Philippians’ love to abound in order that they may discern what is best and be pure.

This virtue was one that was not only essential for genuine spiritual life, but one that could be tangibly verified.  Some Bible versions translate the word for pure as ‘sincere’, ‘unalloyed’ or ‘genuine’.  If we translated it literally, we would say it was ‘judged by the sun’.  Now what does that mean?

For some time now, I have been looking to find a good used washtub.  I used one as a kid, before indoor plumbing came to our region of Southern Illinois.  (Yes, I am that old.)  (And no, we didn’t walk to school without shoes, in the snow, uphill both ways…)  And until 1963, Saturday evening bath time found me making the most of soapy water in an old wash tub that the rest of the week was used mostly for washing clothes.  Call it nostalgia, if you will, but I’d just like one.  A few years ago I filled one with ice and put canned soda in it to keep the pop cold for our use at a harvest parade in our village.  But, it has long since become useless because of holes in the bottom.

I haven’t been picky in my search.  But, I have wanted the tub to have two good handles, little or no rust, no sharp edges anywhere and most of all NO HOLES.  A wash tub isn’t much use for anything but decoration if it has holes in it.

Recently, on a birthday trip to Door County, Wisconsin, my wife and I shopped–more like poked around–in a second hand store that had more than it’s share of antique type utensils and old shed stuff in a lower level.  As it happened, the owners had a couple wash tubs to choose from.  As I looked them over, I found myself instinctively walking over to an open garage, loading bay door.  Once there, I put the tubs, first one then the other, over my head and turned toward the sun to see if there were any holes in the bottoms or seams.  The sunlight would soon reveal any holes, even pin tip sized ones.  Unfortunately, though both tubs looked very serviceable, neither passed the sunlight test.  So the search continues.

Spiritually speaking, we daily go through this same process.  But this time, our lives take the place of the tubs and Jesus, the Son, takes the place of the sunlight.  We measure the ‘purity’ of our spiritual lives by lifting them up and placing them in the light of Jesus, through prayer, Bible study, fellowship and service to Him.  Those areas that reveal weakness become our areas of concern and sanctification.  We seek the Lord’s grace to grow in strength beyond the weaknesses that His light reveals.

This is what Paul was praying for with the Philippians.  He wanted them to grow in genuine love so that they could discern any areas of spiritual impurity that would be holding them back in their walk with the Lord.  As they found and addressed those areas, they would then become ‘pure’ and ‘blameless’ until the day of Christ Jesus.

As God mentions through Peter in I Peter 1:22:  ‘…now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for the brethren, love one another deeply from a ‘pure’ heart…’.

May we seek the Lord, today, to become more like Him–full of purity.  And may we resolve to not shrink from the task of seeking the light in order to reveal those ‘holes’ in our spiritual lives that hold us back from the spiritual maturity that we all want.

A Search for Answers…

By now, no doubt, we all have heard of the tragic shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  We quickly learned that nearly a score of victims either lay dead or were injured in the wake of the shooting event.  Our collective hearts ache for the families of those who perished.  And our prayers ascend for the healing of those who survived their wounds.

Just as quickly, it seems, many have begun to search for answers as to ‘why’ and ‘how’ such an event could happen.  Others have already answered those questions for themselves and have begun to assign blame.

Those who cling to the assumption that weapons are the problem reason that the shooter would have had no opportunity or inclination to kill IF he had had no access to a gun.  Those who champion pro-life causes find fault with the brutal death industry of Planned Parenthood and assume that no incident could have occurred IF the abortion office did not exist.

And although each group feels that their rationale is correct and that they can site logical reasons supporting their convictions, both are wrong.  On the surface, both appear to be right.  But, let’s ask ourselves these questions:  1)  Are we to assume that the absence of a gun would have prevented the act of violence of a man against another adult man or woman?  And 2)  Are we to further assume that the absence of an abortion clinic would have prevented the act of violence of a man or woman against a helpless baby?

No.  We know the answer.  The perpetrator of the shooting, in the absence of a gun, would have found another vicious way to harm the people he hated.  And the propagators and purchasers of abortion, in the absence of a clinic, would have found another vicious way to kill their babies.  Of this we can be certain.

But if these answers do not accurately explain ‘why’ this happened, then what does?  What is the real reason this event happened?

Simply this–The shooter and the clinic workers WERE TRYING TO PLAY GOD!  Yes, that’s the reason.  The shooter felt justified in playing God by deciding who lived and who died AND the clinic workers felt justified in playing God by deciding what babies lived and what babies died.  And regardless of the supposed well-intentioned point of view of each, their glaring arrogance prove all that needs to be understood about this event.

IT NEVER WOULD HAVE OCCURRED IF PEOPLE WOULD HAVE LEFT TO GOD THE THINGS OF GOD and WOULD HAVE DEVOTED THEMSELVES TO HIS HONOR AND SOVEREIGNTY INSTEAD. 

The shooter AND the clinic workers should have shuddered in fear of trying to assume God’s role as the Giver of life.  As it is, they all grossly overestimated their own importance in life and while acting on their own impulses and self-will left on the landscape of our culture another grotesque picture of what we all are like whenever we push God away and attempt to take His place and become the ‘gods of our own fabrication’.  And what a wretched sight it is.  The gunman’s weapon was wielded over helpless people caught in his sights and helpless babies were pulled from their mother’s womb by doctors wielding a scalpel–both hideous sights are they of the results of ruthless, Godless violence.

But thanks be to God, He can and will have mercy on all who call on Him out of a pure heart for salvation.  Let’s purpose to bow before Him, invite Him to be our God through faith in Jesus Christ and follow Him in all His ways, thereby, leaving a better, more worthy picture for others to see when they look at how we lived our lives here–lives lived with love for God and love for those created in His image, both born and pre-born.

No One Knew…Imagine That

The title of the blog caught my attention and spawned several questions in my mind.  It read:  ’15 Famous Athletes You Didn’t Know Were Christians’.  And though the title interested me, I had decided to simply pass on without study or comment.  However, my soul is still stirred by this declaration to such an extent that I decided to respond to it in writing.

My question is this:  ‘Is it possible for someone to be converted and no one notice?’

I once read a story of a modern day ‘doubting Thomas’ that refused to step foot on church property or give any credence to people’s faith.  One day the church building began to burn due to the careless actions of a gardener who was burning off his old refuse nearby.  The gathered parishioners were astonished to look around and see the defiant man standing among them watching the emergency responders deal with the blaze.  Bewildered by his presence, one bystander asked why he had decided to come to the church and watch.  His response was quite telling.  ‘This’, he said, ‘is the first time I’ve ever seen the church on fire’!

We can hardly miss the irony in what he said.  And we can’t mistake his understanding:  ‘a Christian should look different than anyone else’.  ‘But how?’, we ask.

Please, allow me to suggest a few ways.

First, there should be a visible sign of REJOICING.  The Psalmist used phrases like ‘I will awaken the dawn with my song’ or ‘Shout to the Lord all the earth’ or ‘Come before Him with jubilant song’ to express his desire to sing with rejoicing.  If someone is sincerely in touch with the fact that they have been ‘delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Jesus), in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins’, Colossians 1:13-14, shouldn’t saved people be overwhelmed with the desire to jubilantly rejoice?

Second, there should be a visible sign of REPENTANCE.  Someone who is sincerely converted will be experiencing a new awareness of right and wrong and should have an increasing desire for a changed life.  THAT SHOULD SHOW.  It has been passed down to us that on one occasion, while visiting the town of his birth and early life, that Augustine once encountered Monica, a friend with whom he had shared an immoral relationship.  As she meet him on the street, Augustine passed without so much as a glance.  She called after him, ‘Augustine, it is I’.  ‘Yes’, he replied, ‘but it is not I any longer’.  If we are ‘putting to death whatever belongs to the sinful nature’, Colossians 3:5, we will both experience and exhibit change.  It will show.

Third, there should be a visible sign of a new way of RELATING to old friends.  God puts it like this through the Apostle Peter: ‘For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery and they malign you’, I Peter 4:3-4.  The point is clear:  the sincerely converted person should expect old friends to notice your change and react to you because of it.

This brings us full circle.  If a person is truly converted, will anyone notice?  Will we have to list the names of ’15 Famous Athletes Who are Christians’?  Shouldn’t it show?