Criticism

HELP FOR THE OFFENDED

unoffendable

 

I read books in heaps.

But it is not often that a book impacts me as strongly as the one I am recommending to you this month.

After a few pages, it was hard to concentrate on the book, because I was so excited about reading and recommending it.

Let’s get right to it.

Beg, buy, borrow (please don’t steal), “Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better” by Brant Hansen.

Here are some reasons you should make reading “Unoffendable” an immediate priority:

 1.  Being offended is a common occurrence. We are all regularly touched by offendable stuff, and we need help in maintaining a godly attitude.

 2.  Being offended has become a profession. There are people who appear to get offended as their main purpose in life.

 3.  Being offended is seen as a right. It’s not.

 4.  Christians polish their ‘offendability’ by telling themselves it is righteous anger. Brant does an excellent job clarifying what the Bible says in this area.

 5.  Brant writes well, with a sense of humor – which always helps. Unless that offends you.

 6.  Your life will be challenged in good ways, because you will be encouraged to live with a focus on serving Christ rather than your own sensibilities.

GOOD GRIEF, ANOTHER ARGUMENT?

Some Christians love to argue

When they listen to other Christians talk, you can see the anticipation in their eyes as they hope there are slight differences of opinion they can wrangle over. They view the internet as one of history’s greatest gifts, because it provides endless opportunities for arguments with believers they have never even met.

Certainly there are theological battles worth fighting

However, there is also the question of our motives in these battles. Is this truly for God’s honor or for our pride? Is it love for God and neighbor that gets you into controversy, or is it a proud desire to strut your opinions, flaunt your learning, and see your enemy discomfited?

Does this battle need to be fought?

What is actually being accomplished for Jesus’ Kingdom? From my perspective most battles are in defense of our own kingdom and pride.

Just as importantly is how we treat people as we enter these battles

There are never to be times when we neglect the fruit of the Spirit in how we interact with people! 

At Christianity.com, Jim Hamilton wrote an article entitled, “Do you love controversy or people?” If you find yourself regularly in verbal battles, I hope you will take 5 minutes to read the article and ask God to reveal your own heart to you.

If we truly are concerned with truth, then we must be concerned for it in our heart most of all

R

WHEN A FELLOW CHRISTIAN IS WRONG

Do you have negative thoughts about another believer?

Perhaps they have treated you poorly, or maybe you disagree with something they believe, or with the way they live.

Let’s assume you have a correct perspective about their faults; they should make changes and they should act differently.

You are just in your assessment of what they are lacking.

However there is something more to this picture that should enter into our heart.

Does your perspective toward that believer include consideration of God’s heart toward them?

No one knows the reality of that person better than God. He sees what you see, plus every other word, action and motivation of their heart. In other words, God sees the absolute worst that is in them, because He sees it all and His standards are perfectly pure.

And yet, God not only saved that person, He chose them – He not only accomplished their salvation, He initiated their salvation.

They are never outside of God’s gracious thoughts.

The blood of Jesus that covered your sin, also covers their sin

The burdensome cry of Jesus on the cross included the weight of their guilt, as well as yours

God holds them along with you in His hand and has given them the same promise, to never leave or forsake them

He loves you both with the same love that He has for His Son

The same Holy Spirit lives in both of you forever

Neither of you will ever be apart from God’s eternal grace

God’s commitment to finish His work of sanctification rests on both of your lives

You will both flourish forever in the glorious kingdom of Christ

The fellow believer that is a burr in your heart, is a precious child in God’s heart.

What do you think of that?

From this point on, how will this knowledge affect your attitude toward them and your words about them?

R

SERMON LEFTOVERS 2.29.16

Live in Response to the Glorious Christ

Philippians 2:12-18

#1  Put God’s work in you into practice (vs 12-13)

Paul has the big picture understanding of salvation in mind

Our ‘salvation’ is more than our justification (being made righteous):

Ephesians 1:3 “(God) has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing”

The gospel brings comprehensive and wonderful transformation to us (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We routinely minimize what salvation has done, and so minimize Christ!

Faith picks up these truths and lives by them

To ‘work out’ our salvation is to live according to all our salvation contains

Think of this as your muscles, you already have them, but you need to develop them

In all responsibilities and circumstances, how do we live out our salvation?

This process is ‘work’, but it’s not drudgery

God himself is at the center in every moment of our labor (v13)

This gives us reason for celebrating and persisting even if we do so weakly

Paul adds that we are to put God’s work into practice with “fear and trembling”

Fear of God is a response that has awe at one end (for the believer) and dread at the other (for the unbeliever)

Christians should fear and tremble that the person of vs 9-11 is working in us

 

#2  Protect gospel unity and gospel mission (vs 14-16)

There are many sins we are to do without, but Paul here continues with the themes church unity and gospel mission

If we live with conflict in the church, we are not in fear and trembling

We all need accountability and correction, as described in Ephesians 4:15 “speaking the truth in love”

But complaining and arguing are corrosive responses that lack humility and grace

Paul reminds us that church life takes place before the world’s eyes

The world is a crooked and twisted place, we should be distinctly different

We are lights which are meant to shine

2 Corinthians 5:20 “God is making his appeal through us”

However, the gospel is not being revealed when we complain or argue

Paul’s use of the phrase “a crooked and twisted generation” is from Deuteronomy 32:5

He is describing the people of God who acted as if they weren’t

Grace abounded to them, but difficulty brought bickering from them

We fail to recognize that fighting and complaining are serious sins against God

The work of the gospel is a desperate need for every person, and the agenda of the gospel is our only God approved response

“Do all things without grumbling” is a biblical mandate

It comes down to whether or not we want biblical ways more than our own (v16)

 

#3  Take joy in Great Commandment living (vs 17-18)

Paul rejoiced when his life was entirely submitted to Christ

He compares it to being ‘poured out’ as a drink offering

Drink offerings in ancient religions involved pouring a cup of wine onto the ground to honor the gods

The idea is that once poured out, it can no longer be kept for us

This is Great Commandment living!

Why does Paul want us to rejoice with him over it? Because Great Commandment living is entirely good!

Every hesitation we have about Great Commandment living comes from deception

How can we know God and think that giving less of our life to him is better?

Paul was in prison facing the real possibility of execution

These realities made no difference to his conviction about joy

This is because his joy was in Christ and the trajectory of the gospel

If we see the glories of Christ, let us live by the glories of Christ

GOD IS NOT CUSTOMIZABLE

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Have you ever noticed the way people who leave God on the periphery of life feel free to tell Christians how we are following God incorrectly?

They blithely declare how the church needs to act differently in terms of support for social, political, economic and even sexual issues. They will even go so far as to accuse Christians of this head scratcher: we are being unchristian, if we will not agree and go along with other religions.

Accusations such as these reveal that the accusers don’t believe God is real, and they don’t believe His Word has any authority.

Sometimes they will throw out a broad and out of context biblical statement as to justify their accusation, but generally their opinions rest simply on the fact that they want Christians to think and act different.

G Shane Morris wrote an interesting article on this topic for The Federalist entitle “Dear Media: Stop Trying to Teach Christians Theology”.

We shouldn’t be surprised when unbelievers act this way, people will always be desperate to silence the voice of God from their lives.

But what about professed Christians, do we ever act as if the Bible’s authority over our preferences is questionable?

When believers pile up days without giving time or thought to God, how do explain the difference between our life and that of an unbeliever (many of them are nice and moral too)?

God is Creator, Sustainer, Lord of all, Almighty, Glorious and Perfect. He graciously is quite interested in hearing from us, but God has absolutely no interest in adjusting His will and Word for us.

The Bible is clear; if we love God we will bow before him and we will follow his Word. This particularly includes when God’s Word is running against our preferences.

As Shane Morris points out, God is not “customizable”.

 

PET PEEVES

 

We all have pet peeves, here are some of mine

 

Coffee served in Styrofoam cups
Once Dunkin Donuts switched from mugs to Styrofoam I never went back (so some pet peeves are good for us)

People who talk in movie theaters
When they sing it’s even worse

The phrase “Each and every”
Each is every

The New York Jets
Actually any professional sports team from New York City qualifies

30 second ads on YouTube
I understand you need to make money, but 30 seconds is too long when I desire immediacy

When people pass you on the interstate and then slow down once they are in front of you
Grrrrrr

Size 0 and minus sizes in women’s clothing
That’s impossible

Kids standing at bus stops in winter without a coat in order to look cool
You have several coats at home and you’re freezing – that’s just stupid

When software programs ask if you have read and agree to their ‘Terms of Service Agreement’
47 pages of small print legalese, are you serious?

When people post 30 tweets at one time
That’s just annoying

 

Well, God also has pet peeves

Whenever we know what his Word says, and then disregard it

 

WISDOM TO STAY UNITED

divided-church

Have you ever disagreed with something done by the leadership of your church?

If you have attended Greentree Church for more than a few weeks, we have probably done something that you questioned, didn’t understand, didn’t like or simply left you scratching your head!

Even though we love our church and we try to be serious about being biblically directed, as leaders we remain flawed and insufficient instruments.

Even when we are acting with correct wisdom, that doesn’t guarantee that every church member is processing their reactions with biblical wisdom.

The church is a gathering of “saints”, but we are all flawed in what we do and how we respond.

For these reasons it is important that in Greentree and every other church, we have a biblical perspective for how to handle questions, conflicts and honest concerns.

Fortunately God “remembers that we are dust”. He gives us grace to work through the struggles we have with one another.

A helpful place to find wisdom for ourselves and life with one another is the Old Testament book of Proverbs.

David Murray offers what he calls two “church transforming” proverbs in this article from the Head, Heart, Hand Blog.

Since we will struggle with one another, it is a wise to know the wisdom God has provided precisely for those moments

GRUMBLE FREE

Phil 2,14

by Debbie Huber

 

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vainPhilippians 2:13-16a

My growth group recently dealt with the question, “Is it feasible to be able to never grumble?” We all chuckled and quickly answered, “No!” Sure does not feel like it is possible, at least in our own strength. We all realize that we can grumble about so many little things we do not even think twice about. Things like the weather, the slow person in the grocery line ahead of you, the service at a restaurant, the coworker who doesn’t seem to be pulling her weight, and the list goes on.

But Paul in Philippians instructs us to do ALL things without grumbling. Then he goes on to say, “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation”. How can we be blameless and innocent in this area? It is not in our own strength. The Bible tells us it is God who works in us to accomplish this for His good pleasure. He supernaturally enables us to refrain from grumbling. “Holding fast to the word of life” keeps us focused on Christ and not how we are affected by circumstances.

Why does it matter if we grumble a little? Everyone complains about the weather, the traffic, etc. Is there a day that goes by where you do not hear anyone grumbling about anything? It is probably rare.

If we live a “grumble-free” life, we will shine a light in a dark world filled with lots of grumbling. It is not so the crooked and twisted world will think that we are great but that they will know that Christ is great.

 

WHAT THOUGHTS DO YOU BRING TO CHURCH?

 

What are the thoughts that you bring to Church?

Or, what types of thoughts arise during the worship services you attend?

As a pastor, I have needed to face this question.

I might be distracted by how something is being handled, or disappointed in how a part of the service turned out (especially my preaching). At times I can find myself worrying about what the people around me are thinking about the service.

To be honest, it has helped me to have the pastors sitting in the congregation rather than on the platform as we used to do. We didn’t make the change for this reason, but it has helped me stay focused on my role as a worshipper in the service. This is also one of the reasons I always like to sit near the front in any church service.

We cannot stop thoughts from coming to us as we listen to and observe what is taking. And some of these thoughts will contain criticisms. How we handle these thoughts of criticism is important for a few reasons:

So we are not distracted from the worship God deserves from us

So we don’t quench what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us during and after the service

So we don’t develop the pattern of being critical, or to let a critical spirit gain a toehold in our heart

So our attention is not distracted from how the Holy Spirit would use us in the lives of others

So we don’t bring a negative mood into the service however unknowing or unintentional it may be

Jason Helopoulos gives us a couple practical steps in this article he wrote for the Together for the Gospel website entitled “The Sunday Worship Killer”. Jason writes:

“In all honesty, very few of us knowingly enter church with such a motivation. How silly it would be for us to rise early on Sundays to play the role of the critic. But as we take our seat in the church pew, our focus and motivation cowers to the voice crying out within, “they are not doing this right,” “they are not doing this well,” “they are not doing this as I would do it.” And in the midst of it all, we move from worshipper to critic.”

The gathering of the local church for worship, fellowship, ministry of the Word and the Lord’s Supper are wonderful gifts and purposes of God to us.

May we use each experience we have with these gifts well, for ourselves and for one another!

 

WHO IS THE BIGOT?

by Adam Ford:  Adam4d.com

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