Follow Up To ‘Warren Encouraging Lying to Children’ Post or God’s Commands Should Not Be Burdensome

1 John 5:3
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Thinking back on the passionate discussion that the Warren Encourages Lying to Children post generated, both in my comments section and on a few other blogs, something extremely obvious struck me.

Shouldn’t we WANT to tell the truth?

I mean, commenters were bending over backwards to justify not telling the truth in one situation or another. It seems to me that if one is arguing from the position that God’s law can be broken sometimes, then they are just facing in the wrong direction. Of course it can be broken, but why would we want to break it?

Are we not in love with Christ? Are we not so thrilled that He loves us that we long to please Him?

Is not discipleship in Christ about dying to self and giving up our will? If the focus of our discussion is, “what can we get away with?”, have we not already missed the point of following Christ and asked Him to follow us?

Christ loved the law and Christ kept the law. He considered it his ‘food and his drink’. When we obey the law as proof that we love God, He promises to love us, make His home with us and reveal himself to us.

John 14:21-24

“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.

Since we can no longer be condemned by the law, and since keeping the law leads to understanding the mind of God, and since not obeying the law is proof to God that we don’t really love Him, then why do we get into discussions about how we really don’t have to be fully obedient? That when God says, ‘Thou shalt not lie’, he doesn’t really mean it?

When listening to Tom Brownings series on Romans, and in particular the passages on the law, I came to think of my relationship to The Law in this way:

The Law is not just a mountain that I could never climb, it is an epic mountain range, more vast and majestic and beautiful and deadly than any here on earth. The attempt to scale this awesome creation has resulted in defeat for whom ever arrogantly sets out to complete it.

Except for Christ. He lived his earthly life trekking through it gracefully and supernaturally because He was God.

And when He died, he gave me the Holy Spirit, as a kind of tether to the heavens, so that I could attempt to walk in His footsteps. So I can now set out on the journey He set before me on those majestic, deadly cliffs, and each time I slip, loose my footing or even willingly throw my self off a precipice, I will never fall to my death.

The Law is no danger to me now, and in fact it is a glorious training ground. As I learn to navigate it, I get stronger and wiser and become more like the God who created it and the Savior who mastered it.

So my question is this, if I am correct and God’s Law is this beautiful, astonishing creation that teaches us about our beautiful, astonishing God, then why do we want to ignore it? Why are we working so hard to craft arguments as to why we don’t have to set out on the journey, or why it is ok when we loose our grip on the hilliside, to just give up and dangle out there in space rather than going back to the climb?

Did we really become Christians just to sit in the lodge and drink coca and look at the view?

Matthew 5:17-19

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

1 John 5:3

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

… and if His commandments have become a burden, isn’t it time to quit all our ministries and committees and blogging and go back and find our first love?

My Sin

I am five feet two inches tall and I weigh 270 lbs. Can you guess what My Sin is?

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Us Calvinists love to throw around Total Depravity. “I am a sinner!”, we cry from the pulpit and the pew. But when it comes to confessing our own specific sin in the moment, suddenly our depravity becomes as hard to nail down as jello.

“Well yes, in theory, I am a sinner… but I mean… not right now. Right now you are in sin and I am right. What’s that? Well no I am not obeying that verse right now… but that is because you are behaving so badly that I can’t obey that verse right now. The circumstances are so bad right now that God understands. … No, you confess first. … No! You confess first!”

Well someone needs to confess first, so it might as well be me.

At the heart of Calvinism is the idea that we have nothing to offer God, and despite that, He killed Himself chasing us down so He could have us for His own any way. But despite the fact that we can do nothing good with out Him, we still, in our flesh, want to be able to justify ourselves. We want to believe that we have something of our own to offer. The truth is, we can’t even take credit for our own repentance. Even that is granted to us by God.

This striving to justify ourselves, this little voice in the back of our minds that says some how we deserve our salvation just a tiny bit more than the next guy, is the same instinct that tells us to hide our sin. From the world, from the church and even from ourselves.

But God has commanded us to freely confess our sin.

One of the GREAT things about obeying scripture is that, after you do it, you begin to understand why God issued that commandment in the first place. You actually get a tiny peek into the mind of God.

And the mind of God was GENIUS when He told us confess our sin to each other! Because when we do it, it breaks sin’s power over us. We don’t have to hide in shame any more. We confess, we repent and it is wiped from God’s record.

If we truly believe in total depravity, confessing our sin becomes as easy as breathing in and out. We can repent more and more quickly and keep shorter and shorter accounts and become more and more free from the earthly consequences of sin.

To that end, and because God has commanded me, I freely confess that I am a lazy glutton. I love food and don’t exercise enough. Complex carbohydrates are my drug of choice. I am an addict.

This has been a problem for me for the last thirty years, but now it poses a new problem for me. Because of this tough little verse:

James 3:1
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

In starting this God Blog, I have set myself up as a teacher in The Church. Plus I should not be judging with a big, fat log in my eye. Plus, if I am in the Spirit, I will be living a self-disciplined life. Plus God require self-control of leaders in the church. While I am not technically an overseer, it is still a standard that, if I am serious about God and obedience to Him while teaching HIS word to HIS people, it would be unwise not to hold myself to this standard (especially because I hold other public preachers to this standard).

So it is exercise and restraint in eating for me as I God blog. And if I fall off that wagon, you won’t be hearing from me for a day or so while I repent and get back on that horse.

And please pray for me. Being an autism mom is hard and while I have not leaned on food (and TV while we are at it) to numb the huge pain and escape the frustration of those early years as heavily as I used to, my health has only improved a small amount in the last year or so.

As God is teaching us what it means to joyfully embrace what our ‘New Normal’ is now, I want to be someone who does not just survive being an autism mom, but thrives.

For the last few years I pictured myself, if I persisted until the end of the race that God has given me, being one of those runners whose legs have given out and who are barely conscious, crawling the last few miles on bloody hands and knees, collapsing dead at the end of the race with only the tips of my fingers over the finish line.

It is only in the last year or so that the idea has returned to me that I might be able to finish strong and dance on the other side of the finish line. I want to be that kind of runner.

And I am grateful to God for making my race a harder one than it used to be so that I could better understand that I really can’t run it under my own power, and I actually never could.

Wake Up, Sleepyhead

I really get a lot from Tom Browning.

I am finishing his series on Romans that I mentioned two weeks ago, and I don’t think that a sermon series has ever made me cry so much. To hear this Texan get choked up again and again over the fact that Jesus died for him, to hear the true gratitude in his voice for his salvation… it is really humbling.

I just finished listening to the one on Romans 13:11-14 and wanted to share it with you guys.

It is Paul’s wake up call to us.

Time for us to wake up.

Strategic Strategies for Excellence in Missional Missions to Make Your City The Greatest City For Christ in America

There are many groundbreaking approaches out there today for making your ministry the most dynamic and influential of all the ministries undertaken through out history.

But I have come up with a new model that will blow all of them away. I was going to wait and write my own book about it, but this model is just to big to wait. It needs to be out there now!

Do yourself a favor and throw all those other books out and wipe all the events off your calendars, because there will be no need for them after this.

And it is easy! Only three steps to remember.

1. Worship God.

2. Read Scripture.

3. Obey it.

Like… if someone is sick or in prison, do this.

Or if another Christian is ticked at you, do this.

If you did something wrong, do this.

If someone wants to sue you butt off because you did something really wrong, do this.

If you catch your pastor doing something wrong, do this.

If your friends do not know Jesus, do this.

If you see a cop beating up a hobo, do this.

If some one who does not know Christ hates you and is trying to make your life miserable, do this.

If you feel scared, do this.

If your life is super fun, do this.

If you have mad cash, do this.

If you give all your money to the poor, do this.

I could go on and on! Its almost like there is something in there for everything!

And when you hit a wall, and don’t want to obey scripture any more, all you have to do is start over again at number 1 and worship God again! It is as easy as lather, rinse repeat!

It will change your life, I gaurentee it.

Bottom line, if you spend all your time working My Simple Plan (registered trademark of GingCo, Inc.) which is mine and mine alone that I thought of all by myself with no help from anyone else at all, then you won’t even have time for all those other plans.

Paul sure didn’t.

But seriously… isn’t it time to take a step back from all the hype and just learn to live the lessons that Christ has taught us in this moment, and then in the next?

Speaking the Truth in Anger and Lying in Love

Ephesians 4:15
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ

There is a dynamic I see being played out in the comments section of Christian blogs everywhere. God has called all of us to, ‘speak the truth in love’, but that seems to be the exception more than the rule.

More than two years ago a serious conflict began with one of my oldest and dearest Christian friends. After months of everyone trying to work things out earnestly, things took a turn for the worse and it was time to abandon the relationship. I wrote to him to say goodbye, and included one of my observations on this dynamic that was preventing the conflict from being healed biblically.

I would like to share part of that letter to him, as it ‘confesses’ my own predilection for sin, explores his and challenges all of us to examine ourselves.

“…From the outset of this [conflict] I have known that if I was going to fall into sin, my predisposition would be to ‘speak the truth in anger’. I have worked hard to keep that from happening and confessed it when it did…

You on the other hand have, and continue to, ‘lie in love’. You believe and speak things that are not true, your decisions on how to handle these problems do not line up with scripture…, but you seem to believe that as long as you have a “good heart” none of that matters. It matters. It is having devastating consequences…”

This seems to be a good analogy (albeit an oversimplification) for what is happening in the hostile discussions taking place between reformed or discernment proponents that are very concerned with presenting God’s unadulterated Truth (of which I am one) and emergents that are very concerned that love be the focus of the church.

But bottom line, when we speak and do not balance the two, we sin. And if we want to keep from falling into sin, we need to know where our weaknesses are so that when we can recognize our flesh when it pops up to take over, confess the sin quickly and get back on the road that God would have us on.

Some of us tend toward lying in love, because we really, truly want to believe the best, even when the evidence is to the contrary, and really want God’s Kingdom to be as inclusive as we can make it. We really, really want the visible church to be God’s Kingdom on earth. But stretching the Word of God beyond that which the text will logically allow, is sin. It is adding to and taking away from scripture. Even when we do it with the best of intentions, it is still making The True God into a golden calf who will be the god that you want him to be. It is sin.

Some of us have become so concerned with getting things correct and defending the true faith, that we loose sight of God’s command to balance our truth with love. We fall into the trap of becoming noisy gongs or a clanging cymbals. We keenly see the danger in the assumption that the visible church, not the invisible church, is God’s Kingdom and are very serious about warning those who think that, because they prayed a prayer once, they are going to heaven. In warning of those dangers we can offer harsh rebuke in cases where the bible does not set a precedent for it.

A few of us, in our relative youth and immaturity, vacillate back and forth between the two.

And there is one person in my life that is able to balance the two when she speaks, and when she has spoken into a conflict, brings the tension in the room from a fever pitch down to safe vulnerability, but she does not speak. Fear of fighting has driven her to retreat from the conflicts in which she could have been a stabilizing force.

We can also change from one extreme to the other in our lives. Where I had spent the first few decades of my life as one who would tend to lie in love, becoming the mother of an autistic child, and then seeing that child get the shaft (even at the hands of professing Christians), drove me from one camp into the other, and since April of 2006, I can say with out hesitation that my tendency now when I sin in this area, it is to speak the truth in anger.

But there is hope for all of us. If we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, and if the Holy Spirit is in us, we can be brought back to the place that we can deal with terribly difficult truths even when our flesh wants to run screaming into denial or defensiveness; and we can be humble and loving and considering others more important than ourselves when dishing out the hard truth, choosing words that provide edification according to the need of the moment.

I know that because last week, all three of us, the woman who was afraid to speak, the man who had such a hard time with the hard truth, and me, the angry autism mom, after two years of God working on us, were able to step outside of our flesh and into the Spirit and do those things which God called us to do.

And in our obedience, God healed the relationships that had been broken for years.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away… blessed be the name of the Lord!

So here is my question for my commenters, where are you in this picture? When you sin, do you speak the truth in anger like me? Do you lie in love? Or do you fail to speak at all?

Update: Sadly the aforementioned friend was not able to follow through on his attempt to deal truthfully, no repentance of sin followed and the reconciliation fell apart.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away… blessed by the name of the Lord.

The Good Stuff: R.C. and JMac’s Podcasts

Among the wonderful and wonderfully free expository teaching out there are daily podcasts from R. C. Sproul and John MacArthur.

If you have not added them to your iTunes, now is the time.

Renewing your Mind with R. C. Sproul
http://www.ligonier.org/rym_podcast_subscribe.php

Grace to You with John MacArthur
http://www.gty.org/Podcast

While I really respect both men, if they find a point of disagreement, I lean toward Sproul.  Ya know… Just FYI.

The Good Stuff: Tim Keller

I found my self getting ready to send two of my friends links to the same sermon today, and then I thought, “hey… I have a blog for this kind of stuff”,  so here is my recommendation for your daily sermon.

Tim Keller is a really good teacher.  He is someone who you feel smart for just understanding.  Listening to his sermons over the last two years has really stretched my husband and me.

You can subscribe to his sermons on his church’s web site for those who are hooked, but for the financially challenged, there is lots of free Keller out there to be had.

Reformissionary has a really great Tim Keller Resource Page with links to tons of his sermons.

His sermons on Praying our Tears and Praying our Fears were really wonderful for me when we were going through the hard stuff.  If you are struggling with pain (or fear, or the fear of pain) now, take some time and take a listen.

If not, save it for later, because as C.S. Lewis noted, to open yourself to love is to open yourself to pain.