Christian women

Throwback Thursday ~ It’s OK To Be Ordinary

Originally published: January 16, 2013

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Titus 2:3-5

Love our husbands and children.

Be self-controlled, pure, and kind.

Work at home.

Be submissive to our own husbands.

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In other words: ordinary. 

I didn’t see anything in there about changing the world or living out great big enormous dreams, did you? I think, often, as 21st century Christian women, the evangelical/church culture can make us feel like we are failures if we don’t have some sort of huge ministry or preach the gospel on the street corner every day. In Titus’ day that sort of thing would have been unbecoming for women. In our culture, women have more opportunities to be involved in various ministries than back then, but we have to remember that God calls us to faithfully serve Him in whatever life circumstances He has put us in. And He has not called the vast majority of us to be ministry superstars or Christian celebrities.

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He has called most of us to be ordinary.

Staying home and pouring the gospel into our families or being a gospel influence to others at work or teaching Sunday school or sharing the gospel through volunteer work, etc., though it may be on a small scale in the world’s eyes, is success and faithfulness in God’s eyes. And that’s all that matters.

You’re not failing God if you’re ordinary.

What are some “ordinary” ways you enjoy
serving God and your neighbor?

Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

We’ve got to stop meeting like this…only once or twice a year, that is. When I first started 4R, I kind of envisioned it as a four or five times a year feature, and now we’re at about once a year. Well, life happens, I guess.

It’s time for some Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources! Ready, set, go!

#FreeJamesCoates

Have you been following the story of James Coates, Pastor of GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada? He was recently arrested and imprisoned for obeying God rather than men by refusing to stop holding church services and refusing to bar those who desperately wanted to attend from coming in to worship, among other official Covid-related reasons that were given. The restrictions on gathering in that particular are are so strict they have effectively shuttered churches. (No, they cannot hold services outside {Have you ever been to Canada in February? I haven’t, and even I know that’s a ridiculous suggestion.} No, “online church” is not the same as gathering in person and it is not a biblical long-term substitute for gathering in person.)

I’m not alerting you to this situation in order to debate whether or not James and GLC should have given in to the draconian demands of their local government. (Frankly, I was shocked and downright embarrassed at some of the cruel and critical comments that were made about James and GLC- by people who profess to be Christians – on my social media platforms Wednesday when I posted about this. And after everything I’ve seen in ministry, it takes a lot to shock and embarrass me. Those folks ought to be ashamed of themselves. No such comments will be allowed on this article or my social media platforms. They will be deleted and you will be blocked.)

I’m asking you to pray.

Pray for James, his wife, Erin, and their children, and GLC. (If the name Erin Coates sounds familiar it might be because she was one of my sister speakers at the Open Hearts in a Closed World online conference last summer, and coming up again this summer.)

The elders of GLC have suggested these prayer points:

Erin’s Instagram handle is @erincoates80 if you’d like to follow her. Here is her most recent update as of the time I’m writing this:

What is something tangible you can do? Open your churches. Worship Christ. Practice the one anothers, sing your hearts out, let your pastor see your eyes as he preaches the word of God to you. Don’t underestimate this task in your life. Obey Christ with all you have.”

Erin says it better than I ever could.

Fakes and Frauds

If you haven’t already subscribed to Justin Peters’ YouTube channel, what are you waiting for? I know it’s super-duper long, but you’ve got to watch one of his most recent videos: 2020 The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Year For The Prophets, especially if you’re unfamiliar with New Apostolic Reformation heresy as it relates to false prophets / prophecy. This will get you up to speed. Also included is an excellent interview with Nathan Busenitz on what Scripture says about false prophets.

Hymn and Hymn, but Not Hymn

You’ve heard that old joke, right? One Sunday morning, the minister of music announced from the pulpit, “In honor of Miss Doretha’s 80th birthday, we’re going to let her choose three hymns today.” Miss Doretha jumped breathlessly to her feet, scanned the room, and began pointing: “I’ll take him, him, and him!”

Well some young whippersnapper took it upon herself (a few years ago, but I only saw it recently) to pick 10 Christian Hymns That Need to Be Put to Rest. At least I’m inferring from the tone of the article that the author, Jennifer, is a young whippersnapper, because – I’m sorry, I’m honestly not trying to be mean here, but to me she comes off as a bit immature and shallow.

Or maybe I’m just old and curmudgeonly, having reached the “GET OFF MY LAWN!” stage of life.

Jennifer’s argument for putting several of these hymns out to pasture seems to be, “This hymn is too hard for people to understand,” or “People don’t understand what these words mean”.

By her logic, we should ditch the King James Version of the Bible, the Puritans (certainly Jonathan Edwards – my stars, have you ever tried to read his stuff?), the Reformers, and the early church fathers.

Schools should stop teaching Shakespeare, Beowulf, and Chaucer. And we should probably get rid of some of our patriotic songs too (I mean who knows what a “rampart” is, anyway?)

It’s just further reflective of the worldly attitude of dumbing things down to the level of people’s sloth (excuse me – “laziness” – since some may not know what “sloth” means).

How about, instead of getting rid of hymns and words people don’t understand, pastors and ministers of music take a second and teach the congregation what those words and hymns mean? Or the congregation could pull their phones out and Google it. We do that with everything else – why not do it with hard words and build our vocabularies and our knowledge base?

But there are some hymns that need to go due to theological issues with their lyrics. I’ve got two picks and then I’ll let you get in on the game. Click on the titles for lyrics. (Please note, I don’t really know anything about the people performing these songs, but I’m guessing I wouldn’t recommend them since it’s pretty hard to find doctrinally sound Christians singing songs that aren’t.)

The Savior is Waiting

It pains me to list this hymn as one that needs to be put to rest because I’ve been singing it all my life and have a deep sentimental attachment to it. Also the music is lovely, and I really do think the hymnist’s heart was in the right place when he wrote it. But…

The entire tenor of the first verse reminds me of a mom nagging her reluctant child to befriend the snaggle-toothed, bespectacled, nerdy little kid on the playground who’s running around offering his entire Hot Wheels collection if somebody – anybody – will just please, pleeeeeeeeeze, be his friend. Jesus is not some pitiful little weirdo whose day would be made if you would do Him the honor of sitting at His lunch table. He is loving and kind, yes, but He is also King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and we humbly bow the knee to Him.

And don’t even get me started on verse two. People who are dead in their sins can’t “take one step toward the Savior,” my friend. Christ has to raise us from the dead to new life in Christ.

Pass It On

This was the (depending on your age) Shout to the Lord, or Oceans, or Way Maker of my day, kiddies, and I have lots of fond memories attached to it, too. It was the song you sang at youth camp, and sometimes – if your minister of youth and music was cool, like ours was – during Sunday night church. (Some of my contemporaries will remember that we used to yell out, “Praise God!” after the phrase, “I’ll shout it from the mountaintop.”).

Whether or not the composer intended to base the opening words of this song – “It only takes a spark to get a fire going” – in Scripture, it evokes James 3:5b, which, in the most popular modern translation around the time this song was written said:

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

Which would be all well and good except for context, context, context. Because James 3:3-6 says:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Scripture out of context…fires of hell…yeah, as peace, love, and “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” as this song is, I think it could be put to rest.

What do you think? Are there any hymns you think could be mothballed because of their unbiblical lyrics? Comment below and share. But play by the rules:

  • It has to be a non-contemporary hymn. Let’s say anything written between the first century and 1980.
  • None of this, “Everything from Bethel, Hillsong, and Elevation!” stuff. Everybody knows that already. This is about hymns.
  • “Because of their unbiblical lyrics.” Not because the hymnist him/herself apostatized, fell into sin, etc.
  • I get that all of this could be avoided if every church only sang the psalms. That’s beside the point.

OK, get out those hymnals and let’s hear it!

Faith Works

A few thoughts on Hebrews 11:8-19:

The original audience of Hebrews was first century Christians from Jewish backgrounds. Slavery to Law-keeping was so ingrained that the Holy Spirit gave them a chapter of “Old Testament Survey” (let the seminarian understand).

In this portion of the chapter, He demonstrates to them that the central figure of their faith, the one in whom they had their biological, tribal, and spiritual inheritance – Abraham – left them a legacy, not of Law-keeping, but of faith. Abraham believed God, and that is what was credited to him as righteousness, not any good deeds that he might have done. And, indeed that is the preeminent truth of the entire Old Testament: faith in God and in the Christ to come, not good works.

We are part of that same spiritual legacy of faith today. No amount of good works will save you: being a nice person will not save you, going to church, giving offerings, and serving at church will not save you, being baptized will not save you, praying to saints and other religious rituals will not save you, parroting a “sinner’s prayer” will not save you.

Only repenting of your sin and trusting that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection paid the penalty for your sin of an eternity in hell will save you.

If you’ve never placed your faith in Jesus and been completely changed into a new creature in Christ with Christlike desires and a hatred for sin, how about doing that today? Check out the What Must I Do to Be Saved? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page for more information.

Faith, Trust

Fear Not: 9 Biblical Ways to Trade Worry for Trust

Originally published April 24, 2015fear not

Did you have any fears as a child? Monsters? The dark? Dogs? When I was a little girl, I had this record of the story of Peter and the Wolf, and I was afraid of wolves at night (Look at the picture and listen to him growl. Can you blame me?). I just knew they were skulking around my bed in the dark, black as midnight, drooling rabidly, ready to shred me to ribbons should I stick so much as one toe out from under the covers. It was terrifying.

As adults, we look back on those childhood fears with some degree of smugness or embarrassment and think about how silly it was to be scared of something that was never a threat in the first place. But even if we don’t like to admit it, fear is something we grown ups still struggle with, at least from time to time. Finances, health, and our children’s futures may replace wolves, darkness, and the boogeyman, but fear is still fear, whether you’re four or forty.

And God is well aware of that fact.

In my Bible, the phrases “fear not,” “do not be afraid,” and other similar expressions appear over 75 times. Fear is a normal, God-given reaction that can be healthy and keep you safe in the event of a real threat. Fear is a blessing when it motivates you to jump out of the path of a speeding truck or stay away from a rattlesnake, but just like everything else affected by the Fall, fear can often be misdirected and thwart our growth in Christ.

Most of our fears as adults have nothing to do with tangible, imminent, life or limb danger. Usually, we are fearful of “what if’s.”

“What if I get a bad report from the doctor?”

“What if I get fired?”

“What if my teenage daughter gets pregnant?”

In other words, we worry about what might happen.

It’s really easy to sing “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” on Sunday, but much harder to actually do the work of trusting Him on Monday. Worry almost seems woven into the fiber of our DNA. In fact, worry has been such a common theme in the human experience that Jesus took time to address it during his Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:25-34

Clearly, it is not God’s will for us to worry. No matter how strangling our fear may feel, God wants us to trust Him in everything, from the most dire situation to the most mundane. But how?

1. Make sure the object of your trust is the right one.

A popular false teaching from the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) camp these days is that it’s never God’s will for you to be sick, poor, or experience tragedy. If you just have enough faith, and decree and declare enough, you can yank whatever outcome you want right out of the hands of God. Do you know why that’s not true?

Arguably the mightiest men of faith in history, eleven of the twelve disciples were martyred. So was Paul. David, whom God said was “a man after His own heart” suffered tragedy after tragedy. Jesus Himself prayed in Gethsemane that God would keep Him from having to go to the cross, and God said no.

Like these godly men, as Christians, we do not place our faith in positive outcomes. We place our faith in Christ, and His sufficiency for us in all things, regardless of the outcome. Make sure you’re trusting Christ, not what you want Him to give you.

2. Get off the guilt train.

Sometimes we can fall into Satan’s trap of believing that if we’re really saved or really trusting the Lord or really have faith, we’ll never fear anything. Then, when those worries creep in, we start feeling guilty. We’re not supposed to have those feelings.

Have you ever read the story of Gideon? Gideon was one scared dude, and he had good reason to be. But even though he was scared and fumbling, he believed and obeyed the Lord. And the Lord commended him for being a man of great faith.

Trusting Christ doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid of anything. Trusting Christ means you keep believing Him, keep loyal to Him, and keep obeying Him even when you are afraid.

3. Take reasonable precautions.

Trusting God doesn’t mean you should be careless. Eat healthy and exercise. Be frugal. Watch your children carefully. God gave us a whole book about using wisdom, and He gave us brains, so let’s use them.

4. You’re not in this by yourself.

God has promised never to leave you or forsake you. He has promised to give you the strength to deal with anything you come up against. He has promised you a way out of temptation. Trust that God is with you and will help you.

5. Rehearse your trust instead of your fear.

A lot of therapists will encourage you not to “repress” your fears but, rather, talk about them, write about them, examine them, etc. In other words, rehearse them (which only leads to more fear, because fear feeds off itself). But the Bible never says to do that. It says, “do not fear” and “trust in the Lord.” Period. No analysis required.

Those worries may start creeping in, but you don’t have to set the table and turn down the bed for them. Push them right out of your mind, slam the door behind them, and say (out loud is helpful), “No. I’m not going to worry. I’m going to trust the Lord.” You’ll still feel worried at first, but “fake it ’til you make it.” Your feelings will eventually follow.

6. Replace fearful thoughts with biblical thoughts.

After you’ve pushed those fearful thoughts out of your mind, consciously redirect your focus to trusting the Lord. Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to help you trust Him. Put on some biblical worship music that focuses on the goodness of God, and sing along. Be thankful- start listing all the ways God is good and has blessed you. Recite and meditate on Scripture about trusting God. Some of my favorites are:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

 7. Get your mind off it.

Watch a good movie. Have coffee with a friend. Better yet, serve someone who needs your help. Share the gospel with someone who’s lost. Get your mind off the worries and on to something better.

8. Get physical.

Go running or do some physical labor around the house or something like that. Either you’ll get some endorphins going and you’ll start feeling better or the shin splints and backache will completely erase any memory of whatever you were afraid of.

9. Repent and get a fresh start.

Sometimes (often, if you’re like me), you’re going to blow it. You’re going to give in to fear and let it control you instead of trusting God. You’re going to act on your fears and disobey God instead of trusting and obeying Him in spite of your fears. When that happens, don’t run away from the Lord. Run to Him. Repent and be forgiven. That’s what His mercy and grace are all about.

Worries are a normal part of life in a fallen world, but, in Christ, we are not to be enslaved by them. We have a Savior who is sovereign over all things. He clothes the grass with lilies. He feeds the wild birds. And He cares oh so much more for you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and fear not.

How do you deal with worry in a godly way?


Additional Resources:

Do not let your hearts be troubled at A Word Fitly Spoken

Poetry, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ How a Little Acorn Helped Reassure a Nut Like Me

It’s a midweek mixup! :0) Due to my family’s schedule this week, I’m changing up the blog schedule just a little. Throwback Thursday will be today, and our 1 Peter Bible study lesson will be Thursday. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Originally published September 27, 2016

acorn-1030819_1280

There are two kinds of people in this world, throwers and savers (or hoarders, if your saving has breached the clinical level). I’m a thrower married to a saver, which means I have thrown out some stuff I later wished I’d kept, and my husband has saved a lot of stuff we haven’t used in ages and probably never will. But, recently, I came across something I’m really glad I kept all these years.

I was going through a box of old papers, happily doing my “thrower” thing, when I discovered a manilla folder marked, in my handwriting, “Michelle’s Misc. Creative Writing.” Whatever it was, I didn’t remember saving the folder, nor what it might contain. I opened it up to find a two inch thick sheaf of, well…my miscellaneous writings from years gone by. Sermon notes, creative writing assignments and essays for English classes, poems, song lyrics, short stories, even what looked like the manuscript to a devotional I’d started on.

Fortunately, I had dated most of the papers, so I could see that the bulk of them were written when I was between the ages of about 14 to 21. As I leafed through pages of adolescent script alternating with dot matrix printing, I started noticing a common thread. Nearly all of this writing was about God, faith, the Bible, worship, wanting to know Him more. To be sure, the faith was childlike (if not downright childish), and the theology was often immature and somewhat unbiblical.

But it was there. And all these years I’d wondered whether or not that faith had existed back then at all.

You see, I was raised in a Christian home, and, although I was most definitely a depraved little wretch, my outward behavior was fairly decent compared with some of the other kids my age. I got good grades, never had behavior problems in school, was at church every time the doors were open, never tried sex, drugs, cigarettes, crime, or anything else teens sometimes get into. Overall, I was your basic goodie two shoes. So, when I prayed a prayer for salvation at age 12, there was no great big radical lightning bolt change in my life. Things continued pretty much as usual. Had my heart changed? Looking back all those years later as an adult with terrible recollective abilities, I couldn’t really remember.

But as I skimmed through page after page of longing for God, love for God, wanting to please God, something I told a reader not long ago -who was concerned she might not be saved – hit me like a ton of bricks:

Lost people don’t have that kind of “want to.”

I didn’t have all my doctrine straight or walk in Christian maturity, and I wouldn’t have known an apologetic from an apostate, but I wanted God. I loved Him as best I knew how at the time. I had that “want to.” I was saved. God had used a dusty box of old papers to reassure me and put those doubts to rest. It was one of those precious moments alone with the Lord that you never forget.

So to sort of celebrate that little moment in my walk with the Lord, I wanted to share with you one of the poems I found in that folder. It was undated, but I think I wrote it when I was in high school or college. Now, I’m just going to warn you up front, it’s long and it’s lame and it’s (a)corny, and some of the cadence is off and so is the doctrine, and it just plain needs a lot of editing. But I had a good laugh over it, and I thought you might, too. (Hint- it’s funnier if you read it out loud.)

I Am a Little Acorn

I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the might oak
Was once a nut like me.

When I was a baby bud,
I burst forth from a limb,
I grew a little every day,
Out from my little stem.

As I grew older day by day,
An identity crisis hit me.
I searched my heart and searched my soul
To find out just what I should be.

I did not want to be a nut.
I cried, “I cant! I won’t!”
Because sometimes you feel like a nut,
Sometimes you don’t.

I tried to be a button,
And a rolling tumbleweed.
I tried to be a jelly bean,
But still did not succeed.

Oprah, Geraldo, Sally, and Phil*
All let me spill my guts.
“Something other than an acorn?” they asked,
“You can’t! You must be nuts!”

My fame and fortune quickly spread,
I was known both far and wide.
But no one knew my secret dark,
I was lost and scared inside.

Then finally, one day, I turned to the Lord,
And cried out with all my might,
“Why, oh why, do I continue to fail?
Why won’t something go right?”

“Remember to whom you are speaking,” said He,
“I am the Great I Am,
But I’m also the root of David,
And the seed of Abraham.”

“From small beginnings come great things,
This fact is tried and true,
The mighty oak could never be,
Without an acorn like you.”

“All are given different gifts,
And must do as best they can,
To find a way to channel them
According to God’s plan.”

“So cheer up little acorn,
And learn the secret known by few:
Be content with what you’re given,
And let God work through you.”

“I’ll be the best acorn ever!” said he.
“I’ll do as God has led.”
Then standing bold and brave and tall,
The acorn proudly said:

“I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the mighty oak
Was once a nut like me.”

(*You’ve probably heard of Oprah. Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jessie Raphael, and Phil Donohue all used to host talk shows, too.)

Don’t despair if you’re still a little acorn in your faith. You keep pursuing that “want to” for God, and He’ll grow you into a mighty oak in Christ.

How do I know? Because He’s doing just that for a nut like me. 🌰

Relationships, Sanctification

In Defense of Offense: Why Christians Need to Stop Worrying About Offending People

“You’re a liar,” he said dryly, the passion in his eyes gleaming through.

“What?!?! HOW DARE YOU call me a liar!” his fellow church member fumed.

“You’re a liar, Joe. You show up at church for an hour a week and claim to be a Christian, yet you’ve been living with your girlfriend for over a year, you’ve told me you use pornography, and I’ve talked to five different people with incontrovertible evidence that you’ve cheated in your business dealings with them. When you say you’re a Christian, you’re lying. Just admit it.”

Have you ever had a conversation like this with someone? Have you ever witnessed a conversation like this?

Most of us would never dream of calling someone a liar who claims to be a Christian yet walks in disobedience to Christ. Goodness, no! It might offend the person or cause her to question her salvation! She might leave the church or walk away from the faith!

You know who wouldn’t be afraid of offending such a person or causing her to doubt her salvation? Someone who would dream of calling a professed Christian walking in disobedience a liar?

The Holy Spirit – via the Apostle John – that’s who.

Whoever says “I know him [Jesus]” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he [Jesus] walked.
1 John 2:4-6

Take a moment and let that really sink in. People who claim to be Christians yet habitually and unrepentantly make a practice of sinning are not saved.

To the Holy Spirit and John that’s as plain and simple and uncontroversial as saying, “The sky is blue, and water’s wet.” But to a false convert, them’s fightin’ words.

And we know it.

So we refrain from lovingly speaking hard, biblical truths to people who need to hear them, usually for one of a handful of reasons:

• We don’t want this person’s wrath aimed at us because it’s a hassle or because we don’t want to lose the relationship with her.

• We don’t actually believe the Bible and trust God’s sovereignty. We’d rather lean on our own understanding, desperately clinging to the irrational hope that this person is truly a Christian who’s hanging by a thread, and we don’t want to be the one responsible for saying anything that might clip that thread.

• We’re worried about how we’ll look to others and that they’ll accuse us of being unloving, unchristlike, and harming the unity of the church.

What do those reasons have in common?

Me. Me me me me me me me.

I want to keep my relationship with this person in tact. I don’t want others to blame me for this person’s reaction to biblical truth or call me unloving or divisive. I don’t want to deal with the aggravation of this person’s emotional blow up.

It’s not exactly the greater love of laying down one’s life for a friend, is it? We’re not even willing to lay down our comfort or our reputation in order to tell someone her walk doesn’t match her talk and call her to repentance. Is that love at all, or is it just plain, old fashioned selfishness? We bow and scrape at the idol of not hurting other people’s feelings while those people careen down the road paved with our good intentions straight toward the gates of Hell. How is that love? 

Love is valuing, and acting on, what is best for another person over and above our own self interests. You know, kind of like Jesus did during His life, death, and resurrection:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16

You know, it’s interesting that the Holy Spirit speaks a lot of hard, “you’re not saved if…” truths in a book (1 John) whose purpose is to give true Christians assurance of their salvation. The Third Person of the Trinity – the embodiment of perfect love – doesn’t seem to think it’s unloving to tell false converts they aren’t saved, while at the same time reassuring young, shaky-kneed saints.

But us? We can’t seem to get our act together and do both from a heart of love the way the Holy Spirit does.

We’ve focused so much attention on reassuring anyone who claims the label “Christian” of their eternal security that we’ve lost sight of the fact that there are a great many false converts in our midst who should be questioning their salvation. The gate is wide that leads to destruction, Jesus said. It is the narrow gate that leads to life, and few are those who find it. Test yourself to see if you’re in the faith. How will they know these things if we don’t tell them?

The Bible has hard, sharp edges. It’s a sword, for crying out loud, not a feather duster. The primary purpose of a sword is to cut.

The gospel divides. Jesus – the creator of Christian unity – said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Jesus – perfectly kind, perfectly loving Jesus – called those claiming to be God’s people yet walking in disobedience hypocrites, vipers, and sons of the Devil. Jesus – the Jesus who was more compassionately evangelistic than we could ever hope to be – didn’t beg, plead, or hand-wringingly water down Kingdom requirements so the rich young ruler would keep a toe in the door of God’s house. Jesus held high the standard of the gospel and let him walk away. Jesus wasn’t a nerdy little wimp offering people a cheap plastic heavenly trinket if they would only be His friend. This almighty King demanded perfection, the highest love, loyalty unto death. And, by the way, you’d better count the cost before deciding to follow Him. Jesus wasn’t worried about offending people with biblical truth.

We need to stop worrying that the Bible is going to offend people who need to be offended by its demands, requirements, and judgments so that they might repent and be reconciled to Christ. Whether it’s a sinner in need of a Savior or a saint in need of sanctification, the ministry of reconciliation Christ has called us to begins with confronting sin.

Every person we would potentially approach with biblical truth is either saved or lost.

If a person is genuinely one of Christ’s sheep, she will hear the voice of her Shepherd calling to her from the truths of His Word, turn from her sin, and follow Him. It may take time. It may take help. It may take teaching and many tears. But sheep love the Shepherd and follow Him. They grow toward Him, not away from Him.

If a person is lost, she isn’t going to get any “loster” when you biblically call her to repentance. Lost is lost, even if that lost person claims to be, or thinks she is, a Christian. There’s no such thing as a genuinely regenerated Christian who’s just barely hanging on to Jesus by her fingernails and you come along and push her out of the faith by confronting her sin with biblical truth. Uh uh. If she abandons Christ in favor of her sin, she was never saved in the first place, I don’t care what she claims to the contrary.

All of this nonsense floating around these days about “de-converting” from Christianity, or “I used to be a real, genuine, bona fide Christian, but I’m not anymore.” Hogwash and poppycock. The Bible says if you leave the body of Christ, you were never a member of it to begin with. That God is greater than all (including you) and no one (not even yourself) is able to snatch you out of His hand if you belong to Him. That those who are saved will endure to the end. That Jesus will not lose a single one of those the Father has entrusted to Him. Dare we believe the words of sinners about themselves over what the Word of God says about them? No matter what you say or do, you don’t have the power to be responsible for someone leaving the faith. Whatever circumstance or person they might use as a scapegoat, people “leave” Christianity because they don’t know or love Christ and they’ve gotten tired of pretending like they do.

The people we love enough to lovingly, yet firmly, speak hard biblical truths to are either Christians who will come to love and embrace those truths (and love us for caring enough to speak them), or they’re lost or false converts who need to be confronted with the mirror of God’s Word so they can face up to the fact that they’re lost. Where the Bible speaks plainly and definitively, we must not be ashamed of the gospel and shrink from speaking plainly and definitively in agreement with it.

Stop being afraid of offending people by speaking hard, biblical truths. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is offend her.