Satan Crushed

Romans No Comments »

satancrushed

Before we move away from the end of Romans, I’d like to point you to one of the most powerful verses in all of Holy Scripture, Romans 16:20:

“The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet!”

Wow. How powerful. How empowering. I’m not sure any of the motivational speeches in the history of the silver screen, from Knute Rockne to Braveheart, ever inspired as much hope. From Washington to Bowie to Patton, no commander has ever spoken a more immortal truth to rally the troops. Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry combined could never touch the power of these motivational words.

“The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet!”

If these words of Holy Scripture are true — and they are! — then there’s nothing that can ever stop us. There is nothing to fear. There is nothing to doubt. Nobody can stand in our way. Satan can’t stop us. Satan can’t slow us down. Satan can’t scare us or intimidate us or trick us. His fate is sealed. His destiny is already being delivered. He will soon be completely crushed by God under our feet.

So, what are we afraid of? Why are we so slow to act? What are we waiting for?

With Satan out of the picture, we are liberated to do bold things, courageous things, great things for God’s Kingdom in the name of our Risen Lord. With no fear. No doubts. No hesitation.

“The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet!

Peace,

Allan

Strong Christians

Church, Discipleship, Giving, Grace, Romans No Comments »

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“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.” ~Romans 15:1-3

As children of God and followers of his Christ, the Church takes its example from Jesus. The Son of God is the one who calls us to live with each other the way we do. We realize that Christ Jesus never once did a single thing to please himself. Instead, he gave up everything, he sacrificed everything, to benefit others. And by choosing to serve others instead of please himself, Jesus sets the pattern that we must accept as our own: Putting others first, considering the needs of others more important than our own, never about me, always about you.

And Paul puts it on the strong. It’s up to the strong Christians, not the weak, to make sure this happens in God’s Church. It’s on the strong to bear with the failings of the weak sister or brother. That’s hard. It’s on the strong to make the concessions to our weaker brothers and sisters and that’s not easy. It’s easier to be the weaker Christian, drawing the lines and insisting that everybody cater to me. It’s the strong, Paul says, who are able to grasp the truth that our love and mercy and grace to others is like Christ.

“But I can’t stop doing this certain thing; not for him.”
“I can’t give up practicing this particular thing; not for her.”
“I can’t sacrifice this behavior or this privilege or this freedom; not for them.”

You call yourself a follower of Christ? Jesus gave up everything! Jesus sacrificed it all for you and me, for all our brothers and sisters, for the strong and the weak! That’s what makes a strong Christian strong: a faith that comes to the realization that a lot of the things you care so much about are really not that important to God. You love your weaker brother so much, you care about your weaker sister so much, you’re willing to keep those things between you and the Lord and sacrificially carry the burdens of the weak. And the stronger your faith, the easier it becomes. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. You can do this.

Bottom line, here’s what separates the strong Christians from the weak Christians: Strong Christians with strong faith know that the more you sacrifice and the more you give up for others, the more like Christ you are. The more you insist on your own way, the more you assert yourself for your own interests, the less like Christ you are. Pretty simple.

So, what if all of us, to a person, decided that we would put ourselves at the back of the line? What if we all vowed to bend over backwards to make everybody else happy and sacrifice our own feelings and opinions in order to build up others? What if we all did that?

If we all accepted each other like Christ accepted us, if we all bore the failings of the weak just like Jesus does, it still wouldn’t result in a perfect Church. It wouldn’t eliminate our differences of opinion. It won’t do away with our arguments and debates. But it would mean figuring out how to live together in the Gospel. And we’ll know for sure that the Jesus who unites us is greater by far than the differences that may divide us. And our grace-filled conversations and our mercy-laden interactions with each other will reflect and strengthen that conviction.

Peace,

Allan

Keep It Between Yourself and God

Church, Romans, Salvation, Worship No Comments »

oneheartwings“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” ~Romans 14:5-7

Paul tells the fractured house churches in Rome that each Christian or group of Christians should be fully convinced that the things they believe and practice are the right things in the eyes of God, but don’t you dare bind those things on other disciples who don’t feel the same way. If my brother or sister believes or practices something different from me, we assume he’s doing it to the Lord, she’s doing it before the Lord, they’re doing it in the presence of the Lord with a clear conscience. We assume that my sister with a different belief or a different practice is not believing or practicing arbitrarily. She’s not doing it with a bad attitude or with bad intentions. She’s doing it with careful study and serious prayer and reflection. And she’s fully convinced she’s doing the right thing. So everything’s fine, Paul says. Don’t judge her.

“For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord.” ~Romans 14:9

But what if we’re talking about a “salvation issue?” OK. You already know how I feel about the term “salvation issue.” Besides, in this Romans context, Paul never once categorizes the issues and practices in terms of saving or condemning anybody. “Disputable matters” seems to be almost anything about which Christians might argue. And, in Paul’s words, Christians should keep those beliefs and practices between themselves and God.

“As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that nothing is unclean in itself.” ~Romans 14:14
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” ~Romans 14:19
“Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” ~Romans 14:22

Paul clearly identifies himself as one of the strong — he says it: “We who are strong!” But let’s notice that he doesn’t say the weak need to change their minds or their opinions or their practices. These Christians who disagree with him on church traditions and worship practices? He doesn’t call on them to change. In fact, Paul goes so far as to command them not to change their practices unless their minds are fully convinced.

Paul’s prayer is not that all the Christians in Rome come to the same opinion on these things. No. He’s praying that they may possess a unity of Spirit that transcends their differences.

Peace,

Allan

He Will Stand

Church, Romans, Salvation No Comments »

oneheartcross“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.” ~Romans 14:1-4

Nobody looks down on anybody. Nobody condemns anybody. For God has accepted him. Accepted whom? Who has God accepted? This brother or sister who disagrees with me on a certain church tradition. This group of brothers and sisters who don’t see eye to eye with me on this matter of opinion. You’re not his master, Paul says. Who’s his master? Christ Jesus as Lord is his master. Not you. Whether he stands or falls is up to the Lord. Whether he’s right or wrong is up to the Lord. Paul says we can’t judge that.

And then Paul goes ahead and judges. Paul makes the call.

“He will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” ~Romans 14:4

He’ll stand. He’s fine. Whether he agrees with you or not, whether y’all are on the same page or not, he’ll stand because he’s in Christ. So, you accept him because God accepts him. This is why Jesus died, Paul says later, for this very reason. Christ died and was raised so he could be the Lord over all this, and not you.

Peace,

Allan

Stop Saying “Salvation Issue”

Church, Salvation No Comments »

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“In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, love.”

We’ve used the above Restoration slogan in the Churches of Christ for more than 200 years. We’ve quoted this little line as a guiding principle for a long time. It’s a creed, actually. And that’s OK. But it doesn’t really help much because what some people consider a trivial matter of opinion, others consider a non-negotiable matter of Christian faith. If you and I are arguing about something and the argument and the feelings are such that it’s dividing us and threatening to divide the body, then, of course, one or both of us believes with all hearts we’re dealing with a serious doctrinal matter.

And one or both of us will use the term “salvation issue” to either downplay or raise the status of our opinion.

“It doesn’t matter; it’s not a salvation issue.”

“We can’t budge on this; it’s a salvation issue.”

I’d like to make a bold and, maybe, scandalous proposal for all of us: Let’s stop using the term “salvation issue.” Let’s just stop saying it altogether. Let’s promise never to use that phrase in our debates about Kingdom matters.

When we get into discussions about “salvation issues,” we start ranking things in order of importance to God, in terms of what’s going to save us and what’s going to condemn us. We’ll bring up really important things like baptism and church and communion and worship, but we rarely talk about helping the poor or being kind to your neighbor or giving your money away which, the Bible says, are actually the weightier matters, the “salvation issues.” I would suggest they’re ALL salvation issues! Everything is a salvation issue. Whether a church has a kitchen or not is a salvation issue — not because a kitchen is right or wrong, but because of how you treat people who don’t feel the same way about it as you do.

“You folks who don’t have kitchens in your churches, grow up! You’re focused on the wrong things. It’s silly. You’re like the Pharisees. How backwards are you? When are you going to get serious about the Kingdom?”

“You folks with kitchens in your churches, I guess you’ll do anything. You see any kitchens in any churches in the New Testament? You let the culture decide everything in your church? We’re a little more serious about following Scripture than you are.”

See how kitchens at church is a salvation issue? Not the kitchen — but your heart, your attitude.

We need to stop saying “salvation issue” because we don’t do a good with it. We won’t fellowship a church because they sing different songs than we do or we won’t accept a group of Christians because they believe differently about baptism than we do, but we’re OK with lying to our customers or cheating on our spouses or ignoring the poor! We typically use the term “salvation issue” to categorize the issues I think are important and the issues we don’t think are important based on our own opinions and understandings. The salvation issue is your heart in all circumstances; the salvation issue is your attitude toward others in all things.

Here’s a link to something I wrote seven years ago on this subject that was prompted by a passage in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. I’ll write much more about this through the week. I welcome your comments (click the comments link at the top of this post).

Peace,

Allan

Awkward Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving No Comments »

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