Let’s Stop Trying to Clean People Up

Is it possible that you are “saved” and in the family of God, but you are sinning and you don’t even know it? If this paper is going to Baptists, I’m assuming your answer is yes. Even if your answer is “no,” I’d bet you still would admit to sinning sometimes when you do know it. And yet, here you are, still secure in the grace of God. So I have one more question for all of us:

Why do we often try to convert the lost out of their sin before we bring them to Jesus?

Continue reading “Let’s Stop Trying to Clean People Up”

I recently read an article by Andrew Alleyne, a minister from Canada, called “I hate Church.” (Alleyne didn’t really hate church, he just wanted to grab attention.) Alleyne had found that, when talking to people on the street about Christ, many people said they didn’t want to go to church because of the way they had been treated by Christians. So Alleyne and his wife decided to see for themselves if these were legitimate complaints or convenient excuses.

The Alleynes started visiting prominent churches around Toronto. Andrew would wear baggy jeans, put in earrings and wear a hat, backwards, and his wife would wear a short skirt. They would basically come under the guise that they were new and didn’t know how church “worked.” What they found was that in almost every church, no one even said hello to them, but the people were happy to stare.  Well, I take that back — sometimes Andrew would get a tap on his shoulder and be asked to remove his hat.  The Alleynes found that they, like so many others, had no desire whatsoever to go back.

At this point you might be tempted to get defensive.  Please, don’t. Just hear me out and understand that I, myself have a 6”X6” self-righteous beam sticking out of my face. If my tone seems aggressive, please understand that I’m angry at myself.

Some of you might be thinking, “Well, the church is a house of worship and people should be more respectful.” I’m going to challenge that.

The church is not a building. The church is the body of Christ. Too often, we think that being a church member means going to a place where we talk about Christ, we worship Christ, but are we concerned enough with being Christ?  Sometimes, I think it might be better that, when we are “in church,” we think of ourselves sitting on the ground in a Middle-Eastern desert somewhere instead of a multi-million dollar facility. Buildings are great, don’t get me wrong, but Jesus did not come to establish more physical temples, he came to build his church out of people who would represent him.

So what do you think Jesus would do if he was out in the desert and met a woman who had had five husbands? What about a prostitute? What about a traitor to the nation?

Church, to do what Jesus would do is our job. Our job is not to try to impress God with a spit-and-polished congregation and worship service. Yes, corporate worship is important, but over and over in the Gospels we see Jesus greatly concerned with meeting the needs of individuals and bringing them in. Remember, Jesus said that serving others, even prisoners, equated to serving him.

The next time you see a person with lots of tattoos or a miniskirt or a hat on in church or someone you know to be a practicing homosexual or a Democrat (some of you need to hear that one) or a drug addict walk into your sanctuary, what are you going to do? Because, if you answered yes to any of my questions in my first paragraph, then you would be a complete hypocrite to judge them as someone less-than-worthy of being introduced to Christ – and you and your church are the body of Christ.

“But Klint, sin is sin and we have to be repentant of it, we can’t just let it go.” You’re right, so how about dealing with our own sin, first. So often, when we meet people who don’t know Christ, we are tempted to try to get them to stop sinning. We tell them those things are wrong and try to convince them to stop because, how can they be saved if they aren’t repentant? Well, you’ve already admitted it’s possible to sin and not know it. So you’re not repenting of all your sins, either.

We can lead people to Christ without convincing them of every sin in their lives because conviction is the job of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:8-9 that “when (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”

Even though it is easy for us to fathom someone being saved, who is prideful/ greedy/ lustful (heterosexuals only) and then sanctified over time, meaning that they don’t act perfect right away; for some reason we don’t grant the same possibility to homosexuals/ bartenders/ people who vote the “wrong” way/ people with lots of piercings and tattoos. No, for them, we want immediate, obvious, dramatic change, and usually we try to make that change happen before they accept Christ.

I think it’s time that we trust the Holy Spirit to do the convicting. If someone wants to come to Christ because they know they are lost — even if they don’t acknowledge every individual thing we think they are doing wrong — I believe Jesus’s work on the cross is big enough to save them and begin the process of sanctification.

Mark Lowry said it best: “I never figured out how do you ‘love the sinner but hate the sin? There’s too many of you…’ Hating my own sin is a full-time job! How about you love the sinner and hate your own sin.”

The sin certainly exists, but lets invite dirty people into our dirty congregations and let the Holy Spirit give us all a bath.

What if Pope Francis is right?

Pope Francis recently asked if God would forgive those who do not believe in him.  (Read about it here.)

His response, according to the Guardian:

“Given – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart,” the pope wrote, “the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience. There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one’s conscience. Listening to it and abiding by it means making up one’s mind about what is good and evil.”

Now there is a lot of taking the Pope out of context, such as The Independent, which ran the headline “Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.”  I don’t believe that the Pope is saying atheists go to heaven as some papers are trying to say, but it does seem like a plausible interpretation that the Pope is saying that following the conscience is the main thing atheists need to do because going against it could mean sin.

So, is the Pope right or wrong? 
Continue reading “What if Pope Francis is right?”

That’s the wrong question to ask.

Let’s assume the Pope is right, and in some ways I think he is.  I agree that “God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart.”  But I’m willing to go a step further. Let’s just pretend that the Pope really was saying that atheists could go to heaven if they would just act according to their consciences.

Would it be good news if just “following our consciences” was the answer? I say NO.

People are excited about the prospect that the Pope, who is kind of the BMOC of religion in the world, might have said that essentially following your conscience is enough is because of an underlying assumption that people are good.  People are not good.  Their, our, consciences are corrupted.  But even if our consciences were perfect, we all violate what our conscience tells us. So, if following our consciences was the answer, we would all be in trouble.

So regardless of what the Pope did or didn’t say, the real questions to ask are these:

1. Am I truly good?

2. If not, how on earth can I fix it?

The short answers:

1. No.

2. You can’t.

These questions essentially capture the whole story of the Bible.  We’re broken.  From Adam and Eve, (who broke a command) to Cain (who didn’t break a command but still sinned, and I would dare say, violated his conscience) to Paul the great evangelist who cries out from his heart, “who shall rescue me from this body of death?!” we are all sinners.  We are all spiritually dead.

So God intervened and sent the son to take on all our deadness and give us life.  And that’s what the Gospel is really all about.  The Gospel isn’t about making bad people good; it’s about making dead people live.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes (*Present tense) in Him shall not perish, but have (*Present tense) eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 NASB   “*” denotes editors note.

But for those of you who still think that what the Pope maybe, hopefully said is true, keep reading.

18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”.