Author Archive: Revraney

Love and Acceptance – Not the Same

Is the church required to love and accept everyone? This is a difficult topic that the modern church is sadly getting wrong.

Not long ago, some people I was with had a conversation about a gay individual they all knew. All of these people were Christians, active in their churches. One of the people shared that the gay individual had told them he was accepted in the gay community, but not in the church community. This troubled all of them and initially, it troubled me. But then it got me thinking.

What do we mean by acceptance? For years I have heard the phrase, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Is this over-simplistic? What does this look like in practice?

First, there is the truth of john 3:16, that God loved the world so much He sent His Son to redeem it with His own life – while we were still sinners. What an attitude of mercy and grace! Lets look at this a little closer though. Yes, God loved us while we were sinners. But Jesus came to this world to redeem us. We were lost, separated from Him because of our sin. God could not accept us as we were. If he could have accepted us the way we were Jesus would not have needed to die. He couldn’t just accept us with our sin and let us into His kingdom. So God loved us but He did not accept us.

Revelation 21 tells us about the eternal home of the saints, the Holy City of Jerusalem. In verse 27 we read, “Nothing impure (unclean in the English Standard Version) will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” God does not accept the unclean, the impure, those who do what is shameful or deceitful in His kingdom.

So, what about this gay individual, or anyone living in sin, do we just not accept them in our church? To answer this we must clarify two things 1) what we mean by accept and 2) what we mean by church.

Lets look at the second one first, the church. The church is not some building or even some group of people that meet in some building we call a church. The church is the Body of Christ. The only way to become a part of the Body of Christ is through the forgiveness and cleansing of Christ. One can certainly be a ‘member of a local church’ and not be a member of the Body of Christ.

Secondly, what do we mean by accept? Do we just not have anything to do with the unbelievers living in sin? Well, that would be contrary to Jesus’ example now wouldn’t it? But then on the other hand the Bible says in multiple places we should be separate from them. For example, 2 Corinthians 6:17 says, “Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.” Paul, even went one further when he instructed the Corinthian church to remove from their fellowship a man who was participating in a sexual perversion (1 Corinthians 5). So, how do we reconcile the example and teaching of Jesus with the instructions to be separate?

We can answer this by taking a closer look at Jesus’ example. Jesus did indeed spend time with the unrepentant sinner, the unbeliever. However, He always did so with the intent of redeeming them. He loved them as sinners but He did not accept them as sinners. There’s an old hymn, “Just as I Am.” We love to sing it as an invitation to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. The song tells us that we can come to God just the way we are. We need not clean up or set anything in order first. We don’t have to rid ourselves of nasty habits or practices, even vices before we come to him for forgiveness and cleansing. But that’s just it isn’t it? We come to Him filthy, so that He might make us clean (because try as we might, we are unable to do it ourselves). God may be fine with us coming to Him exactly the way we are, but He is not ok with us staying that way. From the moment He comes in to our heart as Lord and Savior He is cleansing us from all our sin.

So, God reaches out to us while filthy sinners, but He doesn’t accept us staying that way. The church is to be no different. We can and should love sinners, unbelievers; love them enough to reach out to them and tell them the truth. Remember what Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery? He told her TWO things; 1) that He did not condemn her (He forgave her) 2) He then said, “go and sin no more”. To the woman at the well He directly confronted her sinful lifestyle (multiple husbands and now living with one that isn’t her husband) before she found forgiveness upon her confession to Him.

We can love the sinner, but we cannot be ok with their sinful life. We can be friends with them, be kind and caring, but we cannot ignore their sin as if it is ok. As a matter of fact, if we do not tell them the truth of their sin, we show that we really do not love them. They are certainly welcome to attend church gatherings, but they cannot be a part of the church because it is the Body of Christ. They can attend but they cannot influence, cannot partake. This is not simply some kind of rule, it is logic and reason. Being a sinner means you still reject the salvation of Jesus Christ. You cannot partake of something of which you are not a part and you cannot be a part of something which you willingly reject.

God’s Love Justice and with our Free Will

We all love to hear about God’s love. John 3:16 is probably the best known and favorite verse in the Bible. It tells of God’s incredible love for us; how he loved us so much that he did not spare even his son but gave him to die for our sins. God indeed does love us in a manner and at a level we cannot comprehend. After all, God is love. God doesn’t simply possess love. He isn’t just like love, or even the greatest example of love. He literally is love. Love does not exist without God.

But God is also a God of justice. He is a just and fair God. His righteousness is composed not just of his love, but of his justice as well. Like love, it can be said that God is justice. Justice is not simply another characteristic of God. He defines justice. Justice, like love, cannot exist apart from God. We would not know what fairness was without God.

The justice of God by its nature has rules.  Not rules so much in the sense that you better obey these, but more so in a sense that these rules define the order of all things. Similar to the law, or rule of gravity; drop a rock and it falls to the earth. God created all things, not simply material things but also the system of how everything works.

Proverbs 6:7 tells us ‘we reap what we sow’. Just as in physical nature, grass seed produces grass and seeds from weeds produce more weeds, likewise, our choices, our actions, our response to God will produce results in keeping with their quality and nature.

God does not simply sit by and watch His creation float through time. His righteousness reacts to how we live our lives. If it didn’t, He would not be righteous. Ecclesiastes 3:17 says, “God will bring judgment to both the righteous and wicked and will judge every deed.” Consider this  – “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” Proverbs 21:15

The Resurrection of Jesus Caused Problems for People

The resurrection of Jesus caused many problems for different people.

For the Romans

  • Pilate
  • The guards and their superiors

For the Jews

  • Caiaphas
  • The people who cried out for His crucifixion
  • The citizens of Jerusalem who suffered under the oppression of Rome

His Resurrection Still Causes Problems for People Today

His resurrection 100% establishes His identity and His message. Because He is who He is and His message is true, everyone must make a decision what they will do about this truth. We have only three options:

  • Reject the resurrection of Jesus
  • Believe it occurred but largely ignore what it means to us
  • Accept it and believe it in its fulness

There are Natural Results to Every Decision

Choosing one of the first two options places us outside of the salvation of God. Choosing the third provides us salvation. However, choosing the third means dying to ourselves and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. This opposes our human nature and causes many to turn away or turn back.

Why is Life so Challenging?

Seems like the popular message presented in church today is how challenging, how tough life can be. Well first of all, life has always been challenging. There have been many times in history when life was far more challenging or difficult than it is today.

But what is it that makes life challenging? Why is life tough? Is it simply a matter of ‘that’s the way it is’ or is there a real cause?

According to the Word of God there is a very real, definite, singular cause – sin. When God created the world, including man, all was perfect. Life was not challenging. Life was not tough. Then man disobeyed and sin was not only introduced into but took over the world, took over life.

Sin is what makes life challenging. Sin is what makes life tough. Sin brings our temptations. Sin brings addictions. Sin brings hatred and violence. Sin brings racism and all kinds of prejudice and bigotry. Sin brings greed and lust. It is sin that makes life challenging.

First, there is corporate sin. Sin is universal and it impacts the whole world and every aspect of life, even religion. Everyone is affected by the sins of the world. Even when you do not commit a certain type of sin, you are affected by it. Maybe you don’t do drugs but you may be touched by someone who is addicted or even someone who has died from drugs. You may not have murdered or assaulted someone but the existence of this changes how you live your life. You may avoid ‘dangerous’ places because of this violence in society. You lock your doors and buy security cameras. Our laws and rules are a reaction to many types of sin. Often these laws place restrictions even on those who do not commit the sins.

Then there is our personal sin. Sin brings bad decisions and all of the consequences that go with them. We end up either living with these consequences or trying to run and hide from them. Our personal sins not only harm us but also people close to us, people we care about. Our sin can become addictive. It becomes our master and we its slave. Romans 6:16 says, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Along with the consequences there is the guilt. We can try and ignore guilt, but it is difficult and sadly, ignoring it hardens our heart.

So, life isn’t challenging or tough ‘just because’ or because it is unfair. We are not simply victims of life. Life is challenging, life is tough, because of sin. Sin in the world and sin in our lives. Why are so many preachers, so many church leaders, even Christians so afraid to say this? We talk about the toughness of life, how challenging it is and talk about how Jesus is the answer. This is true, He is. But we often do not tell the whole story. Jesus died to provide us a way out of our sin. He died to defeat sin, to conquer it – corporately and personally. We need to admit to sin and its hold on us. We need to surrender sin in our lives, both the corporate around us and our personal sin to Him.

In Luke 9:23 He says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” What are we denying and why do we take up a cross? Crosses are made for dying. We are denying our sinful nature. This is how we follow Jesus. Why in our churches when we talk about how tough life is are we so afraid to speak this truth?

Life is indeed challenging and tough. This is caused by sin. Jesus is indeed the answer. He does so by dealing with sin.

Why the Focus on Weaknesses and Difficuties?

We have become obsessed in the church today with our weakness and our struggles in life. Yes, we are weak and powerless without Christ. But we are more than conquerors in Christ.

In our attempt to ‘be real’ as the church we overemphasize our weaknesses, our hurts, our flaws, how life is so overwhelmingly hard. But have we not been made new in Jesus? Have we not been given victory?

Why do we preach as if life controls us. Did not the apostle Paul speak of his victories in the midst of one of the most difficult lives a Christian has faced? Paul claimed that our power comes through our weaknesses and that our power comes through our trials and hardships. Notice he doesn’t say these occur in spite of our weaknesses or our trials, but literally through them.

We need to stop solely seeing ourselves as powerless floats being tossed wherever the ocean of life wants to take us. Paul told us to put on armor and pick up a sword. These are words for warriors, not prisoners and weaklings.

We live in times that need a church triumphant, not wimpy Christians who are constantly whining. We must confess our fallen condition, our weakness, our failures our utter worthlessness without Christ. But we must also confess our power and victory in Christ.

The Resurrection Can Cause Trouble

The Resurrection of Jesus caused many problems for many people.

     Guards and their superiors
     People who cried for His crucifixion
     Citizens of Jerusalem suffering under the oppression of Rome

His resurrection still causes problems for people today.
His resurrection 100% establishes His identity and His message. Because He is who He is and His message is true, everyone must make a decision of what they will do about this truth.

We have only one of three options.

  • Reject the resurrection and His message
  • Believe it occurred but ignore what it means to us – essentially do nothing or very little about it
  • Accept, believe it and act on it

There are natural results to every decision.
Choosing one of the first two options places us outside of the salvation of God.
Choosing the third provides us salvation.
However, choosing the third means dying to ourselves and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.
This goes 100% against our nature.

Good People Don’t Go To Heaven

Good people don’t go to heaven. Saved people go to heaven.

There are no good people. Romans 3:11-12 says, ““There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one.” Someone may respond by saying, well, it’s a relative term. People who are good , relative to others go to heaven. There’s a certain level of goodness that gets you into heaven.

Nope. Any “goodness” we have is a derived goodness. It is derived from God, through His Son, Jesus. He makes us ‘good’. It is true that some people are more moral than others, more kind than others, more caring then others, and so on and so on. However, even this goodness is derived form God, a gift from God. This relative level of morality, kindness and compassion is given by God, even to unbelievers. However, when someone agrees to act by faith and accept Jesus to be their Savior and Lord, His goodness begins to develop and work in us.

We think by being good by our definition of good, God is compelled, even required to let us into heaven. “If that person didn’t make it into heaven no one will.” Heaven is God’s reward for those who submit to Him. Heaven is holy an NO unclean thing can enter there. So how do we get in? Through Jesus. He forgives us and He takes the full wrath of God and the full punishment of sin on Himself.

There is another extreme people often take when considering this. ‘All I have to do is believe in Jesus.’ What exactly do we mean when we say that? Believe He exists? Believe He did live on earth some 2000 years ago? Believe He did die on a cross, for the sins of the world?

The belief must be something beyond all of those things. It must be a surrender to Him as our only hope and as our Lord – which means absolute authority – so we must surrender to His authority in our lives. Are we really doing that? Is He really the authority in our lives?

“I thought we weren’t saved by our works.” We’re not, but we are saved unto good works. Can one honestly say they have surrendered to Jesus as Lord and continue in a willful life of sin and disobedience to Him? That’s not believing in Jesus. That is simply an acknowledgement of his existence. Its not even an acknowledgement of who He really is.