Browsing Tag

worldliness

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: No Tolerance for Conviction

Of course, the pretty words in the grey box are one of the biggest lies of our generation. We live in a post-modern world. I don’t know all of what that means, but I do know that, as one person put it to me recently, some of the things I stand for because of conviction—things that were taken for granted as truth for Christians five decades ago—are “laughable” to the average person—maybe even “Christian”—today. Things like the exclusivity of Christianity; my belief that not everyone who has some loose belief in parts of the Word of God lives under the security umbrella of God’s eternal protection (Matthew 7:13,14, 21) . Things like the eternality of both heaven and hell; my belief that they are real and will both be “forever” abodes for people, based on whether or not those people obeyed the gospel (Matthew 25:31-46). Things like even the very concept of sin; that there are things we can do that will, without repentance, alienate us, for all time, from God. Things like doctrine; that there are teachings in the New Testament that are binding on Christians today as they relate to our worship, the organization of the body of Christ, and the moral and ethical behavior of His people. Things like the very concept of absolute truth and the adherence to God’s system of primary and delegated authority. 

“Tolerance” is the watchword, of course. What’s right for you may not be what’s right for me. Unfettered tolerance excludes absolute truth and certainly precludes my ever speaking to anyone about a concern for his/her eternal soul, especially when I might be implying that there is sin which must be put away in order to be pleasing to God. There are all sorts of “wicked” terms that define me if I have the idea that Christianity is exclusive of those with a relaxed attitude about what God has clearly defined as sin. Judgmental, intolerant, bigoted, homophobic, narrow-minded, haughty, holier-than-thou, and self-righteous are among the characterizations assigned to those who maintain that our God, as He’s expressed in His Word, cannot co-exist with sin. 

Sometimes we let the world’s post-modern view get into our hearts, as HIs people. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that God put us in the body so that we might help each other go to heaven . I need that accountability. I need the verbal accountability of those who are brave enough, in a world that would throw its “wicked” terms at them, to come to me and say, “Can I help you to take a step back and look at this sin?” I need those who, in spite of the vitriolic hatred of a post-modern world toward any adherence to truth, will bravely stand up and teach moral absolutes and who will plainly teach passages about worship and church organization. (The up-and-coming generation surely needs this, because relativism’s assault on their faith is unrelenting.) We (I) have to be careful in a world that looks at truth as some fluid entity that is unimportant, even if it exists, that we (I) don’t resent the body of Christ for the very thing that makes it so valuable to us/me. The church is the “called-out”. It’s the haven in this world where truth is real; the place I can go where my core values in Him are respected and where I am held to a standard of accountability to those values. It’s my spiritually safe place.

The thing is…a spiritually safe place will make me shrink back from embracing the concept of tolerance that’s the very ideological foundation of post-modern philosophy. I cannot say “I’m ok..you’re ok” if you are not adhering to God’s standard of truth about religion, about sin and about godliness. I can’t embrace our differences if those differences will keep one of us from heaven. I can’t ignore sin that damns in the lives of people I love. Because I have a safe place, the world becomes unsafe in some important respects. I am not in alignment with its philosophies. In fact, I must be in opposition to them at almost every turn. Confrontation, awkward conversations, declined invitations, exclusion from certain activities, and sometimes even loss of friendships or positions is a price I must pay for choosing love over tolerance. 

Love over tolerance. We will not always get the exact tone of our voices right in the conversations, borne of love, that we have with people about sin. But we still have to talk and do our very best to love them to heaven. We will sometimes be too soft in our approach and, at other times, we may seem harsh as we try to reach for souls that are in need, pulling them from the fire (Jude 23). But we still have to pray fervently and try. We, in turn, must be glad for the accountability that convicted people are willing to give us; always open to the guidance of faithful elders and glad for their reproof when we are going astray. That’s the temporary discomfort of discipline. It’s the right-now pain that yields an eternity with the Father. We should thank him for the accountability of the body of Christ. We should thank the family of God when we find our spiritually safe place there. 

The problem in our post-modern world is not really tolerance. It’s that there’s no tolerance for conviction. Conviction is founded on truth. And the idea of  any truth to which all people are accountable is a concept that’s simply unpalatable to and rejected by the masses in this post-modern world. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Spiritual Pornography?

     I can easily get discouraged when speaking with women who are dealing with the problems that pornography brings into a relationship. They are legion. Lack of trust, jealousy, feelings of worthlessness,  guilt, lust, and uncertainty about the future are all a part of the grim picture that accompanies porn. What is most surprising to me is that there are people, some even “experts” who would have us to believe that the use of pornography is not a bad thing…maybe it’s even a good thing, and healthy for marriages. This is preposterous and anyone who is God-centered at all in his thinking reckons the loss that  accompanies the use of pornography as being profound in its ramifications. Often, when adultery is traced back to its insidious roots, pornography was involved long before the actual adulterous encounter. Jesus, of course, called this looking and lusting adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:28).
     When studying James 4 recently, I pondered the obvious truth that, as members of the bride of Christ, we can commit spiritual adultery by our entanglement with the world. Notice the first six verses of this very serious discussion:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

 

     These verses made me think about how a member of the body of Christ might make God jealous in the same way that I might provoke my husband to jealousy—the kind of jealousy that is normal in a husband. What if I were to talk negatively about Him to people outside the family? What if I were to break my appointments with Him? What if I were to make fun of Him and laugh when others made fun of Him? What if I did not want to share generously with Him of my time and money? What if I enjoyed being with others more than I enjoyed His company? What if I did not take the time to read what he wrote to me or to respond when He gave me a gift?  You can understand readily, especially if you are married, how we can begin to court the world rather than being faithful in our marriages to Christ.
     But then I thought about the sin of pornography and how that, long before a spouse forsakes his wife, he may look at other women with passionate desire. He may lust for another woman. He may be busy facilitating his adultery before he knows the woman with whom he will one day commit the sin.
     Do we sometimes do that spiritually? I mean long before a person actually leaves the Lord for the world, does she sometimes look at the world with passion and desire? Does she place the lure of the world right in front of her eyes? Does she gaze longingly long before she becomes a full-fledged friend of the world? I believe we often do this through our entertainment choices. Are you looking with favor on that which is enmity with God? I think when we choose to be entertained by movies, television shows and music that are filled with profanities, obscenities, lasciviousness, fornication, homosexuality, adulteries and/or uncleanness, we are allowing ourselves to gaze on that which is off-limits to the bride of Christ. The more we gaze, the more comfortable we become with these desires for the world. The more we look, the more we want to look and the more anesthetized we become to the shock factor that sin should bring. Soon, just as a pornography addict is a short step from adultery, we are a very short step from committing the overt sins of the world–spiritual adultery. That which once entertained us becomes less something we watch and more something we do.
     Being entertained and aroused by looking at pornography often leads to the commission of the overt sin of adultery. This destroys marriages and families.
     Being entertained by the sinful things of the world often leads to all kinds of worldly alliances and actions. This destroys our relationship with God and our relationships within the family of Christ. Is this spiritual pornography? I think so.
Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Be Brave and Fear Him

You could name lots of enemies of a Christian’s boldness in our world today. One enemy is the overemphasis of tolerance. We’d rather be villains in almost any other category than to be labeled as intolerant or judgmental. (The most quoted and misapplied passage in this culture is Matthew 7:1.) So we stop speaking out about sin. We fear being ostracized. We fear confrontation. 

Another enemy of boldness to speak God’s truth is our busy-ness. Our schedules shout at us. Our commitments bulge in their time limitations. We simply over-commit and there is little time left to write letters to editors, show up at venues like gospel seminars or meetings that serve to inform and embolden, or take time to speak to individuals about the gospel.  We fill up our calendars and then allow them to control us. Their demands often make even the free moments of our lives full of anxiety or dread for the upcoming stress of deadlines and back-to-back responsibilities. They make us physically tired and weaken our spiritual stamina. We lose some of the will to do spiritual battle against wickedness in high places (Eph.6:12). It’s “wrestling”, as Paul put it, and we are too exhausted for that.

One more enemy is worldliness. This is a big one. We slowly become anesthetized, through entertainment choices, the news media, the public education system and governmental influences. We stop thinking very much about the societal departure from truth that is quickly becoming so complete. We start thinking like the world, instead of like the Lord. We are influenced, sometimes unknowingly, by pop culture’s psycho-babble and we become complacent—even ignorant—about the polar differences between the way God wants us to think and act and the accepted norms of society around us. 

Part of fearing him who is able to destroy body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28) is being wise to slow anesthetization by the culture. We simply cannot go to sleep in the devil’s gentle lull of  tolerance, busy-ness and the normalization of sin. See, ironically, those who fear are the brave. It’s those people who’ve developed a healthy fear of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell who are emboldened to stand against His lies in a culture of relativism.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Have You Been Anesthetized?

It’s really a daily challenge to be in this world and yet remain insulated from its spiritually destructive components. I cannot imagine going through a day without having to constantly remind myself of what conversations, media and relationships are appropriate for somebody who’s following Jesus and what Philippians 4:8 would filter out for me. I want His word to always be the filter in the nitty-gritty decisions of everyday living. I think sometimes it’s easy for me to say the big things like “I would give my life for Christ,” or “My favorite book is the Bible” or “Growing in Christ is my number one goal,” but it’s the all-day-long difficult and specific choices that make or break my big easily stated commitments.I don’t call into question the sincerity of somebody whose little choices don’t reflect the big professions of life. Sometimes I think we really do mean the big commitment statements found on our profiles on facebook. It’s just that the inconsistencies in the little decisions don’t sting because we’ve become environmentally and culturally anesthetized. What should really hurt us as His people doesn’t hurt at all because we’re breathing the fumes of the society in which we live. Once I accidentally made a pretty huge gash in my left hand; lots of blood and nausea, an eventual scar and a pain that was wretched. On another occasion a doctor made a similar gash in my foot to remove a piece of glass; lots of blood, a similar scar, but absolutely no pain. The difference was, of course, the presence of the anesthetic.

So how is it that we can sing “I am mine no more, I’ve been bought with blood,’ or “Purer in heart O God, help me to be,” or ” I surrender all” or “Lord take control,” and yet fail to even feel the sting of the destructive media influences that are in direct opposition to the themes we’ve stated for our lives? I think we just don’t feel the pain that should accompany spiritual wounds because we are anesthetized by the culture in which we live. As the world becomes more and more ungodly, we are lulled into a kind of comfortable moral drowsiness that makes us unaware of the effects of the tools in the hands of the devil. We find ourselves laughing at all kinds of wickedness as it is digitally welcomed into our living rooms, bedrooms and dorm rooms. We can listen to vulgarity and profanity and hardly be aware we’ve heard them even as they work to erode the values that we’ve professed all along. Pretty soon we start thinking through our days about the drama or the hilarity of some episode that really was pretty far removed from the “I want to grow in Christ” thesis through which we intended to filter our choices. We start talking about things that are in the Galatians 5:19-21 list with the same nonchalant tone with which we would talk about the weather. Without even really thinking about it, we spend more time concentrating on the works of the flesh as portrayed by Hollywood than we do in Bible study or prayer. Pretty soon, the gap between what we profess and our practical focus is a chasm.Perhaps we find that in our entertainment choices, we sometimes “rejoice in iniquity.” Perhaps we even encourage others to violate their consciences by encouraging them to love what God would identify as abomination. In short, we’ve just become numb to the sorrow we should feel as his children at the presence of sin in our media choices. The devil wants to devour us and he is much more successful when we start failing to feel the pain of the lion’s tenons and teeth.

It’s been helpful for me to constantly remember and repeat the phrase “Entertainment is optional.” Being “optional” means it’s not a requirement for life. It means it’s not absolutely necessary. In fact, retaining entertainment in my life is probably less necessary than retaining my limbs or my eyesight. But Jesus said if your eye or your hand offends you, just get rid of it rather than allowing it to cause the loss of your soul. I can go to heaven without ever turning on the television, but I can’t go to heaven if I’m not “abstaining from the very appearance of evil” (I Thess.5:22).

Matthew 6:33 is not too difficult to understand when it comes to this abstinence from the appearance of evil. It’s not hard to understand when I try to conform my thoughts to Philippians 4:8. Where it gets hard is not in my ability to comprehend its meaning. It means when I have choices in optional matters I am going to make sure my allegiance is first to His kingdom and righteousness. Where it gets hard is in my willingness to apply it all day long. It’s difficult while I am watching the episode to stop and ask, “Am I seeking righteousness when I put this stuff into my head?” It’s difficult to just pick up the remote and say “I choose to seek first His righteousness.”

So many times, I can look back and know full well that a particular decision was completely out of alignment with the BIG profession I have made for my life. Those times are my biggest regrets. I want to adjust the practical part of my Christianity, because Christ can’t remain in my heart if He’s not affecting my agenda, dominating my calendar, making my choices, and shaping my plans. The remote should be controlled by Him.

“Awake. O sleeper, and arise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 5:14)…”We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (I Thess.5:5,6) . Let’s get out from under the power of the anesthesia and into a well-lit recovery room!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Can We Go to the Playground?

 

I smiled at  a recent conversation between my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson and his mother:

Ezra: “Can we go to the playground today?”

Ezra’s mom: “No…not today, baby.”

Ezra: “Can we go to the playground?” 

Ezra’s mom: “I said ‘Not today,’ Ezra.”

Ezra: “I’m going to give you oooone more chance, Mama. I said ‘Can we go to the playground?’”

Ezra’s mom: “Ezra, Mama and Daddy are the only ones who can say  ‘one more chance’”.

Ezra: “Oh…Well…Can we go to the playground?”

We do this sometimes with God. We wish for things and sometimes we even ask for things that we know are against His expressed will. He has already told us we cannot go to that playground, but we keep insisting that going there is what we desire, as if we are not listening to him at all. Sometimes we ask for material things, knowing all along that we already are much too obsessed with riches. We ask for promotions to other cities, not minding the fact that there are no faithful churches or Christian encouragers there. We ask for success on the corporate ladder without ever giving a thought to the stairway to heaven. This can also be described as the Balaam syndrome. (Read Numbers 22-24). 

Then we give God “another chance” sometimes. We act as if we are in control. We build our own little towers of Babel (Genesis 11) and begin to actually think we can make our own rules of philosophy and morality. We discount His absolute truth in favor of our relativism. We dismiss His power and talk about how we can save the planet. We even decide we can define things like life’s beginning point and marriage and even gender. We just kind of tell God that we’ll give Him another chance to get it right. 

James said it this way: 

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).

All of our misguided ambitions and repeated pleas for things outside His will make  us His enemies and, ultimately separate us from Him eternally.

James also gives us the direct route to true success. It’s friendship with God. It’s spelled out in verses six through ten of the same chapter:

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.


 

 

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Christ Over Color–(Part 2): When the World Got into the Church

It’s hard for a patriot to look back at her country’s history and see the dark days when sinful practices were legitimized, both in the legal processes of the nation and in the minds of those who governed. I am, for instance, while thankful that Providence allowed for the founding of our great nation, aware that the revolt against British government in the late 1700s, no matter how tyrannical and unfair that government, was a movement that Christians could not support, according to Romans 13.

Certainly, the dark history of slavery is another painful era for Christians to contemplate. While the Bible does not specifically condemn slavery, certainly the kind of forced slavery that occurred in our nation’s history is implicitly condemned by multiple principles and passages beginning with the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12. There is simply no justification for the national sin that continued from prior to the birth of our country until the latter part of the nineteenth century. Much time could be spent on American slavery’s atrocities and the huge and multi-generational negative ramifications in our society. But that is not within the purview of this post.

One of those lasting ramifications was the culture of segregation that persisted for much of the twentieth century. The U.S. military was legally segregated, as was the public education system, as well as many public and private community and social facilities all over our nation. This was particularly true in the South.  At first, of course, it was a legal separation mandated by the Jim Crow laws, giving African Americans a “separate but equal” status in southern society. Let me once again emphasize that Christians—people who are called to adhere to the principles of the Word of God—have to constantly examine the culture around us and reject the ideas of culture that are sinful (Romans 12:1,2).

Sadly, there’s considerable evidence that the prevalent societal norm during the early to mid-twentieth century was far too influential in the thinking of many Christians. When I read statements such as the following, from men who were powerful and prominent preachers among us, I  can hardly believe it. The devil must have been very happy when he could succeed in getting men who were loudly proclaiming the gospel to make statements such as these:

…From a well-known preacher in the Bible Banner:

Reliable brethren in the Valley have reported the definite inclinations of the negro man and his wife in charge of the orphan home for colored children at Combes toward social equality. They are supposed to be members of the church, and some of the white brethren are apparently encouraging them. It is said that these two negroes have privately stated that they favor social equality and are working for it. The young editor of “Christian Soldier,” in the valley, admits that he roomed with the negro preacher, R. N. Hogan, and slept in the same bed with him two nights! And he seemed to be proud of it! Aside from being an infringement on the Jim Crow law, it is a violation of Christianity itself, and of all common decency. Such conduct forfeits the respect of right-thinking people, and would be calculated to stir up demonstrations in most any community if it should become generally known.”

…Another excerpt:

When (well-known preacher) held the valley-wide meeting at Harlingen, Texas, some misguided brethren brought a group of negroes up to the front to be introduced to and shake hands with him. Brother (preacher) told them publicly that he could see all of the colored brethren he cared to see on the outside after services, and that he could say everything to them that he wanted to say without the formality of shaking hands. I think he was right. He told of a prominent brother in the church who went wild over the negroes and showed them such social courtesies that one day one of the negroes asked him if he might marry his daughter. That gave the brother a jolt and he changed his attitude!”

I could include other quotations. It is a painful process to read and print such. I confess that the above quotations from men who preached the gospel in the 1940s were, to me, shocking and disturbing. How could these men, who studied their Bibles diligently, be so very calloused and hardened to the teachings that permeate its pages, from the golden rule of Matthew 7:12 to the treatise of James in chapter two?  Where was the disconnect?

I believe it was in the same place as it so often is today. We, without even recognizing its power, allow the thinking of society around us, to affect our own thinking and the result is that our words and actions are corrupted by the world.

The lesson for me is obvious. It is a parenthetical lesson as we travel through a study of race relations, but it is still important: May I never get comfortable accepting the ideas of the world around me without carefully and honestly scrutinizing them in the light of the Word. This has got to be true for me even in examining legal mandates. It must be true for me even with reference to the ideology of the leaders of society or the community’s respected voices. It must be true for me when examining messages from the pulpit. I am, at all times and in all ways, accountable to the Word. It is the Word that must guide me in matters of race relations and indeed, in all relations. If men who spent many hours weekly in the Word could be so affected by the world, surely I must  constantly be on guard, to be sure my mind is constantly being renewed by the Word (Romans 12:2).

Next Time: Lingering Fears in the 2017 Church