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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

There's More to Christianity Than Attending Church

Those who think they adhere to biblical Christianity simply by going to church are deluding themselves. Biblical Christianity is a matter of the heart and reaches far beyond an hour or so of Sunday worship. It directs us to honor God supremely in our daily thoughts, attitudes, ambitions, and actions.

Our contemporary culture does not care whether it honors God. Its approach to life is mainly egocentric, materialistic, and hedonistic, although what Shakespeare called “the milk of human kindness” gets sprinkled into the mix. Unfortunately, a churchgoing Christian may reflect the culture’s philosophy instead of a biblical approach to life. Therefore, the injunction of Romans 12:2 to not let the world squeeze us into its mold is both urgent and convicting.

An egocentric Christian worships himself. He advances his own interests above those of others, even those of his spouse and children. He thinks the world revolves around him. All wrapped up in himself, this unattractive package of humanity ignores the instruction given in Philippians 2 to “look not only to your interests, but also to the interests of others” and adopt an attitude that is “the same as that of Christ Jesus, Who . . . made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (verses 4-7).

A materialistic Christian lives as though gold were his God and greed were his creed. He places too high a value on “the almighty dollar” and possessions. Although God doesn’t say we have to live in a hole to be holy, He makes it clear that the relentless pursuit of things leads to loss of treasures in heaven. We are supposed to be good and grateful stewards of what God has given us, not greedy grabbers for more and more of the things that pass away. I have officiated at many funerals, but I have never seen a U-Haul follow a hearse.

Hedonism, the philosophy that pleasure offers life its greatest good, may explain in part the entertainment phenomenon that draws so many people to church today. I would like to hear more Christians cite good, biblical preaching as the main reason they attend church, but I won’t hold my breath. In the pursuit of pleasure, some Christians spend enormous amounts of money on “what’s hot” in the entertainment world. Fun is not intrinsically wrong, but it is wrong when it consumes our passion, our time, and our money. The devil, the master of deceit, dupes careless Christians into thinking worldly pleasures are worth the price of admission, but those who resist his temptations discover that God fills them with His joy and eternal pleasures are at His right hand (Psalm 16:11).

In the final analysis, church attendance is important, but living every day for God’s honor is even more important.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Properly Aligned with God

The print industry has undergone an almost incredible revolution in recent years. It has rocketed forwarded from hot type to cold type and from negatives and plates to electronic pre-press. Nevertheless, some of the old typesetting terms remain. “Justified “ is one of them. The term refers to copy that is aligned as opposed to “ragged” copy that is not aligned.

Undoubtedly printers picked up the term “justified” from its biblical meaning. To be justified with God, as the Bible indicates, is to be properly aligned with God. It could be argued from a theological standpoint that our lives are either justified or ragged.

Romans 4:25 presents both the grounds of the believer’s justification and the proof of his or her justification. The first part of the first cites the grounds of justification. Jesus was “delivered for our offences.” In other words, God offered Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins. When He shed His blood on the cross—and that’s what Good Friday is all about—Jesus paid the penalty of our sins. The second part of the verse presents the proof of the believer’s justification. Jesus “was raised for [on account of] our justification.” Early Sunday morning Jesus arose from the dead as living proof that God accepted the payment He had made for our sins on the cross.

Romans 5:9 declares that we are justified [properly aligned] with God “by his blood.”

Another Good Friday and Easter Sunday have passed, but our gratitude for what Jesus did to justify us should never fade away.