Faith vs. Fear

The Question

So last week, almost on a whim, I put a question out on social media.  The question was “By our actions, what are some ways that Christians deny that Jesus is God?”

The question was “By our actions, what are some ways that Christians deny that Jesus is God?”

Some pastor friends took the line that we cannot truly be Christians and actively deny Jesus.  I certainly agree that a Christian will not knowingly deny or disown the divinity of Jesus, however, this wasn’t what I was really asking.  So, I needed to word the question differently.  I was looking for ways that we who believe deny Jesus by our actions without realizing it.

Peter or Judas?

Maybe the better way to look at it would be Peter and Judas.  On the night when Jesus was betrayed, both Peter and Judas denied Jesus.  The difference, of course, is that Peter denied Jesus in the heat of the moment and then repented later on when he experienced conviction.  Judas, on the other hand, not only denied but rejected Jesus completely.  My question was really about recognizing the ways that we become like Peter in our daily lives.

The Sermon

If you would like to hear the message, you can download it HERE

The Full List

In the message, I mentioned that I would post the entire list of social media responses.  So, here’s the full list of responses I received.  The “P” and the “J” are the only editorial changes I have made.  “P” means that I think a response is more of a Peter denial.  “J” means I think it’s more of a Judas denial.

  1. Knowingly supporting groups that openly deny the deity of Christ  P
  2. keeping silent when others are denying him P
  3. refusing to obey what he has said to do or not do.  P
  4. By rarely – if ever – praying to him (as in, “Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins / teaching us how to live in a way that honors you / interceding to the Father on our behalf….”, etc.), and ONLY praying to God the Father. If the Son and the Spirit are each part of the Godhead (and they are), then it’s certainly appropriate that we should acknowledge them in our prayers from time to time.  P
  5. By publicly professing to be Christians and then doing many of the same ungodly things that lost people do. (Are we really representing Christ? Do we remember who he TRULY is?)  P
  6. When we are indifferent to his commission to “go and make disciples”, we deny Christ’s authority (as God) to send us.  In fact, every sustained disobedience against Christ’s message/Word is a denial of his authority as God.  P
  7. We deny that Jesus is God when we try to manipulate a situation to get what we want, rather than walking through what he is taking us through.  P
  8. Actually, the Bible is pretty clear about the behaviors that will keep us out of heaven, which are the direct answer to your question.  The issue is more of categorizing sin in ways that we define one sin as less than another and the lesser sin is more acceptable in our eyes.  The other is a subconscious merit system by which the good that we do in our eyes outweighs the descriptive wrongs (sins) identified in the Bible.  Example, fornication is not really fornication if you really love each other, or if you have plans to marry.  In summary, what you refer to as denial they would refer to as approval.  J
  9. I ignore His command to love and serve others as He did.  P
  10. I’m sorry I can’t answer your question, but I can ask one:  If a Christian denies that Jesus is God, is he truly a Christian?  Jesus said “I and the Farther are one”  John 10:30  J
  11. Staying silent when a co-worker uses the Lords name in vain.  Not standing up and owning Him and saying you’re offended and it’s wrong.  P
  12. REVENGE  When we forget that God said vengeance is mine and we get back at those who hurt us. We not only stop showing grace and love but we bring consequences upon ourselves and tie Gods hands as to His will for the situation. Revenge blinds us from the truth that God loves our enemies and His will is for repentance.  When we as Christians seek revenge we not only push that person further from repentance but we to cause our walk to stumble as well as any observers. It also hinders our forgiveness when we choose not to forgive as the Lord’s prayer reminds us. Not to mention forgiveness is for the forgiver more than it ever is for the forgiven.  P
  13. worry,  P
  14. being unkind or disrespectful,  P
  15. needing to be right  P
  16. Because we don’t walk in fellowship one with another in love; To serve and become a servant of Love.  John 3:17-18…says but who has this world’s goods and see if his brother have a need and shut up as bowels of compassion from how dwelleth the love of God in him? my little children let us not love in word neither in tongue but in Deed and in truth.  For God is ❤️.    P
  17. I think we live like Jesus isn’t God when we treat his teaching and example as mere suggestions.  P
  18. We also fail to honor Jesus’ divinity when he is reduced only to the category of a respectable moral teacher on par with MLK Jr and Gandhi.  P
  19. The biggest area I’ve witnessed (in myself as well as in other Christians) is in the use of our time. We prioritize most things above gathering with the Body, except on Sunday.  P

 

Well, there’s the list.  Can you think of more?

Join the Conversation.  Add your comments below

What’s Going Right in Muskegon?

Four Trends That Need to Continue

My family and I were quite surprised by Muskegon when we moved here from Chicago late in 2014.  Living near Chicago meant that we were living in the 3rd most segregated city in the United States.  In our time there, we were often inescapably aware of racial tensions and divisions that occasionally boiled over into violence.  While I enjoyed our time there, it also had its share of dangers.

When we made the move to Muskegon, we heard negative comments about our city being a smaller version of Chicago.  While there are some definite comparisons, I have to tell you that we have been very surprised. . . . in a good way.  I am surprised at the number of things going right in Muskegon that we did not see happening in the bigger city.

I know that we still have to continue reducing the violence in our area and growing economic opportunities.  I know.  I can see that.

Plus, I know our tendency can be to focus on the negative, but as a relatively new person in Muskegon, I see lots of things going right.

As a pastor in our community, I see four trends that are very clear evidence that we are beginning to move in the right direction.  If the community of faith continues to build on these trends we will see the transformation of our cities.

Here are the four positive trends that I see.

Trend 1:  Pastors Praying Across Lines

In the communities I have served, I have never seen pastors praying across denominational and racial lines like we do in Muskegon.  I am a part of several groups that intentionally facilitate pastors uniting in prayer for each other and for the community.  The more we gather to pray for each other and our community, we see more transformation of the city.  Here are two groups that I attend.

Trend 2:  Churches Praying Strategically

Many cities around the country have gatherings across denominational lines for the simple and powerful purpose of praying for their city.  Muskegon is one of them.  We have a number of churches that dedicate one day a month and pray all day for our city.  Seems hard to believe, but it’s true.  Muskegon is being prayed for 24/7.  Click here to find out more.

  • Pray Muskegon is a ministry of MAPS and that coordinates churches in prayer.

Trend 3:  Christians Worshipping Together

In John 17:23 Jesus tells us that our unity as Christians is a witness to the world.  One of the natural outworkings of pastors and churches praying is that we partner together for worship.  Here are some upcoming worship events:

Trend 4:  Christians Serving Together

The challenges Muskegon faces are too great for any one person or any one congregation to handle.  However, when we unite as one Body of Christ there is so much more we can do.  Here are some partnerships I am working with that have been a tremendous blessing.

  • Love, INC.  We host their food pantry, resource room and a number of their classes.  A great ministry that helps people transform their lives
  • Beacon of Hope: A Biblical Counseling Ministry.  We are working to bring this awesome ministry into Muskegon County in the next few months.

 

So yes, there are many things going right in Muskegon.  As Christians continue to support these trends, I believe we will see a powerful transformation continue in Muskegon county.  Plus, there are many more agencies and partnerships besides these few I’m working with!

Join the conversation:
What are some great Christian organizations that you partner with? 

 

The Threshold of Fellowship

Many of us as Christians rely on our theology to keep our fears at bay.  Rosaria Butterfield has said that “when fear rules your theology, God is nowhere to be found in your paradigm, no matter how many Bible verse you tack onto it.”  (To read more about Rosaria’s story and testimony, click here).  I believe she is correct.  As a conservative, evangelical Christian, I have seen us use correct doctrine as the threshold of fellowship.  I don’t know if we realize it, but when our doctrine becomes the threshold of fellowship with us, then our theology is no longer “theo-centric” and has become about us.

When we believe that the only people we can share life with are the people who hold identical theological nuances, then we are letting fear rule.  While I believe that we must absolutely have sound doctrine and accurate exegesis, I believe those are the beginning of my ministry, not the end.  Once I have plumbed the depths of God’s Word and have arrived at a doctrinal position, the work of ministry has just begun.  Once I understand what God’s Word says and means, I must still let that truth resonate in the world around me.

While I believe that we must absolutely have sound doctrine and accurate exegesis, I believe those are the beginning of my ministry, not the end.

So what would happen if, instead of fear-driven theology, we viewed our theology as a means to draw people deeper into their love for Jesus?  What if our goal in biblical instruction was not to help us become “righter” in our doctrine, but to become more cognizant of the wonders of God?  It seems to me that if this is our goal, then our theology remains theo-centric rather than self-centric.

Although that may be more uncomfortable for us, it will also be transformative to the world around us.

Ouch or Amen?

After a particularly hard-hitting statement, I once heard a preacher tell his congregation that they either needed to say “Ouch” or “Amen”.  This was one of those moments for me.

I was reading a short little ebook from Jeremy Wallace called The Outward Focused Church: 20 Questions to Help Determine if Your Church Has an Outward Focus.  I reached question 2.  Here it is. . .

“Do You Have More Committees than Annual Conversions?”

Yes.   Ouch.

Jeremy goes on to say

Let’s be clear. When I say ‘conversions,’ I’m not talking about new members who have joined by way of transferring from another church. I am talking about new converts – people being saved. The reality is, there are churches that would rather talk about ministry than actually do it.  (7)

Amen.

We have a long way to go.


To find out more about Jeremy or to get your own copy of his ebook, check out his website by clicking here

A Surprising New Spiritual Discipline?

Okay, this is one I have always joked about.   Now it turns out that there is some good research to support the idea.  This is a spiritual discipline that anyone, and I do mean anyone, can use.

This spiritual discipline:

  • restores our spiritual and emotional well-being
  • Increases our creative potential
  • Provides much needed physical energy.
  • AND is Soooooo easy that even a child can do it.

Can you guess what this great spiritual discipline is?

NAPPING!   (okay, the pictures probably gave it away, but still. . .)

Using a strategic power nap in your day can be a great way to honor God with your emotions.

Find out more about the research from Michael Hyatt from his great article here.

Not sure what I mean by “Spiritual Disciplines”?  Check out this interview with Don Whitney.    He gives a broad definition (which napping can fit into) and then goes on to explain other disciplines.