I want to pick up on something I said in the last post and give it the emphasis it deserves, and it’s my simple observation that none of us know what we are wrong about. Think about it! If we knew we were wrong about something then we would presumably make correction and not be wrong any more. A simple principle, for sure, but greatly overlooked and misunderstood! And greatly overlooked and misunderstood by Christians too!
Because flights don’t always get me where my car is there are times when I have to rent one, and because rentals are nearly-new they tend to have all the bells and whistles which I only know exist because of renting them. Indeed, after a ten hour drive in a real beauty last year I’d just about figured out by the time we arrived at the airport to fly home that I could have probably driven the whole distance just talking to it via the onboard computer. Man, there wasn’t much that thing couldn’t do pretty much completely automatically. On the last really cool car I rented I noticed that the side-view mirrors had a little symbol in the corner that would regularly light up, but I couldn’t for the life of me work out why they would or why they were there. Belinda eventually figured out though that the flashing symbols were there to alert me when any vehicle alongside but to the rear was in my blindspot. And there you have it! Just as with driving, we all have blindspots in our lives! And the thing about blindspots is that you don’t, by very definition, know what’s in them! And that means that we don’t know what we are wrong about, and that we therefore need to be open to correction from others, such correction being the equivalent of those little symbols lighting up on the side view mirror of my rental car.
One of the greatest biblical virtues is that of humility, and one of the ways in which genuine humility is revealed is through an open mind to the fact that we could be wrong about absolutely anything. As we saw last time, this doesn’t prevent us from being definite regarding to our best and honest biblical understanding of various matters, but it does preserve us from the kind of closed-minded dogmatism that is more to do with needing to be seen to be right about something (self-righteousness, in fact), rather than simply establishing from scripture whether we actually are right or not.
And it seems to me that there are two main ways in which we avoid facing up to things about which we are wrong, but about which we are determined to keep believing that we are right. The first is to simply avoid anything that might address, or present challenge to, whatever the thing in question might be. The tactic, so to speak, of denial plus avoidance! We just don’t talk about whatever it might be, or address it in any way. We keep it ‘off the table’ and avoid talking about it with anyone who might present a threat or challenge to us regarding it. This is why, for example, so many aspects of what the Bible teaches are quite intentionally never referred to, being studiously ignored, by Christian leaders and teachers and those who follow them.
The second way to avoid having to face up to the fact that we might be wrong about something is to become so entrenched in our convictions, biblical or otherwise, that instead of genuine discussion with others we are simply concerned to ‘win the argument’ and not even properly listen to any contrary thinking or ideas. Our concern should rather be, “What saith the scriptures?” with an accompanying attitude of genuinely testing ourselves to see if we are truly seeking to then conform our thinking and lives to what they say.
So this isn’t just about belief and doctrine. It’s about how we actually live day to day as husbands and wives, as parents and children, as employers or employees and as neighbours to those who live in our street. It’s about how honest we are being regarding our sin and failure, and about then repenting of that sin and failure and putting things right both with the Lord and any others whom our sin has affected. As sinners our default state, our knee-jerk reaction, our instinctive and instant response to any revealed consequences of our own wrongdoing, is to try to deny the reality of the situation and to excuse and justify ourselves regarding it, so as to not only deny our sin but to shift the blame onto others. Humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, as scripture commands us to do, is therefore the way in which we initiate, and continue, the ongoing process of reversing this.
In the Garden of Eden, as soon as sin entered the human domain, Eve blamed the serpent, and Adam blamed Eve and then the Lord. Humility, however, embraces the simple understanding that my sin is my fault and not yours, and that I am the only one who can repent of it and make restitution in the Lord for it. Humility also embraces the simple fact that 1) We are wrong about an awful lot of things which we aren’t even aware of yet, and 2) Without the help and correction of others we will never see much of what that wrongness actually is.
As I maintained in the previous couple of posts, we are indeed free to always think we are right, but not to ever think that we are always right! And now we must add this: When sin has disrupted my relationship with others in any way it might be entirely their fault and not mine. It might also be a case that both they and I have contributed wrongdoing to the situation. Or it might be that the situation is entirely my own wrongdoing! But irrespective of which of these three possibilities it is, the one thing I must never do is to automatically give myself the benefit of the doubt and to simply assume that the odds are that I am right, and that the wrongdoing is entirely someone else’s.
The Lord’s humility reveals itself by His willingness to be in a lowlier position than the one of which He is worthy. For ourselves, however, humility must acknowledge that we are not actually worthy of anything at all, and that also, unlike the Lord, we have ongoing wrong-thinking and wrongdoing that we need to both admit to and put right.
This is a big part of why even so many Christians who are aware of what scripture teaches regarding church life, and who have actual opportunity to avail themselves of it, nevertheless decide to either remain in unbiblical churches or just become churchless. Both options, however, avoid meaningful personal accountability! The first because unbiblical churches are impersonal, and the latter because it excludes even the most basic commitment to anyone or anything, and even avoids scriptures command that we regularly gather together with other believers for mutual edification and spiritual growth. The former is to hide in a crowd, whilst the latter is to just avoid others completely! In strong contrast to both scripture teaches that we should embrace true life-sharing fellowship with others in which we become truly open and known.
Look, no-one enjoys being corrected! Or at least, I don’t! I really, really do understand that! Given the choice between watching some Star Trek or having someone correct me for something, guess which one I’d go for! Indeed, I’d rather watch chick-flics, which I truly can’t stand! But hey, even watching chick-flics beats being corrected by someone, eh? But like so many things in life correction isn’t meant to be enjoyable, it’s meant to be part of our walk with the Lord so as to sanctify us and conform us ever more into His likeness and character!
As someone who divides his time between the UK and US, I find it both extraordinary and fascinating to see the two nations in such complete governmental chaos at exactly the same time. As America endures the longest government shut-down in its history, the British government suffers the most devastating parliamentary defeat in our nations’ political history. If, like me, political observation is somewhat of a hobby for you, this is all great fun, but it doesn’t change the fact that such events are monumental. As a result a perennial question is now on the lips of ordinary people on both sides of the Atlantic even more-so than usual, and it simply this: Why can’t politicians just be honest, open and transparent about what they believe and then behave consistently with said beliefs? Why do they have to so often be so utterly disingenuous and hypocritical?
But the question all this provokes me to ask is somewhat different, and it is this: Why are so many Christians, and especially Christian leaders, so like the politicians I have just referred to? Why can’t we, as the Lord’s people, just be honest, open and transparent about what the Bible teaches, and stop being so dishonest and disingenuous regarding the bits we keep desperately trying to avoid because of the increasing disapproval of the surrounding culture? Why can’t we just surrender to the Lord once and for all and submit to what scripture teaches irrespective of the profound changes we would have to make in our lives?
For over 40 years I have seen again and again and again that many Christians, leaders included, simply ignore what the Bible teaches regarding certain things it simply doesn’t suit them to address. Even regarding such biblically fundamental issues as the sanctity of marriage and family life, and the differing role of gender within it, believers by and large just turn a blind eye to, for instance, the fact that remarriage after divorce, with some very limited exceptions, is adultery, and that God has ordained the husband to be the head of the family, and that leadership in the church is exclusively male. Because Christian leaders know that many in their various congregations would vote with their feet if they taught what the Bible says regarding such things, and especially if biblical church discipline was being properly exercised where disobedience to such prevailed, they therefore either never even refer to such offending passages in the New Testament or, should such issues ever be raised, just summarily dismiss them by repeating the knee-jerk ‘christian’ mantra that we are not to judge, and that grace and forgiveness means we should leave anything offensive or controversial well alone and just accept whatever way things are. The fact that scripture teaches the exact opposite of such thinking is thereby also avoided, and church attenders are spared unwanted biblically-oriented teaching and thinking entering their consciousness. This is what I mean when I say that so many Christians, and especially Christian leaders, behave more like self-serving politicians than they do disciples of Jesus.
Picking and choosing which bits of the Bible’s teaching we approve of and which we don’t, thereby simply ignoring and disobeying the bits we don’t like, is hypocritical, disingenuous and utterly dishonouring to the Lord. Paul the Apostle told the elders of the churches in Ephesus that he had taught them the ‘whole counsel of God’, yet how many church leaders and Bible teachers today could even vaguely claim to be doing that. Indeed, they know only too well that to do so would cost them not only their treasured popularity, but possibly even their salaries. Christians sit listening to sermons from their leaders week-in-and-week-out for decades without ever being taught some of the most important things scripture has to say. As a result their minds are not being continuously renewed and they therefore remain in conformity to the world and its thinking rather than living in holiness and obedience to the Lord. The New Testament refers to such believers as being carnal Christians! Genuine believers, for sure, but believers who are nonetheless utterly retarded in their spiritual growth and development. The New Testament likens such to grown men and women who still need to be breastfed. A sorry situation indeed!
Across the Atlantic Democratic politicians who just five years ago voted for funding for a wall along the Mexican border are now keeping the government in shut-down by declaring that such a wall is fundamentally immoral, and that they must therefore refuse to grant it. Irrespective of your political stance on immigration and border control, whichever way you cut it, they are being completely and utterly hypocritical! Likewise, here in the United Kingdom politicians who just two years ago pledged commitment to honouring a referendum decision to leave the European Union have since done everything they possibly can to sabotage it and are now, having seen their chance, trying to kill it off completely. Like their American counterparts they are simply demonstrating what self-serving hypocrites they actually are! And Christians who stand firm on whatever aspects of scriptural teaching they happen to agree with, yet who avoid and ignore, and therefore disobey, those aspects which don’t suit them are, equally, similarly behaving like self-serving and disingenuous hypocrites.
Remarriage after divorce, with exotically few exceptions, is adultery, and to not bring church discipline to bear upon those planning to illegitimately remarry is to disobey God’s Word. But how many believers and church leaders are exercised in insuring such a standard prevails in churches?
God has given headship of the family to husbands, and commands that wives submit to it. Likewise, in church life leadership is for men, women being barred from eldership or teaching the gathered church. Yet how many Christian leaders and believers at large are standing firm and strong against the increasing rejection of this truth amongst God’s people?
The New Testament also makes clear that we should imitate the practise of the apostles of Jesus regarding such things as how we conduct church life, how evangelism and baptisms should take place, plus numerous other things which most Christians just ignore and take absolutely no notice of.
It is simply a fact that one of the things that characterises modern Christians is that they simply ignore important and significant teachings of the very Bible – the ‘whole counsel of God’ – whilst purporting to be fully following it! Claiming, as all believers do, the authority of scripture, they then proceed to sit in judgement on it, carefully editing out whichever aspects of its teaching they don’t approve of, or which they know would be too costly and too inconvenient to have to obey.
In the Old Testament one of the constant themes of the judges, and later the prophets, was that, “Every man did what was right in their own eyes.” Having, as they did, God’s Law, they nevertheless had a ‘pick and choose’ attitude and approach to it. Through both judges and prophets the Lord called that exactly what it was, rebellion! Yet today the Church of Jesus Christ, and I mean genuine believers, continues to do much the same thing. Unlike Israel at the time of the judges and prophets we are not under the Mosaic Law but under the new covenant of Grace, yet exactly the same principle applies. We seem to think, just like Israel of old, that we have the right to just pick and choose which scriptural teachings we obey and which we don’t. As with God’s people in the Old Testament we are merely doing what’s right in our own eyes! It is, however, the same now as it was then – rebellion!
But hey! Am I being just too tough here? Is it reasonable to expect Christians to change so radically given that the Christian Church has been going against scripture regarding such things for so long? Is it fair to expect believers to implement su h profound and wide-ranging changes? But hang on a moment! Didn’t Jesus talk about His followers denying self, picking up their crosses and following Him? Didn’t He teach that we would be hated and treated badly by others precisely because our lives are so different, and therefore condemning, of the culture around us? Didn’t Paul command us to be transformed from living a worldly life to living a godly life in Christ Jesus in full obedience to Him and His Word? Doesn’t the New Testament demand that we be willing to forsake everything in order to follow the Lord?
The question for Christians who are actually disciples as well is never whether something is too hard, or too tough, or too costly! The question for them is only ever, “What saith the scriptures? How does Jesus want us to live? What does He want me to be like in every aspect of my life?”
I leave you with a principle I have sought to live by, however failingly and poorly, since the Lord brought me into His kingdom. It is simply this: If I am not standing on God’s Word and living in definite and clear obedience to it at those specific and precise points where others around me, Christians included, have rejected what it teaches, then I am not actually standing on His Word at all!
It is, of course, irrelevant to us as believers that there are politicians who are hypocrites! Of course there are! No surprises there! It should, however, be of the absolutely greatest concern to us to truly test whether or not we, as those who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus, and who therefore claim to be committed to be living under the authority of the teaching of scripture, are any different to them!
Here in England it is the 50th anniversary of the repeal of the law that criminalised homosexual acts, a law that I personally abhor was ever on the statute books. It is not for governments to be legislating regarding sexual immorality, whether homosexual or heterosexual. There is a vast difference between behaviours that are sinful in the Lord’s sight, and those which should also be criminalised. What consenting adults do behind closed doors, so long as no-one is being hurt, or no other laws are being broken, is not the business of governments.
But of course the mere fact that it is such an anniversary means that we are being bombarded with even more gay propaganda than usual, and anyone would think that nothing could be more virtuous, or of greater praise, than behaviour that my parent’s generation took for granted as being morally dubious. I deeply regret that there are those who want to treat gay folk badly, whose bigoted thinking is that they should be discriminated against, or thought of as being second class citizens. Such treatment should no more apply to gay people that to straight people who do things one might disapprove of morally. Tolerance is not the same thing as approval, but rather the acknowledgement of the right to behave in ways one disagrees with. As a Christian it seems to me that tolerance should undergird all our relationships, and especially our relationships with those who make no claim to be following the Lord Jesus. We should therefore no more despise the gay community than we would people who drink too much, use bad language, gamble or take drugs, or who do anything else we might disapprove of. The essence of our discipleship is that we are saved sinners, so to take an especially high and mighty attitude against those who are gay just because they are gay, as if this is more sinful than other sinful things, is not only ridiculous, but hypocritical and obnoxiously self-righteous. Indeed, I am always quick to say that some of the nicest and most engaging folk I have ever met are gay, and the idea that anyone should be treated badly, or honoured and respected as a human being any the less less merely on the basis of their sexual preferences is a truly horrible one.
But what I want to comment on in this post is that all the polls are showing that each new emerging generation of genuine Bible-believing evangelical Christians are more and more open to the idea that sexual immorality, whether homosexual or heterosexual in nature, is acceptable to the Lord, and ought not to be regarded as being sinful in the way the Christian Church has traditionally taught. In other words, even evangelical Bible-believing Christians are increasingly discounting biblical teaching concerning sexual morality and family life. Why is this? Well, I think the answer is pretty clear…and pretty damningly clear as well!
If you jump out of tree you will inevitably proceed downwards and not up. The force of gravity inexorably drags everything towards the lowest point; and so it is with sin. Left to ourselves, even as Christians, we instinctively veer towards sin as opposed to righteousness. So basically, any excuse we can grant ourselves to justify moral laxness becomes actual working permission to get away with sinful behaviour we would not otherwise allow ourselves to indulge in. So if the previous generation of Christians have long since stopped calling certain sinful things sin in order to excuse and indulge themselves, then why shouldn’t the following generation of Christians widen the parameters of what is allowable as far as they are concerned?
What I am getting to is simply this: The last couple of generations of genuine evangelical Bible-believing Christians have, by and large, ignored what scripture teaches concerning two vitally important aspects of marriage and family life. Firstly, they have largely thrown out what God’s Word teaches regarding the sanctity of marriage by legitimising divorce and remarriage in situations where scripture does not. “Till death do us part…”, though still regarded in theory a solemn vow, has actually been considered optional for even genuine Christians for a very long time. Ask yourself: How many churches do you know of that would impose church discipline on any in their midst planning to illegitimately divorce with a view to remarriage. Secondly, Christians have virtually monolithically rejected what scripture teaches regarding gender differences and function. The clear biblical teaching of the headship of the husband coupled with the duty of wives to be submissive to them, plus that leadership in the church is for the menfolk, has not only been either explained away or just completely ignored, but those believers who do adhere to biblical practise regarding it all are often castigated by their fellow Christians for so doing.
What possible grounds, then, can Christians who reject what scripture teaches regarding the sanctity of marriage and gender differences, have for being surprised by a new generation of Christians who have decided to ignore what God’s Word teaches regarding sexuality. If it is legitimate for my generation of Christians to have rejected aspects of scripture’s teaching regarding family life (i.e. longevity of marriage and male headship), then why should it be considered it wrong for a newer generation of believers to reject others? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and it is hypocritical to say otherwise.
A significant proportion of genuine evangelical Bible-believing Christians in the West who were born from the eighties onwards simply have no problem with either gay sex or gay marriage, whilst older believers are horrified by such an outlook and completely baffled how it could have come to this. But I simply ask, what did we expect! If an older generation of Christians consider themselves free to reject certain biblical teachings, then what shouldn’t a newer generation consider themselves free to ditch a few more?
So yes, I do indeed blame Christians! As Western society has become more and more lax regarding the sanctity of marriage and family life, so also did Christians in that society. We bowed down to culture and not the authority of scripture. But I don’t primarily blame the current Christian generation for rejecting the bits of the Bible they don’t like. I rather blame those believers born in the 40’s and 50’s onwards who started the process off as far as Christians were concerned, who wanted easy divorce and remarriage so they could have their sexual cake and eat it too if a marriage didn’t suit them, and who then caved into the emerging surrounding cultural feminism so as to secure an easier life.
My conclusion is simply this: any Christian who thinks sexual sin, of whatever kind, is acceptable, should repent and get right with the God, and start living in obedience to His Word. But I think too that those believers who are horrified by what is now happening, but who are feminists, and who condone easy divorce and remarriage, should repent also. It was, after all, those two compromises with the world that kicked this whole thing off! It is nothing short of the most blatant hypocrisy to want to draw a line at sin C, because you think it’s going too far, having previously declared sins A and B to be alright because they happened to suit you!
“Every word of God is flawless. He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)
Something that is abundantly clear from scripture is that Christians are a minority group. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) So whichever way you cut it, the majority of people throughout human history have been, and are, unbelievers, with only a few – that is, a small proportion – who are Christians and therefore saved. This means that I am, by very definition, in a minority, as is every other Christian who has ever lived.
But of course it doesn’t stop there. I suppose everyone would rather be in the majority, because that would mean, at the very least, acceptance by most, and, possibly, even actual popularity. I don’t know about you but if the choice were mine then give me acceptance and popularity over rejection any time. But for some of us it doesn’t stop at being in the minority merely because we are Christians. The fact that the Lord’s people are so divided over what scripture teaches, and that so much accepted Christian practise is based on completely unbiblical teaching and tradition, means that there are those of us who find ourselves in another smaller minority, even amongst Christians, because of our biblical conviction.
What we have here is a series of ever-decreasing circles pertaining to acceptance and acceptability amongst Christians, and it works like this: All believers, as we have already noted, are in a minority group simply because they are following the Lord. (I am obviously talking here about genuine Christians, and not those who merely erroneously identify themselves as such because of the nation or culture of their birth.) However, because I am one of those genuine believers who adheres to the teaching of scripture, as opposed to unbiblical tradition, concerning church life, and who is therefore, by very definition, outside of Christian ‘mainstream’ and the virtually monolithic ‘system’ that comprises it, I am therefore in yet another minority even amongst Christians, who are themselves a minority in the first place.
Every which way of ‘doing’ church appears to be acceptable amongst the vast majority of Christians, from High Church Anglicanism/Episcopalianism through Methodism and Baptistic Churches down to such expressions as independent Evangelical Churches and Charismatic/Pentecostal ones. Every which way, in fact, except those of us who simply replicate what churches were like in the New Testament during the time of the Apostles. Understanding a church to simply be a numerically small extended family of the Lord’s people, therefore meeting in houses, having open participatory gatherings and sharing the Lord’s Supper as a full meal, as was the case in Apostolic times is, it would appear, the one big “No-No!’ Pretty much everything by way of church life is accepted, affirmed, respected and embraced by Christians at large…except that! Those of us who simply copy New Testament church practise are, apparently, only doing so because we are weird, sectarian, rebellious, deceived, crazy or just too extreme and unbalanced to be considered acceptable. Already in the minority simply by virtue of being a Christian, I further find myself in an even smaller one amongst believers merely for being stringently biblical regarding church life. But hey, there’s more! Amazingly it doesn’t even stop there!
Although, at least in the West, house church Christians are very definitely in the minority when compared to those who attend institutional/traditional churches, there are nevertheless still enough of them to have their own minorities; and guess what…I find myself in probably the smallest one! What I saying is that endeavouring to be stringently and comprehensively biblical means that being part of a house church, and therefore outside of the ‘system’, is only one part, one aspect of the broader matter of being faithful to God’s Word in general. Most believers who are outside of the ‘system’ are not, sadly, outside of it due to biblical conviction, but rather because they just don’t happen to like what it has to offer. Meeting in homes, whilst biblical in itself, is nevertheless only a part of the biblical pattern, and any kind of unscriptural nonsense and behaviour can be practised in peoples homes, just as it can equally be in the public buildings of mainstream traditional churches. So merely being ‘house church’, and therefore outside of the unbiblical ‘system’, is not, of itself, the point. The point should be that we are being comprehensively and stringently biblical. Therefore, those I gather with in the context of biblical church life embrace scriptural teaching regarding other issues which are generally left well alone and avoided by most other believers, whether part of the ‘system’ or not. Because we adhere to scripture regarding such issues as gender differences, and therefore scriptures teaching concerning husbands being the heads of their families, as well as the resultant necessity of Christian leadership being therefore exclusively for the men-folk, we find ourselves an somewhat unacceptable minority amongst even ‘house church’ believers. Hence the ever-decreasing circles of being in a minority amongst the minority of already a minority. (And of course here in England you would have to add home-schooling to the list as well!)
It boils down to this: If you want to be accepted, loved and praised by the world, then don’t become a Christian. Or, if you do become a Christian, be a luke-warm, carnal and disobedient one. And if you want to be accepted, loved and lauded by other Christians, then remain in the ‘system’ and serve both it, and it’s Masters (pastors/ministers etc), dutifully, carefully and, of course, financially. And if you want to be accepted, loved and honoured by the majority of those who have, for whatever reason, rejected that ‘system’, then you will need to ensure that you are feministic, soft on sin overall, weak on what the Bible teaches regarding divorce and remarriage, and generally wobbly on biblical teaching concerning family life in general. If, however, you put the Lord, and therefore the comprehensive teaching of His Word first, then you will have to learn to find your peace, joy and security in the Lord whilst being rejected not only by the world (which was always to be expected), or even just Christians within the unbiblical church ‘system’, but by the vast majority of ‘house church’ believers too.
The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:12-14)
Unbiblical Christianity has it’s ‘camp’ just as surely as did Israel whilst busily rejecting what the Lord was saying to her; and Jesus, because of His adherence to the truth of Gods Word (He was the very Word Incarnate), was cast outside that ‘camp’ bearing disgrace. And as surely as we will have to bear disgrace in the eyes of unbelievers, so will the truly faithful ones of God’s people have to also bear disgrace in the eyes of those believers who live in compromise to the teaching of scripture regarding those things such as I have mentioned, as opposed to comprehensive obedience concerning them.
I thank the Lord though that, a minority of a minority amongst a minority though they be, there are still many, across the world, who have not, as it were, bowed the knee to Baal, however lonely, as Elijah discovered, it might feel at the time. One of the great themes in scripture regarding the Lord’s people is that of ‘the faithful remnant’, in contrast to the majority who, though nevertheless truly His, are compromisers living in, as the Apostle phrased it, carnality and wordy wisdom!
If what you are after is a quiet life, acceptance, popularity and the smile and praises of mere men and other believers, then you will have to be very careful not to conduct your Christian life overly biblically!
My American readers might be wondering how I could have let Mother’s Day go by yesterday without comment whilst posting an entry on it which had nothing to do with it. Well, that’s because in England we have already had Mother’s day a few weeks ago and therefore already ‘done’ it! (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) But I’m going to get the best of both world’s now and say some stuff anyway.
It’s a bit of a cliche, and even a bit on the glib side, to say that motherhood is the most important job in the world, but I wish to make clear that I for one actually believe it to be the case. Indeed, I have held for many years that the reason the Lord’s design is that the man who goes out to work is precisely so he is able to provide what his wife needs in order for her to be doing the really important work; that is, being the children’s constantly available mother! Not that I for one moment think the husband has only a minor role in raising his children, of course not, but it’s nevertheless the case that it is the mother, and not the father (and definitely not anyone else), whom the Lord calls to the task of being available for her children morning, noon and night.
Family life under attack…
The whole push behind modern western culture is a relentless, and carefully co-ordinated, Satanic attack against both Christianity and Christian values, and at the heart of this is the targeting of family life as it is taught in scripture. Hence the current obsession with the promotion of the homosexual life-style and the redefinition of marriage, plus the whole trans-gender agenda. The fact that this is taking place on the heels of two generations of the increasing laxness regarding normal heterosexual sexual morality reveals what the so-called sexual revolution was really about, the destruction of family life as instituted by the Lord. Though on the surface sexual immorality is primarily about unbridled personal pleasure, the underlying dynamic now is the evil one systematically dismantling God’s design and order for society in preparation for the last ditch stand he is going to take against the Lord before He returns.
…and especially Motherhood
In order to destroy the family Satan has to target both men and women, and the way he has targeted women is through the now monolithically present idea that for a woman to be at home and fully available for her children is beneath her. Wherever you go in the west women whose daily ongoing occupation is that of caring for their children and managing the family home face the unrelenting response, “Oh, so you don’t work then!” And this, along with the temptation of the extra money that can be earned, makes even Christian mothers want to have a career or, if they are faithful to God’s design and do stay at home, become frustrated at the creeping feeling of inadequacy Satan throws at them as they yearn for the children to grow up so they can get a job and become somehow fulfilled. It is a deception that strikes at the heart of a mothers very discipleship , and that causes her to become discontent, and to feel undervalued, and her gifts and talents underused for doing what is the single most important job in the world, being a mother!
Stay at home moms, what you are doing is more important and of greater significance than being the President of the United States, or the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Your time is being spent in something that is accomplishing more than all your husbands occupations combined. You have greater street-cred in your occupation in the Lords eyes than do all the kings, queens, famous film or pop stars around you put together. When you feel you are drowning in your motherhood then realise that it is only in the same way that Barack Obama or David Cameron sometimes feel overwhelmed by their work schedule and responsibilities. But when you feel that what you are doing is in some way less productive, and less respected and honoured than the career women who are not available for their children, and who have to give them away daily to the care of others, then know that the enemy is telling you a complete pack of lies in order to undermine your femininity and motherhood, thereby making you less effective at doing what is quite undeniably the most important job in the world.
Mothers of the world unite
Mothers of the world do right
Mothers of the world, stand strong
You’re the best, the world is wrong!!!!!
Welcome back and a very good day to you. Having kicked off the Blog yesterday with my very first post I am now just hoping that there isn’t any deep underlying and unconscious cosmic significance concerning the fact that it was, as I have only now realised, April Fool’s Day. (Critics, please fail to take note!) But be that as it may, I will proceed on the assumption that all is well and that the unfortunate proclivity I have in the direction of being a bit silly sometimes (I do so enjoy it!) doesn’t get too much in the way. So hey, our subject for today is…
Whether we like it or not life rotates around things like hierarchies, prioritisation and ascending and descending orders or importance; and following the Lord is no different. Whilst some people are consciously aware of their priorities and of why they order life in the way they do, others give it little or no thought. Yet even those who don’t think things through still have some kind of order and prioritisation in their lives, even if just that of lazing around on the sofa all day watching TV and eating Pizza. But what matters to us as believers is understanding just what our priorities ought to be, hence the idea of ripples on a pond.
When you throw a pebble into a pond circular ripples spread out in a wave motion from the central point of where the pebble entered the water, and this is exactly like the the way we order our lives, whatever that ordering looks like; but our concern here is what it should look like if we really are living consistently with the clear teaching of scripture.
So what is the central point from which all the ripples flow? What does the point of entry of the pebble into the pond represent? (Dramatic pause for frantic scribbling of answers on papers!) Yes, well done! Go to the top of the class! It’s the Lord! For us as believers He is the central point, or at least, He jolly well should be, of absolutely everything, and every aspect of our lives should flow from Him, and from our relationship with Him, and so consequently from His teaching and precepts. That much is clear. But what we need to understand is that the ripples then fan out in an order or importance and primary priority the closer they are to the origination point, and that whereas more and more ripples are appearing all the time, there is nevertheless always one that is the closest to the origination point, and one that is the second closest, and one that is the third closest, and so it goes on. And what I want to establish here are what the first 5 ripples ought to be, and in what order, because if we get these wrong then everything else will be wrong as a result.
The origination point is the Lord Jesus Himself, so what is ripple number one? Obviously, our individual relationship with Him. If I am not right with Him, whether because of not actually being a believer in the first place, or because I am a believer but one who is out of fellowship with Him relationally because of ongoing un-dealt with, unconfessed and unrepentant and sin, then whatever fans out from that is doing so through the filter of not being right with the Lord and will therefore, by definition, be contaminated and spoiled. priority number one is, therefore, maintaining a daily relationship and walk with the Lord in which we are being truly obedient to what we know of His Word, are seeking to ever grow in that knowledge, and then being painfully honest with ourselves when we have sinned, putting that right with Him quickly, specifically and definitely.
The next ripple is that of our biological family life. If Jesus comes first then, in my case, my wife and daughter come next. And if it is the case, and it is, that I can never be to them what I should be if my relationship with the Lord is not as it should be, then likewise I cannot be to others outside of my family life if I am not in right standing with those in my own biological family. It’s priorities! It’s an hierarchy of righteousness and godliness, and one thing can only come out of another, so if the more foundational thing is wrong, then anything else built on it, and resulting from it, will be skewed and corrupted as well.
It is little surprise then that the usual pattern for the letters in the New Testament is that their burden boils down to husbands properly loving their wives and Christ loves the church and laying their life down them, and to wives submitting to their husbands and honouring them as their head, and parents being wonderful parents and children being wonderfully obedient and respectful children. (Beautiful, isn’t it?)
But there’s more to this because ripple number three is to do with the fact that, whereas nowhere does the New Testament actually explicitly command believers be part of a particular and specific church, every verse is written on the clear assumption that they are. And thus we have our next ripple of priority; church life! To be sure, if family life isn’t in order then neither can church life be, but we must be clear that neither are we complete simply knowing Jesus personally and being part of our biological nuclear family. We need more than that, and what we need is, as biological families (mum, deadened the kids), to be part of an extended family of the Lord’s people with whom we have significant and open ongoing relationships, that being, biblically speaking, what being part of a church is meant to actually.
In exactly the same way that biological family life provides both mutual nurture and accountability, church life provides us with another layer of nurture and accountability outside of the nuclear family. Not that church life ever trumps family life, of course not, but in exactly the same way that it’s not good for man to be alone, neither is it good for individual families to be isolated and unrelated to others outside of them. Insularity is alway dangerous for a Christian (unless imposed for reasons beyond one’s control) and we need to be tied in with others at every level; and especially when husbands are the head of their families and can never have the ultimate accountability to their own family that can be provided by the husbands of other families. With authority comes great responsibility and no man should be the head of a family without ensuring he has real and significant personal accountability to other godly brothers who are in the same position.
But there’s more still because we next come to the circle of the wider body of Christ, or to all the other believers around who are part of other specific and particular churches other than the one we are. Remember, only as we are in a righteous stance toward each ripple can those ripples spreading out more widely be engaged properly by us, but in exactly the same way that although I know Jesus individually yet need others in my life, and in exactly the same way that my nuclear family need other families to be in fellowship with (church life), each particular and specific church needs fellowship outside of itself with other believers comprising the wider body of Christ. Again, insularity is the danger of the Christian life, and any manifestation of closed off attitudes or spiritual exclusivism is always a sign of something being very wrong.
Thus far we have the following:
- Jesus – the epicentre of everything
- My individual relationship with Him
- My relationship with my nuclear family
- The particular and specific church my family are part of
- The wider body of Christ (believers in other churches)
But of course theres another ripple that ought to come out of these radiating five others, and it’s my relationship with unbelievers as I engage with the fallen world in which I live. Whether at work at the factory or office, or visits to the shops, or hanging out with our neighbours in our street, or even unbelievers in our wider nuclear family, a big part of our lives is that which we experience outside of family, church and the wider body of Christ. But again, what we have to understand is that only as the previous five ripples are in good order, only as I am living in right relationship in the Lord to each can it be safe for me to engage with a fallen world of which I was once a slave and in which I was once a child of the devil.
The only way to be, as scripture teaches, in the world but not of it, is to guard the ripples of these relationships as closely as I know how, and to embrace the priorities they present and to surrender to the challenges they bring. How can I love my wife and child as I should if my own personal walk with the Lord is a complete disordered mess? How can I be an active participant in the church we are part of if my relationship with my family is wrong and if there are things I haven;t put right with them? And how can I have any fellowship worthy of the name with believers in the wider body of Christ if the truth of the matter is than in so doing I am actually trying to ignore, or avoid, or get round, or escape from, the accountability with which I am presented through being part of a particular and specific church? When running away from the accountability that results from fellowship with brothers and sisters who know one really well , nothing is more relieving than fellowship with other brother and sisters who don’t know me as well and who are therefore not presenting me with the quite same challenges.
And of course if all the things are not in place then it’s quite simply the fact that my relationship with unbelievers, with whom it is absolutely God’s will I engage, will result in me becoming like them rather than them seeing my good works, and seeing my godliness, and giving glory to our Father in Heaven. We will, in fact, just be a sort of vaguely ‘Christian’ version of them, and they will see right through as they label us the hypocrites we are.
So hey, it’s like ripples on a pond…and it’s wonderful beyond words! Thank you Jesus for washing us with the water of your Word and for the ripples of your ever out-spreading holiness in the beautiful lake of our lives!