Monday, February 3, 2014

Two Gates

Fuddy duddy.
Papaw, or Mamaw.

Do these sound familiar? Do these apply to you? Do these negative sounding words and phrases make you cringe? Do you get tired of explaining why you don't "do something?" I don't do this... I don't do that. I think it's a sin to [insert any number of things you might think are a sin.] You don't have to even condemn others anymore to be considered any of the aforementioned words. Your very witness of living your own life begins to be a sensitive topic. People want the lowest-common-denominator to be "their" viewpoint. It's no longer enough to be friends with someone of a differing opinion, religion, or viewpoint anymore. It is not enough to be tolerant and respectful anymore. It seems that if you don't affirm and celebrate every person's choice - you are now the bully. You are now the bigot.

The problem is, that you are not wrong. Human nature rears its ugly head and every emotion from jealously, to anger, to conviction, to pride will surface when confronted with a mirror that causes us to see flaws. We justify our actions. We rationalize our behaviors. We submit case study after case study about "why" we don't want legalism in our lives, and how love draws people to Christ, not condemnation. All of those are true, by the way. Yes... all are true.

Have you ever been accused of being a narrow-minded Christian? Usually, that is considered an insult. And we, as Christians, haven't really done much to have good PR in the past few decades. There are certainly enough "christians" out there giving us a bad name. That angers me, on many levels, and I whine to God about it. I cry out that it's not fair. Just because someone is conservative, white, and has money... that's not the barometer for being a good Christian. That does not equate to Christianity. It really irks me when people that go to church and have some cash, and have conservative values, and rail against anything that seems socially progressive is considered "the right wing," or "conservative christians." They've appropriated Jesus and misrepresented what the cross, and salvation, are all about. They have no problems stating what they are against, but not what they are for...

And hear me, fellow true Christians, fellow true believers: we've not done our fair share of the Golden Rule, nor the Great Commission. That's sad. That's really, really sad. I am indicting all of us, because we've been complacent. We've allowed Christ to be used as a political pawn, and forgotten that he came to save us. He came to heal us. He came to give us a way out of our lives of sin and most-assured death. Some of those values overlap, but conservative values alone does not a Christian make. Generally, I find the great dividing line the name of Jesus. Once you really throw that out there, conservatives and liberals alike will balk at the name. They will want no part of the name. They consider someone willing to really follow the social, political, and spiritual teachings of Christ a crazy person, a fanatic, or a kook. They will wear a button once a year about not using an "x" in Christmas, but they refuse to wear the name of Jesus in baptism or on their heart when it comes to their daily business interactions. It shows in how they treat the poor. It shows in how they treat those lost in sin and that need physical needs met before you can even begin to get them focused on what a spiritual need might be.

Yes, we are the fanatics. We are those that want to live a consecrated life, and to know the Christ. We want more than just some country club version of an insulated bubble world... But, those who level such accusations against us certainly mean it as an insult. Yet, for the true believer and the true Christian, it's not an insult. According to Jesus, that’s the only way to walk if we want to experience abundant life now and eternal life with Him in heaven. We are to be in love with God and Jesus more than anything, and through that love and our experience with the Christ, we are to show love to the world in a way that would make them want their own experience with Christ. It's hard to show them something different, if they can't tell you apart from themselves. I don't mean your hair, or your skirt, or makeup, or shorts, or tattoos, or earrings, or even your choice of entertainment, or if you abstain from alcohol or smoking. God is a "Big-Enough-God" to convict you of any and every sin that you, personally, should be doing or not doing. That's not my call, or anyone else's call. But, if you choose to live holy and if you choose to abstain from things that you feel convicted over, you can expect some peer pressure or questions about it. People get curious as to why you won't do something, and feel personally affronted if you lay it out there that you don't want to due to personal conviction. Sadly, and not so incidentally, you can expect some not-so-nice responses from family and friends. Trust me; I'm going through it daily now.

At the end of the day, there are two choices you can make. There are two gates, and two ways: Follow God, or not. Listen to God, or not. Follow through on your personal convictions, or not. It's not rocket science. You don't have to fast, consult three preachers, your bishop, the head of ladies' auxiliary, and all of your friends about it. You don’t' have to worry and toss and turn. You can listen to God, or not. But it will require a deliberate choice on our part, because no one automatically drifts onto the narrow pathway. Humans naturally drift toward the easy path.

Matthew 7:13-14 “Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. 14 But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it."

The broad way is easy to find. In fact, unless you make a conscious choice to avoid it, you’ll find yourself on it. Most people like this wide path because it encompasses all philosophies and belief systems. Everything is acceptable, and everyone’s “truth” is valid. It is very comfortable. You don't have to explain yourself, you just smile and nod and go about your business. Everyone and everything is correct. We are all on different paths to the same place. We are all correct. We are all right. No one is to be offended, or even inconvenienced as we walk this path. Christians get "replacements" for all of the things the world has to offer. You may not allow your kids to listen to secular music, but trust me... dark rooms, smoke machines, and light shows that emulate the same environment as a "club" don't feel very different than when I've been in a real club. Don't offend them, though. Don't be too direct about it. You are then someone that has no compassion, you are a bully. You are a bigot. If you don't do something, and you don't let your kids do something, you are in the dark ages. You are a relic. You are something to be marveled at because "it's too hard for this day and age..." But what are you for? What do you have? Don't focus on what you cannot do, or what God isn't please with in your life. What can you do? What do you have? What is inside you that many people will never know and never be able to comprehend? Trust me; everyone will focus on the negative aspect of this blog. People will think I am writing this from a negative place because it will allow them to scoff, make a choice that they are comfortable with, and move on. Some will block me from Newsfeeds, unfollow my social media. Some will say this wasn't wrestled with, that I've slipped back "into legalism" or that I am advocating "against" something or someone. Nope. None of the above. I'm celebrating what I've gained. People will focus on that that soothes though. They will say that love doesn't condemn. Love doesn't hurt feelings. Love doesn't give pause.

You know what else love doesn't do... love doesn't lie to you. Love won't let you go make mistakes, even when you get mad or throw a tantrum. Love makes you eat your vegetables and grow strong, even when you just want what's bad for you. Love makes sure that when you have messed up and have no recourse that you are picked up, washed off, and forgiven (I can personally attest to that one.) Love will correct you so that you can be better, do more, fulfill your dreams. Love makes you get out of bed and go to class so you can learn something, even when you just want to sleep in. Yes, it seems like the loving path because no one is left out, no one is offended and no one is "called out" for things that are clearly wrong. There are no restrictions, and freedom is unlimited. Or is it?

What those who travel this road fail to realize is that it’s a downward descent into destruction. All the promises it gives of satisfaction and fulfillment end in disappointment because it’s a path without God. You will get offended by other "christians" and whether or not you got your hand shook or your neck hugged. You'll wonder why some people feel justified in having things vs. those that don't. You'll want to know why some peoples' walk with God is seemingly effortless, and yours seems in turmoil. You'll constantly be comparing your trip down this path, and this road to others. You will feel bitter about not being on platform singing. You'll want to know why you can't have that suit, or that purse, or those shoes. You will get upset when someone doesn't soothe your feelings about your lukewarm relationship with Christ. You are too busy with work and family to put the time in for this or that activity, but how dare they not acknowledge the 17 minutes you spend in the prayer room!!! You will get offended when Christians and those "fanatics" are just "too churchy" or they can't be that "fired up" behind closed doors. Everyone has that wall up and puts it on for church, right? You can't really be that real, right? This list could go on, ad nauseum. Hear me, those who enter by the narrow gate of faith in Christ find the peace and joy of a relationship with Him that satisfies the heart. The gate is small because truth guards the entrance. The way is narrow because the Lord protects us with wise boundaries.

Which path are you traveling? You can’t have one foot on each, because they’re going in opposite directions. Do you love God? Do you want God in your real, everyday life? Do you want that direction and that sense of relationship and closeness? You can't love Jesus, and then hurt the very people He called you to help. You can't love Jesus, and then kill his people. You can't push others out of their chance for salvation, and be a true Chrisitan. You can't have it "every" way. Conversely, when you condone, well... everything, you’re also headed for destruction. And when you choose the narrow path, you'll find out exactly who your friends are... But when you choose the narrow way, your life truly begins. Listen to God. Christ isn't here to condemn, He is here to save. And yes, the path of a true Christian is actually quite difficult, but you must listen to those things that protect you and save you and will help you find your way. You’ll walk with Christ day by day until He walks you home to heaven.


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