Four Lies Of Legalism

Can you remember a time when you felt fear – deep, mind numbing, body shaking, thought blinding fear? Perhaps you experienced a terrible thunderstorm, the wind so loud you wondered if the roof on your house would stay on. Maybe you had to drive through a blizzard or a torrential rain storm and you were praying all the while you were on the highway that you wouldn’t crash. Quite possibly you witnessed a fight or were threatened in some way. Perhaps you feared for the life of a loved one and for hours you didn’t know what to do or where to turn.

Being afraid isn’t our favourite place to be and so when we feel like we’re in unsafe situations we look for things to hold onto, things that’ll bring order to the chaos, things that’ll anchor us and give us the assurance that we’ll be safe.

This feeling fearful or unsafe thing isn’t limited to the physical world. We can feel fear, emotionally, socially, and mentally, and every time we feel fearful in those situations we seek safe places – anchors. Sometimes those safe places are good places to be, but often they are not. That’s why some people try to hold on to unhealthy ‘anchors’ such as drugs, abusive relationships, alcoholism, or some other ‘vice’ in a deluded attempt to alleviate a fear in the moment. The problem is that it doesn’t stop the fear. In fact, it only exasperates the fears already being faced.

We Christians may not admit it, but we often do the same thing as it pertains to our walk of faith. There’s a tendency to believe that it’s the extra ‘things’, the rules and regulations in our ‘religiosity’ that we need in order to be safe, to anchor us. So, we set up traditions and rules with a spiritual skin wrapped all over it and then call it religion.

In Colossians, Paul refers to four lies about traditions and regulations that 90% of us Christians admit to having held onto at some point in our faith journey (the other 10% lied about not going there). The thing is that they don’t add a lick to our spiritual identities and most certainly do not make us ever feel sufficiently safe in our eternal futures. Legalistic rules filled with tradition or perceived biblical rules, that end up just becoming cheap substitutes for what should be the goal of our lives as Christians – To glorify God in and through our lives and to enjoy being in his amazing presence forever.

What could be these 4 lies then that Paul speaks to?

Lie # 1 – Legalistic rules and regulations will make you an acceptable Christian

“Therefore let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” – Colossians 2:16

So often we find ourselves worried about what others think, about making sure we look good and that we are doing the right ‘Christian’ (religious) thing. What ends up happening is that we surround ourselves with so many religious safety nets that we can’t see Jesus for the rules. Jesus wasn’t about rules – he was about relationship.

Much too often, we come into the body of Christ and are quickly introduced to something other than the gospel… legalism. Legalism refers to an emphasis on man-made rules and prohibitions as the standard for spirituality. Someone tells you how wrong it is to indulge in certain practices that ‘they’ have deemed unacceptable in the Christian community.

These individuals are not only convinced that these practices are wrong but consider it their duty to judge you as less Christ like because you do them! “Don’t play cards… Don’t watch movies… Don’t drink wine… Don’t get a tattoo…etc.”. As if Jesus isn’t near good enough to have taken care of the law for us. Listen, if you are convicted by the Holy Spirit about some of those things in your life then by all means listen to and obey the Holy Spirit as you’re convicted, but it’s not your or my job to convict others where there is no conviction in their lives about these things or practices…you nor I am the Holy Spirit.

Obviously, there are house rules that we as a community must live by… thou shall not kill (good house rule). Thou shall not commit adultery (another good one). Love each other (a great law to live by). But where there isn’t a direction by the word of God I can’t go around and hold up man-made laws or traditions as though they have the same weight as the word of God. Where one person has liberties in an area with God another may not. We can’t make those demands on others let alone ourselves.

Just look in Romans 8 where we see how Jesus fulfilled the law, both its moral demands and its ceremonial demands. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” – Romans 8:3-4

If keeping the Law could not make us acceptable before we received Christ, why do we think that keeping the law can make us acceptable after we are believers? Or as Paul rhetorically phrased it… “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” – Galatians 3:3

Sadly, many genuine believers are living under some form of a yoke of bondage, thinking if I just do this or do that, I’ll be more acceptable to God. They may not say this overtly but their actions betray them.

The point is that the consumption of food and drink is in itself no basis for judging a person’s acceptability with God or standing in God’s family. To be sure Paul had to deal with the abuse of food and drink; the problem of eating meat offered to idols and the problem of drunkenness (1 Corinthians 8, 11:21; Romans 14). But his approach to these abuses was never to forbid food or drink. It was always to forbid what destroyed God’s temple and injured faith. He taught the principle of love, but did not dictate its application with regulations in matters of food and drink.

Lie # 2 – Legalistic rules and regulations say that Jesus isn’t sufficient

“These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind.”  – Colossians 2:17-18

I recall watching the cartoon version of Peter Pan as a child and being fascinated by the shadow of Peter. It had a life of its own and in many ways, was an independent entity apart from its owner. I remember as an 8-year-old trying endlessly to ‘awaken’ my shadow so that we could enjoy separate adventures – together. Remember I was only 8. It didn’t take me long to discover that In the real world  a shadow has no substance, and for that matter has no independent existence. It simply is a proof of the fact that there is a reality somewhere behind it making it happen. It is not solid or real – simply a copy of the real thing. Much like Pepsi is to Coke. No matter how hard I tried to make my shadow ‘real’ it was always going to be lifeless, it was always going to be just a copy. Paul is stressing to us that legalism through rules and regulations are only insufficient “shadows” that do nothing to put us into right relationship with God and most certainly don’t make us safe.

In my wallet you might not find much money but you will find pictures of my kids. I value these photographs and look at them occasionally when I am away from home. But what would you think if I propped up these pictures all over my house or office and talked to them and tried to relate to them? You would think I’d gone a little crazy – and rightly so. But, more than that, I would lose connection with the very people whose pictures I hold. They would end up feeling ignored and our relationship would be damaged and would most likely end.

That is what Paul says is wrong with shadows. If you continue to give the shadow key significance after the real person or thing has been identified, you’ll only end up killing your opportunity to enjoy the real person or thing itself. here’s the point. There are times we put more trust than we think into our rituals or regulations than we do in Jesus. If you don’t believe me then ask yourself… do you feel better about your relationship with God after you read the bible for a week or if you have been attending church every Sunday for three months than when you didn’t read the Word as much or missed church for a few weeks? Or do you feel that God’s depth of love for you is dictated by how well you serve him? Or have you ever said, “Well i’m not really being that good of a Christian” as if you were the one sanctifying you?

I absolutely understand that we learn more about who God is as we read and pray and serve… but we need to do those things out of love & not because they are rules, things we need to do as a ‘good’ christian. What Paul is telling us is that the reality in our faith is Jesus, not other ‘things’ such as rules, regulations or otherwise. It’s him, not the shadow, that journeys with us through life, who comforts us when we need it and gives us the strength to face temptation. But when we forget that, we then are believing that rules & regulations are more sufficient in making us Christlike than Christ himself.

So do we truly believe that Jesus is sufficient? Truth is that God couldn’t love us any more than he already does. Remember that God doesn’t have lots of love to give – He is love and so is an endless reservoir of love. But when we trust more in regulations and those rules we place on ourselves and others… then it means we really don’t believe that God really loves us like he said he does or that Jesus is truly sufficient enough to take care of us… because if we truly believed the truth about him, well then we’d never rely on those shadows again.

Lie # 3 – Legalistic rules and regulations deny the authority of Jesus

“And not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. – Colossians 2:19

Jesus is to be “the head of the body,” a metaphor that demonstrates the authority of Christ over the church as well as the dependence the church is to place in Christ (Colossians 1:18). That’s what the writer of Hebrews puts so much effort into doing throughout the book of Hebrews. Attempting to show us the superiority and authority of Jesus Christ over and above all of the shadows of the Old Testament. We are not to content ourselves with shadows when we can fill ourselves with the real thing. And “Jesus is ‘the real thing’.

When we die to self and live to make him known, when we can’t help but love our fellow disciples, when we crave the word of God, when we welcome discipline and tribulations in our lives because we know we are being made into the image of Christ, when we seek out fellowship with other believers because we love being with God’s people we can know that as we grow, all our spiritual growth has as its ultimate focus – Jesus.

Avoid the false teachings, the legalistic rules, the empty rituals and the unsatisfying regulations that move us away from Christ, and instead take advantage of the things God has given for growth.

Lie # 4 – Legalistic rules and regulations will make you holy

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” – Colossians 2:20-23

The false teachers in Paul’s day practised asceticism, which was a poor attempt at freeing the spirit from the ‘prison’ of the body. The view that the body was evil eventually found its way into the church. In fact, there were many who began to find ways to punish their bodies believing that this was a way to free their spirit from the body. A monk named Anthony, the founder of Christian monasticism, never changed his vest or washed his feet. I’m sure his cell probably smelled like a lot of guys’ dorm rooms. Even Martin Luther, before discovering the truth of justification by faith, nearly wrecked his health through asceticism.

Paul addresses a similar issue in Galatians 4 writing that while we were children, we were held in bondage under the ‘elemental’ things of the world. Elemental is from the Greek meaning “rank” used to speak of basic, foundational things like ABC’s or 123’s. Paul was saying that these rituals of human religion they were engaged in were elemental because they are only human, and could never rise to the level of the divine.  But he asks then that now that they’ve come to know God, how in the world could they go back to grade 2 – to the ABC’s? Do they really think that these rituals, holy days, and rules of diet will do it for them? Do they really want to be enslaved all over again?

Legalism only leads us back to unchristian slavery instead of freedom in Christ, and in any event, doesn’t free us from our lusts, at the very best keeps them on a leash which just isn’t good enough. Rules and regulations will not, and cannot make us holy.

The great news is that through our union with Christ, we, the redeemed are set free from man-made rules designed to promote spirituality and holiness.

What are the legalistic rules, regulations & traditions that you or I hold onto while we live out our own faith journey experience? What are those things we need to let go of in order to truly experience freedom in Christ and find safety in our relationship with God? True Christian safety and freedom never comes from restraining desires by rules and regulations, but from the death of evil desires and the springing to life of good desires. And this can only happen as we grow in deep love with Jesus and know him intimately, asking him to fill us with his spirit in order to be empowered to live for him. And as we grow we can know that he will complete the work that he began. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6

God With Us Means Hope

What is hope in your life? For some, hope is the first candle to be lit when the power goes out in the storm. Hope is the first day you wake up and can breathe again after an awful cold. And hope is that percentage you do have of beating the cancer.

Hope is that COVID will be beat in the coming days or weeks. Hope is the faint line on that stick when you’ve been struggling to get pregnant. It’s the first ray of sunshine through your window after a tearful, difficult night.

Hope is hearing the words, “He’s going to be OK.” Hope is the flicker of maybe, just maybe.Hope is the fuel of faith and dreams. And hope is what we celebrate on this first Sunday of Advent.

Advent is actually a season of hope. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival,” and the season is marked by expectation, waiting, anticipation, and longing. It’s a season that links the past, present, and future.

Advent offers us the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, to celebrate his birth, and to be alert for his second coming. Advent looks back in celebration at the hope fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s first coming, while at the same time looking forward in hopeful and eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. During Advent we wait for both – it’s an active, assured, and hopeful waiting.

Now, the Christmas season always seems busy doesn’t it? Even with COVID lockdowns we’re busy. But in a season often marked by frenzied busyness, Advent is an opportunity to set aside time to prepare our hearts and help us place our focus on a far greater story than our own – the story of God’s redeeming love for our world.

And it’s a season of digging deep into the reality of what it means that God sent his Son into the world to be Immanuel. Immanuel is a word that means, “God with Us”.

That means then that it’s a season of expectation and preparation, with an opportunity to align ourselves with God’s presence more than just the hectic season of presents. So, wherever you are on your own spiritual journey, I invite you into this season. It’s a time that allows for questions and struggle as we take time to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming.

In the darkness, in the pain, in the chaos, he comes. And he makes a way and he brings us hope. God with us means hope. That’s the way God has been working throughout history. You see, back in the beginning, in the way God intended this creation, he walked freely and openly with Adam and Eve. He was with us, and humanity enjoyed wholeness and intimacy with God.

But you know the story. Adam and Eve chose sin. Separation divided God and humans. As a result, the brokenness of our world that we know far too well is the ongoing reality.

But do you realize that ever since, God has been working toward restoration and healing and wholeness for us and all he has made? This is the overarching story of the Bible. Throughout the scriptures, we can see God making a way and giving and reminding his people of the hope that he is still at work. We see it in God’s covenant with Abraham, then called Abram: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:3

When God encountered Jacob at Bethel, he renewed that covenant and reinforced the hope rooted in his faithfulness: “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” – Genesis 28:15

But much time passed, years and generations and centuries, and we humans are an impatient breed, aren’t we? Stand in line at McDonalds for more than five minutes and we think we’re living with a bunch of barbarians.

Culturally, we Canadians don’t seem to understand the concept of delayed gratification, do we? We want everything now without waiting for it. Which is why so many, experience so much stress with credit cards maxed out and bankruptcies common place. Fast food delivered quickly is the norm and we want it faster so we call uber eats or skip the dishes.

And a child in the car heading to vacation is the worst! When we’d go on vacation as a child, I’m sure I drove my dad crazy by asking repeatedly, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” But we’re not the only people in history who lived impatiently. “Are we there yet?” was the cry of the ancient Israelite people too.

From the times of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to David, Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the many other prophets, there was a cyclical repeating of history, with devotion to God one time and neglect of God the next. There was prosperity and there was recession, feast and literal famine, pleasure and pain.

But through it all, there was a deep and ongoing longing for God to fulfill his covenant and his promise of a Messiah, who would come to make everything right. And in their hearts, they would impatiently ask, Is he here yet? This wasn’t just a happy idea that drifted in and out of the Israelites’ consciousness and culture – this was a deep hope, their deepest hope, that sustained them and encouraged them and spurred them on, especially through thousands of years of uncertain waiting.

And in the midst of that long journey of hope, the prophet Isaiah became a voice of hope. Seven hundred years before Jesus, Isaiah gave us beautiful words that ring with hope for the coming Messiah. Listen to some of these. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”

And Isaiah 9:1-2, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned”

A little later in the same chapter, Isaiah wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” – Isaiah 9:6-7

Can you imagine living in an ancient world, well before the time of tiktok, or FB or Television, or YouTube and even before written information became common place, and hearing a message like that? Can you imagine the hope that would spring up in the hearts of the people?

Did Isaiah understand all of these messages and promises? On some level, yes, but on others, probably not. He sure didn’t know God’s time line for when it all would happen and when the Messiah would come.

Perhaps Isaiah thought it would be in his lifetime, or maybe he somehow knew that God’s work stretched for generations and generations. Either way, Isaiah was filled with hope, and God’s promises fueled him and his people to continue to hope for years and even centuries.

In Luke 1, we see a priest named Zechariah who would have been well acquainted with the words and prophecies of Isaiah. And he would have most certainly held deep longings for the Messiah who had been promised. Zechariah was one of those who would have asked, “Is he here yet?” That’s because he had a hope for the future.

One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple since his priestly division was on duty that week. There were twenty-four priestly divisions who would each serve in the temple only twice a year for one week each time. And as was the custom of the priests, a member of their order was chosen by lot to enter the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place in the temple, and burn the incense.

Apparently, that meant then that any single priest might have only had one chance in their whole lifetime to actually enter the holy of holies to burn incense since only one priest was allowed in at a time. If anyone else, priest or commoner, not chosen and thus considered unworthy were to enter, the presence of the Lord would kill them instantly.

In this particular case, Zechariah must have thought he won the lottery because he was chosen through the casting of the lots. Casting lots was a method used by the Jews of the Old Testament and even by the Christian disciples prior to Pentecost to determine the will of God.

Lots could be sticks with markings or stones with symbols, or something similar, which were thrown into a small area and then the result was interpreted. Proverbs says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” – Proverbs 16:33

So, even though Zechariah might have thought he got the luck of the draw, it’s important to remember that it was actually God who caused the lots to choose Zechariah because he was orchestrating something amazing.

 Luke 1:11-22 tells us about this something amazing being orchestrated. In that passage we see that Zechariah was shocked when suddenly, out of the blue, God drops a megadose of hope into his world, not just for him, but also for the people of Israel. Problem was of course that Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were old. Too old to have kids.

So, when Zechariah received this special angelic delivery, he was a little bit in shock, to say the least. And he couldn’t quite get over this part about him and his old wife having a child. “Who me? Uh, we’re old, God. That’s not possible”. As a result of Zechariah’s push back to the angelic message, God made sure he remained literally speechless until his son, John, was born.

This was certainly an inconvenience, but can you imagine the hope that sprang up within this couple and the people around them when they heard this news? The old prophecies are about to be fulfilled!

The one prophesied to come in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah, is coming! God is moving to restore hope that he is still here – that the human expression of God with Us is still coming. Hope on earth at its deepest levels was alive again!

Maybe some of you are thinking, That’s all fine and dandy for those people thousands of years ago, but what about for us? What about for me? They weren’t fighting cancer. Their spouse wasn’t killed fighting in a war on the other side of the world – or didn’t walk out on them. They didn’t lose their job with no warning, with bills to pay and debts stacking up and kids expecting Christmas presents, not to mention meals on the table. And COVID wasn’t even a thing then.  

But no matter what kind of problems and struggles you’re facing right now, no matter what kind of season of darkness and pain you are in, let me encourage you not to abandon hope.

Hope is still alive, even in our deepest pain and most hopeless circumstances. Hope is alive because God is with us. How can we know? How can we find that tiny spark of hope when we’re on the verge of giving up?

No matter what kind of circumstances we are facing, the first is that we can have a hope based on God’s word.

Hope Based on God’s Word

Part of the gift of God with Us is the written word that he has left us. These are his promises to his people – both long ago and today. They are beacons of hope. They are reminders that can penetrate our hearts and spirits and assure us that no matter what we are facing, no matter how bleak tomorrow looks, no matter how bad the pain, God will never leave us or forsake us. And nothing can separate us from him.

You are not alone. God with Us means that he always will be with us, and nothing – nothing – can take that away. Scripture is filled with stories and words and promises that can rekindle a supernatural hope within us.

As we move through Advent, let me encourage you to dig into the words of the Bible expectantly. Because God is with us, we can take hope that we are never alone, that he is always working in and among us, and that he isn’t done yet with his greatest and final work of healing.

The second way we can rekindle hope is to put our focus on God’s character – on who he is and promises to be.

Hope Based on God’s Character

In Mark 5 there’s a great story of hope. For twelve years, the woman in the story had been slowly bleeding to death. No one had been able to help her. Doctors had tried, but her condition had only grown worse. And this condition would have affected everything about her, every day of her life. Those of you with long-term illnesses can probably relate.

But she had heard about this Jesus – the stories, the miracles, the healings – and she believed. And because of that, hope awoke inside of her. And the hope of healing – of a new life, drove her to act.

And so, she did what she could just to get close enough to Jesus and reach out. And when she did, Jesus connected with her deeply and directly and intimately, as God with Us.

This is our God. This is his character. Jesus is God with Us, fulfilling Israel’s hope for the Messiah when he arrived that first Christmas. He fulfilled humanity’s hopes for victory over death when he was resurrected that first Easter. And one day he will ultimately fulfill all hope and complete God’s work of restoration for all creation when he returns.

‘Finally, the third way we can find and take hold of hope is by focusing on God’s faithfulness.

Hope Based on God’s Faithfulness

Let me ask you, how has God been at work in your life? You know those times when you had no doubt he was there and he was working. Maybe it’s been recently or maybe it’s been a long time ago. But you still remember that in those circumstances swirling around you, the presence of God’s Spirit was with you. But what does that have to do with hope? What do those memories have to do with the here and the now?

Listen to these words from Jeremiah found in Lamentations, a book most of us may not spend too much time reading. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:21-22

Jeremiah understood that there is hope in the future when we remember what God has done in the past. Hope grows and spreads like a living thing. It can dwindle and diminish and, yes, even die. But with nurture and care, it can be revived and flourish and multiply. And when we focus on gratitude because of what God has done in the past, it can renew and grow our hope today.

Even during these times of COVID restrictions, where many are not able to spend Christmas with loved ones. Where churches aren’t able to gather, where jobs have been lost. Even for those who have seen loved ones pass away and so only have memories of Christmas past, we still have a hope in the future. Recognizing and appreciating the good that God has shown us in the past will increase our hope for all he will do in the future.

Let me encourage you by reminding you, that no matter what the circumstances of life look like and no matter what we’re facing, know that God with us means Hope. And we can hope because his word tells us we can. And we can hope because God’s Character promises we can. And we can hope because God’s faithfulness guarantees we can.

Quit Trying to Live Like A Super Christian

A short time ago, I, along with my family, watched the movie Avengers: Endgame. As we watched we all cheered the Avengers on hoping and waiting for the forces of good to overcome the forces of evil. For the evening at least, these superheroes captured our imaginations and our hearts. Then we went to bed.

Why are we so enamored with superheroes? At least our culture seems to be even if you as an individual aren’t. I think it’s because it’s in the superhero stories where we see good always winning over evil, where people are saved from horrible fates and bad guys always get punished.

Superheroes give us hope in a world where we are bombarded by bad news and sadness.

Superheroes give us hope in a world where we are bombarded by bad news and sadness. But also, the truth is that they are just so cool. Try wearing spandex and look good at the same time. For most of us that is utterly impossible, but these superheroes always look amazing and so downright cool.

But superheroes aren’t real. They’re a fantasy. That’s why when we see someone dressed up like Spiderman we know that he or she is either heading to a party or they’re half a puck short of a goal. And if they really thought they were Spiderman, well then, we’d know for sure that they are unbalanced in their minds. That’s because we know that superheroes don’t exist.

How come then, when it comes to the Christian life so many try to be super heroes in the Christian realm? I don’t mean the hero who saves people from death, Jesus did that on the cross already. Rather I’m talking about the self-acclaimed Super Christian who comes across as better than everyone else, as someone who is out to single handedly fight the evil they see in every corner.

Truth be told, no one wants to know a Super Christian. And just like the super heroes of Marvel & DC, they aren’t real. And we know this because too many of us have grown up in broken homes. Too many of us have been disoriented by tragedy in our lives. Too many of us have lost faith in cultural institutions, including the church. Too many of us have grown up wondering if anyone really cares about us.

There is no such thing as a ‘Super Christian’. They are fake, yet we have all been hurt by people wearing those labels. What we are all longing for is to enter into relationships with people who are not just shiny and pretty on the outside, wearing the correct clothes and cutting their hair just right, appearing to be ‘all that’. Instead we are looking for those who are real and authentic with the life that God has given them, as messy as it may be.

But here’s the thing. Too many of us, if not all of us at some point or another try to be that Super Christian. We do that in the way we’ve struggled to ‘prove’ our worthiness before God.

I’m not interested in showing you how to be a better person. Nor am I interested in showing you how to be a good or even great Christian. And I’m certainly not interested in helping someone become a Super Christian. What I am interested in is showing you how to give your life over to Jesus so that he can change you and live through you.

Because unless he does the changing and unless he does the living through us, we’ll never get this Christian life thing down and we’ll never be free to live the life we we’re created to live. Which is accepting the gospel as a part of our life. The gospel or the good news that we can live a life free from the penalty of sin, free from the power & hold of sin, and ultimately free from the presence of sin.

Paul said in Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” – Galatians 5:1-5

To Paul and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, understanding the true gospel is vital to living the Christian life because without understanding what it means to be a real Christian by embracing the true gospel, we end up living lives that are angst driven.

But when we understand and embrace true Christianity, and understand what the gospel is really about, it frees us up from the anxiety of religiosity, and the angst of trying to prove our worth before God, other people and ourselves, of trying to be a super Christian. It’s only when we understand the gospel for what it really is that we can be free from anxiety.

We can be free from anxiety

The surface issue, which threatened to divide the church, was circumcision. There were forces in the Jerusalem church who taught that circumcision was necessary to be in church fellowship. Paul described them as “false brothers,” who were brought in to bring them into “slavery.” What does he mean by slavery? He means that by making circumcision necessary for salvation, the false teachers were dragging the church back to adherence of a system of laws.

According to them we all needed to keep all of the Torah that contains 613 specific regulations & commandments. And you’d keep them if you really wanted to be a disciple of Jesus’ and really wanted to prove your worthiness to be saved and approved by God. How hard would that be? To keep track of them all – let alone do them all, you needed to be some sort of Super Christian. And we already know that there are no Super Christians because following all those rules and regulations are impossible for any human to do.

So, Paul’s argument was that we didn’t have to keep trying to fulfill the law anymore because God knew we couldn’t do it. Paul pointed out that God was doing a brand-new work that superseded all of the old rules and relationships. Most of us would agree with Paul, and we look back at these false teachers causing problems in the early church and we tsk tsk them.

I wonder how often we unconsciously add “extras” to the gospel message? 

But I wonder how often we unconsciously add “extras” to the gospel message? Extras that make us think that we can earn God’s favour by affirming certain teachings, following prescribed rituals, dressing or acting a certain way, listening to and singing the right music, speaking the right lingo, or avoiding taboo behaviour  And sometimes we get to the point where we smugly believe that we are better Christians because we don’t do this or that thing.

It’s like we think that the motto to live by is; I don’t smoke & I don’t Chew & I don’t associate with them that do! But anyone who trades freedom in Christ for a set of rules or a list of does and don’ts so that they can be considered a better Christian or a “Super Christian” is in reality accepting the handcuffs of spiritual slavery.

It’s so important to get the gospel right. That’s because the true gospel provides freedom, not slavery. Before we were in Christ, before we became a follower and disciple of Jesus’, we were in slavery to sin; now we are free in Christ from being forced to observe what often amounts to incidentals. Those activities we hold onto will not save us, and in the end, it is like being chained to the law. If we base our salvation and standing before God in a list of do’s and don’ts, we will grow very tired very fast.

Tim Keller, in his book Galatians For You, refers to this as emotional freedom, and says that when we apply a list of rules and regulations to the gospel it can become an “endless treadmill of guilt and insecurity.”Paul’s concern for the Galatians was to get the gospel right so that they could live in freedom. This needs to be my concern daily. It needs to be the concern of every Christian man or woman.

Promoting a gospel with extras is no gospel at all, and in the end, it robs us of the joy and freedom in Christ that is ours through his sacrifice and by becoming a part of Christ, united to Jesus as a disciple of his. We only can become filled with increasing anxiety, when living the old way of trying to justify our existence by our own work.

Union with Christ tells us, “you have died to yourself”. Which means that you’ve died to the angst that comes from feeling like you’re not allowed to fail, or to the feelings of inadequacy that come from feeling like you have. To those questions “Am I significant? Have I done enough? Am I accepted?” the answer is “Your life is now hidden (united) with Christ in God” – Colossians 3:1

This is the beautiful, biblical truth of justification. You no longer have to justify your life. You don’t have to worry, like Jay Gatsby in the story the Great Gatsby, about others thinking you’re a nobody. Christ marries himself to you and in a wonderful exchange, you give him all your sins, and he gives you all of his righteousness. It’s like he says to you and me “My life is perfect, right? Well yours isn’t. How would you like to trade?” The good news is that Jesus offers his life for those who are willing to turn from their own imperfect life and embrace his perfect one.

It’s like he says to you and me “My life is perfect, right? Well yours isn’t. How would you like to trade?”

In Christ, you are significant – ‘he’ makes you so. In Christ, you are secure. In Christ, you are accepted. But that acceptance no longer has to be earned or maintained; it is granted by grace and guaranteed in Christ. This doesn’t mean you stop working, but it does mean you now work in a totally new way. You no longer work for approval; you work from approval.

 American Idol was one of the most popular television shows of all time, and for the contestants, one of the most nerve wracking. A single missed note could cost you the competition, but winning could change the course of your life. At the end of each season, when the contest was over and the winner had been crowned, she or he took up the microphone and sang one more time. But it was no longer singing to win; it was singing because they’d won.

It was no longer a contest. They had nothing more to prove or earn. Instead, the chosen and honoured performer could sing with all his or her heart, delighting in their gifts for the benefit of others. That’s the freedom from anxiety the gospel gives.

You, dear Christian, have already been chosen and crowned in Christ, so now you can do what you do with all your energy, delighting in whatever gifts God has given you for the benefit of serving others. That is living life knowing you don’t need to be the hero, super or otherwise. That is living life without anxiety.

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

It’s that time of year once again, when the air gets crisper, the days get shorter, and for many young Canadians the excitement grows in anticipation of the darkest, spookiest holiday of the year – Halloween

I was raised in a home where it seemed that there was a lot of confusion about whether or not Christians should participate in Halloween. One year we were allowed to participate, the next my parents would feel convicted that we should burn all candy, the next we were allowed to participate as long as we only trick-or-treated at people’s homes we knew, the next we’d burn candy again.

I’m exaggerating somewhat of course, however the conversations, debates and questions kept being discussed and asked year after year in our home – “How should Christians respond to Halloween?” “Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat?” “What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season – are they overreacting?”

The Pagan Origin of Halloween

The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” was eventually contracted to “Hallow-e’en,” which became “Halloween.”

As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith.

To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in “Christianizing” a pagan ritual – the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That’s what happened to All Saints Day – it was the original Halloween alternative!

The Celtic people of Europe and Britain were pagan Druids whose major celebrations were marked by the seasons. At the end of the year in northern Europe, people made preparations in order to ensure winter survival by harvesting the crops and culling the herds. Life slowed down as winter brought shortened days and longer nights (darkness), fallow ground, and death. The imagery of death, symbolized by skeletons, skulls, and the colour black, remains prominent in today’s Halloween celebrations.

The pagan Samhain festival (pronounced “sow” “en”) celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter, for three days – October 31 to November 2. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living – ghosts haunting the earth.

Some embraced the season of haunting by engaging in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead. They sought “divine” spirits (demons) and the spirits of their ancestors regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects. Bobbing for apples was one practice the pagans used to divine the spiritual world’s “blessings” on a couple’s romance.

For others the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fueled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper send-off with treats – possessions, wealth, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably “treated” would “trick” those who had neglected them. The fear of haunting only multiplied if that spirit had been offended during its natural lifetime.

Early Christian converts found family and cultural influence hard to withstand; they were tempted to rejoin the pagan festivals, especially Samhain. Pope Gregory IV reacted to the pagan challenge by moving the celebration of All Saints Day in the ninth century – he set the date at November 1, right in the middle of Samhain.

As the centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve mixed together. On the one hand, pagan superstitions gave way to “Christianized” superstitions and provided more fodder for fear. People began to understand that the pagan ancestral spirits were demons and the diviners were practicing witchcraft and necromancy. On the other hand, the festival time provided greater opportunity for revelry. Trick-or-treat became a time when roving bands of young hooligans would go house-to-house gathering food and drink for their parties. Stingy householders ran the risk of a “trick” being played on their property from drunken young people.

Today Halloween is almost exclusively a secular holiday, and many who celebrate have no concept of its religious origins or pagan heritage. That’s not to say Halloween has become more wholesome. Children dress up in entertaining costumes, wander the neighborhood in search of candy, and tell each other scary ghost stories; but adults often engage in shameful acts of drunkenness and debauchery.

How should Christians respond?

First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are enlightened by the truth of God’s Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year; in fact, any day is a good day for Satan to prowl about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). God has forever “disarmed principalities and powers” through the cross of Christ and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through [Christ]” (Colossians 2:15).

Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with cautionary wisdom. Some people fear the activity of Satanists, but the actual incidents of satanic-associated crime are very low. The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior – drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children.

Like any other day of the year, Christians should exercise caution as wise stewards of their possessions and protectors of their families. Christian young people would be wise to stay away from most secular Halloween parties since many are breeding grounds for trouble (use discernment). Christian parents can protect their children by keeping them well-supervised and possibly restricting treat consumption to those goodies received from trusted sources.

Third, Christians should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world lives in perpetual fear of death. It isn’t just the experience of death, but rather what the Bible calls “a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume [God’s] adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27). Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not terrifying; God’s wrath unleashed on the unforgiven sinner – now that is truly terrifying.

Christians should use Halloween and all that it brings to the imagination – death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry – as an opportunity to engage the unbelieving world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has given everyone a conscience that responds to His truth (Romans 2:14-16), and the conscience is the Christian’s ally in the evangelistic enterprise.

Christians should take time to inform the consciences of friends and family with biblical truth seasoned with salt (grace & love) regarding God, the Bible, sin, Christ, future judgment, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

How might Christians engage?

There are several different ways Christians might engage in Halloween. Some will adopt a “No Participation” policy. As Christian parents, they don’t want their kids participating in spiritually compromising activities- listening to ghost stories and colouring pictures of witches. They don’t want their kids to dress up in costumes for trick-or-treating or even attending Halloween alternatives. That response naturally raises eyebrows but can provide a good opportunity to share the gospel to those who ask (1 Peter 3:15).

Other Christians will opt for Halloween alternatives called “Harvest Festivals” or “Reformation Festivals” – the kids dress up as farmers, Bible characters, or Reformation heroes. Some churches leave the church building behind and take acts of mercy into their community, “treating” needy families with food baskets, gift cards, and the gospel message.

Finally, some Christians will opt for a limited, non-compromising participation in Halloween. The good news is that there is no burning candy here. After all there’s nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighbourhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbours. Even handing out candy to neighbourhood children (please don’t be stingy) can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behaviour does not dishonour Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests.

Ultimately, participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honour God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing grace, mercy and love to the culture we live in. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish those things in the gospel. What better time of the year is there to share such a message of hope than Halloween?

10 Reasons Racism Is Sin

JANUARY 21, 2019  |  Kevin DeYoung 
You can find other articles by Kevin DeYoung here: 
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/

Most people know that racism is wrong. It’s one of the few things almost everyone agrees on. And yet, I wonder if we (I?) have spent much time considering why it’s wrong.

We can easily make our “I hate racism” opinions known, but perhaps we are just looking for moral high ground, or for pats on the back, or to win friends and influence people, or to prove we’re not like those people, or maybe we are just saying what we’ve always heard everyone say.

As Christians we must think and feel deeply not just the what of the Bible but the why. If racism is so bad, why is it so bad?

Here are ten biblical reasons why racism is sin and offensive to God.

1. We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Most Christians know this and believe it, but the implications are more staggering than we might realize. The sign pictured above is not just mean, it is dehumanizing. It tried to rob Irish and blacks of their exalted status as divine image bearers. It tried to make them no different from animals. But of course, as a white man I am no more like God in my being, no more capable of worship, no more made with a divine purpose, no more possessing of worth and deserving of dignity than any other human of any other gender, color, or ethnicity. We are more alike than we are different.

2. We are all sinners corrupted by the fall (Rom. 3:10-205:12-21). Everyone made in the image of God has also had that image tainted and marred by original sin. Our anthropology is as identical as our ontology. Same image, same problem. We are more alike than we are different.

3. We are all, if believers in Jesus, one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). We see from the rest of the New Testament that justification by faith does not eradicate our gender, our vocation, or our ethnicity, but it does relativize all these things. Our first and most important identity is not male or female, American or Russian, black or white, Spanish speaker or French speaker, rich or poor, influential or obscure, but Christian. We are more alike than we are different.

4. Separating peoples was a curse from Babel (Gen. 11:7-9); bringing peoples together was a gift from Pentecost (Acts 2:5-11). The reality of Pentecost may not be possible in every community—after all, Jerusalem had all those people there because of the holy day—but if our inclination is to move in the direction of the punishment of Genesis 11 instead of the blessing of Acts 2 something is wrong.

5. Partiality is a sin (James 2:1). When we treat people unfairly, when we assume the worst about persons and peoples, when we favor one group over another, we do not reflect the God of justice, nor do we honor the Christ who came to save all men.

6. Real love loves as we hope to be loved (Matt. 22:39-40). No one can honestly say that racism treats our neighbor as we would like to be treated.

7. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15). Sadly, we can hate without realizing we hate. Hatred does not always manifest itself as implacable rage, and it does not always—or, because of God’s restraining mercy, often—translate into physical murder. But hatred is murder of the heart, because hatred looks at someone else or some other group and thinks, I wish you weren’t around. You are what’s wrong with this world, and the world would be better without people like you. That’s hate, which sounds an awful lot like murder.

8. Love rejoices in what is true and looks for what is best (1 Cor. 13:4-7). You can’t believe all things and hope all things when you assume the worst about people and live your life fueled by prejudice, misguided convictions, and plain old animosity.

9. Christ came to tear down walls between peoples not build them up (Eph. 2:14). This is not a saccharine promise about everyone setting doctrine aside and getting along for Jesus’s sake. Ephesians 2 and 3 are about something much deeper, much more glorious, and much more cruciform. If we who have been made in the same image, born into the world with the same problem, find the same redemption through the same faith in the same Lord, how can we not draw near to each other as members of the same family?

10. Heaven has no room for racism (Rev. 5:9-107:9-1222:1-5). Woe to us if our vision of the good life here on earth will be completely undone by the reality of new heavens and new earth yet to come. Antagonism toward people of another color, language, or ethnic background is antagonism toward God himself and his design for eternity.

Christians ought to reject racism, and do what they can to expose it and bring the gospel to bear upon it, not because we love pats on the back for our moral outrage or are desperate for restored moral authority, but because we love God and submit ourselves to the authority of his Word.

A New Year’s Resolution Every Disciple Needs

Today is the last day of 2018, and everywhere you look you can’t help but see messages and hear invitations to make 2019 a better year. A year to be happier than last year. We probably easily agree that all of us want to be happy. Most of us would even say that we want to live a full and satisfying life, a life of joy. 

Isn’t it great then that God wants us to experience that? Jesus said “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”– John 15:11 So, if we want joy, and Jesus offers us joy, why then does it seem that consistent happiness often eludes us? 

Consider that the earning power of the baby boomers and Gen X’ers, increased dramatically over that of any previous generation in history before them. They have more money, more leisure time, more access to sports, travel, and entertainment than any society has ever experienced and yet these two groups are experiencing a tenfold increase in depression over previous generations. It would be logical then to surmise that if the attainment of stuff and fun experiences did ‘it’ for us, then Canada and the US should be like Disneyland – “The happiest Place on earth”. But it’s not. Why is that? 

I’m convinced that it’s because in this pursuit of joy, we have made it all about ‘me’. We feel that it’s unconditional and doesn’t matter how I live as long as I can keep filling my basket full of goodies. But God says that it’s conditional based not so much of what we do but of what we don’t do. 

In Psalm 1 we see that the blessed man is described by what he avoids. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” – Psalm 1:1

Don’t Walk With The World 

The problem with most of us is that we have this habit of walking alongside those who try to give us a different message than what God wants us to hear. Our culture is good at that. The culture pounds into us messages that are anti-God and pro-self everywhere you look. So many messages are bombarded at us, messages that begin to sound so good if were not rooted in God’s word. 

Here is an example of a statement that I abhor being used. Ever hear the words, “just follow your heart”? That phrase is used in social conversations, movies, songs, and the average person quickly nods their heads in agreement as though it is the deepest of truths that the cosmos could provide. However, Jeremiah 17:9 says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

If that’s true then how could we trust our own heart to be able to follow it in any matter let alone someone else’s? Yet this is one of the messages that so many of us, even in the church, have swallowed and accepted as fact. The truth is that a blessed man doesn’t walk in that type of council – in other words – doesn’t listen to those messages. And by not listening to the messages a blessed person doesn’t stand with the world.

Don’t Stand With The World

We are in danger of beginning to believe the messages that come at us from all over when we stop walking and we begin to listen more deeply. When we do that we are beginning to pause, stop and stand with the world in their anti-God sentiments. The facts are that standing is much more of a commitment than walking. Walking gives us that chance to keep on going, but standing is a picture of rooting oneself in the world system. 

Don’t Sit With The World

We move from listening to standing with the world and then ultimately to sitting. We move from listening to doing what we are counseled to do and then we become like the scoffers themselves, sitting and offering man’s advice to others through scoffing the truth. Maybe not in words but certainly in actions, which might simply be in not being willing to walk away from the world and stand up for truth. 

Delight In God’s Word

”But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:2 

Is that you? When God’s Word is read does that brighten up your life? So much so that you can’t help but meditate on it? 

Do you realize that the average family has the television on for over 7 ½ hours a day? And most of us don’t spend more 10 minutes a day in God’s word, and maybe 40 minutes a week attending a worship and fellowship gathering Sunday’s and then we wonder why we’re weak. 

Ponder this question. What if we had to hand in a time sheet to God that showed the time spent with him and time spent elsewhere? How would we do? Would you be embarrassed or ashamed?

It says here that a blessed man delights in the law and meditates on it all the time. So much so that it not only becomes a part of him but it produces a delight in his or her heart, or in other words, a deep satisfying itchy joy that can only be scratched by the hearing of more Word. 

Don’t Just Read the Word, Be Grounded In It

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:3

A blessed man or woman has their feet ‘grounded’ by thirst quenching water and nutrient enriched soil. If you have ever seen a satellite picture of river systems you will appreciate this picture here. The land is richest and lushest with life along the banks of the flowing river, but as you move away from the water, life becomes scarcer and scarcer until soon all that’s left is desert unless there is another source of water. 

Throughout history, civilizations were built up around water sources. A herd of deer will risk life and limb to gather around the watering hole in spite of the alligator or lion ready to have it for dinner – water gives life. 

The picture we have here in this psalm is of a continual flowing of refreshing waters that give the tree life. The water flows 24/7 and the tree is able to suck up all it requires to live and not only to live but to produce fruit. 

What burdens my heart though is that I know people who will leave after their 40 – 60 minute fix of God’s word on Sunday and will be so excited about living for Jesus but by that same evening will be drunk or high or back into pornography or fighting with their spouse – again. Maybe they have a complacency with anything to do with spiritual things or maybe it’s simply that they continue to struggle with the things that they were so sure were conquered after getting excited at church on Sunday morning. And they want to change but don’t. Why??? 

It’s because you can’t be watered 40-60 minutes each week and expect to be strengthened, there must be a continual watering. A tree will die without being watered. That is why we need to get involved in reading Gods word, or gathering one or two others who are actively growing in relationship with God to challenge us and keep us accountable and grounded. Don’t expect to grow if you are isolated from others who can speak into your life. The Christian life isn’t a Sunday thing – it’s a lifestyle. 

Don’t be Chaff

In contrast, look at how the wicked are compared to the blessed man. The comparison is that instead of strength and life the wicked are like chaff. Chaff is the husk around the wheat kernel, or the brown skin around a peanut. It is like ‘nothing’ and a quick puff of your breath would simply blow it away. 

That’s why in vs. 5 we see that the wicked can’t stand before God in the judgment or sinners in the congregation of the righteous. “Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” – Psalm 1:5

Imagine standing before God – perfect & Holy. I think we don’t think about that often enough. And in the world that thought is made light of, “Oh I’ll just deal with the man in the sky when the time comes”. But the problem is that you can ‘deal’ with God as easily as you can ‘deal’ with standing before a nuclear bomb as it goes off. You’d lose – every time. 

Imagine standing before God and all you have to show for your life is chaff, nothing to stand on. Well, the wicked can’t stand before God in the end no matter how confident they are today. So, don’t be chaff.

Our world has an expectation about what makes us happy. For that matter they have an expectation about how we are to behave, how we are to act, to think, to be. But it goes against how God has created us to be. We can conform to the world and think that we will be happy and find lasting joy, but ultimately, we will only find that true happiness and joy comes from placing our feet where God has created us to place them, grounded in him.

And one of the most effective ways we can be rooted in him is to immerse ourselves in his word. When you read and study Scripture, remember that it is a lifeline to the Godhead. You are striking your roots deeper and deeper into good life-giving soil and drinking from the living waters. These truths are part of the living water that flows into the roots of our lives. 

Be A Rooted Disciple

So, as we enter a new year, make your New Year’s resolution to be a rooted disciple. Someone who grows deep as you meditate on the word made flesh, Jesus Christ day and night. Causing you to grow so that you bear the fruit of Christ-exalting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). This is the source of our ‘joy’ in 2019 and beyond. 

War On Christmas?

The question that comes up every year at this time is whether or not there is a war on Christmas. Before we get to that question, let me share with you a part of the Christmas story that I love. It’s when the angels came to announce Jesus’ birth.

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:8-14

Here we see good news of great joy being presented to the common person in the land. Great news guys, the long-awaited Saviour is finally here. You could almost feel the rush of excitement that would have filled the hearts of these shepherds who then went to meet their baby king. 

This is a wonderful and very appropriate message for the season – Good news of Great Joy for all people. It’s Good news of Great joy even for the whole year because of what it means. There should be happiness in our hearts, dancing in the streets and joy in all our homes. So isn’t it interesting that instead of doing what the shepherds did, focusing on the Good news of Great joy, there are many today who view this season as a time for war instead. 

Here’s what I mean. I’ve observed that many have been caught in the throes of a war on semantics. We are seeing and hearing more “Happy Holidays” and less “Merry Christmases.” The “Christmas tree” has turned into being a “Holiday tree.”One television ad plays regularly with carollers singing: “We Wish You A Happy Holiday” to the tune of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

You can certainly see why a general mood of fighting back could prevail. I have seen numerous emails floating around with pictures of Christmas trees lamenting the secularization of Christmas. The underlying tone of these messages so far has been one of anger and partisanship, as if to say: “They can’t take our Christmas away from us!” 

It’s an interesting situation and one we need to consider seriously. If this is a battle, on what level do we fight it? If someone wishes us “Happy Holidays,” do we respond with a hearty “Merry Christmas,” thus striking a blow for the kingdom of God? But I wonder why we expect those who don’t know Jesus personally nor believe he is the son of God, why is it that we almost demand them to celebrate Christmas anyways? It’s not their holiday after all. 

Here’s the thing, the message that the shepherds received was about a baby being born, not a holiday to be birthed. The good news is about Christ, not the fact about whether we call the holiday Christmas or not. I am not in any way saying that we should ban the holiday or even to change the name, but I don’t even think Jesus cares very much about what we or anyone else call an evergreen with lights on it in December.

The fact is that there is and has been a war against God himself ever since Adam sinned in the garden. The attempt from the world to, in the very least ignore the Christmas title and at the very worst attempt to get rid of the Christmas holiday, is really an example of the rejection of Jesus’ gospel message of hope to a lost world. That is why Jesus came – to end the war and to redeem lost mankind. Look at Luke 1:35… 

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy.” – Luke 1:35

What’s in a name? It was William Shakespeare who popularized this question. The line is found in Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Juliet is wishing Romeo would change his name and so renounce his family who had been in opposition to their romance. She tries to convince him by asking, “Tis but thy name that is my enemy; O, be some other name! What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”Juliet got it wrong, because a name is important, and can’t be just taken off like a piece of clothing. 

In the Christmas story we see a baby who is born being called ‘Holy’. That is a significant part of the story and here’s one of the reasons why. Holy means pure, good, without any defect or deficiency or blemish. God is both sovereign and holy. Sin is incompatible with God’s nature. The penalty for rejecting God’s sovereignty is separation from God, separation meaning both spiritual death and physical death. 

The tragic story of man’s disobedience is told in Genesis chapter three. Immediately after Adam & Eve disobeyed God’s command they both realized they were guilty. Adam and Eve tried to cover their guilt and shame from God, but they chose a poor cover up, a bunch of leaves that only covered a portion of their bodies. 

Their sin was still exposed & God, being Holy, can’t look on sin. So, God chose skins to completely cover Adam and Eve. “And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” – Genesis 3:21. The coats of skin that God provided for Adam and Eve represented the righteousness they needed so that they could be in God’s holy presence. 

The animal sacrificed was usually a lamb that had no blemishes or obvious imperfections & was an innocent substitute, an innocent victim. The problem was that this was all temporary and had to be repeated over and over again. What was needed was a perfect, lasting sacrifice because no matter how unblemished the lamb was; it was never going to be perfect enough and was certainly not everlasting or holy. 

Finally, God steps in and provides his own perfect sacrifice to cover our sins once and for all and provide us his righteousness. And we are introduced to this thru a little baby named Jesus who is called Holy. The only one who could be pure, good, without any defect or deficiency or blemish. Now when this baby grows into manhood and gives his life in sacrifice, because he is holy, perfect, without blemish, we can be clothed with his perfect righteousness. 

What’s in a name? In this case it’s the Saviour of the world. That’s the good news of great joy the shepherds received. Not a declaration of a new holiday with turkey and trees covered in lights. 

I don’t know if you ever thought about Christmas in that light before. We usually think of it in such a light sense, after all it’s about a little baby and a jolly happy man in a red suit and we always talk about peace on earth and the fact that it’s Good News, Great Joy! But is that the meaning of the Christmas season? What was the purpose of the Angels’ message to the shepherds? 

Just the other day I put myself in a very dangerous position by climbing up and down ladders onto rooftops, reaching and stretching for boxes in high up shelves in the garage. All this dangerous activity for what? Christmas is coming and Debbie had a list which I had to check twice just to make sure that I did everything on it. Today if you come by my home you will see three Christmas trees in the house, decorations both upstairs and downstairs and stockings hung over the fireplace. But is that what Christmas is about? 

We have this wonderful picture of a baby in a manger, feathery snowflakes, and soft lights all aglow over the fields, and complete Peace on earth as we all join hands around the cosmic tree singing Silent Night, not unlike the Who’s of Whosville. Not that I’m saying that that is a bad picture of Christmas, rather what I’m saying is that Jesus didn’t come into this world to make us peaceful citizens, he came to save us from sure death and the way he was to do this was by coming with a definiteness of purpose – his death for us. That is what the message the angels’ shared with the shepherds is truly about – death. More accurately it’s about Jesus coming to die. Good news of great Joy? Death? 

There was no other way to save us. He had to die, that was the only plan. You see, I was, am and always will be unacceptable to God. I came into this world a sinner, I am a sinner today and on the day that I die I will be a sinner. Out of my heart has, can and will come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness for lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God. 

Except for one amazing fact: The Lamb of God came to earth as a little baby boy, grew up to die, and took away my sins. I’m guilty of breaking the whole law when I break one, but now there is no condemnation for me, because I’m a follower of Christ Jesus. I am a sinner and a saint at exactly the same time because of the redemption that came through Jesus. That came that very first Christmas day 2000 years ago. It’s not about the deer on the lawn, rather it’s about the Lamb on the tree. 

Here’s how you keep Christ in Christmas: you celebrate him as Lord of your life and ruler of your heart, and you love even those who want to take Christmas out of the Holiday equation. Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). He came to forgive sins – mine, yours, everybody’s. 

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. Let’s not let religious pride get in the way of the core message of the gospel. It’s never been us againstthem; it’s us forthem. We mustn’t forget that Jesus came to die for the very people who are trying to secularize our country. 

In our zeal to keep Christ in Christmas, let’s be careful not to go to war against the very people who need him the most – those who don’t know him – which would only serve to alienate them from a relationship with ourselves and with Jesus. People are more likely to be set on the road to salvation by loving, caring believers who are secure in the hope of the real Christ living in their lives, and whose faith is brighter than any Christmas tree

That after all is the message given to the shepherds, and to us – Good News of Great Joy! 

Five Reasons Christians Should Attend Church Weekly

It’s tempting sometimes to want to skip church. Sunday might be the only morning all week we can sleep in, maybe we have chores and errands that need to get done, maybe it’s too much work to get the family up and out the door in the morning, maybe we have that football or soccer practice or maybe we just want to enjoy the beautiful weather outdoors. If we attend church two or three out of every five Sundays, that’s enough, right?

I am in no way trying to ‘guilt’ anyone into attending church, or even telling anyone what they ‘must’ do to be a better Christian. My main purpose for this post is to speak to those who believe that they can grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ outside of a regular, ongoing relationship with a local body of Christ followers. The idea of being a Lone Ranger Christian is not an idea you can find anywhere in the word of God.

At the same time, it’s surprising to me how many Christians struggle with the idea of regular church attendance. If church attendance isn’t one of your top priorities  (following other things that might easily take it’s place), then I’d suggest that our priorities are out of balance.

Let me say here that I completely understand that there are other things that do get in the way that we can’t do much about: such as sickness, maybe there isn’t a church close by, travel, the occasional live Super Bowl game (especially when Seattle is in it), work commitments, etc. But what I am speaking to regarding the priority thing is when I’d rather be on the golf course Sunday mornings all summer, or where I’m finding other ‘options’ in life regularly and consistently become the first choice over regular attendance, believing that they are the priority of my life.

Of course, this isn’t a new problem. Since the beginning of Christianity, the early leaders had to challenge this mindset, saying “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25

I don’t for a minute believe that it’s about not wanting to be with others. I’d think that it is instead a misunderstanding what being with others means. I say that, because most Christians I know would agree that regular fellowship is important. So, they make it a priority to connect in a small group, or an accountability group or at least get to the monthly men’s breakfast ritually, believing all the while that they are fulfilling the Hebrews 10:25 directive. But what if that’s not the case? What if we are actually not living out what we’re told to do in Hebrews and so are missing out on a great blessing?

If that’s the case, we may need to fundamentally change our thinking about what ‘going’ to church means in order to obey a directive given in God’s word and to appreciate the great gift that God has given us in being part of his body in a community of fellow believers.

I think part of the issue stems from the way we think about church attendance in the first place. Many of us think about church as something we have to do; that it’s another thing to check off our weekly checklists. Our view toward church attendance can begin to be transformed, however, when we consider a few important things that remind us of the privilege of meeting each week specifically to focus on God and his people.

WE NEED COMMUNITY

Firstly, it is important to make it a weekly habit of meeting with God’s family because if we truly want to grow as Christians, fellowshipping with other believers, hearing the Word of God, and worshipping the Lord are the perfect places to begin. Of course, personal bible study and prayer are integral as well, but worshipping God corporately provides us a unique opportunity to see what God is doing in the lives of his people in the wider church community.

Weekly attendance puts a check on our cultural tendencies to value personal time over community. Think about what Jesus calls those who would follow him to do with their lives.“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” – Luke 9:23. In many cases this would involve giving up our wish to keep all our time to ourselves. One important aspect of church attendance, then, is for us to interact with other believers and see how God is working in their lives. It’s an opportunity to value community.

WE NEED TO BE ENCOURAGED

The early church set the pattern for what this meeting together thing looked like. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer – Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” – Acts 2:42; 46

It is good to meet in small groups of Christian community, such as in each other’s homes, coffee shops, pubs or other small gathering places regularly, that is healthy and something to be encouraged as we see practiced in the daily meeting in homes the early church was engaging in. At the same time however, it shouldn’t be overlooked that as they met daily in their homes, they also met weekly in the temple courts. It seems that they gathered this way at the start of the week to be encouraged before scattering into smaller communities the rest of the week.

In Jerusalem during this time, the temple court was the place where the wider community gathered, both the Jews and the Christians, but as the church spread in other communities the synagogue became the common gathering place where they gathered on a weekly basis to worship, encourage each other and learn together, at least until the Christians were forced to relocate. But even when that happened they would still meet corporately wherever they could find space.

In fact, Paul and the other Apostle’s letters were sent to the many church communities that gathered in various cities to be read aloud ‘together’. The idea of Church meant getting together with other believers to worship Jesus Christ, hear the Scriptures, and encourage one another in the faith.

Wherever it is we meet, the act of gathering each week allows us to give and receive encouragement before we scatter out into the ‘world’ to face the challenges of the week ahead.

WE NEED THE LEADERSHIP PROVIDED

Because of the individualistic culture most of us have grown up in, one of the things often missed in this discussion is that the gathering in a corporate body allowed for the church to function as it was designed to function. Three of these functions were put in place by Jesus to provide a spiritual covering or protection for the flock, to offer some form of spiritual and community accountability, and to give the flock an opportunity to submit to Godly leadership.

Not all of us are called to church leadership, and so we should submit to, and serve whoever God has called to lead at the place we find ourselves. “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. – Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” – Hebrews 13:7; 17

WE NEED EACH OTHER 

Christians need God, but we also need each other. All of us long for community and connection with others. It fulfills something inside of us to do life with others, encourage each other and be authentically involved in each other’s lives. Christian TV, podcasts, books and conferences are wonderful additions to our spiritual lives, but nothing can take the place of consistent accountable and weekly vision casting Christian community provides when we gather as the local church.

Granted, it can be messy when we step into (and sometimes onto) each other’s lives. We are all human, and no one is perfect. So, it requires effort and intentionality and grace from God to do life together – even as believers. But gathering regularly with others becomes a refining process whereby we help each other, pray for each other and encourage each other to want to follow Christ more wholeheartedly. That’s why a healthy church family member learns to repent often, forgive freely, and extend grace continually.  It is a truly beautiful thing.

WE NEED TO BE INVOLVED

Church is the place where believers can love one another, encourage one another, “spur” one another to love and good works, serve one another, instruct one another, honour one another, and be kind and compassionate to one another.

When a person trusts Jesus Christ for salvation, he or she is made a member of the body of Christ and for a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present and working.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” – 1 Corinthians 12:14-20

It’s not enough to just attend a church; we should be involved in some type of ministry to others, using the spiritual gifts God has given us, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11-13

The truth is, a believer will never reach full spiritual maturity without having that outlet for his or her gifts, and the full expression of the gifts can’t be seen when alone and are limited in small groups settings. For these reasons and more, church attendance, participation, and fellowship should be a regular aspect of a believer’s life.

At the same time, please know that I am not saying that weekly church attendance is “required” for believers, but someone who belongs to Christ should have a desire to worship God, receive his Word, and fellowship with other believers.So, make weekly attendance a priority. You’ll be blessed and encouraged because of it.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

The debate about whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas has been raging for centuries. There are equally sincere and committed Christians on both sides of the issue, each with multiple reasons why or why not Christmas should be celebrated.

It’s Really Paganism In A Different Skin

One argument against Christmas is that the traditions surrounding the holiday have origins in paganism. I spent a lot of time searching for reliable information on this topic but found it quite difficult because the origins of many of our traditions are so obscure that sources often contradict one another. Traditions like bells, candles, holly, and yuletide decorations are mentioned in the histories of pagan worship, but the use of these items in your home certainly doesn’t indicate a return to paganism.

While there are definitely pagan roots to some traditions, there are many more traditions associated with the true meaning of Christmas. Bells are played to ring out the great news, candles are lit to remind us that Christ is the Light of the world, a star is placed on the top of a Christmas tree to remember the Star of Bethlehem, and gifts are exchanged to remind us of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus, the greatest gift of God to mankind.

Even still, one of the reasons given to not celebrate the season does seem to carry weight. It seems that the day we currently celebrate the birth of Christ is connected to a pagan festival known as Saturnalia. Keep in mind that often, in these types of arguments, supposed facts are thrown around without establishing the truth behind a claim made.

Such is the case with the argument used to support pagan roots with Easter. The argument against the celebration of Easter is that the word Easter itself, and as a consequence the celebration of that holiday, comes from the worship of the goddess Ishtar. The problem however is that there is no evidence to support that claim, they are just two words that sound similar and so has entered into a kind of ‘Christian urban legend’ as though it was a piece of factual history even though it is not. But in the case of Christmas, the claim that Christmas is connected to the pagan festival Saturnalia, is actually true – but not for the reasons most would think.

The Smoking Gun – Saturnalia

Given the connection, there are some who claim that the ancient celebration of Saturnalia is the smoking gun that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Christmas is pagan.

Brief history lesson: The Saturnalia holiday was a week-long Roman festival to honour the god Saturn, starting on December 17, it fell within what we now call the Christmas season. For most of history, debauchery seemed to dominate celebrations of the holiday; in fact, the word Saturnalia became synonymous with immorality and carousing.

Still, though the Christian understanding of Christmas is not about immorality and carousing, some Saturnalia customs do come across as hedonistic perversions of Christmas traditions to the modern eye. For instance, singing from house to house naked (glad we don’t do that one in Canada), feasting excessively, eating baked goods shaped like people, and exchanging bawdy gifts. The truth is that in reality, there’s good historical evidence suggesting that these events were actually reformed, absorbed, and transformed over time as a result of Christmas’ popularity overtaking that of Saturnalia, not Saturnalia customs influencing the Christmas celebrations.

I found it interesting as I did my research, that the early Christian’s motive for celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 was the same that inspires modern Christians and churches to hold “Fall Festivals” or “Bible Costume Parties” on October 31. In other words, to provide a spiritually positive alternative to what is perceived as a pagan celebration. Back then, over time as the Roman Empire ‘Christianized’, customs associated with Saturnalia were ‘cleaned up’ and absorbed into the celebration of Christmas.

And it wasn’t just Saturnalia – another Roman holiday, Sol Invictus, was also gradually absorbed by Christmas. Sol Invictus (“Invincible Sun”) celebrated, on December 25, the renewing of the Sun King and was linked to the winter solstice.

It’s no secret then that the date, traditions, and long-term history of Christmas are connected to the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus. Yet, like a modern Canadian family celebrating a harvest festival and dressing up like a bible character or great reformer of the past on October 31, it’s the people celebrating who decide what the celebration means. Early Christians chose December 25 as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus and that decision of theirs continues to this day. So, though Christmas and Saturnalia may be historical neighbours with indirect connections, they are not the same holiday, never were, and of course never will be.

Since We Don’t See December 25th In The Bible, We Shouldn’t Celebrate Christmas On That Day 

Furthering the debate are those who point to the fact that the Bible doesn’t give us the date of Christ’s birth – which is certainly true. December 25th may not be even close to the time Jesus was born, and arguments on both sides are legion, some relating to climate in Israel, the practices of shepherds in winter, and the dates of Roman census-taking. While none of these points are without a certain amount of conjecture, the fact remains that the Bible doesn’t tell us when Jesus was born. Some see this as proof positive that God didn’t want us to celebrate the birth, while others see the Bible’s silence on the issue as tacit approval.

Christmas Has Become A Worldly Celebration, So We Should Avoid It As A ‘Set Apart’ People

Finally, some say that because the world celebrates Christmas – though it is becoming more and more politically correct to refer to it as “the holidays”- Christians should avoid it. But let me point out that’s the same argument made by cults that deny Jesus altogether, as well as cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny his deity. I personally see the occasion of Christmas as an opportunity to proclaim Christ as “the reason for the season” among the nations, including those trapped in cults.

Ultimately, there’s no legitimate scriptural reason not to celebrate Christmas, while at the same time, no biblical mandate to celebrate it. So, in the end, whether or not to celebrate Christmas really comes down to a personal decision. Whatever you decide to do regarding Christmas, your (or my) views should not be used as a club to beat down or denigrate those with opposing views, nor should either view be used as a badge of honour inducing pride over celebrating or not celebrating. As in all things, we seek wisdom from God who gives it liberally to all who ask (James 1:5) and accept one another in Christian love and grace, regardless of our views.

Overcoming Porn Addiction

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you when I say that the porn industry generates about $13 billion each year in the United States. It’s a heartbreaking reality that 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls have been exposed to pornography before the age of 18. In fact, the average age of first exposure is about 11 years old.

Studies show that terms relating to porn are by far the most commonly searched-for terms in the internet search engines. Every day, literally millions of people do searches related to the porn industry. The powerful imagery of internet pornography is highly addictive. Many men (and women) have been caught in the snare of internet porn and find themselves helplessly addicted to its visual stimulation. Most often pornography is viewed in isolation and so, the thinking goes, it’s not hurting anyone so why make it an issue?

Porn has an incredible way of appearing harmless. But researcher Patrick Fagan, Ph.D. completed a major study of pornography and called it a “quiet family killer.” His study found that fifty-six percent of divorces had one partner with an obsessive interest in porn.[1]

Why Pornography Should Be Avoided

Just a small bit of pornography can’t be all that bad, right? Wrong! Research has found that pornography is highly addictive. Scientists now know that when having sex or watching porn, dopamine is released into a region of the brain responsible for emotion and learning, giving the viewer a sense of sharp focus and a sense of craving: “I have got to have this thing; this is what I need right now.” It supplies a great sense of pleasure. The next time the viewer gets the “itch” for more sexual pleasure, small packets of dopamine are released in the brain telling the user: “Remember where you got your fix last time. Go there to get it.” Norepinephrine is also released, creating alertness and focus. It is the brain’s version of adrenaline. It tells the brain, “Something is about to happen, and we need to get ready for it.”

The body also releases endorphins, natural opiates that create a “high,” a wave of pleasure over the whole body. After sexual release serotonin levels also change, bringing a sense of calm and relaxation. Sex also triggers the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones help to lay down the long-term memories for the cells. They “bind” a person’s memories to the object that gave him or her the sexual pleasure.

This system is intricately designed to work this way while having sex with your spouse. God designed it for intimacy and pleasure as together you and your spouse can bond emotionally, physically, spiritually along with experiencing a high, an alertness of sexual pleasure, and the deep calm afterwards (norepinephrine, endorphins, and serotonin).

With each sexual embrace you are emotionally bonding to this person. Over time a craving for sex is transformed into a desire for one another (dopamine). That is one of the reason’s (among others) that a person should stay celibate until their wedding night. On the wedding night when the spouses engage in sexual intimacy for the very first time, there is a deep physical and emotional “bonding” that takes place with no guilt.  But porn short-circuits the system because it is impersonal, short term, and completely selfish.

The problem only grows the more porn is used, in that the more exposure to it, the more the need for it to create arousal. This results in uncontrollable lust mixed in with frustration, along with an inability to experience true sexual intimacy in marriage, and often intense feelings of guilt and despair. The images that pornography provides create unrealistic expectations that will leave you empty and unfulfilled with your spouse. So, choosing to avoid pornography altogether is choosing a healthier, more satisfying marriage and sex life.

It’s become a sad reality that our world is obsessed with sex and pornography. But it’s not just a problem with those in the world but also those who consider themselves not of this world.

A survey taken at a Promise Keepers rally revealed that over fifty percent of the men in attendance were involved with pornography within one week of attending the event.

And that was 20 years ago…

Did you know that fifty percent of Christian men and twenty percent of Christian women say they are addicted to pornography? I didn’t know that. And did you know that the most popular day of the week for viewing porn is Sunday? Personally, I love hanging out with family and friends at church in the mornings, and then watch football (followed by Dr. Who), either alone or with friends and family Sunday afternoons – Go Seahawks! So, I won’t lie that the last stat really surprised me.

There Is Hope In Jesus

Porn is a problem, as I’m sure you can already tell, but I don’t think all hope is lost. There are two primary aspects in the battle to overcome an addiction to internet porn: spiritual and practical.

Spiritually, addiction to pornography is a sin that God desires you to overcome and therefore will enable you to do so. The first step is to make sure you have genuinely placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Saviour. If you are unsure, please visit our page here called Good News.

The truth is, that without salvation through Jesus, there is no possibility of a true and lasting victory over pornography: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” – John 15:5

If you are a believer in Christ yet struggling with an addiction to internet porn, there is amazing hope and there is great help for you through the power of the Holy Spirit, “According to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” – Ephesians 3:16 The cleansing of God’s forgiveness is extended to you, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

The renewing capacity of God’s Word is at your disposal, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

As you begin your redemption journey remember to commit your mind and eyes to the Lord, “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.” – 1 John 2:16. Along the way ask God to strengthen you and help you to overcome pornography, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

As well, ask God to protect you from further exposure to porn, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13, and to fill your mind with things that are pleasing to him, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8

You may think that you are in an unwinnable battle, you may have tried before and failed, but you also need to know that you serve a Lord who hasn’t, nor will he, given up on you.

There Is Hope In Community

God has created us for community, and we fight best alongside others. Practically, to maintain sexual purity, we need a band of brothers & sisters with whom we can be open and honest with.

To be most successful, pray for and find two or three others who recognize that they themselves are real, hard-boiled messy sinners where the sinful, broken human condition is understood and the solution isn’t ‘trying harder’ but ‘deepening surrender’. They don’t need to be struggling with or have overcome porn addiction themselves, but they should be people who are honest about their own “stuff”.

Sexual sin runs deep – accountability should run deeper. If you find yourself in a situation where sexual sin has taken over or you’ve considered entertaining the idea, find someone to talk to. Be open and honest.

Also, become aware of the numerous tools at your disposal to help you combat an addiction to internet pornography. There are good programs available at Covenant Eyes or x3watch.com. Your temptation to view internet porn would be greatly reduced if you knew your youth pastor, parent, friend, pastor, or spouse would receive a detailed report about it.

Download PornAddiction.com & Nothing to Hide and start reading articles. Visit Doing Family Right’s Victory over Porn  page on their website. 

There are also quite a few good books on overcoming porn addiction: Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Purity One Victory at a Time by Stephen Arterburn and The Game Plan by Joe Dallas  are just two.

Don’t Do Nothing

I watched the movie ‘Christopher Robin’ with my family recently. It was a great movie filled with great quotable lines made by Winni the Poo. One line was, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” That line fit the context of the story perfectly, however in the case of porn addiction you must do the opposite. Don’t do nothing, because nothing always leads to something, and in the case of porn it is always the opposite of the very best for you.

Don’t despair! An addiction to internet porn is not an “unforgivable sin.” God can and will forgive you. As well, an addiction to internet porn is not an “unconquerable sin.” God can and will enable you to overcome it. Commit your mind and eyes to the Lord. Commit yourself to filling your mind with God’s Word, I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” – Psalm 119:11

Seek his help daily in prayer; ask him to fill your mind with his truth and block unwanted thoughts and desires. Take the practical steps listed above to keep yourself accountable and block access to internet porn. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” – Ephesians 3:20

[1]https://www.allprodad.com/the-effects-of-porn-on-marriage/