Listening to the news reports, I was further disgusted to hear that the perpetrator of these atrocities justify his actions by his “Christian” beliefs. Obviously, the Bible condemns his acts of hatred and destruction. But it did get me thinking….Those of us who call ourselves “Christian” often times don’t really represent Christ well.
This past Sunday, our pastor, Scott Golike, preached on this section of Ephesians:Ephesians 2
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.You can hear the sermon here:
As a congregation, we had some good discussion afterward about why we have a hard time grasping the fact that we are dead in our trespasses apart from Christ. I admitted that my difficulty in believing this is because I know many people who don’t believe in Christ who seem much more loving than me and others who do profess faith in Christ. I know that, believer or not, we are all made in the image of God. Believer or not, we are all fallen. But I would think that after experiencing the ultimate display of sacrificial love at the cross and after having been filled the Holy Spirit, that we Christians would be more loving than we often are.During our discussion in church, one person brought up the excellent point that we blaspheme God by our conduct—we are called to be image bearers of Him and yet in many ways, our lives are not in accord with His ways--with sound doctrine.
Why is that we Christians can be so arrogant, proud, lacking in compassion, apathetic, judgmental, un-teachable, cliquey, and simply bad friends when we are supposed to be characterized by Christ's sacrificial love? Well, one reason is that we are fallen and that we are still in the process of being sanctified (the process of being conformed to the character of Christ by the Holy Spirit). I think another reason is that we forget Ephesians 2! We forget that we haven’t figured it all out. We forget where we came from—that we were ALL dead in our trespasses apart from Christ and that is by grace that we have been saved—not of our own doing, but by the gift of God. We learn some things and then we become puffed up by our knowledge—our hearts are no longer teachable, especially when God is speaking to us through people we find somehow inferior to ourselves (younger, older, less mature, less authority, not as cool, not as smart, has a different background or opinions, etc). We forget the simple truths we first learned—like Ephesians 2 or like 1 Corinthians 13. Or maybe we don’t even forget them, but we foolishly think we’ve outgrown them? Or maybe we forget that we have the Spirit’s power and instead we just think these teachings are just too hard? Or maybe we misguidedly believe that there are more important things we can be doing “for Jesus”? Or maybe we are too busy fussing about our own image and how we look to others? Or maybe we are too busy looking at how others around us don’t measure up? Or maybe we become safe and comfortable in our little world?
1 Corinthians 13If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Father God, forgive me! Forgive me for the ways I abandon that child-like spirit I once had when I met you. Forgive me for thinking I am something I am not. Forgive me for being puffed up. Forgive me for judging others. Forgive me for being partial. Forgive me for being concerned with my own image. Forgive me for being blasphemous in my conduct, as I am created to image you. Give me the heart of the Psalmist who said—“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Our hope is in you—not in ourselves or our circumstances or our accomplishments. Our desire is to live according to your desire, and not according to our flesh or this world. Teach me your love!! Fill me with your sincere unforced love!! Help me and help us, your Church, to look more and more like you. I pray this especially for the American church and for our unique struggles in this area. Open our eyes. Help us to repent where needed. Father, I also pray for the loved ones of those who were lost in the acts of terror in Norway and for the survivors who will never be the same. Speak to them where they are. Bring them comfort and healing. Show them your love. Show us all how we can love and help them. I pray for this for the loved ones of the perpetrator too--as this must be devasting to them as well. I also pray for the perpetrator--that he would be able to see the ugliness of what he has done and that he would truly seek forgiveness from those whom he has harmed and from you. I pray that you would work through the Norwegian justice system. We love you. In Jesus Name, Amen.