If you ask a Christian “What do you think God wants most from us?” You may hear “He wants us to be good,” or “He wants us to pray,” or “He wants us to help people.” You should expect these answers. But they are all wrong. They are off by three degrees. If you begin a journey and you are three degrees off your bearings you will soon be a mile off, and, in a few days, hundreds of miles off. The correct answer is always this: God wants us to love Him. That’s what matters most. And in pursuit of loving God we need to toss overboard whatever may distract us to drift off course.
Christianity is complex. Sin comes easily. Those of us who have lived some years as followers of Christ are probably not going to stumble into a life of crime. We are probably not going to wake up one day and choose to reject God and become angry atheists. However, we do need to be afraid of drift and distraction.
Morality is not the point, either. When it becomes the point you will become corrupt. The Pharisees were moral, the most moral people around. Yet Jesus reserved His most scathing words for them. Morality will not save you from hell; it will not even make you a better person. It may, however, make life miserable for those around you. It is only a means to a much greater end.
I want my kids to behave well and I want your kids to behave well. But if we teach them only morality they will become cold legalists. I propose that we as parents, teachers and children’s workers check our bearings and work to lead our kids to love God first—an informed, well-thought-out defensible love for God. Considering the character of God, a response of love is the only reasonable one.
If you agree with me then you should be asking something along the lines of “Okay, so how do l do this? How do I love God more?” even, “How do I help my kids to love God more?” These are exactly the questions to ask. Work on some answers yourself. Ask wise people around you. Read Scripture with just those questions in mind and you will be surprised at how much material you will find, because, after all, that is what God’s Word was written to help you understand. Love is the prime motive for a life of ministry and service. —Adapted from “Morality Is Not the Point,” by Dave Carl
We have seen the consequences all too often: 1.5 million abortions each year, “drive-by” shootings occurring in every major city, and the ”suicide option” trail that had been blazed by the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian and friends. From the beginning of life all the way through to a convenient and planned exit we are witnessing a drastic change in the basic ways in which we perceive life. If it is true, as we have often been taught, that “ideas have consequences,” what are the ideas that have produced these sorry consequences? The answer isn’t difficult to figure out: “life is cheap,” accompanied by “life is an accident,” also followed by “life has no purpose.” To those of us who grew up in homes and institutions of faith it seems incredible that such ideas could have become so accepted by so many in such a short time. But this change hasn’t occurred overnight. It proceeded step by step following our rejection of the biggest idea of all: “Life is the gift of a loving God.” Once we turn our backs on the “God factor” everything begins to fall apart. That is the testimony of Scripture from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. We cannot ignore God and escape the natural and unwelcome consequences that must follow. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a society that has never read Genesis, Revelation or anything in between. But God’s people should have, and if our nation is to escape the awful fate of Old Testament Israel, then we must be active and not passive in seeking to avert the final consequences which must surely come upon our culture of disbelief.
Let me suggest some things each of us needs to do:
1. Pray for your country. Don’t just complain about the way things are. Pray for your leaders (both Democrats and Republicans).
2. Support leaders who recognize that the real issues before us are spiritual, moral and ethical. Don’t fall for the old lie that a person’s private life and values have nothing to do with his qualifications for leadership.
3. Commit your personal private life and values to God. Let your Christian faith determine what you say and do in public. Become intentionally open in your witness for God and trust that He will honor your openness. Remember, He has done it many, many times to many people before you came along.
In short, it is time to replace the popular ideas with some older ideas that have been tried and tested. Only then will you notice some different consequences.
Michael Medved, a conservative Jewish film critic and frequent commentator on American culture, delivered a lecture called “Protecting Our children from a Plague of Pessimism.” Sounding more like a preacher than a popular talk show guest, he said, “This depressed and nihilistic attitude toward life could be the biggest threat to America today—and the most pressing problem in American education.” He cited a University of ‘Chicago study which demonstrated the essence of our dilemma: “Human beings will not learn, will not grow, and will not develop good character traits if they believe that discipline and hard work are pointless, that life is meaningless and unfair, and that the outlook for the future is grim.” Medved says the plague’s main symptom is a crybaby culture, a national orgy of whining and self-pity. Consider all the news from major college campuses where “safe spaces” are provided for those students who can’t handle ideas that differ from their own. What makes them this way? Among other things he blames the distorted world of the media. He writes, “The major problem with the media today isn’t too much sex or too much violence or too much rude behavior; it is too much TV period.” He even blames our plague of pessimism on a lack of belief in God. If there is no God or justice, why try?
Before you begin wringing your hands in frustration, lamenting how bad things have gotten, just remember this: these were the same symptoms exhibited by the world into which Christianity was born. God knew what He was doing when He prepared the Gospel to penetrate the spiritual vacuum of the first century. It literally turned the world upside down. It brought a divinely ordained system of morals and ethics where the old immorality once reigned. It produced ambition and hard work. And it returned hope to the human heart.
So here we go again. If the gospel of Jesus Christ was successful in overcoming diseased cultures of the past it can do the same today. It is not only time to see the tremendous challenges that confront our faith but to see the opportunities they present to us as well. People all about us are hungry for something that has meaning. God’s people need to awaken to what they already possess in Jesus Christ. Instead of hiding what we have in embarrassment, we need to be sharing it openly, unashamed. The only way to overcome a plague of pessimism is by an outbreak of optimism, in this case, rooted in the person and promises of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
After all the years we have been dealing with the AIDS problem and how it originated, society still seems to be polarized into two opposing viewpoints. Many Christians still see AIDS as God’s judgment upon homosexuals who refuse to abandon their lifestyle (the vast majority of all new cases come from practicing homosexuals and promiscuous heterosexual practices). The opposing view says God has nothing to do with the AIDS problem whatever and if He did, who would want to serve a God who wreaks such physical devastation on His subjects.
I would suggest a third view. Suppose a parent continually warned his child against playing in the street. But the child, enjoying the forbidden habit, paid no attention to his father’s commands and was eventually struck by a passing car. Would it be fair to blame the parent for the damage done to the child? Hardly! And yet Scripture is filled with warnings against both homosexual practices and sexual promiscuity. Our loving God has always known what we are just finding out—that, among other things, these are both dangerous practices which He has long pleaded for us to avoid. But we are living in an “enlightened” age where Scripture is no longer looked upon as authoritative, but rather as a quaint relic from a superstitious past. God has been relegated to the mythical and religion is seen as a carry-over from more primitive times. And as long as this view continues to hold sway over the more “enlightened” we will also continue to see more “rebellious children killed in traffic.”
On the other hand, one of the implications of this view is that we who respect the authority of Scripture can not stand by and smugly say “I told you so.” That attitude is nowhere commended in the Word of God. Instead, as in every case where the careless sowing of wild seed produces a terrible harvest, God’s children must be ready to act with pity and compassion. If our loving Father doesn’t distinguish between sins, neither should His children distinguish between those who receive our compassion and those who do not.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship