These Three Things

This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 
- John 8:6-8

I'm going to try to be as vague as possible because I believe that this topic contains a few timeless truths (for all people, in all times, in all places) and I don't want anyone, including myself, to get hung up on the specifics of what prompted this, because that's not the point.

I was reminded this week of a clipping of a "Letter to the Editor" from my hometown newspaper that I used to keep in my bible. It referenced someone very close to me who had been accusing of a wrongdoing. I don't know who the person is who wrote it, but the last line said, "You who is without sin, cast the first stone." To that anonymous person, I am forever thankful for the encouragement that their words brought to my life and to my family. 

This week, a leader from the "Christian culture" of Birmingham is struggling, to say the least. I'm sure that there are many people out there who know much more about this situation than I do, and who have much stronger opinions about it as well. I'm not here to comment on the situation. I'm not here to comment on the person or his ministry. I'm not even here to provide any sort of commentary about what has occurred. But I do want to offer a bit of encouragement to believers out there who may be struggling with how someone who claimed the gospel had radically transformed their life, had led many young people to faith in Christ, and who had such an influence in American Christian culture, could have everything around them come crashing down so suddenly and so publicly.

First, we must remember that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No one is exempt from that truth. Your pastor, my pastor, any church leader, mentor, or family member - we're all in the same battle against sin. Romans 3 says, "None is righteous, no not one; no one understand; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." We MUST remember that Jesus came to save us ALL from our sins. It's imperative for the glory of God to be seen and the gospel to be spread that we must surrender our lives over to Him and that we must address the sin in this world and in our lives with the truth of His Word. To do anything less than that devalues the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross.
 

Second, we must all put our hope in Christ alone. If I can just be really vulnerable for a moment, and speak my opinion, I believe that American culture has invaded the church so much that we have turned many of our pastors and teachers into these "Christian celebrities". Now, there's nothing wrong with really liking and respecting a certain pastor, but we must remember that they are preachers and teachers, called by God to preach GOD's word, and not their own word. I think that our society has created this falsehood that we can live by the word of man because it's so easy to hear and read what people have to say. And isn't it so much easier to live by the word of man than it is to live by the word of God? No man holds the same power as God, so it's easier to live by the powerless man's word. But I think that we often forget that on the flip side of that, no man has the power to save us - and God has already won the battle against sin and death through His son Jesus. So let's take our idols off their pedestals that we put them on, and remember that we must only put our hope in Christ.  

Third, and last, we must remember that we are called to love. In 1 Corinthians, Paul echos what Jesus preaches in Mark when Paul reminds the church in Corinth that the greatest commandment is to love. As the faith family that I am a part of has walked through this book over the last several months, I have come to learn that the church in America is so similar to the church in Corinth that Paul wrote to. The church in Corinth let Corinthian culture invade the church rather than the church invading Corinthian culture. Paul, after his exhortation about love, says,"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." Many times, we use this passage of scripture to describe the love between and man and a woman in marriage, and we read this passage at weddings, which is great. But Paul wasn't only referring to "agape" love  here, which is the selfless love you have for a spouse or a family member. Here, Paul was also referring to "philia" love, which is brotherly or neighborly love or the type of love in a friendship. We are called to love our neighbors - and there are no conditions that go along with that. Jesus said in Mark 12:31, "...You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater..." He did not say, "Love you neighbor as yourself, unless if you don't agree with them." He didn't say, "Love your neighbor as yourself, unless if they're a criminal." He didn't say, "Love your neighbor as yourself, unless they have wronged you." No, Jesus called us to love God and to love our neighbors. There are no exceptions to this call on our lives. That leads us to believe that we are called to love the person we don't agree with, love the person is a criminal, and love the person who has hurt us and wronged us. We are called to love, we are even to love the unlovable.

As I bring this to a conclusion, I hope that I have showed my heart in a way that has been an encouragement to you to pray for the people who it is easier to judge than love. Pray for those you read about in the newspaper and see on TV - they are sinners just like you and me. I want you leave you with the lyrics to a song that came on "shuffle" this morning as I was getting ready. The words really penetrated my heart and made me think about what God has called us to do as believers and opened my eyes to these three truths that I have expressed. 

Jesus Friend of Sinners

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

Yeah...

Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

'Cause You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Yours

And I was the lost cause and I was the outcast
Yeah...
You died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet 
 
Casting Crowns - Jesus, Friend of Sinners (Official Music Video) from casting-crowns on GodTube.

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Posted on August 23, 2013 and filed under "live well spiritually".