Christians, Don’t Listen To That Other Voice

voice-in-your-headWhen Christians make decisions, they fundamentally only have two options. Either they can listen to the word of God or they can listen to themselves.

Admittedly, many of the choices that we make in this life are not directly mentioned in Scripture. The Bible says nothing about whether or not a person should eat at McDonalds as opposed to Burger King. The divine text does not tell Christians to skip basketball for piano lessons. And, the scriptures tells us little about which sofa to select.

But the Scriptures address the heart attitudes behind such decisions. Philippians 2:3-4 tells us,

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others.”

If we choose McDonalds even though our wife hates it, we have sinned. If we put our kid in piano lesson because the lessons will help her thrive we have done well. If we force our husband to buy the chair that he hates because we love it, we have sinned. The actually eating, playing, and buying are neutral. One can eat McDonalds having a great heart. Another can eat there with a selfish heart. By addressing the motives behind our actions, the Bible speaks to all of our lives decisions even the gray ones.

The Bible also speaks to the black and white issues. The Bible condemns sexual immorality, adultery, drunkenness, anger, and greed. If we choose these things, we sin and we must repent.

The question then becomes, “will we listen?” Will we obey the Bible even when it tells us to do things we do not like such as staying with our spouse, such as loving our dishonest coworker, and such as caring for our sickly mother-in-law? If we answer no and reject what God’s word says, we are left only with our own opinions. We have decided like the people of Israel of Old, that we know better. Yes, sin and slavery were never really that bad, where they?

Often our answers are not this blatant. We mask our disobedience behind wanting to be happy, behind the well wishes of our friends, and behind the norms of society. We cannot imagine that God will still disapprove of our actions after we won the support of our earthly friends. But he does. Sin by any other name is still sin.

Though our own opinions seem right, helpful, and able to expedite our goal of attaining a happy, fulfilled life, they will ultimately do none of the above. The apostle Paul said it this way,

“To set the mind on the flesh is death…those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Roman 8:6-8). If Christians disregard scripture if they shut out the voice of God and if make become their own god, they will not find joy. They will find death, bitterness, and despair. As Bonhoeffer said, “The basis of all human reality is the dark, turbid urges and desires of the human mind.” (Life together p.31.). Do not listen to this voice, however, appealing. Do not listen to the voice in your head that promises life and happiness apart from the commands of God. The promise is a lie. It is the promise the snared Adam and Eve and brought death into our world. It is the promise, the continues to destroy relationship after relationship.  And if you or I believe this promise, it will bring death to our lives. Do not listen to your mind and heart. Don’t listen to that demonic and alluring voice of death. Listen to God.

Will you stop listening to the voices in your head?

Can Our Faith Be Just A Little Less Radical?

radicalSociety has never been a fan of the ‘radical’ Christian. The Romans thought radical Christians cannibals. The nice British people of the Jane Austin era deemed them ‘crazed Methodist.’And today, radical Christians are viewed as archaic, bigots.

Christians who seek to live out the Scriptures by obeying God and by practically loving their fellow man, have never been popular. The idea of denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus has never truly resonated with any culture because it cost too much.

The child who skips championship games to attend church will go from starting shortstop to bench-warmer extraordinaire, risking potential scholarships and her professional sports’ future. The man who refuses to go to the strip club with his colleagues will fail to connect with his boss and may fail to gain that much coveted promotion, leaving his family strapped for cash. And the woman who refuses to watch 50 Shades Darker will be ostracized from her book club, resulting in fewer play dates for her kids. They now face the real possibility of being ‘social awkward.’ Bye bye career, fame, and fortune.

And when we begin to count the cost of following Christ, we are tempted to think, “Does Jesus really want this all this?” Will he really care if we just skip a little, see a little, and taste a little sin? Surely, Jesus doesn’t want us to be radical all the time?

The answer is yes! We must be willing to sacrifice all for God. There is no other way to reach heaven. In Mark 8:35-38, Jesus anticipates this objection and responds with the following words:

 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Essentially Jesus is affirming that the above thinking is misplaced. It wrongfully assumes that the riches and pleasures of this world are ultimate. Jesus says otherwise. He says the unseen things, the spiritual realities, and eternity matter much more than a super bowl trophy, a raise, or 1000 likes on Facebook. You can be unaccomplished and be right with God. You can be poor and be right with God. You can be unpopular and be right with God. But you cannot love sin and live for the pleasures of the flesh and be right with God.

You cannot trade Olympic gold medals for salvation. No amount of money can buy you a room in heaven. No amount of influence with man can be exchanged for righteousness with God. As Christ says, “What can a man give in return for his soul?” The answer is, “Nothing.” None of the trophies that we coveted for our kids, none of the wealth that we have amassed, and none of the popularity we have gained can cover our sin. None of those things can be traded for our soul. Only the blood of Christ saves. And only those who are willing to surrender all and make Christ the Lord of every part of their life will find eternity. There is no other way. The faith that cost us nothing will one day cost us everything.

At the end of the day, we will be ashamed either of our flesh or of Jesus. We will mourn the fact that we are tempted to sin and to do evil or will we mourn the fact that God does not sanction our pride, lust, and selfishness. And if we choose the later, if we are ashamed of the commands of Jesus, if we view radically living as being an imposition on our happiness, God will be ashamed of us. When Jesus comes in glory, he will tell us to depart. He will not be impressed with our accomplishments. He will see only worldly sinners who rejected him to collect things that moths and rust destroy.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightfully said,

The elimination of single-minded obedience on principle is but another instance of the perversion of the costly grace of the call of Jesus into the cheap grace of self-justification.

Don’t follow a lesser gospel. Don’t point your kids to a shallower faith. Do not deafen your ears to the call of Christ. What earthly thing can take the place of Jesus?

Are You Listening To God?

listenAre you ready to listen? And I am not talking about getting your children to be quiet or about improving your relationship with your spouse. That kind of listen is good and paramount. But there is an even more important listening that needs to take place. We need to listen to Christ.

When Jesus took his disciples up onto the mountain before his death, Peter, James and John were in a stupefied awe. And rightfully so. According to Mark 9:3, they had seen the glory of Christ. The text records that Jesus’ “ clothes become radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” Something magnificent was going on. And that’s not all. Moses and Elijah show up with Jesus and begin talking about Jesus’ upcoming death. Talk about a wow moment. Although, the disciples did not know fully what was going on, the they knew that something amazing was occurring. As the miraculous event ended, Peter blurted out, “Rabbi it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  Seemingly, Peter always has to say something. And so, he did.

And, he begins well enough. Peter recognized that experiencing Christ more fully is a good and gracious thing. Hearing the gospel preached is a blessing. All Christians should long to know Christ more. All should long to see the glory of Christ.

Unfortunately for Peter, he does not stop there. He goes on to offer to build three tabernacles. He essentially wants to do something for God. Peter wants to help establish the kingdom of God. And while building tabernacles and memorials that point to the glory of God is perhaps well intended, Peter’s thoughts miss an important truth. Christ does not need us.

Jesus does not need our programs, our large church buildings, and our schemes to validate his ministry. Jesus is not sitting on his throne of glory thinking, “If only they would feed 1000 people or if only they would build a new facility, then my name would be great.”  Christ does not measure his greatness by our actions.

Instead of speaking, instead of trying to work to moralize the grandeur of God on earth, we are told to do something else. We are told to listen. In verse 7, we read, “And a cloud came over them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘“This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”’ We need to listen to Christ.

We buck against this idea. Because we like Peter, want to push God forward with human hands. But God does not need our soup kitchens, our buildings, or our T.V. shows to reach the world. Christ is tabernacling with us. He has sent the Holy Spirit to bear witness to his son. Christ reveals himself daily in the Scriptures. Instead of us trying to vindicate God by showing the world how successfully our programs and ideas are, we need to listen to Christ.

We need to believe that salvation comes through the cross alone. We need to listen to God. We need to admit that God is the authority on God. We need to listen to the Son. And then we need to obey. There is no other way. God requires nothing more and nothing less. Jesus is speaking. Will we listen?