Hope For Hopeless Christians

sad-adultA bunch of hopeless people. This is what you will find as you make eye contact with the people sitting in your church pews. You will be greeted by smile after smile that is nothing more than a cheap movie set façade. Turn the corner and you will realize there is no firm foundation of joy. All that exists is some thin piece of painted plywood held up by two supports of flimsy church culture.

The hearts around you and me are hurting, struggling, and hopeless.

Many of us Christians gave up on the idea of the sufficiency of the Scriptures. We took up God’s script with interest when we first heard about the king of heaven. We eagerly followed every divine word of Scripture up to the base of the cross.

But as we left the cross and began the next scene of our life, we felt that the script was inadequate. The lines mentioned nothing about anorexia, ADHD, and our many other problems. Perhaps the script was no longer useful.

joseph-gonzalez-273526We addressed our concerns to local co-director. He heard our complaints and empathized with us, but agreed that the God’s script was actually kind of lacking. He patted us on the back and ushered us out of his office offering a few trite words encouraging designed to keep us reading and praying.

And so we conclude that the gospel that saves us essentially ends at salvation and will only pick up again at heaven. In the meantime, we improve things as best we can, trying to determine God’s will for our life by asking our heart, “what do you think is best?”

Quite naturally the heart that has put down the Scriptures and devoted itself to the study of itself, pop-culture, and modern thought, finds only cultural wisdom.

Our culture’s mindset is one of hopelessness. There is no hope for the sex addict, for the far too thing teenage girl, and for the out-of-control kid. Sure, we can toss some medicine and therapy their way. But at the end of the day, we can only medicate them. We cannot cure them.

And Christians who are more defined by their sin than their savior are going to be helpless. They cannot hope to be anything else. If God cannot help us with our problems, then we really are hopeless.

This is where all the lonely people come from.

Thankfully, we do not have to remain in this state of hopelessness. God does not call us to be facades. He calls us to build full and vibrant lives on his Word. The script does not end at conversion. That is the point when the plot gets really good. At conversion, we get the power of Christ to overcome our sins. The story of our life goes from being one of failure to one of success, because the hero Christ has arrived and empowered us with his helper, the Holy Spirit. Paul said it this way,

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 temptation he will also provided the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.

– 1 Corinthians 10:13.

The message of the Bible is that you are sinners redeemed by grace. If you are stressed to the point of panic attacks, cannot handle you porn addiction, and cannot control your body weight, the Bible is for you. Dive into it, find a biblical counselor or a godly pastor, and you will see that there is a way of escape. God rescues his people.

Your ultimate problem and my ultimate problem when I think life is hopeless is our theology. The divine script is not wrong. We simply misread the text with our modern, sinful eyes.

To overcome our stress, worries, and depressions, we need to dive into God’s script. As Paul told the Corinthians,

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come – 1 Corinthians 10:11.

We like the New Testament believers live in the last age. Living in the last age does not imply the Bible is outdated. Rather, Paul says the Bible is full. We have all the stories of the Old and New Testament precisely because they are relevant to our lives today. The show us how to repent of sinful idols and how to refocus on Christ. The Scriptures are never more, relevant, important, and helpful than now.

All those fake smiles in our church by the power of Christ could one day be real and meaningful.

If you have more questions about how the Bible applies to your life or about how you or your church could start practicing the disciplines of grace, please reach out to me. I would love to help.

Food Stamps Don’t Get You To Heaven

food stampsBack in March, Mr. Nicholas Jackson made the news for all the wrong reasons. On Sunday March 20, he tried to use his food stamp card (which looked a lot like a credit card) to buy a brand new BMW. Quite naturally, the dealership rejected his offer. But Jackson was not to be denied. Later that night, he broke back into the dealership grabbed the car keys and took off with his new ride. He would have had a clean get away but he forgot one little thing, gas money. It turns out he didn’t have enough money to fill up his new ride. And so, sheriffs’ deputies quickly caught up with the car thief and tossed into jail.

Mr. Jackson’s attempt to get a BMW failed because he did not have the funds to buy and operate the car. Food stamps can buy a few bags of groceries. They are worthless when it comes to buying luxury cars. And its not that shocking because food stamps were never designed to deliver big ticket items.

In much the same way, the law was not designed to save people from their sins. The law can show us our sin (it is our tutor). But, is was never designed to buy us eternal life. And if we are trusting in our own righteous works to earn our way heaven, we will miss the kingdom of God. We will wind up being tossed into hell.

Jesus makes this point in Mark 2:18-22. Fasting does not save. Avoiding certain movies, wearing the right length skirt, listening to the right music does not make us right with God. And if we trust in our works to get us to heaven, if we trust in our systems to impress God, if we trust in our traditions to make ourselves righteous we will miss heaven. Just like a food stamp card can’t by a BMW, our works can’t by salvation. Sure, they may run for a time. People may be impressed. But eventually, we will run out of gas. We will get caught.

If we are going to be like Jesus, if we are going to teach the gospel faithfully, we must never return to the law for salvation. We must never give kids the impression that obeying a bunch of commands will save them. We must never teach that salvation consists of the cross and memorizing verses, or donating to mission, or whatever else may be swirling around. Salvation exists outside of manmade systems. Fresh wineskins have arrived. Jesus prohibits us from sticking works back into the gospel.  Righteousness comes through the blood of Christ.

When little Sussie leaves our Sunday school room, we need to make sure we clearly offer Jesus and only Jesus. Yes, those who love Jesus will obey his commands. But obedience apart from love does not honor God. It’s like trying to buy a BMW with food stamps. It doesn’t work. Every time we teach our kids, we need to make sure that they know that salvation consists of only two things, repentance and belief. We just ask, and God gives us eternal life. He buys the BMW and gives us the gas money that we could never get on our own. If we add anything to the gospel, we malign God’s free gift by adding a price to it. We attempt to by a BMW with food stamps.