Thursday, November 26, 2015
Just about every day, on the television or on the radio or in magazines, we are inundated with messages of tolerance. In most cases, what we are being told to tolerate are behaviors that, according to the Christian faith, are sinful. Social mores are becoming looser and looser, and are deviating further and further from a foundation of biblical morality. Television shows aimed at teenage audiences make no attempt at modesty, and many times revolve around the sexual relationships of children, even to the extent of aggrandizing teenage pregnancy and parenthood. Adultery and divorce are practically celebrated and glorified on shows geared toward adults, completely removing any shame associated with either, and never suggesting that either be avoided. Violence and murder is so mainstream now that no one even blinks an eye at it any more. Drunkenness and drug use is now viewed as humorous rather than as a destructive addiction. Curse words are inserted into every opportune sentence. Lies and theft are justified and condoned. Sexual perversion of all kinds are the new normal. These few examples only represent the tip of the iceberg.
The point I'm trying to make really doesn't matter which sin is in the spotlight, though. Sin is sin. God abhors it all. My personal issue is that by mainstreaming all of these sins into our culture, we're becoming more and more desensitized to them as a whole, and that numbness is very dangerous. When we fail to recognize sin, we are more apt to participate in it. Even scarier is the thought that we do recognize it, yet continue in it or look the other way. Or we cower because any opposition to these sins gets us labeled as bigots or intolerant. Sin leads to death and destruction of your soul. Not only are we in danger of becoming blind to egregious behaviors, but we are becoming accepting of them. "To each his own," we say, as if that person's soul has no more importance to us than the trash we put on the curb every week. Our children see us overlooking things in others that we would never accept from them.
As a Christian, I venture to say that tolerance means something very different to me. One definition of tolerance is, "leeway for the variation from a standard." The standard by which I try to live my life is the living Word of God: the Bible. God is very clear in the bible of the behaviors that are unholy and unrighteous and sinful. And it is crystal clear that God is intolerant of sin. He hates sin. If He didn't intend for us to turn from our sin, if He didn't care about whether or not we sin, He wouldn't have needed to send His son, Jesus, to die for us and suffer the punishment of our sins so that by confessing our sins and believing upon Him, we may have eternal life in Him.
While we're talking about Jesus, one of the most used counter-arguments I hear to my point of view is that "Jesus is a friend of sinners," or that "Jesus ate with sinners in their homes," et cetera. Jesus Himself explained His doing so by saying that just as a sick person needs a doctor, these sinners need a Savior (Matthew 9:12). Never once did He say, "keep on sinning, I love you anyway, so it's cool." He didn't lower His standards and join in on the sinful behaviors of those He came to save. He remained sinless while ministering lovingly to those whose lives were riddled with immorality. He offered them mercy and grace, extending His hand to pull them out of their pit. And when they refused to grasp onto His hand for that boost out of sin, He walked away, shaking the dust from His sandals.
Yes, He loves us. More than any of us can ever possibly comprehend. He did not come to condemn us, but to save us (John 3:17). Because He loves us, He has provided Himself as a sacrifice to wash us clean of our sins. He heals us of our unrighteousness and unholiness and tells us to "go forth and sin no more" (John 8:11). He warns us that if we continue to sin, we will suffer much worse consequences than we've already experienced (John 5:14). In James, we are warned to be doers of the Word, not merely hearers (James 1:22). Do not be the hypocrites that we're warned about in Titus 1:16: "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good."
We live in a fallen world, and the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). In the book of Romans, we're warned not to conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (12:2). That's right, we're being tested. As Christians, we are called to become more like Christ who lives in us. If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom (James 3:13). It does matter how you live. Period. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ, not by works so that any man should boast (Eph. 2:8-9), yet faith, if not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:17). Disobedience, either by commission or omission, is reshaping our culture. The standards of society are ever changing. But GOD NEVER CHANGES. He is the Great I Am. He stays the same through the ages. That His standard never changes shows us how much He loves us. He lays out a plan for our salvation that we can trust. We can trust it because there are no prerequisites of righteousness that would exclude anyone. How sure would you be of a god that is fickle and forever erasing and moving the line drawn in the sand?
I do not claim to be free from sin. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. I'm not suggesting we go around pointing fingers. That would be hypocritical since we're all broken in some form or fashion. From the beginning, God knew that we would need a Savior, and He provided us His only begotten Son for this purpose. If you're trapped in the stronghold of sin, all you need do is call upon His name, confess your sins, and invite Him into your heart. With the power of the Holy Spirit living in you, you can overcome the sin in your life. Once Christ dwells in you, the sin that exists in your life and in the world will offend and convict you. You learn, day by day, to rely more and more on Christ to overcome and avoid sin. We are to watch out for one another, keeping each other from stumbling, and showing each other mercy and grace. We are to pray for one another and encourage one another and hold one another accountable. "My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins (James 5:19-20)." It's not about judging the world...that's God's job, and be sure that He will judge the world...it's about setting ourselves, as Christians, apart from the world.