Saturday, September 5, 2009

Q: "What's wrong with so many straight churches? Why do the people in them act so badly?"

Well, to put it quite simply, the vast majority of the people in them don't really follow Jesus, and therefore aren't really Christians! Not as Jesus and His earliest disciples would have defined “Christian”, anyway.

Now, before you roll your eyes, let me say this: I realize that sounds a lot like one of the most popular games in Christendom – defining who is a “real” Christian and who is not. Their game-definition of “real” seems to change all over the place, depending on who's doing the defining!

But that's not a game I'm interested in at all. What I am interested in, though, is answering your question in the way the Bible answers it – which is also the way that Jesus and His first disciples would have answered it. 

So here are 5 points for you to think and even ask God for more wisdom about, in figuring out why straight churches and Christians behave so badly:
  1. The Bible warns everyone against submitting oneself in whole or part to the “kingdoms of the world” (even the “good” ones), rather than only to God's kingdom – but people are easily tempted and fooled.
So [when the nation of Israel still followed only God-appointed prophets and judges, rather than a political king] the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel [the prophet]  at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” [1 Samuel 8:4-7]
 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” [Matthew 4:8-9]
You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. [James 4:4]
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. [1 John 2:15-16]
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. [1 John 5:19]
  1. The Bible also specifically tells everyone to watch out for, test, and then avoid false leaders and fellows (or risk going down a very nice but also very wrong spiritual path) – but very few people in the churches ever really bother.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them [Matthew 7:15-20]
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. [2 Corinthians 11:13-15]
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. [2 Peter 2:1-2]
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. [1 John 4:1]
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. [Galatians 5:7-8]
  1. It shouldn't be surprising, then, to discover that when so much of the Bible warns that most of those who claim to be God's people are not really His people at all – it's right!
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. [Matthew 7:13-14]
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' [Matthew 7:21-23]
For many are invited, but few are chosen. [Matthew 22:14]
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. [Matthew 24:10-11]
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened. [Romans 11:5-7]
  1. Through the Bible, God specifically describes for everyone what people are like (or growing to be like) when they have His Spirit and therefore belong to Him – and what they are like when they don't.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. [Galatians 5:19-24]
Now the overseer [a church leader] must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. [1 Timothy 3:2-7]
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. [1 John 2:3-6]
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. [1 John 3:10]
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. [1 John 4:7-8]
  1. And we can use these Bible tools ourselves – not only to figure out who to count as a “real Christian” and who we should listen to and follow, but also how to figure out if we ourselves are choosing God's kingdom over the world's, too!

So, what's wrong with so many straight churches? Why do so many of the people in them act so badly?

We could summarize it this way:

You've probably heard the old expression: “Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to the garage makes you a car.” 

Well, through the Bible we can understand that calling yourself a Christian doesn't make you one of God's people any more than calling yourself a spaceship makes you able to fly to the moon.

It isn't what one calls oneself that defines one's real relationship with God. It isn't where one sits on Sunday (or Saturday). It isn't even how much one tithes, or sings in the choir, or gives to the needy. The Bible tells us that God makes someone a Christian, by putting His Spirit into them when they choose His Kingdom alone. And when God does that, even wanting to act badly disappears, more and more, from the real Christian's life!

So what's our response as Gay people to be?

God doesn't fool around. He doesn't want anyone deceived. And He certainly doesn't want Gay people walking or staying away from Him because people who aren't even real Christians have convinced us that God doesn't want us! So:
  • Don't hold bitter or angry feelings towards people who call themselves Christians but don't seem to really be doing what Jesus said. No one is perfect, and each person is at their own stage in their spiritual development. And only God knows where someone will ultimately end up! Forgive them as you are able (pray for help, if you need it), and understand that at the very least they are spiritually immature or deceived, and at the worst they are demon-possessed. They have hurt you – yes. But it is to God they will answer. Pray for and love them, and leave their fate to God.

  • Learn to use your Bible, every day. There's a lot of stuff in there that seems complicated. When you hit that stuff, try some study helps and talk to other Christians who have God's values in their hearts. If you still don't get it, then set that part aside and move on to the next part. I promise you: if you keep studying, when God wants you to understand that confusing part, it will make sense!

  • Stop sacrificing your salvation on the altar of other people's prejudices and discomforts. Your salvation is between you and God – and no one else. Stop tormenting yourself and risking alienating yourself from God's love and work for you by listening to people who use biased human interpretations and translations of God's Word to justify how they would feel about Gay people anyway.

  • Never let go of Jesus – the real Jesus, that is. God understands that Gay people in the world today have a really difficult journey to make. Read Revelation 3:7-13 again and again to understand how much Jesus understands our struggle, and how He tells us to just keep holding on to Him, and we'll make it! But that really means Him – not some New Age, liberal, or conservative version of Him. Find a Bible translation that has the least amount of human bias written into it, and then put correction notes in it whenever you learn of another spot that hasn't been translated like God put it there in the original languages (it isn't just the stuff about Gay people that people have changed or tweaked, you see!). Read the Gospels until you know them by heart – they are a record, written down and confirmed by people who were alive at the time that Jesus was on this earth and teaching them and their teachers. Remember: when you know Jesus' heart, you know God's heart! [John 14:9]
God continue to bless you!

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