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Change in America Begins with the Church: Part 1
"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." Matt. 6:33 (NLT)
Abortion, liberal politics and politicians, conservative politics and politicians, president Obama, global warming, banning guns, homosexuality, Islam, the new age movement, Oprah, pornography, same-sex marriage, tolerance, moral relativism. When you look at this list you will see that most of the items are what Christian's are predominantly against. I am against many of them. Some of these things, like political parties are not necessarily wrong, or sinful. I don't think it is wrong for Christian's to stand against the things that God is against. But it is also important to ask ourselves, and convey to the unbeliever is "What and who are we for?" and "How can we help change things?"
Hope for America begins with the Church
In his second part of a two part message entitled Hope for America, Pastor Greg Laurie did not talk about politics, presidential candidates, moral or even spiritual reform for our nations leaders, although those things are of great importance; nor did he talk about all the negative ideologies and immorality of the unbelieving masses. He talked about the answer to bringing hope and change to America, which he firmly believes rests with the Church. That is biblical. Revival begins with change in me and you, the Church. America will change when the church changes, when priority is given to saving souls rather than changing legislation. I emphasize here the word "priority."
Pastor Greg quotes the familiar Scripture from 2 Chron. 7:14:
"...if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
He points out that the verse does not say "If the world (or its leaders) will humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then He will heal the land." Rather, God says
"His people," those who are called by "His name." Pastor Laurie spoke of how most Christians are known to the world more for what they are against, rather than what (or who) they are for.
"Revival is not something that happens across the board, its something that happens in an individual’s life. We can pray. “Oh Lord send an awakening, send a revival!” but it starts with me. It starts with you." ~ Greg Laurie
The need to re-examine our message and attitude of the heart
I am an avid facebooker and have "friends" who are from every spectrum of philosophy, ideology, lifestyle, and religious or spiritual beliefs. Many Christians on FB, hubpages, and other social network venues take the opportunity to express themselves, but get upset when non-believers speak negatively of Christians and Christianity or what Christians are against. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 the Apostle Paul says that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." And that certainly is very true. But what I see on FB and forums particularly are Christian's posting links, statements, and posters that decry everything on that list at the beginning of this hub, and the people that do them. There is a subtle, superior, condemning, and dare I say, unloving attitude toward the people who stand for ungodly issues. When an unbeliever posts something the Christian is against, or that is in opposition to what the Bible says, the Christian debates him argumentatively, or grumbles to other believers that it offends them so much what that person stands for. "What is wrong with that?" you might ask. "We don't want people to think we are for those things that are sinful." Very true, I don't. A lot of those things should offend us. And we should oppose evil in the world. But it shouldn't be surprising or appalling when unbelieving sinners stand for sinful, unbiblical things. Unbelievers stand for sinful things because that's what sinners do, sin (by the way, though we have found Christ, you and I are sinners too). We once did and stood for many of those things as well. The Apostle Paul explained our role very clearly in the following verse:
"It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” ~ 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
What attracted you to Christ?
What I am getting at is that if we want to let our light shine before men, and be salt and light to our neighbors, culture and country, and draw men to Christ, we would probably be much more effective if we made our "priority" to stand up, speak for, and demonstrate, what we are for - namely our love for Jesus Christ and for all people. And we need to spread the word that God is for us, meaning, he wants what is best for us, which is to be forgiven, and to follow Him. As an unbeliever, I was not drawn to Christ by Christian friends who spent most of their time arguing on abortion and homosexuality, and the fact that those who supported those things were awful. Nor was I drawn to the Lord when they spoke up about being conservatives, pro-life, having family values, and serving the Lord. More, I was drawn to the Lord by the love they showed for me, not hate for the things I stood for.
All things done in love
Love is central to the Christian life. He is love, and the two commandments He gave to us, were "Love the Lord with all your heart, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself." I was drawn to Christ because my Christian friends' love and godly lives were consistent and genuine. When they talked about the issues of all the aforementioned things, they did so in a manner which was not militant or hostile. They talked about those things not so much because they are right (as in I am right and you are wrong), but because they care about the harm the issue will do to people that God loves so much, and because they grieve God's heart.
It's all in presentation and attitude of the heart. If there is no love when we address these issues and offer no arrow pointing to the One who is the answer, there will be no attraction to Christ. When we lay into someone about some social/moral abomination, without realizing it, we are telling them to change without telling them that Christ is the better way. It's all well and good to say that God hates what they are doing, but they won't consider Christ until we love them and show that Christ loves them, and that Christ is the best there is. And here's a hard thing to realize, at least it is for me, that God is not pleased with some things I, and we, do in His name. I have to ask myself, "Am I speaking out in anger at the people who are doing or promoting a certain sin, or am I speaking out of love for them that they might repent and turn to Christ." It's good to ask myself, "Did I come to Christ through browbeating, Bible thumping, heated debates, telling me God hates what I'm doing?" I don't know anyone who could honestly answer that question in the affirmative. It is good to ask ourselves, "Am I more concerned about souls or causes and being right." When the soul is taken care of, so will the sin.
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. ~ 1 John 4:8-9
"While a true revival in its essence belongs only to God's people, it always brings with it a blessing for the other sheep who are not yet of the fold." ~ Charles H. Spurgeon - What is Revival
A time and a place to debate and confront
I think there is a time and place for respectful and friendly debate. But heated, argumentative debate is not an effective way to lead people to Christ. Not only is it ineffective, it is unbiblical. You cannot argue and condemn people into the kingdom of God. If a non-believer starts questioning our beliefs by instigating an argumentative debate, and even gets hostile and abusive, he is not going to be converted because he is not questioning with a true desire to know the truth or know God. Jesus told us not to cast our pearls to the swine (Matt. 7:6). In other words, don't waste time giving people the precious message of the Gospel to hostile, hateful, people who mean only evil. But we should, I should, remember to love our enemies and pray for them. Paul told Timothy "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful." (2 Tim. 2:23-24).
Sometimes Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul got confrontational with the stiff-necked, hypocritical, Pharisees and religious leaders. Matthew 23 is a scathing confrontation Christ had with the Pharisees. He also turned over the money changers tables in the temple. We cannot allow abuse, deceit, robbery, bullying, or hateful behavior to go on in the name of God, which is what the religious leaders were doing. That is the difference, that they claimed to be representing and serving God, but in reality, had ungodly hearts, motives, and methods. That we must not ignore, and that we must not do.
Though some may disagree, let me just say a few things in closing.
- I hate abortion. I think we need to protect the unborn, and even do so strongly.
- I hate pornography, and I think we need to take a stand against it, and I do.
- I have firm political affiliations and beliefs, and I take the responsibility to support issues, candidates and legislation that stand for what I believe God wants me to. At the same time, I also know that one cannot legislate godliness. Godliness comes from a right relationship with Jesus Christ, not laws and voting records. So when I vote, I do so realizing that the law or issue may be changed, and rejoice over that, but know I must still pray for the heart that have not been changed.
- My most important responsibility is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and love my neighbor as myself. This includes loving those who disagree with me, and even those who are evil. The best way I can love someone is to show them the way to Christ and pray for them.
Greg Stier wrote a guest column in the Christian Post called 10 Reasons Why Christians Should focus More on the Gospel Than Politics, that really drives home my point. It is simply a list, and pretty much sums up what I am driving yet (I love when people can say in a few words what takes another a whole hub or book).
"Politics are a reflection of the moral compass of a society. The gospel gives society a new compass that is accurate." ~ Greg Stiers
"Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection,and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, 'I will take revenge. I will pay them back,' says the Lord. Instead, 'If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Change starts with me and you
What this article is about is that our central focus, if we want to see change in our nation and see more people come to Christ, should be sharing the Good News of God's love by loving, and telling the world about Jesus.
Change in our nation will come when I humbly seek God's face, turn the other direction with my heart, priorities, and actions (repentance). He has called me to accounts on this. Jesus and His love should be my main message, purpose, and priority. I think it is so with the Church as well.
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A true revival is to be looked for in the church of God. Only in the river of gracious life can the pearl of revival be found. It has been said that a revival must begin with God's people; this is very true, but it is not all the truth, for the reviv
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