Holy, Bold, and Intolerant

Inclusive, politically correct, accepting, tolerant, all popular terms used by the secular world and to a large extent the church today. Our culture, especially here in the United States, has become so self-reliant-focused that it has gotten itself wrapped up in the idea that all religions, lifestyles, and behaviors are ok, and that all roads eventually lead to God.

Now this may be a bit of an overstatement but the point is, this attitude exists and is becoming more and more prevalent in our society.

The line between right and wrong has become blurred. Some folks don't know right from wrong anymore, especially as God sees it. We are now raising a generation of kids whose parents are not churched and don't have an understanding of God and God's love. Over time we've begun to draw the line between right and wrong in sand so that it can be easily washed away when some new life experience comes along that we want to include in our list of acceptable behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. This is what "inclusive" has come to mean.

Instead of reading the Bible thoughtfully and interpreting the true revelation of God, folks manipulate it, or spin the truth to fit their needs, if they read the Bible at all. They speak of God's Word in a way that won't be offensive to anyone, so they won't be turned off to the church, or more importantly won't be turned off to God. This watered down approach has lead to an "anything goes" kind of attitude. This motivation is flawed and unholy.

I know of people who visit different churches looking for the so called "right one." And this is perfectly ok, because different churches do fill different needs, and I would encourage people to do this if they are doing it for the right reasons. But the folks I specifically speak of visit different churches because they are looking for the church, which will spin the gospel in such a way that their lifestyle will be included as being right with God.

Enough is enough, the church must preach, teach and live the truth of God's love. We've become too accepting with a numbing regularity. We have failed to teach and preach what is truly meant by God's word. We've decided that God's love means complete acceptance, fully tolerant, and inclusive in the broadest sense of the word.

Acceptance of all people as God's creation, yes. Tolerant that we all are sinners in need of salvation, yes. Inclusive, meaning we are all children of God and are of sacred worth regardless of our sin, yes.

But accepting our immoral acts, tolerating our violation of the Ten Commandments, inclusive by justifying our mistreatment of others, absolutely NOT!

Scholars, theologians and the common person who engage in this type of manipulation and gospel-spin are hypocrites and blasphemers. And sadly there are many spin-Christians and spin-preachers out there proclaiming a love and faith that means everything goes.

Hypocrisy is pretending to be something you're not and have no intention of being. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites because they worshipped God for the wrong reasons. Their worship was not motivated by love, but by a desire to attain profit, to appear holy, and to increase their status.

We become hypocrites when we pay more attention to reputation than to character, or when we carefully follow certain religious practices while allowing our hearts to remain distant from God, and when we emphasize our virtues while condemning others. (Mark 7: 1-8)

James said, "Faith without works is dead." And I believe this to be true. James is not saying that good works or deeds are the way to heaven. What he is saying is that a deep faith and love of God results in good works and deeds, which are focused on the teachings of Jesus. And if someone is not living in such a way, how deep can his or her faith, and love of God really be. God loves the sinner, NOT the sin. Sin offends our Holy God and separates us from him. Because God is holy, he can't ignore, excuse or tolerate sin as though it didn't matter. It does matter.

Sin cuts people off from God, forming a barrier, which isolates him from the people he loves. People who die with their life of unforgiven sin separate themselves eternally from God. God doesn't want this, he wants all people to live with him forever, but he can't take them into his holy presence unless their sin is removed. (Isaiah 59: 1-14)

We are all condemned to death because of our sin. We repeatedly break God's law, and for that death is the sentence.

But God being the loving God he is, isn't satisfied with this sentence. Instead he sent Jesus, his son, as a sacrifice for our sin. Thank God he now declares us not guilty and has offered us freedom from sin, and gives us the power to do his will.

Jesus demonstrated holy living for us. Jesus loved all people, but preached and taught passionately against the sin they lived. Out of love, Jesus called all people to repent, turn away from their sins, to change the way they lived, to follow a better path, the path that leads to God.

If I were to ask you, "How do I get home from here?" And you were to say to me, "Take any road, they all lead to home." You would be wrong. This is a geographic impossibility. The same is true when speaking of God. All religions do NOT lead to God, despite what some might want us to believe. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." In scripture there is no mention of Buddha, Mohammad, Confucius, or any other so called religious leader. Jesus is the only way, period.

Jesus is God made flesh and is the only religious leader to claim to be God. Buddha, Mohammad, and Confucius, to name a few, never claimed to be God and have since died. Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.

Now with this said we must remember that as Christians we are not called to judge and condemn, but rather to teach, set an example, and to love as Jesus did. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before all people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." He didn't say forcefully shine the light in their face. He simply said let it shine; just set an example by allowing Christ to shine through you.

So to this end we do need to be tolerant of non-Christians as long as their religion and actions don't hurt others, and as long as we don't let non-Christian practices, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors become incorporated into our way of life. This would leave us apathetic toward God's way.

We should be accepting all people as children of God and to love them as such, but we are to be completely intolerant of sin. We should be tolerant of people who hold different views, but we should not condone beliefs that lead people away from God's standards of living. We must draw the line allowing the light of Christ to shine through us, realizing that our ultimate accountability is to God.

About a month ago I watched a biography on Kirk Cameron the teenage star of the TV sitcom "Growing Pains," and the more recent "Left Behind" movie. Kirk was struggling with finding purpose and meaning in his life. He saw the paths his contemporaries were taking: drugs, alcohol, and sex, but observed them still feeling unfulfilled and purposeless.

At this point in his life Kirk started dating a young woman who at the time just converted to Christianity, she had turned her life over to Christ.

Kirk saw something in his new girlfriend that he had never seen before in a person.

He saw what he observed was an unexplainable joy and peace. And after some time he too accepted Christ, to find a better way, to find purpose and meaning in life. He began to feel the same joy and peace his girlfriend was experiencing. Kirk was a changed young man and began to live his life in a holy and bold way.

When he returned to the TV set, a few months after his conversion experience, to begin taping "Growing Pains" for the upcoming season, he decided some changes needed to be made with the script writing, and with the character he was portraying.

He was no longer willing to act in scenes where Christian values were not portrayed properly. He openly expressed his displeasure portraying the boyfriend of his co-actor who in real life appeared in Playboy Magazine. The network producers wanted him to do a bedroom scene with this woman, and he refused. He stood his ground, holy ground if you will, and said no it's not Christian. Eventually, the network executives gave into Kirk's wishes and they wrote this person off the show.

You know after people commit their lives to Christ, after they experience the peaceful and joyful presence of Christ for the first time they often times feel a tug back to their old ways. Kirk began to feel this as the network executives began to pressure him. And it's at times like these we need to be like our heavenly Father - Holy in everything we do.

Holiness means being totally devoted or dedicated to God, set aside for his special use and set apart from sin and its influence. We're to be set apart and different, not blending in with the crowd, yet not being different just for the sake of being different.

What makes us different are God's qualities in our lives. Our focus and priorities must be his. All this is in direct contrast to our old ways, which can be difficult to deal with sometimes.

And it's important to realize we can't become holy on our own, but God gives us his Holy Spirit to help us obey and to give us power to overcome sin. Don't use the excuse you can't help slipping into sin, yes you can! Call upon God's power to free you from sin's grip. (1 Peter 1: 15-16) And this is what Kirk did; he called upon the Holy Spirit to help him stand firm in his convictions.

The co-actors response to Kirk's actions was one of disbelief. She stated, "I thought Christians were suppose to be loving and accepting." And she was right, loving and accepting of the person certainly, but not of non-Christian behavior.

Kirk was not willing to be tolerant of immoral behavior and to be represented as someone who is. In his mind this would have been hypocritical, and he's right.

The Apostle Paul ran into the same issue with the church in Ephesus. Over a long period of time, the church their had consistently refused to tolerate sin among its members. And this was not easy in a city known for its immoral sexual practices associated with the worship of the goddess Artemis.

But the church was beginning to accepts immoral practices of the world and this caused Paul great concern. Well, 2000 years later, we too are living in times of widespread sin and sexual immorality. It's becomepopular to be open-minded towards many types of sin, calling them personal choices or alternative life-styles. But when the body of believers, when Christians begin to tolerate sin in the church, it's lowering the standards and compromising the church's witness.

In my opinion the church is too wishy-washy on some issues, and we need to stop this. We need to take a position, one commanded by God and stick with it, whether society likes it or not. If the position is of God, society's opinion doesn't really matter.

We need to draw a line, not in sand, not in dirt, but in our hearts and minds remembering God's approval is infinitely more important then the world's. Seems to me this is what Jesus did. And as followers of Jesus we are called to be in the world, not of the world. The key to following Jesus in this life is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been present since the beginning of time (Gen 1:2) and is the power behind the rebirth of every Christian.

Well Kirk Cameron is now married to the woman who helped him find Christ, and hence purpose and meaning. They have 4 kids and Kirk now makes personal appearances at Christian conferences. He and his wife have also started a camp for underprivileged kids.

This is just one example of many, of someone who was willing to take a holy position, be bold in its execution, and to be intolerant of non-Christian behavior. As a result Kirk has been blessed with a great life, wonderful family, and a brilliant career.

Over the past couple of years the television media has gotten all caught up with the idea of "reality TV." All this so called reality TV is, is a way to promote greed, coveting, lying, manipulation, and hate.

It's sad really that the media executives are so focused on money that they feel the need to exploit everything that's wrong with our society. Worse yet, people are willing to watch it, which serves to fuel the fire of immorality, greed, hate, and violence.

But reality TV is not reality. Shows like Survivor and Big Brother aren't the reality you and I live. Or the reality 99.9% of the world's population lives.

Reality is in the streets: those struggling with addiction, those who have no food to eat, kids and women who are victims of abuse. Reality is the thousands starving to death everyday in Africa, and the thousands of kids in Russia without parents.

Reality is trying to make ends meet and paying bills. Reality is those who grieve over the death of a loved one, or someone fighting physical pain or mental anguish. This is reality. Not much for entertainment TV, but certainly this is the world we live in. Clearly something has got to change.

This world is destined for destruction if we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, don't do something.

We need to become Holy, Bold, and Intolerant. As children of God we have been set apart to be a holy remnant, to carry the Word of God to all nations, to the very ends of the earth.

Isaiah tells us there will be a Holy remnant and these people will be protected by God's loving grace. Those protected will be set apart to God when Jesus rules the earth. Their distinctive mark will be their holiness, not wealth or prestige. This holiness comes from the sincere desire to obey God, and from wholehearted devotion to him.

Evil will no longer continue as it does now. The time will come when God will put an end to all evil, and his faithful followers will share in his glorious reign. (Isaiah 4: 2-4)

Until that time the Bible Cautions us to beware of false teachers. These are folks who will take a little bit of truth, spin it and twist it to influence others in non-Christ-like ways.

These folks have a wonderful ability to influence others. And they end up hurting people, swindling people, and may even lead them to their deaths. Jim Jones of several decades ago is witness to this truth.

Also some of us have experienced leaders in our own local churches who have lost their perspective and no longer focused their efforts on God, but rather worship and ministry became about them.

Sung Yung Moon claims to be Jesus. He gives money to struggling churches, particularly small urban churches to hopefully get them aligned with him and his followers. He obviously has the ability to influence, or perhaps even brain wash folks. For him it's about power and money.

Some, but certainly not all, of the TV preachers use their ability to influence people as a means to fill their pockets.

Was it Oral Roberts who a number of years ago said he had a revelation from God to get $2 million dollars over a short period of time to build a tower or he would be struck down? Thankfully he didn't reach his goal and he was reveled as a fraud. Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, same idea.

Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbors and your enemies. Show compassion as Jesus did. Reach out to those in need. Spread the word of Jesus Christ to all nations. We're not just supposed to say this stuff; we're supposed to do it.

But if we want things to change, if we truly want a new reality where all people openly experience the love of Christ, if we want to make the reality of this world a better place, then we need to stop being spectators and start being participants in this world. We may not be of this world but dog-gone-it we live here, and we have the responsibility to live as Jesus did.

It's time: no more excuses, no more hiding, no more waiting for Jesus to perform some miracle. We need to step out of the shadow of Jesus. We need to stop hiding behind his cloak, and start being the disciples we profess to be.

Rather then walking in Jesus' shadow we need to be that holy remnant, stepping right up along side him.

We need to walk right next to Jesus arm-in-arm with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, passionately showing the world we're holy, we're bold, and we're intolerant!

Read other messages by Pastor Wade