A Christian's Relationship to the World - Follow-Up

This past Sunday night ("Super Bowl" Sunday), we met for our evening service and tackled the tough topic, "A Christian's Relationship to the World." Attendance was great, and I hope that those who came had as much fun as I did talking about this difficult issue. It was a great way to start "Super Bowl" evening, and then go enjoy the game (for many of us).

I wanted to follow up with some summary and closing thoughts based on our discussion. The main point I wanted to follow up on is related to the subjects of alcohol, food, recreation, and work. I made the case that the abuse of any of these can potentially be destructive to our lives, but I want to specifically address the consumption of alcohol, and add that in our time and culture, alcohol, though often treated in the Bible as a blessing, can be especially destructive, because of alcohol related deaths due to drunk driving (not to mention the damage that substance abuse of any kind can wreak on families). This alone puts it in a "higher threat" tier than food, recreation, or other "pleasures" this world has to offer.

I want to first of all commend you for the grace and openness with which you listened to my comments on this topic. The belief that it is impossible for a Christian to consume any alcohol whatsoever without sinning is something I am fully aware that many believers hold. Scripture contains numerous warnings against the danger of "strong drink," and I don't want to minimize those warnings. Still, I want to caution us all against passing sinful judgments on those who partake of alcoholic beverages in moderation and to the glory of God (contrary to those who might believe otherwise, this is actually biblically possible, and numerous texts in Scripture affirm that). Even so, we must approach all of the pleasures of creation cautiously in light of sin's influence and power in the lives of fallen humans.

Alcohol can impair our mental faculties, reducing our ability to make sound judgments, and it can certainly affect our ability to drive, putting others at risk. This is something the biblical writers would have been unable to speak to, so we need to take that practical aspect of alcohol consumption in our modern times into consideration. Alcoholism (or even just bad judgments made under the influence of alcohol) has ruined many lives. This cannot be understated. Yet, we still must be willing to submit to Scripture's portrayal of alcohol as both a potential blessing and a potential danger if misused.

In addition, many of you made some very helpful observations related to our topic of the Christian's relationship to the world, including:

  1. Yes, we should enjoy all things in moderation, but always be aware of the subtle deception of the enemy that entices us to indulge in more than we should.
  2. We should guard our Christian witness/testimony against any potential damage that we may do through our enjoyment of the (not sinful) pleasures of this world.
  3. We should be aware of the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, so as not to tempt them to sin by our freedom.

I hope this follow-up helps, and I pray that each of us enjoys God's good creation to the extent that our freedom in Christ allows, without judging others who may do things a little differently, and all to the glory of God and the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Brian

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7 Characteristics of Judgmental People

In Matthew 7:1, when Jesus says, "judge not that you be not judged," he is talking about judgmentalism. D.A. Carson defines judgmentalism as a "critical spirit [and] condemning attitude." It is looking down in a critical and condemning attitude at other followers of Christ who may believe a little differently than you or live a little differently than you, and the unfortunate truth is that we all have this proclivity. Some more than others, but there is a tendency in each one of us to be judgmental. It’s just a part of our sinful fallenness.

Here are 7 common characteristics of judgmental people:

  1. Judgmental people are easily offended – they are easily offended because they are always on the lookout for that speck in their brother’s eye.
  2. Judgmental people are nosy – In his commentary on Matthew, John Calvin says to judge is to “be influenced by curiosity in inquiring into the actions of others.” He calls this nosiness a “disease that condemns every trivial fault.” Judgmental people are nosy fault-finders.
  3. Judgmental people are gossips. They are busy talking about the perceived faults of others.
  4. Judgmental people elevate personal preference and conviction to the level of biblical truth, and then look down on others who think or live differently.
  5. Judgmental people are quick to assume the worst and jump to conclusions about others.
  6. Judgmental people have a generally negative view of others, but a generally positive view of themselves. You see we tend to think of difficulties in the lives of others as discipline or reaping what they have sowed; whereas we tend to think of difficulties in our own lives as "trials."
  7. Judgmental people are defensive – they resist being confronted and corrected about their own faults. This is because they are so busy criticizing others, that they have lost awareness of their own sin.

From the sermon "The Danger of Judgmentalism"

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What Are Some Signs That May Indicate My Child’s Spiritual Condition?

Answering this question requires prayerful patience on the part of us parents. Basically what we are looking for is what I call “signs of life.” If you were to walk into a house while the occupants were away and see little toys all over the floor, dishes in the kitchen sink, music left playing in the upstairs room, tools left out on the counter, and a laundry basket left on the stairs waiting to be carried up (yes, this is a description of the average day at my house), you would reasonably assume that a family lives in that house. These are “signs of life.”

This idea translates into our spiritual lives and the spiritual lives of our children. We are looking for spiritual signs of life–things that can give us clues as to the spiritual condition of our children. While they may profess to be followers of Christ, professions alone cannot answer the question as to the spiritual condition of an individual. There are certain things that invariably show up in an individual’s life who has been born again. Here are a few to be on the look out for in your children’s lives:

  1. An interest in talking about spiritual things. If your child will talk to you about spiritual matters, this is a good thing. Even young children can show evidence of faith in their willingness to talk to their parents (or others) about God and the Christian life. Jesus tells us that what is in our hearts eventually comes out of our mouths Matthew 15:18, so what we talk about reveals a great deal about what is in our hearts. This is more than a mere curiosity about Christ. It is a willingness to talk about God and the Christian life on a personal level. If your older child or youth is uninterested or unwilling to talk about spiritual matters, this is an issue for fervent prayer.
  2. An interest in the spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, prayer, family worship, etc.). If your child makes positive moves toward Bible reading and other spiritual disciplines, this is a good thing. Of course, we should remain realistic in our expectations. Our children may not be spending hours a day in the word of God, but if they show even a very basic interest in God’s word (an awareness that they need to be in it and even guilt over their own inconsistencies), we can be encouraged. Another sign of life is interest in family worship and prayer. Do they participate? Do they ask questions during family worship/devotions, or do they dread it and are glad when it is over? Again, these are issues of fervent prayer.
  3. A concern for becoming more like Christ. If you see that your children have even a rudimentary sense or awareness that they need to be growing deeper in their faith and becoming more like Christ in their character, this is a good thing. All true believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of the Spirit, conforming our character to the likeness of Christ (Galatians 5:16-24John 15:1-8). If our children show signs of wanting to become more like Christ and living in a way that is pleasing to God, then these are obvious clues that the Holy Spirit is at work in their lives.

We have to be careful–none of these things actually save our children, but they are possible indicators of their spiritual condition. Our children may not demonstrate the spiritual maturity of an adult who has walked with God for decades, but the same basic tendencies should show up at times. Our job as parents is to model authentic repentance and faith while stoking the embers of faith in our children, always pointing them to Christ alone as the one who saves.

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How Do I Share The Gospel With My Child?

It would be good to define what the gospel is. The gospel means simply, “good news.” This “good news” consists of four basic parts: God, man, Christ, and response. In short, God created man (the 1st Adam) holy and upright, but man willfully plunged himself and the whole human race into sin through disobedience. Christ (the 2nd Adam) came to the Earth, lived and died in our place, for our sin and was resurrected. Because of this, human beings must respond in one way or another to the offer of forgiveness through Christ.

Sadly, the gospel of much of modern evangelicalism is “God loves you, and wants to give you purpose in life.” While that may be true, it is not the gospel. When sharing the gospel with your children, your conversations must include that we were created righteous and rebelled against our Creator in selfishness. Our sin has separated us from God and we justly deserve His wrath. However, in His great love, God has to come us in Christ and paid the penalty for our sin in His death on the cross. The resurrection of Christ assures us that God has accepted Christ’s work on our behalf. Now that God has provided a remedy for sin, we must respond in either rejection and unbelief or repentance and faith.

This is not a one-time conversation that has as its end goal a “decision for Christ,” but rather a whole way of talking about life and faith everyday in your home. When your children sin against another person, or they witness a sin in public (perhaps in the neighborhood or at school), or when they see their parents fight, these are all times ripe with opportunity to share the message of the gospel in word and in example with your children.

The gospel is a message of good news (forgiveness), because of some bad news (sin), that demands a response (repentance). This not just a conversation, but a lifestyle for families–a way of living before each other everyday.

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