Saturday, August 13, 2011

Respectable or Respected: An exhortation for the testimony of the saints and the glory of God

Is the your local church respected or just respectable? Let me give you the distinction I'm making here.

For the church to be respected by the world it must be honest. It must be open that it is full of sinners and hypocrites that are there by the grace of God and not just because they're white suburbanites. The world may not like the church, but it should be able to look at and respect it.

For the church to simply be respectable it can continue to do what it is already doing. Folks should come in their nice clothes, sing a few slow hymns, smile and say hello, and then leave to take care of their lawns.

Unfortunately, I think we all have a tendency to lean toward being respectable rather than respected. It is just so much easier to look the part isn't it? What does it cost you? Maybe a couple hundred dollars for a nice suit.

But to truly be honest with the world about who you really are can cost you everything. To be open about your porn addiction (and not in just a “all guys struggle with lust” way), to be honest about your anger, or your pride, or your laziness, or gluttony, to be truly honest about real issues is hard. Sure everyone says they'll love you in the church if you're “confess your sins one to another,” but what they generally mean is only if you are a “sinner like me.” Sure I lie from time to time, get angry, but generally I'm a nice guy Christianity.

I call it lily white Christianity. Jesus called it “whitewashed tombs.” It is just so rare to hear true confession of sin. There are several reasons for this.

1) The fear of offense

One reason often given for a lack of honesty is a fear of offending others within the church. Usually this is the elderly or the children. What a horrific thought though that we are ultimately more concerned about keeping people “innocent” rather than righteous!

I know many parents worries about their kids hearing talk of sex, lust, suicide or any number of other issues when their peers are out having babies at 14 years old. Shelter your kids in the righteousness of Christ and not in the bliss of ignorance.

I remember when I openly admitted to the sin of homosexuality and several people asked me not to testify of God's deliverance in church because there were children present. I was one of those children years ago when I was molested and started having sexual experiences. Do you know how much I longed to hear someone else admit to such struggles of sin and pain?

Studies say one is four girls and one in eight boys are sexually assaulted. It is little different in the church. Should we really just stick our head in the sand and keep quiet or pretend that it should only be spoken of privately? No, we need the testimony of pain because only then can people really understand the testimony of deliverance in Christ!

Don't be afraid to offend. Be afraid of the pain of people who need to hear that there is hope beyond there sin.

2) We have special meetings for that!

This is related to the excuse that we don't want little ears to be exposed to certain things. Instead we just have men's meetings to talk about struggles with lust and women's meeting to talk about being overwhelmed and neither the tween shall meet.

I'm all for these special meetings and really love the men's meetings we often enjoy at my church. The challenge is this is not getting the message to those that need to hear it. The Christian brother or sister that is sin is not likely to attend such meetings and neither is the unbeliever who casual comes to a Sunday morning service, but they are the ones in real need of such testimonies of the grace of God!

It is in the raw honesty of sin and pain that we see the real glorious nature of work of forgiveness.

3) The world will hate it.

The world is going to always hate to the church, but when we start being real and open then we can actually be a witness.

What do they see when they the local body of believers? Do they see a group of sinners that are transformed to saints by the blood of Christ or just people that hide their faults as much as they hide behind the walls of the church building? Do the see broken people loving each other or pious rock throwers waiting for the next gay marriage protest?

If we want to affect the world then we need not be pretty or pious or look respectable. We need to be honest and broken and repentant.

We need to fall on our faces and cry out to a holy God. We need to truly “confess our sins one to another.”

We don't confess them as to say proudly “I was worse sinner than you were,” but to say “I was nothing but vile before Christ changed my heart. And even now as He works to make me like Himself I sin greatly and fight this flesh, but even in this in I m am His. Even though I lose small battles with my flesh day after day I know whose I am. I'm hear to tell you church, I'm hear to tell you world that Christ can save anybody He so chooses and I know this because He saved one as wicked as I.”

That is the testimony the world needs to hear. That is the testimony the Church needs to hear. Is it a testimony that you can give?

Have you rightly seen your sin and realized that you deserve God's wrath in Hell, and the the only hope you have is to repent and trust in Christ?

You nor are any better than the thief that was nailed next to Christ, and yet as he was welcomed into the Kingdom with his simple confession “Remember me when you enter your kingdom” and heard in response “Today you will be with me in Paradise” so may we all be welcomed.

There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Immanuel's veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away

Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God
Are saved, to sin no more

For since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming love has been my theme
and shall be till I die

When this poor lisping,
stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I'll sing thy power to save

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