Lust & Dressing Immodestly

This past Sunday in church, we unpacked Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-30 where He spoke about the sin of lust and the heart condition that motivates it.  As a follow-up this week, I wanted to post a couple of resources that might be helpful. Yesterday’s post was primarily intended for men and dealt with the temptation to view pornography.  Today’s post is primarily intended for women, and deals with the issue of dressing immodestly.

This is a touchy subject, but an important one.  The purpose is not to judge anyone or set arbitrary standards for what is or is not “modest dress”.  In fact, this is not even to say that we have a particular problem with this in our fellowship.  The purpose is simply to remind you that how you dress does in fact affect how your brothers in Christ are able to fight against the sin of lust.

This article was originally posted on the sbcvoices.com blog on June 1st, 2011 by Jared Moore, and was entitled “Dressing Immodestly? 9 Negative Responses You Encourage”

 

Ladies, I want you to know that you do not encourage one single positive response from men whenever you dress immodestly. If you choose to bring attention to yourself sexually by dressing immodestly, you encourage these 9 negative responses:

1. A denial of your mind. By encouraging men to look at you sexually, you encourage them to not think about the fact that you have a mind. If a man does not care about your mind, he does not care about you.

2. A denial of your value. You are more valuable than your physical appearance and your sexual availability. Your value comes ultimately from your Creator (Gen. 1:27). By encouraging men to focus on you sexually, you do not encourage them to value the main elements that make you valuable in God’s eyes.

3. A denial of your need for provision. Although we live in a growing egalitarian society, Christian women should want their husbands to be their primary providers (1 Tim. 5:8, Eph. 5:28-29). Whenever you encourage young men to look at you as a sex object, you encourage them to not consider how they can provide for you as faithful Christian husbands.

4. A denial of your need for protection. In the Scriptures, husbands are expected to protect their wives (1 Pet. 3:7). When a man is looking at you sexually, and he is not your husband, he is unconcerned about protecting you. If he was concerned about protecting you, he would desire to protect you before he looked at you sexually. In other words, marriage and protection are a result of love, and come before sex.

5. A denial of your value as God’s image-bearer. When you encourage men to view you as a sex object, you encourage them to see you as created in the likeness of something less than the image of God. You might be a little higher than the animals in their eyes.

6. A denial of God’s value in creating all the elements that make you a human being. If you are a professed Christian, then you represent Christ in all that you do, including in how you dress. By portraying yourself as a public object for sexual lust, you encourage young men to value your appearance above everything else about you; thus, you encourage them to only value God’s creating ability in your outward appearance. Every element of you was fearfully and wonderfully made, not merely your outward appearance (Gen. 1:27, Ps. 139:14).

7. A denial of your humanity. Your humanity includes more than you being viewed as an avenue for sexual lust. If you are stripped of everything except your sexual worth, then you are diminished to something less than human, slightly above an animal, if that. If you think deeply about this, thousands of women are being sold into the sex trade every year. Their “owners” value them only in a sexual way. Why would you voluntarily encourage men to only value you in a sexual way?

8. A denial of your good works. If you encourage a man to look at your body instead of your good works, you encourage him to selfishly use you instead of enjoying the Lord (1 Tim. 2:10). You should rather encourage a man to enjoy the Lord through enjoying you sexually within marriage; instead of encouraging men to sinfully enjoy you without enjoying the Lord. It is impossible for men to enjoy the Lord by looking at you as a sex object.

9. A hiding of God’s glory. When you encourage men to check out your body instead of your face, you encourage them to look at you sexually, an act that only your husband should participate in. If you are a Christian, your goal should be to encourage others to run to Christ. By encouraging men to look at you sexually, you encourage them to run to sin, instead of communicating by your modesty that your body is not for sexual immorality, but is for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13). You are not your own, for you were bought with the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 7:23). How you dress either reveals this truth or hides it.

 

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Lust & Pornography

In church yesterday, we unpacked Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-30 where He spoke about the sin of lust and the heart condition that motivates it.  As a follow-up today and tomorrow, I’d like to post a couple of resources that might be helpful for those who struggle with temptation in this area.  This morning’s is for men, and tomorrow’s will be for women.

This article was originally posted on the sbcvoices.com blog on July 19th, 2011 by Jared Moore, and was entitled, “10 Lies You Must Affirm In Order to Look At Pornography

Whether you’re lusting after males or females, here are 10 lies you must affirm in order to lust:

1. Your object does not have a mind. Yes, I said “object.” In order to enjoy a human being sexually, the way God intended, you must be married to the individual. Otherwise, as you merely appreciate the “object’s” outward beauty, you necessarily separate its mind from its outward appearance. You thus necessarily affirm the lie that some humans were not created in God’s image.

2. Your object is less valuable than a human being. All humans are morevaluable than their physical appearances and their sexual availability. Their value comes ultimately from their Creator (Gen. 1:27). As you lust after another human, you do not value the main elements that make him or her valuable in God’s eyes. Outward beauty fades and changes depending on culture and time; however, beauty in God’s eyes is bound up in His marvelous creating work. All humans are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:13-16).

3. Your object does not need a spouse. Humans are created to eventually get married. Adam needed a helper (Genesis 2:20-24). The apostle Paul even argued that those who don’t get married have a spiritual gift of singleness. Most people however do not have this spiritual gift (1 Cor. 7:6-7). No non-Christians possess this gift. Marriage is assumed in Scripture; and you deny that your object needs a human spouse since your object is merely an avenue for lust.

4. You do not need protection or your object does not need protection.In the Scriptures, husbands are expected to protect their wives (1 Pet. 3:7). When you look at a woman sexually, and she is not your wife, you areunconcerned about protecting her. If you were concerned about protecting her, you would desire to protect her before you looked at her sexually. In other words, marriage and protection are a result of love, and come before sex. Furthermore, by you lustfully using this woman, you are doing the opposite of protecting her; you are using her for sexual immorality against her will!

5. Your object was not made in God’s image. When you view a man or a woman as a sex object, you see him or her as created in the likeness of something less than the image of God. You might value them a little higher than the animals; but, not as a human being, as God intented.

6. Since God merely created an “object” for lust when He created the human being you’re lusting after, He should not be glorified for creating this inhumane object. In other words, you must call God a liar in order to treat His human as something less than His image-bearer. If you are a professed Christian, then you represent Christ in all that you do, including inhow you think and what you think. By treating God’s image-bearers as merely objects for sexual lust, you value their appearance above everything else about them; thus, you only value God’s creating ability in their outward appearance. The Bible however indicates that every element of every human being was fearfully and wonderfully made, not merely their outward appearance (Gen. 1:27, Ps. 139:14).

7. Your object is not human. Your object’s humanity includes more than him or her being viewed as an avenue for sexual lust. If they are stripped of everything except their sexual worth, then they are diminished to something less than human, slightly above an animal, if that. If you think deeply about this, thousands of women are being sold into the sex trade every year. Their “owners” value them only in a sexual way. Why would you only value men and women in a sexual way? In your mind, your object of lust is your slave. After all, are you not valuing this human being in exactly the same manner as those men who are involved in the sex trade?

8. Your object is not an avenue through which to enjoy the Lord. It is impossible to enjoy the Lord through sin. If you look at your object’s body instead of its good works, you selfishly use it instead of enjoying the Lord (1 Tim. 2:10). You should rather seek to enjoy the Lord through enjoying this human being sexually within marriage; instead of sinfully enjoying it withoutenjoying the Lord. It is impossible to enjoy the Lord by diminishing another human being to a mere sex object.

9. I am god. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13). If you are a Christian then you are not your own, for you were bought with the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 7:23). In order to use your body for sexual immorality, you must deny God’s authority, and redefine the reason why He gave you your body. Thus, in order to lust you must admit that you are god. Otherwise, you would use your body—a body that belongs to the Lord—for His glory alone.

10. All men and women are less valuable than God’s image-bearers. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that you can compartmentalize your value of humanity. If you will use a man or woman in your mind in private as an object for sexual lust, you will treat those men and women close to you as less than human as well. If you are willing to selfishly use a man or woman in private, you will selfishly use men and women that are close to you in your public life as well. Your view of men and women in private will seep into your public view of men and women. Your true view of men and women will flesh itself out in your daily relationships. All of your relationships will be greatly hindered due to your devaluing of humanity!

What are your thoughts?

Day 26: 1 Corinthians 2 – 9

We live in a culture that is obsessed with celebrity.

A few years ago a study was conducted in which people ages 18 to 25 were surveyed to discover what their most important values were. Far and above all other values were two that tied for first among this group. They were fame and money.

The study revealed that Americans in this age bracket wanted to be rich and famous more than anything else in life. In fact, the study went on to demonstrate that they didn’t even care what they were famous for, they just wanted to be famous…and rich. Let’s not forget rich.

I often shake my head in scorn when I see leading news stories about the new hairstyle of an actress, or how one celebrity is dating another celebrity, or how some talk show host insulted another talk show host on some absurd level.

“Who cares?!” I yell at the computer screen. “We are involved in two wars, our economy is on the brink of destruction, there are millions of people without jobs who are losing their homes and this is news?!”

It makes me angry, and I am disgusted with the fact that there are entire websites, magazines, and TV shows dedicated to nothing but celebrity gossip.

The problem is that this obsession with fame and celebrity has made its way into the church as well, and I am ashamed to admit that I am just as guilty as anyone when it comes to this obsession.

We say the names of Christian “celebrities” like Matt Chandler, John Piper, John MacArthur, David Platt Francis Chan, and others with awe and reverence. We imagine them as some type of spiritual giants, and we buy their books, and listen to their pod casts, and watch their videos and hang on every word they write or utter assuming that if they have said it, then it must be absolutely true.

We forget that they are men. Mere men. They sin, they fail, and they need grace just as much as you and I do. I think they would tell you that as well.

My in-laws attend Matt Chandler’s church in Texas. In fact, they are friends of his. It’s true. Do you know how many times I’ve told people that in some ridiculous and pathetic effort to impress them? Even once is one too many.

I wonder what Paul would say to this obsession with celebrity we have in this country. Actually, we don’t have to wonder. He wrote it down for us in 1 Corinthians 3:4-7.

For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

I don’t know any of the men that I listed above, and in no way am I attempting to minimize or belittle the vital ministry that God is performing through them. But let’s remember that it is God who is doing the work, not them.

I also think that if I know anything of them from their sermons and books, I imagine that they are more interested in making Jesus famous than themselves.

So should we.

After all, the only one who truly deserves to be famous is the One who created, saved, and sustains us.

Let’s be obsessed with Jesus.

A Christian Response to Halloween

How should we respond to Halloween as believers in Christ?  The holiday itself has undeniable pagan roots.  Should we avoid it completely? Should we participate, but with caution and discernment?  Or, should we seek to engage in it fully in order to see people come to Christ? Ultimately, our decision must be informed by Scripture and by a desire to see God glorified.

Here’s a great article I ran across from the Grace To You website that will help you discern the right approach for your family:

Christians and Halloween

Colossians 2:15, 1 Peter 5:8, Hebrews 10:27, Romans 2:14-16

Halloween. It’s a time of year when the air gets crisper, the days get shorter, and for many young Americans the excitement grows in anticipation of the darkest, spookiest holiday of the year. Retailers also rejoice as they warm up their cash registers to receive an average of $41.77 per household in decorations, costumes, candy, and greeting cards. Halloween will bring in approximately $3.3 billion this year.

It’s a good bet retailers won’t entertain high expectations of getting $41.77 per household from the Christian market. Many Christians refuse to participate in Halloween. Some are wary of its pagan origins; others of its dark, ghoulish imagery; still others are concerned for the safety of their children. But other Christians choose to partake of the festivities, whether participating in school activities, neighborhood trick-or-treating, or a Halloween alternative at their church.

The question is, How should Christians respond to Halloween? Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat? What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season–are they overreacting?

The Pagan Origin of Halloween
The name “Halloween” comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. “All Hallows Eve” was eventually contracted to “Hallow-e’en,” which became “Halloween.”

As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith. To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in “Christianizing” a pagan ritual–the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That’s what happened to All Saints Eve–it was the original Halloween alternative!

The Celtic people of Europe and Britain were pagan Druids whose major celebrations were marked by the seasons. At the end of the year in northern Europe, people made preparations to ensure winter survival by harvesting the crops and culling the herds, slaughtering animals that wouldn’t make it. Life slowed down as winter brought darkness (shortened days and longer nights), fallow ground, and death. The imagery of death, symbolized by skeletons, skulls, and the color black, remains prominent in today’s Halloween celebrations.

The pagan Samhain festival (pronounced “sow” “en”) celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter, for three days–October 31 to November 2. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living–ghosts haunting the earth.

Some embraced the season of haunting by engaging in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead. They sought “divine” spirits (demons) and the spirits of their ancestors regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects. Bobbing for apples was one practice the pagans used to divine the spiritual world’s “blessings” on a couple’s romance.

For others the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fueled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats–possessions, wealth, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably “treated” would “trick” those who had neglected them. The fear of haunting only multiplied if that spirit had been offended during its natural lifetime.

Trick-bent spirits were believed to assume grotesque appearances. Some traditions developed, which believed wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits. Others believed the spirits could be warded off by carving a grotesque face into a gourd or root vegetable (the Scottish used turnips) and setting a candle inside it–the jack-o-lantern.

Into that dark, superstitious, pagan world, God mercifully shined the light of the gospel. Newly converted Christians armed themselves with the truth and no longer feared a haunting from departed spirits returning to earth. In fact, they denounced their former pagan spiritism in accord with Deuteronomy 18:

There shall not be found among you anyone…who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord (vv. 10-13).

Nonetheless, Christian converts found family and cultural influence hard to withstand; they were tempted to rejoin the pagan festivals, especially Samhain. Pope Gregory IV reacted to the pagan challenge by moving the celebration of All Saints Day in the ninth century–he set the date at November 1, right in the middle of Samhain.

As the centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve mixed together. On the one hand, pagan superstitions gave way to “Christianized” superstitions and provided more fodder for fear. People began to understand that the pagan ancestral spirits were demons and the diviners were practicing witchcraft and necromancy. On the other hand, the festival time provided greater opportunity for revelry. Trick-or-treat became a time when roving bands of young hooligans would go house-to-house gathering food and drink for their parties. Stingy householders ran the risk of a “trick” being played on their property from drunken young people.

Halloween didn’t become an American holiday until the immigration of the working classes from the British Isles in the late nineteenth century. While early immigrants may have believed the superstitious traditions, it was the mischievous aspects of the holiday that attracted American young people. Younger generations borrowed or adapted many customs without reference to their pagan origins.

Hollywood has added to the “fun” a wide assortment of fictional characters–demons, monsters, vampires, werewolves, mummies, and psychopaths. That certainly isn’t improving the American mind, but it sure is making someone a lot of money.

The Christian Response to Halloween
Today Halloween is almost exclusively an American secular holiday, but many who celebrate have no concept of its religious origins or pagan heritage. That’s not to say Halloween has become more wholesome. Children dress up in entertaining costumes, wander the neighborhood in search of candy, and tell each other scary ghost stories; but adults often engage in shameful acts of drunkenness and debauchery.

So, how should Christians respond?

First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are enlightened by the truth of God’s Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year; in fact, any day is a good day for Satan to prowl about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). God has forever “disarmed principalities and powers” through the cross Christ and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through [Christ]” (Colossians 2:15).

Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with cautionary wisdom. Some people fear the activity of Satanists or pagan witches, but the actual incidents of satanic-associated crime are very low. The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior–drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children.

Like any other day of the year, Christians should exercise caution as wise stewards of their possessions and protectors of their families. Christian young people should stay away from secular Halloween parties since those are breeding grounds for trouble. Christian parents can protect their children by keeping them well-supervised and restricting treat consumption to those goodies received from trusted sources.

Third, Christians should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world lives in perpetual fear of death. It isn’t just the experience of death, but rather what the Bible calls “a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume [God’s] adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27). Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not terrifying; God’s wrath unleashed on the unforgiven sinner–now that is truly terrifying.

Christians should use Halloween and all that it brings to the imagination–death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry–as an opportunity to engage the unbelieving world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has given everyone a conscience that responds to His truth (Romans 2:14-16), and the conscience is the Christian’s ally in the evangelistic enterprise. Christians should take time to inform the consciences of friends and family with biblical truth regarding God, the Bible, sin, Christ, future judgment, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ for the repentant sinner.

There are several different ways Christians will engage in Halloween evangelism. Some will adopt a “No Participation” policy. As Christian parents, they don’t want their kids participating in spiritually compromising activities–listening to ghost stories and coloring pictures of witches. They don’t want their kids to dress up in costumes for trick-or-treating or even attending Halloween alternatives.

That response naturally raises eyebrows and provides a good opportunity to share the gospel to those who ask. It’s also important that parents explain their stand to their children and prepare them to face the teasing or ridicule of their peers and the disapproval or scorn of their teachers.

Other Christians will opt for Halloween alternatives called “Harvest Festivals” or “Reformation Festivals”–the kids dress up as farmers, Bible characters, or Reformation heroes. It’s ironic when you consider Halloween’s beginning as an alternative, but it can be an effective means of reaching out to neighborhood families with the gospel. Some churches leave the church building behind and take acts of mercy into their community, “treating” needy families with food baskets, gift cards, and the gospel message.

Those are good alternatives; there are others that are not so good. Some churches are using “Hell House” evangelism to shock young people and scare them into becoming Christians. They walk people through rooms patterned after carnival-style haunted houses and put sin on display–women undergoing abortions, people sacrificed in a satanic ritual, consequences of premarital sex, dangers of rave parties, demon possession, and other tragedies.

Here’s the problem with so-called Hell House evangelism: To shock an unshockable culture, you have to get pretty graphic. Graphic exhibits of sin and its consequences are unnecessary–unbelieving minds are already full of such images. What they need tosee is a life truly transformed by the power of God, and what they need tohear is the truth of God in an accurate presentation of the gospel. Cheap gimmickry is unfitting for Christ’s ambassadors.

There’s another option open to Christians: limited, non-compromising participation in Halloween. There’s nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbors. Even handing out candy to neighborhood children–provided you’re not stingy–can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests.

Ultimately, Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honor God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing mercy to those who are perishing. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish both of those things in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s a message that is holy, set apart from the world; it’s a message that is the very mercy of a forgiving God. What better time of the year is there to share such a message than Halloween?

This article by Travis Allen originally appeared here at Grace To You.

 

 

My Favorite Bible-Based Movies and One I’d Like to See Made

I love the Bible and I get a real kick out of seeing Hollywood do their best to interpret Scripture through the medium of film.  There have been a lot of lousy Bible-based movies made but there have been some that are actually quite excellent.

These are my top three favorite Bible movies in order:

Joseph

Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting much from this TV movie when it first appeared, but I have to say I really liked it. I love the way it stays true to the Biblical narrative. Of course there are some times when the writers have to “fill in the gaps” of the Biblical account to keep the story flowing, but they do so in such a way that they remain true not only to the historical context of the film, but the spirit of the Bible story as well. I was very impressed.

The scene where Joseph is tempted to commit adultery by Potipher’s wife is powerful and depicts a real man’s struggle with immorality as he chooses to obey God rather than give in to the temptation he is experiencing.

The film also boasts Ben Kingsley as Potipher and Martin Landau as Joseph’s father Jacob. Kingsley is one of my favorite actors and as usual, he is stunning in his role as Joseph’s master and gives you some insight into how Potipher may have truly thought of Joseph even after he was falsely accused of trying to rape his wife. Landau is always exciting to watch and certainly does not disappoint here. The man’s facial expressions alone could be used to teach a master’s class in film acting.

Turner Broadcasting did an excellent job with this one.

King David

I first saw this movie when I was a teenager and loved it. The creators of this film did not stay as true to the Biblical text as the ones I mentioned above, but the movie is nonetheless very powerful. David is one of the most complex characters presented in all of Scripture, and Richard Gere does an excellent job portraying King David and all the many facets of his character. You see him quite clearly as a poet, musician, ardent worshiper, warrior, renegade and eventually king.

The depth of emotion displayed in the scenes where David learns of Absalom’s death and the scene where he dances before the Lord as the ark of the covenant is being brought into the city make them some of the most memorable in the film.

My favorite part of the film however is in the opening scene where Samuel confronts Saul for his refusal to obey the word of the Lord to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Samuel takes a sword and slays the Amalekite King before Saul and pronounces God’s judgment on him. The kingdom will be taken away from Saul and given to one who is better than him, a man after God’s own heart. I still get chills every time I see it.

The most disappointing part of the film is David’s fight with Goliath. The filmmakers decided to have Goliath’s armor bearer do all of his talking for him and they showed David missing on his first attempt to slay the giant. I hate that they ruin such a powerful part of the Biblical narrative, but the rest of the movie makes up for this flaw.

The Ten Commandments

How can I not pick this one? Charlton Heston as Moses? Yul Brynner as Pharaoh? Does it get any better than this?

I used to watch this movie every single year when it came on TV. I loved it. My favorite scene is the crossing of the Red Sea of course, but equally powerful to me is when Pharaoh is holding his dead son in his arms and lays him in the lap of the idol of Anubis, Egyptian god of the afterlife, desperately seeking for life to return to his boy’s body.

But the one true God, the God of Israel, has pronounced judgment, and there will be no reprieve. You see a broken and humbled man allowing the people of Israel to leave Egypt in that scene and Brynner plays it masterfully.

As far as a Bible movie I would like to see made, I think the book of Judges would translate well to film. A powerful film depicting the history of Israel as they seek to establish themselves as a nation would be fun to watch. If necessary a filmmaker could focus on the story of Gideon or Samson, as long as it is done “right” i.e. remaining faithful to the Scriptural narrative.

What about you? What are your favorite Bible films and which one would you like to see made?

The Bible Isn’t Boring!

We’ve talked many times at NewBranch about the need we all have to be immersed in Scripture; to nourish ourselves on the feast that God serves up in His Word.  We’ve lamented about how so many of us nibble on God’s Word like we used to nibble on our vegetables when we were 5 years old.  If we ever expect to grow in spiritual maturity, if we ever hope to achieve Christ-likeness, if we ever expect to able to live for the glory of God despite our circumstances, then we must grow up in our intake of God’s Word….no more nibbling…instead we need to be feasting and gouging ourselves with the bounty of Scripture.

Just for fun, I wanted to post this video that poignantly and humorously describes how many of us approach God’s Word.  We know it holds truth, and we know it holds life, but we are so “pulled away” by the world, that it has lost its luster in our eyes.  Laugh, but let the Lord speak to you about where you look for nourishment for your soul.

Now, I haven’t seen Avatar (I hope to soon), so I don’t know if it’s “boring” or not, but compared to spending time listening to the omnipotent Creator God speak timeless powerful truths to me, shouldn’t it seem so?

I think we can watch movies and appreciate the artistry and creativity; listen for the redemptive value in them; look for the Gospel in them; use them as tools to engage culture with the timeless narrative of God’s redemptive purpose in the world…..but when we get so excited about the world’s offering of “new and exciting” to the point where Scripture doesn’t move us…then maybe we’ve lost focus somewhere along the line.

Something to think about.  I’m still going to go see the movie, and I doubt I’ll think its boring; however, if we  spent as much time reading our Bibles as we do watching TV and movies (or video games or romance novels, etc.), ….maybe we would be better equipped to have a Biblical view of the world, instead of a worldly view of the Bible.

Chew on that with the Holy Spirit, and let’s hear what He tells you.

Jesus Distinguished from Santa Claus

The following is a guest post by Tyler Recker.

I must lead with a confession. I jacked this idea from an illustration Kevin used in a sermon.

All the kiddos are gearing up for a midnight visit from Santa Claus, the old, fat man who sneaks in through our chimneys to magically leave exactly what the children want and eat cookies, if the kids are “good” and not “naughty”. In other words, the kids on their own righteousness merit their reward.

Because this is the Bible belt, where the Gospel has more often been assumed than it has explained, this is the mindset many people have about God. I would go as far as to say this is the mindset most people have about God. If I am good, he and I are good. If I am bad, he’s ticked.

As the student minister, it’s been intriguing how long it takes students to catch on to the idea of grace, and let go of the idea of works. I recall teaching a 5 week series “What is the Gospel?” and leading the middle school dudes through an intense study of salvation. At the time, our efforts to push kids to read their Bible and make disciples were being interpreted through a bad grid. The grid said “This is what I need to do to be accepted by God.” So we launched into the effort to explain the Gospel. And after weeks and weeks of re-training their minds, repeating passionately the same question week after week, and a certain mindtrick I picked up in school at New Orleans (joke.), they had finally gotten it. I could ask what it took to be saved, and they could answer “believe in Jesus as Lord and what he did on the Cross” (with the caveat that Lord means boss, and that means he runs my life now).

We were doing it. We were getting past the silly mindset that we could appease the wrath of God kindled at our rebellion by showing up at church and reading a few Bible verses.

And then I got a few membership covenants across my desk. Not one. But three. Three membership covenants from students who were regulars in my Circle group. The question was some form of “If you stand before God, and he asks why you should be let into heaven, what will you say?”

“I try to read my Bible and make disciples.”

NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!

The wording of the question had changed, and the robotic response was no longer there. The concept hadn’t permeated their mindset.

But even worse than this…as an adult, it is, at times a tremendous struggle to believe that God loves me by grace apart from my performance.

I mean, how many of us have committed some grievous sin (“grievous” like neglecting the Spirit, or yelling at our wife, or losing our cool with some idiot on the road, or failing to make disciples, or any other sin) and then we feel like God doesn’t want to talk to us and we try to hide like Adam? Our performance lapsed, so we think our relationship is strained.

We are all prone to believe silly myths about our own righteousness being the requirement for salvation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says regarding the goal of Christian community,

…they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation. As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community. Their fellowship is founded solely upon Jesus Christ and this “alien righteousness”.

I’ve often quoted Luther’s contention that the Gospel must be beat into our heads continually. One of the biggest needs of Christian community is to preach the Gospel to one another, when our brother or sister fail to apply the Gospel to their own lives.

Santa Claus says be good and get on the nice list and you’ll get some presents. If you’re bad, you get coal, which is a bummer unless you have a long time to wait for it to turn into diamonds. Of course, “good” is kind of relative to the other kids and no specific standard.

Biblically, this fleshes out like this: Jesus is on the nice list, every one of us is on the naughty list which is a understated way of saying “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12)

In conclusion, I’ll push all my chips to the center and wonder why we would want to teach our kids that there are such thing as “good kids” when it seems to undermine the Gospel?