Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Essentials- Sin

I stumbled upon an article yesterday that I wish I would have found prior to my sermon on Sunday. It involves two men, one a Southern Baptist minister with over 20 years of ministry experience, and another, a man who calls himself "Adam" who serves on the pastoral staff of a small evangelical church (don't worry-- not me). Both of these men have reached the conclusion through "careful" study of the Bible and arguments both for and against religion that God probably does not exist. They continue to serve in their ministry, mainly because they cannot fathom how they'll make it financially if they leave their positions.
"I want to get out of the position that I'm in as quickly as I can because I try to be a person of integrity and character," Adam said. "With the economy the way it is, with my lack of marketable skills other than a seminary education, it has me in a tough spot."
Now there is an important thing to say here, right off the top: these men are sinning. There is no question about it. I do not know these men at all, so I do not know what's going on in their heads or in their hearts, but I do know what their doing is wrong and is most likely teetering on some dangerous ground for their own spiritual walk (Matt. 12:31, Mark 3:29, Luke 12:10, 1 John 5:16). I say this not to judge them, but just to be unequivocal about what I think, and what the Bible says about men like these.

What's worse is that these men are leaders of a flock of believers. They're supposed to be an example of what to do rather than what not to do. But we need to work with what we're given, so let's look at the situation (and speculate a bit).

The Good

These men did at one point have a faith of their own, and were looking to make it real.

The Bad

They fell short of their goal. Challenging one's belief systems can be a good thing. It should make a believer's faith stronger; however, in order to do that, he should make sure that his belief is grounded on the solid truth of the Bible.

"The more I read the Bible, the more questions I had," Jack said. "The more things didn't make sense to me -- what it said -- and the more things didn't add up."

Jack said that 10 years ago, he started to feel his faith slipping away. He grew bothered by inconsistencies regarding the last days of Jesus' life, what he described as the improbability of stories like "Noah's Ark" and by attitudes expressed in the Bible regarding women and their place in the world.

"Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God," he said.

The Bible doesn't change. For anything in life, there's usually some kind of manual. One can choose to read than manual and get to know everything there is to know about it, or he can get his information elsewhere (the knowledgeable people on Yahoo! Answers would, I'm sure, love to help anyone out*). If one chooses to work outside the framework of that manual, that person is still responsible for whatever the manual contains, regardless of whether or not he has read it. To serve in ministry, or even call themselves Christians, for any length of time, and then become surprised by things in the Bible, especially such biggies like the Great Flood, is ludicrous. I realize that as one's faith matures, opinions and understandings can change, but this is rather dramatic.

Another thing that's noticeable here is that both of these men have chosen a path of extreme and utter loneliness. My biggest pet peeve in Christianity is that Christianity is NOT meant to be done alone. Jesus surrounded himself with 12 friends, three of which he was closer to than all the rest. Paul complains time and time again about being lonely; he shares in his struggles with sin and perseverance. Why then, do we try to be supermen and superwomen when it comes to struggles in our faith?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

By trying to challenge an immature faith by themselves, and still serving in ministry, these men have put themselves in a nearly impossible, and lonely, situation. That leads us to:

The Ugly
Matthew 15:13-14
He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.
Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

The worst part of this whole ordeal is that these men continue to serve in their ministry posts:

He and Jack said that when speaking to parishioners, they tried to stick to the sections of the Bible that they still believed in -- the parts about being a good person.

I wonder if these men ever truly understood what their supposed "calling" was about. Their spiritual immaturity resonates throughout their churches. Who are they accountable to? Hasn't anyone in their church confronted them about preaching the Truth? About their apparent lack of faith? Pray for their congregations, pray for YOUR leaders, and pray that you don't ever fall victim to false teachers such as these.

Matt 7:15, 16

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

Whether they like it or not, or if they even still care, the only example these men have set is precisely what not to do when one finds himself in sin. Rather, look to the Bible for the Truth, and then look to others for help. Challenge each other regularly to inspect your lives and earnestly seek after God's will in order to produce good fruit. Sin is a part of the human condition, but if we have the Spirit within us, we don't have to be slaves to sin (Romans 8). Always look for opportunities to grow, and even challenge your faith, but when doubts begin to creep up, don't feel ashamed, but submit yourselves to those more mature in their faith. Lastly, encourage those who minister to you. Don't allow them to feel like they can't share their troubles.
1 Thessalonians 5:11-13
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
Whew... just had to get that off my chest. Just so you all know, the blog may be a little late next week (maybe non-existent) as I'll be travelling to Hershey, Pennsylvania for the Eastern Christian Convention... maybe I'll see you there! If you're in my congregation, remember the outreach event at Wal-Mart this Saturday! I can't wait to hear about what God does through your service!

*Disclaimer: If any of you actually takes the advice of people on Yahoo! Answers, I assume ZERO responsibility for the horrible, horrible things that will probably happen to you)