Sunday, February 24, 2013

But Jesus Hung Out With Sinners

To use the excuse that "Jesus hung out with sinners," is a ridiculous notion that our sin is okay. The tax collector did not continue collecting taxes on anyone, and certainly not on Jesus. The prostitute did not continue selling herself, and certainly NOT to Jesus. Those "sinners" left their sin. While they were not perfect, they gave up their "lifestyles," to follow Christ in His ministry. Do we really believe Jesus in all His "love" would have tolerated and ACCEPTED the prostitute to keep living that lifestyle in FRONT OF HIM?

"It's scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip off the cover of those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ." (Ephesians 5:12-13 MSG)
Then consider this: When the rich man came to Jesus and asked him what he had to do to have eternal life, Jesus told him, to paraphrase, "Give up everything..." The rich man couldn't and wouldn't do it. I find this story ironic, because the man became "sad" that he would have to leave his lifestyle behind in order to be saved. The rich man was not willing to leave the worldly and fleshly desires behind as Christ commanded. When we hang onto our sin with justifications and excuses, we are not willing to be true servants of Christ. We want God with conditions, and we want God to accept our sins instead. We don't want the real God, we want a god who will coddle us as the world does, with fancy labels and diagnoses.

Now imagine those sinners continuing their sin while in the camp, so to speak, with Jesus. Fornicating. Soliciting. Lying. Cheating. And now imagine two men making out in  front of Jesus. Is this a scene that anyone truly thinks Jesus would smile upon and applaud? This is blunt, but this is reality. This may be offensive, but the gospel of Jesus Christ will absolutely be offensive to many people. The problem with the church is that they don't want to offend anyone, so they've watered down not only the gospel, but Jesus Christ Himself!
"Is the offense of the cross ceased?” (Galatians 5:11).
Now don’t get me wrong. Jesus still loves us, even when we do sin. But when we make a conscience, deliberate decision to keep sinning by making excuses to continue living in our sin lifestyles, Jesus cannot be near us, and we cannot be near Him. It is a repentant heart that is appealing to Jesus. It is a real surrender of everything that we know to be wrong in our lives and a willingness to let it go that Jesus will honor. That is real grace.

I struggle with sinning in my anger. I know anger is not the sin, however what I possibly do when I’m angry can be sin. I know that if I spank or yell or ridicule my son in anger, I am sinning. I can use the excuse that it’s a knee-jerk reaction, which is it, but I refuse to admit that those behaviors are not wrong. I repent and seek God’s forgiveness, and ask God to help me to do and be better.

The world and their sin is making excuses: “I was born this way. And if God made me this way then it must be okay.” But let’s consider this: I was born a sinner, too, but that doesn't mean I walk around excusing myself and justifying those very sins. God didn’t create me in sin or to live in sin, but we were born “into” it, into a world of sin. We were all born with our own personal sinful nature. I try--desperately--to resist my sinful nature. I don't always win the battle, but I have a God who gives me strength daily to obey Him and love Him from a heart that wants to please Him. His mercy and love surrounds me, but if I merely justify it and continue to sin, then I am spitting in God's face and all of His goodness. We were created to glorify God and live a repentant life, willing to give up our fleshly desires at any cost. 

Grace is not earned, but grace is not a ticket for a free-for-all, either. Grace matters in our lives when we truly seek to be holy. When we are willing to resist temptation and we are willing to walk away from our sinful nature. When we are willing to let God’s Word be our true guide to all the answers we may have, and not try to fudge with Its meaning, instructions, and God’s intentions. When we don’t try to change God to conform to us, but we are willing to conform to Him instead. When we don’t overlook Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees and the merchants at the Temple by making Him some “love” crazed hippie who accepts sin BECAUSE of His love for us.

The church should absolutely welcome any and all sinners. But we shouldn’t be ashamed of the gospel by trying to change it to be less offensive. If we do that, then we will not only be leading them down the wrong road, but we will also be held responsible for being their guide. The church was always supposed to be the place where sinners could find hope and forgiveness, a life with Christ. But now the church simply offers loopholes for sin, merely leading them in the opposite direction of repentance and hope.

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