Forgetting The Gospel

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. – Romans 14:1-23

 

I’ve read through the book of Romans before. Maybe even twice. But reading it today, I wonder if I completely skipped over the verse above, or maybe that page was torn out, because if I had truly read and understood it, so much of my life’s ministry would have been different.

Found an interesting piece of literature a few weeks ago. It was a letter I wrote someone, another Christian, about 3 years ago, that I’m not even sure they received. As I read through it, I could visualize myself in the room writing it. With every passing paragraph, I wanted to strangle my own neck. I told this person I was disappointed in them, that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be connected with someone that acted like such and such, suggested that their love for God was diminished because of so and so, I even had the balls to tell them “I would never even think of doing that,” as if I was the standard for the Christian life.

It was a letter polluted with pride but covered with a form of Godliness. What I mean by that is I was judging the crap out of this person, but doing it in a way that seemed like I was just looking out for their best interests. I wasn’t though; I was looking out for MY best interests. What would never be admitted then was I was hungry for attention and affirmation of the amazing, wise Godly man I was. I fabricated a way to crush this person to further elevate myself with MY knowledge, with MY purity, with MY righteousness. Like drowning in a pool, I was pushing someone down to make myself higher.

To be clear, I was the person Romans 14 describes as “the one who abstains”, but I disobeyed it’s command to not “pass judgment on the one who [does not abstain].”

Is homosexuality and abortion wrong? Yep. Is drunkenness wrong? Yep. But so is the lying, deceiving, lustful, covetous parts of my heart that Jesus died to redeem. I somehow made God’s law and wrath the focus of my life’s ministry, and left out Jesus’ fatal act of saving the world from their sins. It was all rules and regulation without the love and compassion. What I believe is right and not only are you wrong but you must not love Jesus enough.

I forgot the gospel.

Everything changes when your obsession shifts from the judgment of God to the grace of God. I’m so thankful God loves me enough to push ME to my knees, to turn the eyes of judgment upon my own sin, my own desperate wretched existence. What I was doing to others, God, the only person with the authority to do so, finally did to me. He removed me from my self-made throne, and set me at the foot of His. In the past three years since I wrote that letter, I have been made so sharply aware of all my mistakes, the depth of my depravity, and how imperfect I really am. The voice I thought I was hearing for so long, “That is wrong, that person needs to be corrected, that person must not love Jesus” silenced and a new one resounded,

“THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD, AND YOU ARE NOT HIM.”

I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with this. It’s so easy to think you’re doing the right thing and ignore all of your wrong reasons. It feels so good to be told how great you are, that you may lose sight of how much you suck. It’s so easy to know all the rules, think you’re lining up pretty good, and tell everyone else they’re not. What seemed right at that time, now makes me literally sick to my stomach. In the same book I used as a weapon against people, I now look inside and see a Jesus that specifically condemned judgment, and points a finger at me to say “Mike, who are you to tell someone else they’re wrong?? Look at how wretched your own sin is!!”

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:1-5

I will always have a log in my eye, and that’s the point.  I’m indefinitely imperfect, and therefore, an unqualified judge.

The proverb below pierced me right through the heart. Never did I desire to hear someone out and just be a loving ear, I wanted to tell them that regardless of their circumstances, they violated this, this, and this.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2

And a fool, I most certainly was.

Am I so bold as to claim that I doubtlessly know the mind of God enough to point my finger at any person? God’s primary concern is not rules, but people… people that we are not to judge by rule but to love by grace. “It is before his own master that he stands or falls,” NOT ME. I, nor the way I see scripture, do NOT have the final say on someone’s heaven acceptance. My viewpoint is not sitting on the Throne. I’m faulty, I’m frail, my opinions change, my heart changes. Even if I was appointed to be Judge, I’ll never be in any solid condition to play the role.

Our responsibility is to love. When society deems us hateful and judgmental as a whole, we have it wrong. The gospel is a controversial message, no doubt, but it’s a message that should give the church the display of love, servitude, and humility. OF COURSE people know how screwed up they are, do we really need to beat them over the head with it? Productively speaking, that’s crazy. Instead, we are to “Let all that we do be done in love” (1 Cor 13:4-8). We are to walk alongside people, “become all things to all people so that by all means some might be saved” (1 Cor 9:22).

Some feel we are to judge the sins of a nation or a culture that rejects us, but who are we to say that WE ought to be owed some sort of respect and dignity when this world isn’t ours? We are visitors here, ambassadors of another colony. We are representatives only. We are not sent here with the sole objective to change law and policy, but to reflect the love of the God who came to save this world. We don’t go to third world nations to judge the sins and ways of a people who don’t know Christ, we go to LOVE in any way we possibly can!! So why do we do it here? Because we consider America our home and want to worship as comfortably as possible? That’s not our calling. I read a book that told me that I would be persecuted for my beliefs, not catered to and called a dignified human being. All this is to say that our responsibility is not so much to judge a person or a sinful culture that we’re not a part of, as it is to love them unconditionally so that people can catch a glimpse of what this Jesus is we talk so highly of.

Offer a coffee or beer and a loving ear, not a rulebook and checklist. Use arms for hugging and holding, not pushing down. Love people like crazy. Love people like God loves you. Love people like you’ve just been offered a pardon on an eternal prison sentence. Nobody’s sin is worse than mine, and THAT is what brings me to my knees in desperation before a holy God that saved me, asking “what can I do?” He tells me, “Love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 John 4:7-8, 1 Peter 4:8)

I want to show the world the love he gave to me, not the judgment he freed me from… pedestal kicked aside.

Mike Arnold

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3 thoughts on “Forgetting The Gospel

  1. This post speaks to me in a lot of ways. I’ve been there so many times. Judging as an “upright Christian”…an I’ve been on the other side of that judgement. Neither are good places to be. This you said, “Everything changes when your obsession shifts from the judgment of God to the grace of God.” This is what life as a follower of Christ is really about about. Living in his grace and giving it to others. Thanks for your words today.

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  2. This is awesome. You nailed it right on the head. So many times we miss the mark because we are so busy being “right” we forget how wrong we truly are and need to stay focused in the word. Good post!

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  3. Mike, thank you for this post. It emanates love, that is, the heart of the gospel. In comparison the heart of your message was absolutely correct, it is God who justifies and judges. It is God who does the work, It is God who has the power, and It is God who is perfect.

    It is important, however, not to get carried away with one’s own wretchedness. Now you must be careful with this, I am not for a moment saying that we weren’t created with a sinful nature, but I am saying that God set us free from the bondage of sin. That is, to put it bluntly, we don’t need to sin. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according toe the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:2-4.

    The reason I believe this needs to be said is because of your comment “I will always have a log in my eye, and that’s the point.” My brother this should not be so. Please carefully read the next verse keeping in mind that I am not accusing you of anything. “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ” Jesus commands us to remove the plank from our eye, so that we can see clearly to help our brother. God does not ask the impossible, because nothing is impossible with God. It is difficult to remove the plank from your own eye because we are blind to it’s existence. It is in our eye, after all, causing blindness. This is why we must diligently ask the Spirit for conviction, “for whom He loves He chastens”. I have absolutely zero doubt that God loves us and counts us as His sons.

    The purpose of the church is to bear evidence of the goodness of God, to proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, and to help one another. There is undoubtedly more, but that’s for another time. It is the last purpose of my statement that I would like to speak on.

    “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor.
    For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
    But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
    For he has no one to help him up.
    Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
    But how can one be warm alone?
    Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
    And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
    Ecclesiastes 4:8-12

    And again in James. “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” James 4:19. But what covers sins?

    “Hatred stirs up strife,
    But love covers all sins.”
    Proverbs 10:12

    So we know that correcting a brother is loving, as long as it is done lovingly. Which is where you have erred in the past, and where I err incessantly. On my part it is from a lack of meekness. I can’t speak for you, and so I won’t. I end with this:
    “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:13-18.

    With love,
    Christopher J. Newhuis

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