This post comes from Calvary Chapel Pastors
It started out as most Sundays do for me. As is my normal custom, I entered our Church’s sanctuary and began to greet a few of those who had gathered to worship. But this time, I was surprised to say the least as I was met by a man fully made-up as a woman. He introduced himself as “Cheryl”, and he was wearing a dress and enough makeup to cover over his facial hair.
This person had a question for me, “Pastor Bob, I want to know, will you accept me here at your church for who I am?” I answered his question with a question of my own, “Let me ask you, will you accept me for who I am?” A confused look crossed his face, “What do you mean?”
I replied, “I’m a Pastor and this is a Bible-teaching Church. And while you’re certainly welcome here, at some point in time I’m going to address the lifestyle that you’ve chosen. Based on what God has revealed in His Word, I’m bound to share this isn’t His plan or purpose for you or anyone else. So while I certainly welcome and accept you as a guest, I need you to consider if you’re willing to accept me for who I am and what I stand for?” He quietly listened and considered what I had just said.
It was a couple of weeks later that I saw him again. This time, however, he was wearing jeans and a shirt instead of a dress. The makeup was gone and he now wanted to be known as “Mike”. I’m glad to say that Mike has been growing in His walk with Christ ever since, and has faithfully served as part of our church staff for the past eight years.
Why do I share this with you? In part, it’s to celebrate God’s grace at work in Mike’s life. But let me also use it to pose this question; what were my other options? Instead of affirming my own identity and values as a Christian, I could have kept quiet and so sanctioned a way of life that unquestionably cuts against the grain of God’s heart. But that wouldn’t have helped Mike, and it certainly wouldn’t have been healthy for me.
Yet, as the world becomes more brazen and bold to assert its values, I’m seeing a troubling tendency within the Body of Christ to placate this mounting pressure to keep quiet as “wrong” is being promoted as “right”. Many Christians have become so conscious of the Bible-thumping stereotype we all want to avoid that they’ve become an opposite yet equally ungodly example.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “More than ever, the Church needs to act like the Church.” But those words have never been truer. In fact, if the Church doesn’t collectively correct this tendency, if it doesn’t stand for God’s truth, stand up for what He deems as right, and stand out from the world…I wonder how many of our churches will actually be churches.
So how did this all happen and how does it get fixed? I’ll submit that it’s happened because we’ve forgotten three important things, and the remedy resides in remembering them.
For starters, we’ve forgotten our place. The Bible couldn’t be clearer when it comes to the Christian’s place in this world. It’s a transient and temporary one. We’re pilgrims passing through on our way towards the enduring and eternal Kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 11:13). Our earthly lives are like a vapor, gone before you know it (James 4:14).
But I believe we lose sight of this. We get lulled into the lie that we should preoccupy ourselves with this world and we put all of our eggs in earth’s basket. When that happens, we start caring more about what other people think about us than what God thinks.
This world is rapidly passing away and soon we’ll all stand before the One to whom we will give an account (Romans 14:12, Hebrews 9:27). He won’t care how accepted we were in this world or how popular we were with people who needed to know His salvation. That’s not our place on this planet. It’s to reflect His righteousness in the short window of time that we’re here (Matthew 5:16, Ephesians 5:1).
Secondly, we’ve forgotten our power. If we’re brutally honest with ourselves, a lot of times we’re really just scared to stand for what’s right. We know it’s the right thing to do but the prospect of actually doing it fills us with a paralyzing fear.
Peter had that same problem. When the time came to take a stand for the Lord he caved into his personal fears and insecurities (John 18:17, 25, 27). But then something happened. He received supernatural strength from God’s Holy Spirit to be a witness to the world for Christ’s sake (Acts 1:8, 2:4). And the difference was as dramatic as any that’s ever existed (Acts 2:14).
In the very same way, God wants to empower our lives with His Spirit so we can effectively point the world to His truth and salvation (Ephesians 5:18). Understand, this is not an optional aspect of the believer’s life. Just as faith in Jesus is necessary in order to become a Christian, the filling of the Holy Spirit is necessary in order to live as a Christian (Galatians 5:16). And when we simply ask God to fill us with His Spirit’s presence, we receive the supernatural power needed to overcome our natural fears (2 Timothy 1:7).
Finally, we’ve forgotten our past. It’s interesting how we can lose touch with just how miserable we were when we were living in the world and apart from Christ. In many ways, a life of sin is its own punishment. I know from my own experience, I was so empty, so lonely, and so desperate for something without even knowing what it was.
Listen, “it” was the forgiveness and freedom from sin that can only be found in Jesus Christ (John 3:16, Romans 5:18). But someone had to be bold enough, loving enough, to tell me that my life was filled with sin (Romans 3:23). I had to hear that I needed help before I could receive help (Romans 6:23).
Whether they admit it or not, the worldly people we know aren’t any different. And yet we often go out of our way to not offend them in the name of “love”. Are we really loving them or doing them a favor? Wouldn’t the most loving thing be to identify sin as sin so they can actually be set free from it? Shouldn’t the emptiness in them produce empathy in us? An empathy that remembers what it was like to be rescued from a lifestyle that was destroying us daily. And shouldn’t that motivate us to compassionately confront (2 Corinthians 5:14)?
Here’s what I hope you hear from me; as God’s people, we’re way past the time of pretending we can keep quiet as our society strays further and further from His truth. God has called us out of this world so we could play a part in His plan to save it (Romans, 10:15, 2 Corinthians 5:19). We can and we will when we remember our place, our power, and our past.
Originally published in Decision Magazine, September 2012: http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=8893
continue reading the views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Calvary Southampton