Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Civility, Language & Pornography

Let’s face it one of the lamentable sides of the internet and social media is the easy access to information and images that are neither helpful nor necessary. In fact, they are just downright hurtful and injurious in ways we are sometimes unaware of at the time we are reading or viewing it. We rightfully and with good reason warn against the pornography saturating our culture today! Yet, do we realize how subtle an enemy Satan is? Are we really that concerned about pornography? I only ask because we find it so easy to watch so-called respectable television, movies, and advertising whose content glamorizes immodesty using both visual and verbal stimulation, without ever saying a word.

It seems to me one reason our culture is indifferent to the pornography, which permeates it, is because of the language we accept and use in public discourse. This is even true of Christians or maybe I should say, especially true of Christians. I digress momentarily to admit my bias, I am that guy, who from the pulpit is barely comfortable referring to the healthy consummation of God-given desires in marriage as anything but “the act of marriage.” On the other hand, I don’t cringe or want to hide under the pew, every time I hear another preacher use the legitimate phrase sexual intercourse. In fact, I have even used the phrase myself a few times from the pulpit, but I am so uncomfortable using it I generally prefer the phrase “the act of marriage.” Please! do not extrapolate, or in any way misconstrue, from the comments in this paragraph that I am saying, "if you use 'sexual intercourse' in the pulpit you are contributing to the porn culture." I have only said, what I said, in this paragraph to admit my bias and I am not making that bias in this context, the standard for anyone else. I am just acknowledging my personal sensitivities.

In my mind, I am able to grant some latitude to writers and speakers for the language they use to describe or express certain things though I may find it objectionable (especially, when they are not a Christian, that doesn’t make it right, it just says I have no expectations from them). However, I find certain language highly offensive in PUBLIC DISCOURSE. There are far too many rich and wonderful words in the English language for a really talented, hard working, writer or speaker to choose from, which makes the use of crude, coarse, and vulgar vocabulary unnecessary. Such use of that type of vulgarity to me is a clear sign of laziness and ignorance. I understand to some extent the use of such language in the mouth of a character in a story. I don’t like it but on some level I get it, but even that does NOT make it right. 

Here is my concern. I see Christians who freely post things on social media that use vulgarities of every sort to make what they allege is a good point. It is not just crude vocabulary they use but it is the street descriptions for various bodily functions of men and women who engage in the act of marriage. I just read this morning an article a Christian posted regarding men (I refuse to identify the article) with the disclaimer that they liked the article and thought it good for everyone even though they could have done without the profanity. Really? Rhetorically, I am asking, what difference does your disclaimer make?

I realize one is not saying the language themselves BUT they are allowing such street language to be used. However, the fact they think the overall point is good for everyone ignores the fact that the verbal and/or visual stimuli being used by the writer or speaker to make his/her "good" point IS harmful. Apologizing beforehand for the immodest language or visual you are posting does NOT absolve us of having put the said immodesty in the mind and heart of those who read it. Since when does a"good" point ever have to use vulgarity? Since when have the ends (good point) justified the means (vulgarity)? How about a reality check here? “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32)

Again, this applies to pictures I see Christians posting as well. I live almost equal distance from the beach now as I did growing up in Southern California. I love the beach! I go to the beach. I spent a week at the beach this Summer for vacation and still feel like I don’t go as much as I’d like to go to the beach! You know what? Just because I love the beach and go to the beach I don’t feel the least bit compelled to dress or act like everyone else on the beach. Furthermore, there is enough beach that we can find a relatively secluded and remote part of the beach without too much trouble. However, if you choose to do otherwise when you go to the beach, please, don’t post pictures of yourself at the beach dressed like everyone else. God calls us to be different from the world, not minimally different BUT radically different! Jesus told his disciples, “You are not of this world, as I am not of this world.” (read carefully, John 17:14-17; 1 John 2:15-17) Jesus did not expect the world to love his disciples any more than He expected them to love the world or any more than the world loved Him! As dangerous, toxic and violent as the world is Jesus did not ask God to take us out of the world but to keep us from the evil one! Do I need to say any thing else? 

Have you considered that until the presidency of Bill Clinton “oral sex” was not something that was much in vogue in public discourse in America? Yet, now we hear innuendos, allusions and outright direct references to it in advertising, movies and television and we are made to laugh about it. In public discourse or social media, it is but a short step from talking and laughing about it openly to giving tacit approval of it in a context of immorality, whether we use verbal or visual stimuli. If you can talk about it, laugh about it, and/or make jokes about it, in the public square, why can’t you watch it being performed? Surely, you do not think one is less harmful to your spirituality than the other? If you can use the street language, for the act of marriage in public discourse as an exclamation, or to make fun of someone, or as an adjective to describe some emotion then, why can’t you view actual images of the act in various media forms (videos, pictures, movies  etc.)? Sadly, our ability to tolerate sin prevents us from mourning it. (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)

Consider the context to the passage in Ephesians 5:3-7, where Paul writes to Christians. Ephesus was the city where the temple of the goddess Diana was located. A religion for whom prostitution and immorality were acts of worship, by which the very culture of the city was defined. Thus, Paul would write, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Did you notice the close connection between sexual immorality and vulgar speech (vv. 3-4)? Look again, at vv. 8-12, and see the connection, “…Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.”

I realize this political season of 2016, has further corrupted the civility of our culture in ways that we don’t even realize as of yet (just as did the political times of Bill Clinton’s immorality). Metaphorically, the anger and hostility of terrorism can be seen in the public discourse relative to how candidates treat each other. It can also be seen in social media by how angry we get and how we treat each other in our disagreements. There is little, if any, serious critical thinking that goes on in arguments on social media. Among us, as Christians, this ought not to be! (James 3)

I will close with two things that can help us avoid the pitfalls of posting anything could be considered ungodly or out of character with being a Christian. 1. Spend a minute in prayer talking to God about it. 2. Spend the thirty seconds it takes to listen to Paul’s instructions, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:7-9)  (https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/esv/Phil.4)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"What If God..."

The role of the prophet, as one speaking for God, was never to argue what was fair. I think those who did try to argue with God about what was fair, often ended up like the prophet Jonah angry with everyone, including themselves. I find it even less so for Christians, namely, that they have no right to argue fairness before God. I believe that is Paul’s point in Romans 9, as he clarifies who God is (Sovereign Creator) and argues for the Gentile inclusion into the blessings of Christ.
Paul’s “what if God…” in Romans 9:22-24, is not so much an interrogative as it is declarative. His point is God’s election (choosing) has a purpose (cf. also Revelation 4:11). God’s purpose in election is to show mercy on whomsoever He wills to show mercy and to harden whomsoever He wills to harden (Romans 9:18). The Bible never denies nor does it try to explain the free-will of man and the Sovereignty of God. God because He is sovereign (which we cannot fully grasp because we are not sovereign) deals appropriately with man’s free-will and man in his free-will is able to live within the Sovereignty of God.
God’s election does not operate on behalf of man because of some meritorious system through which man earns salvation — “…not because of works” (Romans 9:11). In fact, God’s election to show mercy and compassion is not in any way dependent on “human will or exertion” to be real or effective (9:16). Mercy and compassion are God’s choices because He is God whether we think this is fair or not. 

Consequently, the only logical response to the “what if God…” (9:22) choosing to include the Gentiles under the promises of Christ is “it is God’s right” as Creator to include them! Just as it is the potter’s right to determine what use he will make of the clay at his wheel (9:19-21).
I am convinced that we have totally missed who God is any time fairness becomes the basis of our argument for a biblical position or justification for any sinful reaction to an unfair situation. This is a sin- cursed world and if the cross of Jesus says anything it says this world is NOT fair! Why did he have to go to the cross? The point is He didn’t have to — He went willingly on our behalf. Read Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane carefully, note every breath, every word, and every beat of His heart was the Father’s will: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42). The only response to “Father, IF you are willing” is “your will be done!” Jesus never argued about the fairness of going to the cross for there was nothing to argue on that basis it was the Lord’s will.
When will we get it! Our election by God, to be followers of God, is just that — we are followers! It begins there and ends there! From the before foundations of the world the elect of God, in God’s mind were those who were willing to follow Him. The world is not fair! Yet, the one truth Paul reminds us of in the midst of the unfairness of this world is that there is NO injustice with God (9:14). God’s purpose of election is to “make known His power” and “…the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles.” (9:22-24).
Israel had considered themselves the elite rejecting Jesus as the Christ because he did not meet their expectations of fairness, especially with regard to the Roman Empire. In doing so, they had only proven they were children of the flesh and not children of the promise (9:6-13). God’s election was not of the flesh but of the promise which included Gentiles (and ours by extension). God’s election had nothing to do with any human standard of fairness (which would include a system of merit/works) but everything to do with showing His glory and making known His name. Thus, as Christians, we do not exist to tell God how we will serve him or what we think is best for the church that is an elitist attitude. To the contrary, Christians exist as God’s elect to humbly follow and glorify Him in the church (Ephesians 3:21). In a nutshell, being God’s elect has everything to do with relating and respecting His authority over us.
Remember who God is!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Falling to Pieces — Lord, Help Me Keep It Together

In his New York Bestseller, "The Road To Character,” David Brooks uses the conflicted and unconformable life of the brilliant 18th Century Englishman Samuel Johnson for his chapter on Self-Evaluation. Brooks describes the life of Johnson, using the German word “Zerrissenheit,” which he defines “loosely” to mean “falling-to-piece-ness” but then goes on to describe what he means. “This is the loss of internal coherence that can come from living a multitasking, pulled-in-a-hundred-directions existence. This is what Kierkegaard called “the dizziness of freedom.” When the external constraints are loosened, when a person can do what he wants, when there are a thousand choices and distractions, then life can lose coherence and direction if there isn’t a strong internal structure….
Johnson’s internal fragmentation was exacerbated by his own nature…the way he spoke, ate, read, loved and lived. Moreover, many of his qualities were at odds with one another…." (page 218)

This is such a poignant paragraph. As I read this I thought to myself, this is reminiscent of some lives we read about in the Bible. I couldn’t get my mind off this paragraph and its many applications to others I knew today. In thinking about this, I was reminded that wearing the latest fashion, driving a nice automobile and living in a comfortable house may be urgent on some level of keeping up with the Joneses. However, clothes don’t make the man, driving a nice automobile doesn’t equate to being a person of integrity and living in a comfortable house is certainly no guarantee of a respectable home!

Then suddenly it dawned on me, as I glanced the chapter heading, “Self-Examination." Ouch! This is MY life when I lose focus! Forget about making application to others. What about me? I often become distracted by many things and situations because I have way too many “irons in the fire.” You know those moments when I think I am an excellent multitasker! (Who am I kidding? Who are you kidding?) The truth is when I have "too many irons in the fire" if any of them ever gets accomplished, I often have to settle for mediocrity. The truth is when my moment of “falling-to-piece-ness” overwhelms me, because of "too many irons in the fire," it is then that I realize I have confused those urgent irons with the truly important. In my own life as I go to India to preach, or have the great privilege of baptizing someone into Christ, or cross this country holding gospel meetings in far away states, there may be a certain urgency to all of that. But you know what? None of that is what is really important in terms of what I am supposed to be as a Christian!

I think of the life of David, the man after God’s own heart. King Saul thought what was important to being King was having all the praise of the people. Consequently, he was jealous of David when the people praised him, especially, when they attributed more victories to David than to himself. Saul's jealousy consumed him and he tried to destroy the young David. But, David refused to retaliate in kind on multiple occasions, in spite of having both the opportunity and perhaps, even the right. Clearly, David's heart in dealing with Saul was focused on glorifying God and not in satisfying his own personal desire. Yet, the remarkable thing about David's life, after both the shame of his egregious sins and his repentance, his life became characteristic of his earlier life. David regained his focused of what was important. He geared his thinking for the things of God rather than for himself. This was evident in his later life in the story of Shimei. Shimei cursed and threw rocks at David and his men as they fled from Absalom. David refused to retaliate in kind toward Shimei even when it was within his right, as a King to do so (see 2 Samuel 16:5-14). David's focus was clearly on what was important to God. Sadly, David knew all too well what happens when you confuse the urgent (or your own rights or desires) with the important (what will bring glory to God) — it can lead to disaster and destroy your house! 

In the New Testament, we are afforded a glimpse of another whose life was caught up with the urgent and characterized by that “falling-to-piece-ness”! This individual for the moment had confused the urgent with the important having lost her focus. You see, being hospitable may be urgent to the point of being helpful but not at the cost of what is important! Ask Martha! "Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42) Look how Luke presents the story “troubled about many things” versus “one thing is necessary.” Jesus reminds us to make the right choice and our lives will not fall to pieces, even when we are challenged by the urgency of a matter!

Stay focused don’t let anything interfere with your relationship with God - that is THE IMPORTANT. All else merely has the appearance of being urgent! When all around us the storm is raging and the urgent is trying to distract us, only by choosing to focus on God and His will are we given that strong internal coherence and direction which holds our lives together! Being committed to prayer, pray for wisdom. Being committed to Bible study, seek God's glory.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sin Is Messy - We Are A Mess

You know when my children were little, I never found a way at the moment of disciplining them, though I loved them and tried to make that clear to them that they ever said, "Wow that felt good," or "I feel like I am special," or "I want to keep doing wrong so Dad will discipline me."
ALL sin is messy and will make a mess of our lives because it is contrary to God's will. I don't think the prophets of Old, much less Jesus himself, ever found a way to confront sinners, that they liked it or went away feeling good about themselves for their sin. Yet, to confront sin is the very reason they were sent! Micah said it best, "But as for me, I am full of power by the Spirit of Jehovah, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin." (Micah 3:8)
The truth is the prophets were rejected, despised and stoned to death and the cross of Jesus remains in clear view of all, as a testimony to the mess sin can make! Is there a more plaintive cry of morning and lament in all of scripture than, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"?(Matthew 23:37)
There is nothing about sin that is NOT messy! It makes our lives messy and it leaves us a mess! Ask the rich young ruler, "he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." (Matthew 19:22) The truth is, walking away from God's will and going it on your own will always leave you sorrowful.
God is calling us to a discipleship that demands we "deny ourselves" and follow Him exclusively. As much as the earth was without form and void and covered in darkness it took God to make it a habitable place. So to our lives in sin are a mess, without form and void and covered in darkness, yet God can create in us a new beginning - for He gave us the light of His Son (read carefully and meditate on John 1:1-18)!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Preaching the Gospel: A Clear Connection to Baptism

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17)

It is not Paul’s point to suggest that baptism is not essential or unimportant. How could that be, especially in light of his masterful connection of our baptism to the death burial and resurrection of Jesus our Lord in Romans 6:3-4? "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” In addition, just a casual look at the context of 1 Corinthians 1 reminds us of Paul’s own admission, "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)” (see 1 Corinthians 1:14-16). 

Paul is emphasizing the message of the gospel of which baptism is clearly a part. It is much like reading the narrative of Acts 8:26-40, where Philip joined the Eunuch’s chariot and heard him reading from Isaiah. It is here we identify Isaiah 53 as the place of the Eunuch’s reading. The eunuch asks Philip who is the prophet talking about. All we are told from that point is, “beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus." It is at some point later, when they had come upon a body of water, the Eunuch responds, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (vs. 36) So, there are two clear inferences that we draw from the narrative, if we are to understand it properly. In the first place, introducing one to Jesus as the crucified Messiah,  via the Scriptures, (which is the only way to know Jesus) evokes the response in an honest heart, what must I do (Acts 2:36-38; 16:25-34). Secondly, a proper introduction to Jesus includes His death, burial and resurrection with the invitation for one to spiritually participate with Jesus in that event for the remission of their sins. For Jesus was ever the living, dying and resurrected invitation of God to "come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest...” (Matthew 11:28-30) 

There are a lot of theological terms that scholarship likes to throw around, which most of us don’t understand and I wonder sometimes if they do themselves, about preaching the gospel. However, it seems pretty clear that preaching the gospel is a speech-event. Namely, “the word of the cross.” Clearly, a language is born and renewed that centers around that historic event, in which people (especially in the First Century) saw, experienced and talked about things, in a way prior to that event, they never had done before. Even today, one grows up in the Western World hearing or reading words on signs like “church,” “resurrection,” “spiritual,” etc., whether they properly understand those words or not. Yet, when we come to Jesus, via the Scriptures, we experience that language in a totally different way because of the “word of the cross.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Instrumental Music in Corporate Worship: What Do the Bible and History Say?

 USA Today online headline read, "Church of Christ opens door to musical instruments" (http://tinyurl.com/q68t6f7)

Since I identify with a group of Christians who DESCRIBE themselves as the South Jacksonville church of Christ the headline caught my attention. However, it didn't take long to realize that the writer did not mean the same thing I meant when talking about the church of Christ. I mean church of Christ, in the primitive sense of the phrase as we read about in the New Testament. In the New Testament (Romans 16:16 "the churches of Christ salute you") the apostle Paul was not using the term as a name but rather as a description of Christians, who are striving to follow Jesus and belong to Him, wherever they assemble to worship and work, in any given location, according to that pattern set forth by apostolic instructions in the New Testament. Consequently when the writer declares that the "Church of Christ commitment to a cappella dates to the faith's emergence in the 1800s Restoration Movement," she does not understand church of Christ as it is used in New Testament. She sees what she calls "Church of Christ" as a denomination. However, the church belonging to Christ, which we read about in the New Testament was undenominational for the simple reason the church we read about in the New Testament existed centuries before any denominationalism as we know it today came into existence.
So, her statement could only be true if you have a sectarian/denominational view of the "Church of Christ." However, since the church belonging to Christ, which we read about in the New Testament, is not a denomination it has always been committed to a cappella. Primitive Christianity knows nothing of any kind of commitment toward the use of mechanical instruments of music in their worship. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17).
The word "a cappella" literally means "in the manner of the chapel/church." Meaning, unaccompanied vocal music and generally had reference to church music pre 1600's. So churches that existed even 200 years before the Restoration Movement didn't use the instrument either.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) revered by the Roman Catholics wrote: "Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize." [Thomas Aquinas. Bingham's Antiquities, Vol. 3, page 137.] Interesting Aquinas understood that because Israel used the instrument that didn't mean the church should. And, that was 400 years prior to the Restoration Movement.
Augustine (354-430), is ranked right after the apostles, in terms of importance, according to some Catholic scholars. Here is what he wrote in 354 A.D.as he described the singing at Alexandria under Athanasius: "musical instruments were not used. The pipe, tabret, and harp here associate so intimately with the sensual heathen cults, as well as with the wild revelries and shameless performances of the degenerate theater and circus, it is easy to understand the prejudices against their use in the worship" That's 1400+ years before the Restoration Movement of the 1800's.
If we go to the beginning of primitive Christianity, namely, the New Testament, we read nothing about the use of instrumental music in worship. Does it say anything about music in the corporate worship? Yes it does: "... I will *sing* praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also." (1 Corinthians 14:15) "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, *singing* and making melody to the Lord with your heart...' (Ephesians 5:15-16). "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, *singing* psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16)
Is the use of instrumental music in our worship really that significant? You tell me, Jesus said, "The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day." (John 12:48) Listen to what the apostle Paul said in verse 37, about the things he wrote in 1 Corinthians 14 which included verse 15 (see previous paragraph), "If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord." Thus, singing was a command of the Lord.
I admit the issue may seem insignificant to some. However, I am reminded in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) that the man to whom one talent was given, thought it was NO big deal that he buried his talent and gave it back to the Master. Yet the Lord condemned him, calling him a "wicked and slothful servant!..." Why? He was indifferent to the things of His Master and his rational was completely illogical. He did not have the right view of God and he did not regard the things of God as being significant, even in the smallest of matters (1 talent)! He was not faithful in even a little because he thought the one talent given to Him was insignificant in comparison to all that the Master owned and controlled. No doubt, the one talent man would have argued his case, "But I didn't lose it and I didn't steal from you." Nonetheless, Jesus said, "So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

For or Against Christianity: What Message Are People Reading From Our Life?

Sheldon Vanauken chronicled his journey from agnosticism to faith in a personal diary. In his book, A Severe Mercy, describing the struggle to come to faith and dealing with the tragedy of his wife of 17 years, he shared some of the entries of his diary. It was while studying at Oxford that he and his wife became friends with several young students who were believers. It was here that his heart began to be opened. Most influential to his conversion was his friendship with C. S. Lewis.

One of the most astute entries into his diary, while he was still yet an agnostic, was his poignant and cogent observation about what he determined to be the best and the worst argument for Christianity. I have cited it on numerous occasions over the last 30 years - it is one of my favorite quotes. He wrote:
"The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians--when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them. Indeed, there are impressive indications that the positive quality of joy is in Christianity--and possibly nowhere else. If that were certain, it would be proof of a very high order."

We must learn this lesson! We are made for a better world as a new creation in Christ. Thus, our journey through this world takes on, in a sense that joy we experience, as we look forward to a vacation where we can, as we sometimes say "can get away from it all" (meaning the stress, frustration and vexation of this world). Faithful Christians, like those going on a vacation, are filled with the prospects of eternity and want to share the excitement of their journey with all who will listen. It is precisely because our citizenship IS in heaven that we are filled with joy, as we journey through this world of darkness and tragedy.

If the Christian's citizenship in heaven means anything, it means that Christians are a colony of heaven on earth. They do not take their cue from the vexation of this world's ungodliness. To the contrary, in every way, as a member of Heaven's colony on earth, they take their cue from that higher and better ground of their hope in the Lord, rejoicing always letting their sweet reasonableness be known in every word and action (Philippians 2:14ff; 3:20-21; 4:4-5; John 13:34ff).