Saturday, April 19, 2008

To List or Not to List. That is the Question

This blog is very long. It is in answer to a blog of my daughter's. I had no short answer, so I decided to do it as my own blog rather than as a comment on hers.

The Bible is filled with information and directives on how to live the Christian life. If those directives are compiled, guess what? They turn into a list, and they happen to be a list of what to do and what not to do. Here are some great examples of what God has to say in His word about Christian living:

Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.
Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Abhor that which is evil.
Cleave to that which is good.
Be kindly affectioned one to another.
Be not slothful in business.
Rejoice in hope.
Continue instant in prayer.
Bless them which persecute you.
Be of the same mind one toward another.
Be not wise in your own conceits.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. (All the above from Rom. 12)
Flee from idolatry. (I Cor. 10:14)
Do all to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31)
Follow after charity. (I Cor. 14:1)
Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (I Cor. 15:58)
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. (II Cor 6:14)
Walk in the Spirit. (Gal 5:16)
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth. (Eph 4:29)

Now, this is a VERY short list of items given in the New Testament. I didn’t choose this particular list to preach to anyone. I just found these as I was flipping through pages in my Bible. At least in the list I gave, most of the sentences are written in the positive, not the negative. God is not negative, but He does expect us as born-again Christians to obey, whether we are NOT TO DO certain things, or we are TO DO certain things.

When God does NOT specifically give direction in His Word concerning certain things, then we are to follow the principles set up in Scripture. Does this activity or thought glorify God? Will it cause harm to weaker Christians or to the unsaved? Will I offend others? And even though some have made fun of the WWJD mentality, we still ought to consider: Would Jesus do this activity? And we shouldn’t qualify that question by adding “in today’s world” or “with the modern-day mentality.” Jesus Christ and His Word are the same for all times: back in the New Testament times, today in modern times, and 1000 years from now. God does not change. The meaning of Scripture does not change.

Now to address the idea of the confines that children are put under in a Christian home and in a Christian school. When two parents are born-again Christians who believe God’s Word and who want to raise their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord (I Cor 10:11),” does that mean we teach our children to do right even when they don’t yet know the Lord for themselves? A resounding YES! Does this mean that sometimes the rules and regulations grate on the children’s self expression and desire to live as they chose? YES! We cannot get away from the truth of God’s Word with its lists of DO’s and DON’Ts as already mentioned above. Do the children turn into Christians by following the rules? NEVER.

A side note: I think all responsible parents, saved or not, following God’s Word or not, will have rules for their children to live by. This is the only way the kids turn out to be responsible students, citizens and parents themselves.

Also a Christian school cannot function without rules. Does this mean that the students will like the rules? NO. Does it mean they turn into Christians by following the rules? DEFINETLY NOT.

Parents and Christian schools cannot legislate spirituality. All they can do is train children to see what is right and wrong and to do the right. What we hope and pray for is that our children will come to realize their need for Jesus Christ as their personal Savior through the process of living the life set for them by their parents and/or the Christian school and through correct teaching from God’s Word.

Does this always work? Sadly, I’m afraid not. I’ve seen many children from Christian homes and Christian schools who never did “catch on” to their need of a personal Savior. They conformed to the rules most of the time, heard the Gospel presented many times, memorized Scripture, had godly examples in the home, school and church, and maybe even did some of the ministry things involved in a true Christian walk. But some never became Christians. That makes me cry because they need the Lord, but we can’t force it through good teaching, through memorization, through church attendance, or through rules.

As for the list some people compile of things that Christians do (pray, come forward at church camp, read the Bible a lot, be baptized, etc.), let me remind you that we as Christians are to “work out our salvation,” not in order to become saved but in order to please and obey the Lord. This means we serve God in the ways and through the opportunities He gives us. If this means that these things are put on someone’s list and made to look as foolish, that can’t be helped. We all are accountable only to God. Sometimes that’s an easy accountability. Sometime it isn’t.

I’ve been pretty preachy in this blog. I don’t want to cause offense and I hope I haven’t. I hope I have been true to the Word of God in what I have said. If I haven’t please forgive me. God is always good. He is always right. He always wants a wonderful, grace-filled relationship with us. And He always wants us to live by his Word, something we can do only through His leading and through the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the END.


Julie said...

Thank you for posting this.

Jessican said...

I have zero confidence in my ability to comment upon such grand, general issues of religion. I only know my own personal experience growing up in a Christian school and in a Christian home. Now I am thankful and blessed to have experienced both of those things, but I can clearly see from the view of going to a "secular" college and having friends that were not raised in the same enviroment that an extreme emphasis on the "lists" and not the spirit (or reason) of the lists is often what causes so-called stumbling blocks for others (Christians, non-Christians, everyone).

Maybe I just didn't listen close enough in school, church, and to my parents, but it wasn't until I got out of that kind of environment and into "the world" that I fully understood the reason for patterning a life after Christ. Even now, my ideas of Christianity are very different from those of my parents...just like theirs differed slightly from their parents...and so on.

Of course, most of my current friends have had extremely negative experiences with church, religion, and Christianity as a whole, so I'm constantly re-evaluating and critically examining how the message of the Bible is received in the world. Again, all I know is what I have personally experienced with my friends, and I've found that the further away I get from the culturally accepted list of current Christianty the more impact I have and the more likely they are to listen to me.

But this is just my own experience. It is not attempt to refute anyone else's nor is it meant as an argument. It just is.

Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Momstheword said...

Thanks, Queenie. You're terrific. Perhaps you should take up teaching. Love

Jessican said...

To Jen:

yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

And further, Agreed.

I got your post point and it resonated with me.

Being vs Doing is exactly what I was trying to get to in my response that you hit upon so accurately.

Sometimes I think our sematics get in the way because as far as I can tell we are all on the same page, just stuck in our language boxes.

Jen said...

Sorry, I decided to delete my comment and add it to my blog. You can read it there.

Pwdrd Donuts w/Xtra Powda & Dandelion Chin Streaks said...

I appreciate your sharing. There's just no easy answer is there? It seems that some think this and others that. And that's not just okay, it's good.

Lists, used the wrong way, can suck the life out of a person.

No lists, used as an excuse for "true" spirituality, can lead to irresponsibility.

The wonderful freedoms that you've "listed" :) in your blog, are not the types of things I think of when I hear the word "list" within the framework of Christiandom, although some have taken God's word and "used" it to strong arm and get their way. We've all done it. I have anyway.

All I know is this. I'm 37 years old and I spent, mmmm, about 28 years with a faith that was...good, but not saving. And as I pastor I spent exactly zero time with non-believers. Interesting enough, once I started down that path of working out my salvation - he not only worked me over, helped me find my limp, assured my calling, and allowed for my brokeness - but he brought scads of unbelievers - and i mean scads - to me. And i think it's becasue all of a sudden, once i realized that i was no better/holier than these people, that i was a safe place for them.

Funny thing is, during this spiritual awakening, some church people began to separate themselves from me and see me as less holy that I used to be. That was hard, but i wouldn't have it another way.

I'm just doing my best to be honest, and to be honest - It's hard to find Christian people in the church who will talk about their shortcomings, outside of "I don't read my bible often enough - or say my prayers enough." Seriously? That's it? How about you have serious issues with pride. Or how about your empty inside. Or how about, you've not affected any non-beleiver on a personal level in 20 years; like REALLY affected them. Those are the things that left me feeling empty. And I didn't want to be years down the road and be living the same way; and that's exactly where I was heading.

I think we're all just trying to make sure what we are doing has PURPOSE. Well, good for us taking this thing seriously. But it WILL look different for all of us.

"God's word never changes" is absolutely right. He NEVER changes, but we do. And hopefully for the better.

Thanks Jen's mom. I appreciate your entering the convo. We need your voice here.


Jen said...

I love it, I love it, I love it.

Mom, Matt, the other "anonymous" poster, thank you.

This is me "working out my salvation".

Kay said...

Thank you for your words of wisdom, P -- I mean Q. (gotta mind my p's and q's)
I like this and the post above.