I have to say, I have been very disheartened lately by the amount of finger pointing, fault finding, and slandering in the circle of Christians I know. It breaks my heart how easy it is for us to find fault in others over things that the Bible is silent on. On the other hand, when the Bible is very clear about certain ways to live, and things to avoid, we interpret those verses in a different way, to shape them to fit our lifestyles. Notice that I am saying "we" in my post. This is me included.
When reading the Bible, I take all of it to heart. It is for our learning, edification, and so on. One thing that is always repeated however, is how we are to basically "let this mind be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus." We are to shine the light of Christ. To bring others to him by our words and our actions. I love to read the words of Christ and see how he was to people, so that we can mimic those actions and that love on a day to day basis. One thing I have learned in the last three weeks from the conversations I have had with friends and loved ones, is that if we are content in our state of Christianity, content in our relationship with God, if we are doing everything right, and so we are comfortable with life like we are living it, then something must be wrong. We are called to constantly strive for perfection. None of us are perfect and I do not know a single Christian, again, myself included, that could not glorify God more in a certain area of life. Yet, so many of us are saying our prayers without a hint of confession or repentance for anything, because we have done nothing wrong. Yikes! Did you talk about someone behind their back today? Did you watch a 30 minute t.v. show with cuss words and sexual content? Did you use more hours of your day talking about and watching sports than you did studying your Bible and praying? These things might not be outright sin, but they are things that would be displeasing to God if we use our wisdom. It is just a fact ; some things are a matter of 'right and wrong', and some things are a matter of 'good and better'. "What would be the best thing to do to Glorify God?" We have plenty to put away and strive to be better at. All of us. Yet, we are so hard on others and take no time to look at ourselves.
I am completely confused on the subject of binding where God does not bind. I am confused, because we say that others do this, with kitchens, gyms, etc, and yet we do the same thing with clapping, singing during the Lord's supper, and so on. What we are doing, is taking what men have done for years (which might be the wisest thing to do) and make it a commandment from God. I'm just saying that we should be VERY careful. Mark 7: 2-8 says this :
"Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”
He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘ This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
7 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.
For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
Notice how Jesus responded to the sinners, who acknowledged their sin and need for Him, and how he responded to the Pharisees who were holding people to rules that God did not create, and yet they would be "friends of the world". He was much harder on the men who claimed to have it all right and who were quick to point out others faults. Here is another example: Matthew 12:1-8
"At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath." He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
Jesus was trying to constantly teach the Pharisees the difference between sins and rules made by men. He was trying to tell them that the standard that they were holding everyone else to, was what God would someday hold them to. "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." James 2:13
You are free to disagree with me on this. This is only what I get out of the scriptures. But it is just that ; what I get out of the scriptures, not what someone else has told me to get out of the scriptures. I take my friends and loved ones' opinions to heart. And I want to consider what they say closely. That is why I came back and studied this and prayed about it. Because there is a chance that I am wrong. But if I didn't think I was wrong, and that I had all of the answers, then I would leave these great conversations with them, content with how I am living and the standards I am holding others to.
As some of you may know, I cannot with good conscience tell another Christian that instrumental music with "religious words" is sinful. "Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord" does not tell me that. But so many Christians want to take that literal. Now I'm puzzled. Because if we take it too literal, then it would mean that we are to SING AND MAKE MELODY IN OUR HEART. So the scripture before this that says to speak to one another in hymns and songs, and this one that says to sing in your heart would be a contradiction. But many people say that you can sing in your heart while you sing from your mouth. Ok. Fair enough. BUT... we choose to take this verse literally. So, let me ask... are you stopping everything right now to pack your bags? Yes, to pack your bags for your trip? Because Matthew 28:19 says - "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." GO. ALL NATIONS. What? You haven't left yet? Well, some Christians say that this was not suppose to be taken literally. Not ALL nations. You see? Some scripture we take literally when it is convenient. When we don't have to pack and travel around the world. Who are we to pick and choose what is sin when God does not say it is so? I have yet to read the passage that says "when God doesn't talk about something ( this includes a kitchen, a gym, musical instruments, calling services "church") then it is sin. Yet, we have this in our minds constantly. God gave us the scriptures for our own learning and edification.
Psalm 108 says : "My heart is steadfast, O God;
I WILL SING AND MAKE MUSIC WITH ALL MY SOUL.
The VERY NEXT verse says : " Awake, HARP and lyre!". He talks about making music in his soul... then brings up a harp. If we go strictly on 'make music with my soul', we would count out an instrument. Just like we do with "sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord." But David does not then say that musical instruments are sinful. He actually tells them to awake. And HE was a man after Gods own heart.
By what I read in scripture, I can only assume that Jesus had mercy on those that were trying their hardest to Glorify Him, and was hardest on those that were constantly trying to call someone out for breaking a rule that was not set by God. I know that everyone I know is just trying to do right in the sight of the Lord, but one day I will be judged for how I judged others, and I can not, for myself, be ok with saying that someone has "strayed from the truth", because they do not uphold with traditions of men. Even the examples that we have of the early Christians, they are to be used with our wisdom, not as a commandment. Obviously, many of the early churches had problems and that is why many letters were written to them. The early Christians are very wise and I learn many things from them, but they too are merely men, Jesus Christ is who I want to reflect. And he desires Mercy. Hopefully, when I get to judgement, I will receive the mercy that I gave here on earth. I continue to say, that what I gather from scripture is that God would be more displeased with a Christian who is calling others liberal, and pointing out faults, all while spending more time watching sports than reading their bible, or finding out who is sleeping with who on Desperate Housewives, than with someone who has mercy on others, and wants to Glorify God by playing their guitar and singing to Him. That is what I read in the scriptures. Maybe both of those scenarios are displeasing to God, but that is what we need to see then, that BOTH are just as displeasing. Not one more than the other.
Something that I found disturbing in many of these conversations with my friends, was that a few of the people that disagree with me on the musical instruments issue used the word "hypocritical". Yet, by the end of the conversation, they admitted to sometimes listening to Christian music as well. This reminded me that I have to take a long hard look in the mirror at myself before I decide to slander another. This post is not to come down on the people that hold their truths, but to encourage them to stand back and see if they are really TRUTHS or PREFERENCES. And not to condemn by that. And to encourage more mercy to Christians. I heard a great sermon a couple of weeks ago in Houston about Revelation 2-
"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God."
The preacher talked about "leaving your first love". This to me means neglecting God with all of the distractions we have today like t.v., Internet, video games, sports, movies, etc. And he mentioned that our love for Christ is not a burden. It is not a checklist of things to do. I see many Christians, and have done this many days, wake up, check off - Go to services, check, take the Lord's supper- check, don't clap!! - check, yet, when those doors open at 11am, the rest of the day is given to the tv and the Internet, not thinking again about God at all. Or Monday -Saturday the same thing. No studying at home, no praying, just the world and all that is in the world. This is leaving our first love. And I dare to say that the checklist of things we did will not matter if we leave our first love.
In conclusion, you may not agree with me a bit. And that is ok. But I want to Glorify God with all that I have, and I want to have mercy on others trying to do the same. If I am doing something wrong, I ask God for forgiveness, and I pray for wisdom and guidance. But I know for a fact that I do NOT want to think that I have everything right and then be the first to point out and the hardest on others trying to Glorify God. I must remove the plank in my eye before I get the speck out of my brothers. Do you know why Jesus told the men who wanted to stone the woman found in adultery "he who is without sin, cast the first stone?" Because he knew that none of them would be able to. We should ALWAYS think of that before we condemn others. Have I done everything pure, holy, and acceptable today in every way I know how?? If not, then put down your stone. It is sad to see that the Christians who are the hardest on others are sometimes the ones that have had obvious sin in their lives; Adultery, malice and anger, putting others down constantly to build yourself up. This post is to tell you how I will live my life, with mercy and a love/obedience relationship with God. I will do what I know to be right. But I will not hold others to commandments that I don't read in the scriptures. I want to bring God Glory.