Yesterday I began a look at how to live a miserable Christian life. Specifically to look at 10 sure fire areas or activities that are counter Christian and so therefore devoid of joy.
In the first post we highlighted the dangers of 1) trying to repay Jesus for the Cross, 2) neglecting the Bible, 3) neglecting Prayer.
Let’s pick it up here in view of highlighting pitfalls for Christians that we might not find ourselves miserably caught in the mire.
4. Be Selfish
This is really the seed for everything. I have heard a good friend describe sin as the deification of man and the ‘mannification’ of God. It is to flip the roles. For the Christian to be selfish or self consumed is really counter intuitive. It just doesn’t make sense.
It reminds me of the time I saw Vlade Divac (former Lakers’ center) smoking cigerattes before a game. I’m thinking, this is totally contradictory and inhibitive to what the guy is about to go do…he is about to go and run up and down the court for two hours and he is choking down these cancer sticks like they are made out of protein or something.
In a similar vein, selfishness for the Christian is absurd. The whole point of Christianity is humility. We come to God in humility, confessing our prideful rebellion against him, begging humbly for grace (not earned!!) that we might be given mercy to trust him for forgiveness. Then the whole outflow of the Christian life is to stream from this humble spicket of a biblical self awareness.
But what happens? We find ourselves getting frustrated, angry, impatient, intolerant, bitter, or just plain contrary to others in or out of the body of Christ. And why??…because they said or did something that ‘offended’ you or me.
Let’s remember that bitterness, anger, impatience and selfish frustration are all sinful and all stem from pride. It comes from a heart that is not getting what it feels it deserves so it reacts. Often times this reaction comes in the form of manipulation, this may be active manipulation (slander, yelling, violence, etc..) or passive (ignoring folks, harboring bitterness, anger…). This is disruptive for the unity of the body of Christ and must be expelled.
To harp and hang on people’s quirks will drain you, it will make you miserable and it will distract you from the big picture of Christianity, which is to promote and defend the gospel, in your own life and in the world! (of course I am not speaking here of sin issues, for these must be dealt with in accordance with Matt.18, but rather speaking of matters of preference or just peripheral issues that tend to bug is so much when we are inward focused).
In the book of Philippians Christians are commanded to be united around the gospel. This radical union is to characterize everything we do. We are even to be actively working to consider one another as more important than ourselves, looking out for the interests of others…in an attitude of humility (1.27-2.4).
We do not have the time or the right to look out for ourselves. We shelved ourselves and our interests when we came to Christ. Our interests now are Christ’s! For we have been “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6.19). It is Christ who is “our life” (Col. 3.4).
5. Go to a church that does not preach expositionally
Expositional preaching is simply to explain the authorial intent of a given passage and make appropriate application. It is to give the meaning of the text, for if the Holy Spirit’s intention is not communicated then the text is not communicated.
So why is this important? What if you go to a church that preaches topical sermons week in and week out? Or if you go to a church that uses a verse as a springboard to talk about an issue? Well it is helpful to remember that it is God who has designed both us and our spiritual growth plan. God has seen fit to arrange things where the child of God is to be equipped by the preaching of the word of God. Consider 2 Timothy 3.16-17, paying particular attention to the purpose statement (so that)…
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
So what is Timothy to do?
2 Timothy 4:1-2 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Preach the word. Not preach about the word, preach around the word, or tell stories about the word…but preach the word!! The man of God is supposed to work hard to rightly divide the truth (2.15) that he might present God’s meaning that God’s people might be equipped and conformed into the image of Christ.
What do you do if the Bible is not preached? I don’t know how many sermons I’ll get to hear before I die. I’m only 30 years old, I was a flamin’ pagan for 21 of those years and for 5 other years I went to lousy churches that feminized Christian men and painted caricatures of Jesus week in and week out. So point being, I have a lot to learn and one of the great avenues for growth (according to God) is the preaching ministry of my church. God has given gifted men to teach (Eph. 4.11) but these men are not just given to be window dressing, they are to work, they are to study, to practice and to teach the word that the body of Christ might be built up into the image of Jesus. This is the whole point of Ephesians 4 (4.11-16).
So if you want to go to a church where the pastor has wax on his fingers from tickling ears each week, delivering sermonettes for Christianettes, massaging your conscience by telling you what you want to hear then you will be miserable. You will be miserable because if you are a Christian you want to be like Christ. Therefore just like muscles that need to be torn down in order to grow you likewise have to have your heart ripped to shreads by the razor of divine truth as delivered the preacher God has given (this is why an elder qualification is that he be “able to teach” 1 Tim. 3.2). Biblical preaching builds strong Christians. These products of faithful exposition will be able to deal with the trials that God brings to refine your faith and make you complete (Rom. 5.1-5; Jam. 1.2-4).
Your church choice should not revolve around the children’s ministry but rather the pulpit ministry of the church. The pulpit is the trough that feeds the whole place, including your children’s ministry. If you are not being fed meat you will be ill equipped to fulfill your responsibilities to train your own children. It is as rediculus as having cool toys for your kids at home while dumpster diving for dinner on the way home from work…it doesn’t make sense. The priority for the Christian is to be taught the word of God that they may be built up in the truth of God according to the likeness of the Son of God all to the glory of God.