This morning I preached my heart out about the Lord Jesus. I never ever feel that I have done justice to his wonder and glory. I am absolutely convinced that real revival is as simple as a real encounter with the real Jesus. How I hunger and thirst for the people of America to have a fresh transformational encounter with the Lord, Jesus Christ; to not merely repeat biblical phrases about him, but to be “lost in wonder, love, and praise.” All of our petty problems would pale in comparison to his soul illuminating light. The foolish and blind arguments that so many put forward as a mask to cover sin would be set afire by the glory of his gaze until we stood naked before him without excuse and with cries for mercy and grace. There could finally be another great awakening in America that would blow away the tired rhetoric of those who are bent on reinventing the faith of our fathers in their own twisted image. America has always needed revival. It needed revival to make it one nation and the First Great Awakening played a major role in that. It needed revival to end the evil of slavery and the Second Great Awakening sowed seeds of conviction about this national sin and disgrace. It has had other movements that have met other needs such as the Jesus Movement in my own lifetime that breathed new life into the American church and resulted in thousands of young adults surrendering to Christian service.
Surely it is very late and the time is very short. Lord we need to see you afresh and anew. Open blind eyes in our churches and in our nation. Bring us to our knees! Break our hearts! Make us new!
I would direct you to the website peoplesharingjesus.com in order to listen to the message from Galatians 5 titled LIBERTY VERSUS LICENSE. For further study let me give you some additional resources. Read David Platt’s COUNTER CULTURE and Chip Ingram’s CULTURE SHOCK. Both of these books are recently written and explore the same issues in a loving and Christian way. There is no attempt to suggest that this is a dialogue between totally righteous people and hopelessly immoral people. The argument is rather that whenever we refuse to face sinfulness and demand it be regarded as good or wholesome, we do great damage.
Two names that were mentioned should be pursued by anyone seeking further light. Dennis Jernigan, a well known composer, singer, and musician, has a blog and a website. His testimony of leaving a homosexual lifestyle, finding a new identity in Christ, and becoming a happily married father of nine children is powerful and compelling. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s testimony of going from a militant lesbian professor at Syracuse University to a born again Christian who later married a Presbyterian minister and became a mother and speaker is powerful as well. You can find articles and videos telling her story. There is also a book entitled THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT. These two people illustrate that one is not a helpless victim of passions and impulses, but can bring their lives into line with God’s design by his grace and power. This is good news for all of us since we all need to be brought into line in some way or another. Critics complain that surely people like these two are merely bisexual and that those who are homosexual were born that way and cannot change. Here is a thought. How can you on the one hand say you are born a certain way regarding your passions and attractions and therefore God does not view your choices as sinful, and then ignore that you were born a certain way physically (male or female), but this reality has no purpose or relevance to how you were designed to live? Neither Dennis Jernigan nor Rosaria Butterfield would support this argument. They were not redeemed because they became heterosexual. They were redeemed because they refused to let sexuality define them and found their identity in Jesus Christ. God in his grace blessed them with marriage and children, but even if he had not they were blessed by his deliverance to a purer and better life.
I have been doing some deep thinking about what Jesus taught about turning the other cheek. I had always thought of this teaching in terms of persecution that was undeserved that comes from the enemies of the cause of Christ. I suppose that I really knew it had other applications, but I had not contemplated them to any great extent. For instance, dare to think about what might provoke being struck on the cheek. Shouldn’t we think about the reality that sometimes occurs when we have gravely disappointed someone or carelessly offended them. I am not suggesting that these actions deserve being struck, but frankly I would sometimes rather be struck than rejected or counted as unworthy of further contact. Over the years there have been instances where members of the churches that I have served have so strongly disagreed with one of my decisions, or even the deliberative process that I seek to follow in order to make good decisions, that they left the church in disgust. It is impossible to explain the pain that my heart feels when people that I have sought to lovingly serve turn their backs. Especially when they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Being struck on the cheek would be mild in comparison and may even give some release through venting at such treatment. It is always possible that one deserves to be rejected from time to time, but this in no way lessens the pain. So how do you turn the other cheek? By continuing to love and pray for those who reject you, you leave yourself open in heart toward them and vulnerable to further injury. This is the Christlike response. The Lord forgives us knowing that we will likely fail again. We can also turn the other cheek by blessing and honoring those who have rejected us. We can make clear that we refuse to feel the same way toward them as their actions have displayed toward us. We can promote them and recommend them in appropriate ways based on our truly known awareness of their abilities and gifts. We can speak well of them on as many occasions as we have opportunity. We can continue to greet them warmly and profess our ongoing love and concern for them as we have opportunity. To some these actions may seem like weakness, but in reality they show a level of strength and maturity that is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit. Recently I caught a glimpse of such an action of turning the other cheek that I was in awe of the one who did so. We all fail. Pastors fail. People fail. Leaders fail. Church members fail. Failure can be turned in to victory when we can gracefully turn the other cheek. Somehow I think Jesus was teaching us about a way to turn our brokenness into blessing when he gave this difficult command. Grace is not only amazing; it is beautiful.
Be forewarned that my subject in this post is troubling. All indications are that being a bible believing Christian is becoming the stance of a smaller and smaller minority of people in the United States. Already public schools on the West coast are openly teaching the beliefs of the Islamic faith on the one hand while expressly excluding the bible from the campus. The former is considered progressive, and the latter a necessity so as not to offend anyone. Christians who take Scripture seriously are excluded as bigots. Professors in many state universities openly mock Christian students and threaten them before the classes with failing grades if they dare to put forward their views. Go on the internet to baptiststandard.com and read the article concerning the stress in the American military. Chaplains are charged with proselytizing if they advocate faith in Christ. Many chaplains are considering resignation if the trends continue. Pressure is placed on them not to espouse views that are contrary to the current cultural drift. To refer to homosexuality in biblical terms is to be punished say some. Challenging people to live by a biblical ethic is regarded as naive and neanderthal.
I am not exaggerating when I say that many in our culture consider a bible believing Christian a bigger threat to American life than a fundamentalist Muslim. I know that sounds insane when the fanatical Muslims sometimes want to kill those who do not follow their ethic, but a Scripture comes to mind, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
So here’s my question. When a businessman is boycotted because he is a serious Christian will he still stand up for Christ? When a student is graded down or even failed because they take God’s word seriously will they still stand? When a church is vandalized or picketed because they persist with a biblical faith will they cave in to the culture? I am not speaking about the future. I am speaking about things that are happening right now. Will you stand?
I must keep a promise that I made on Sunday. The song that I shared with the children has at least three verses. The last verse is a blast!
The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength.
He giveth living water and I thirst no more. (Twice more repeated and then . . .) The joy of the Lord is my strength.
He fills my heart with laughter I go Ah! Ha! Ha! (Twice more repeated and then . . . ) The joy of the Lord is my strength.
Ah! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! (Twice more repeated and then . . .) The joy of the Lord is my strength.
I dare you to sing it if you can remember the melody. It will put a smile on the face of young and old alike.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh. 8:10