Monday, May 1, 2017

You are the salt, leaven, and light of the Lord

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
There is no doubt in my mind and heart that the Christian faith and Church is under attack. The Church is being attacked from without by a sometimes apathetic, sometimes hostile, culture, by the government, by militant atheists, and by special interest lobbies whose social, moral, and ethical beliefs are fundamentally at odds with orthodox Christian faith and doctrine. However, I waver, at times, between thinking that theirs is the majority voice in our nation and that theirs is a small, but very loud voice, which is amplified by a sympathetic media, which craves blood more than it values objectivity and truth.
But, the Church also suffers attack from within, primarily the result of apathy amongst her members who simply do not care enough about their faith to study and take to heart what its beliefs and doctrines are, who attend worship for reasons other than a desire for forgiveness and a love for the Lord, who do not exhibit Christian love, compassion, and mercy in their lives, and who do not teach their children diligently in the faith and bring them to Church for worship and Christian education. Secondarily, the Church suffers attack from within because of self-righteousness and self-security amongst her members, which causes them to be prideful and unrepentant, hypocritical, and judgmental towards others.
Why do those outside often believe the Church to be irrelevant, or why do they often seem to be angry and hostile towards those of faith? Why do those inside of the Church often seem apathetic and lackadaisical about their faith, or self-secure, hypocritical, and unloving in their lives? Are the two related? How could they not be?
For, the Christian faith is not only something to know, but it is, and perhaps more importantly, something to be and to live. To be a Christian is to be a little Christ in the world, but not of the world. The answer to apathy within the Church is for Christians to actually believe what Jesus teaches and do it and live it in humility and repentance that you do not do it and live it as well as you should, but that you continue to sin, all the while trusting in God’s forgiveness and restoration in Jesus Christ. For, when you truly believe and live what Jesus teaches, then the apathetic souls, both inside and outside of the Church, will see, feel, hear, and experience the love of Jesus in and through you, and they may come to believe for themselves, when and where the Holy Spirit calls them.
And, the only answer to hatred and hostility outside of the Church is love. Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you, just as Jesus teaches (Luke 6:27). But, do not judge others, for there is One who judges, and that One is God the Father (John 8:7). While you must not condone or bless sin – indeed, our Lord Jesus never condoned or blessed sin, but He said to those He forgave, “Go, and sin no more”(John 8:11)  – it is not for you to judge another, for we all stand in judgment for our sins (Luke 6:37), and God has forgiven us all in Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection so that all who believe will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16).
The most effective way in which Christians can impact and change the world for the better is by simply being Christian – that is, by living the life of Christ in the world, but not of the world. Let our marriages be faithful and filled with patience, perseverance, forgiveness, and love. Let our families be little churches in which God’s Word is studied, spoken, prayed, and meditated upon and Christ’s life is lived out in mutual love and forgiveness between fathers, mothers, and children. Let our churches be places in which God’s people gather around His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation and go out into their God-given vocations bearing the grace, mercy, compassion, love, and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ in our words and deeds to our neighbors in every walk of life. And, let us support faithful men and women in leadership roles at every level and office of society and culture and encourage them to remain steadfast in their convictions while serving the people under their charge in compassion and mercy to the glory of God. 
In short, let us not attempt to force the kingdom of God upon the world, but let us submit ourselves to our merciful Lord and King that He may work through us, as through leaven, salt, and light, to change the world for the better, that all may live in peace and quietness, receiving from the Lord His boundless gifts of grace and mercy, praising and glorifying Him by sharing these with our brothers, sisters, and neighbors.
In the Name of our crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ.
+ Pastor Ellingworth

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