being truly different

2 Corinthians 5
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

we were all sitting around one night, some time back, talking about a ton of different stuff; because some where church goers the conversation soon turned to the church. as we discussed what we believed would be the future of the church in america (and most of us felt good about the possibilities) we all felt that the current incarnation of the church could stand some major changes. many, but mostly the non-goers, felt that the current incarnation of the church was not meeting needs or helping people with life issues. let me share with you what came out of the conversation

many churches today – fundamental, evangelical, liberal, or any other category you desire to place a church in – teach a “cultural faith” – a faith based on “good old american values” like independence, democracy, being a patriotic person, it is a faith based on the “red, white and blue” and the perceived values of the 1950’s. it was funny how the “camps” divided on this, and other, issues. the “goers” felt that needed to call people back to a “solid theology,” while those who were “non-goers” felt that the “solid theology” they desired to call us to was outdated and rooted in some kind of “victorian” past. many of the “non-goers” felt that the church was out of touch, and was using non-biblical ideas to determine what it did in the world. but even more then any question of theology, was the reality that many of the “non-goers” and “ex-goers” all felt that the church was not a very inviting place for them, and others. here is how i saw the discussion going.

over the past i have heard pastors and other church leaders say that the church “is only human” and that it has “the same pains and problems found in the rest of the world” – but where is the scriptural support for such an understanding? you see, i believe to claim to be a follower of christ you must be change, for the better – people inside the church must be loving, open, welcoming and forgiving – but they are not.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 peter 2:1-3)

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (titus 3:3-9)

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

for me it is simple, if a church is unwelcoming it is not a community of faith that follows the teaching of the way. now, that may be harsh, and that may seem judgmental, but at what point are we going to stand up and say that we must be changed to be a christian – if we are just like the world, what good is the faith? if we have not been changed, what good is christ in our lives? if we have not been changed, why are we desiring to share our faith with the world? it is like the words to that nickelback song, “love can not save us, look what love gave us.”

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (romans 7:6)

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. (galatians 6:14-16)

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (colossians 3:9-11)

most people in church have no understanding of forgiveness – “true” and “absolute” forgiveness. they have replaced “forgiveness” with a concept of “silence.” we some how think that we need to have the american concept “tough love.” no place in scripture are the words “tough” and “love” used together – no where. in fact, paul tells us that love is not to be tough – it is to be kind, forgiving, and open – it is always to forgive, always to accept and always to push us beyond our personal safety zone and into the danger of standing naked before the world, looking the fool – can you love like that? to truly be forgiven, you must forgive – it truly is that simple. if you do not forgive others for their sins against you, God will not forgive you your sins against him and others.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (matthew 6:13-15)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (colossians 3:12-14)

you see i believe the people of the church must be different from the world around us – if not, why should anyone go to church – after all, it is not required for salvation. if the people in the church are no better then the people outside the church – why go?

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