Tag Archive | condemnation

Marketing Jesus: Does Anyone Really Want What I Have?

It seems to me that we Christians have done more damage to our cause than we realize.   I grieve when I remember the self-righteous arguments I have used on occasion to defend the opinions I was sure were correct!  I find myself wincing when the press portrays us all as Bible-thumping, angry, vindictive hate-mongers.  I realize, of course, that the press is capable of putting an unfavorable slant on the most well-intentioned behavior, but I also know that we often unwittingly contribute to our own bad press.

Do I want to be known just for the things I dislike — or do I want to be known for the things I applaud?   Do I want to be remembered only for the truth I proclaim, or also for the way I proclaim it?  John 1:14 describes Jesus as full of grace AND truth, not just one or the other.   My heart yearns to have grace, forgiveness, and compassion for people who do not share my convictions, even as that same heart longs to speak the truth to those same people.  This challenge is daunting, but not impossible.  The key is to ask the Holy Spirit how to say what we say, and to be quick to ask forgiveness when we say it wrong.   It is, in fact, possible to say the right thing the wrong way.

I have learned the hard way that loving people is more important than proving to them that I am right.   If I really, really, really DO know THE truth (who, by the way, the Bible says is actually a person — Jesus Himself; see John 14:6), then the truth will ultimately become evident.  God is perfectly capable of defending Himself.  I am not proposing that we never should speak about Jesus when challenged by others to defend our faith; I am merely suggesting that we ask God HOW we should express ourselves in order to demonstrate genuine love for others as we speak that truth.   I want people to WANT what they see in me,  instead of being repelled by my behavior.  I do not want anyone to reject Jesus because of the way I behave.

I am certainly imperfect, but I believe God is capable of revealing Himself in and through me to others whom He longs to draw to Himself.   He wants to do it HIS way, not my way,  and He doesn’t need me to condemn people when HIS plan is to save them!

I have also noticed that God doesn’t need me to dress Him up, make Him look cute, and market Him to other people like some kind of hip guy who caters to their every whim.   Unfortunately, there is far too much packaging and marketing of Jesus in our seeker-friendly American Christian culture.  We seem to get mired in one extreme or the other: either we blast people with condemnation and judgment, or we try to trick them into thinking Jesus is their cool personal guru who will help them get everything they want, when they want it.   Neither position is particularly attractive to unbelievers.   Our attempts to point out unrighteousness come across as self-important, and tricking people into swallowing a sugar-coated Jesus pill does not allow them to meet the actual Savior of their souls.

God help the Church in America!   Pray for us!   I desperately want people to know the God I serve.  I want people to see the real Jesus in me!  My heart longs for unbelievers to be thirsty for what I have — living water, springing up to eternal life (John 7:37-38).  I want to conduct myself in such a way that others will desire to experience for themselves that great mystery that has become (I hope!) evident in me:  Christ in me, the hope of glory!   (Colossians 1:27)  God help me, and God help us all in this regard.   May people actually want what we have!

The Purpose of Exposure

Do you ever just feel, well, EXPOSED?  No matter how well I try to keep my schedule organized, my tendencies to extremes in check, and my heart tender toward God and the people He has placed in my life, I somehow seem to accumulate an embarrassing pile of spiritual garbage! If other people don’t manage to point it out first, the Holy Spirit eventually gets around to it — and I am BUSTED!  I stand before God with my garbage bags full and no hope of getting them to the dumpster without having to acknowledge that I cannot carry it myself!

GUESS WHAT!  That acknowledgment is exactly what God wants from me!  He did not design me to bear my own sin and clean myself up.  In fact, that is an impossible feat!  He wants to remove it and carry it away for me.   However, I tend to buy in to the enemy’s way of thinking, which sounds somewhat like this:  “You know, this garbage looks very similar to the garbage you always seem to generate.  You’ve made these same mistakes many times before.  In fact, you really haven’t improved at all over the past several years, in spite of God’s influence in your life.  You might as well forget this game you are playing with turning over a new leaf and pretending you are being transformed.  Really, admit it!  You are a blight to the Kingdom.   You can’t even seem to repent properly.  You should be ashamed of yourself.   Even God won’t want to bother with you anymore.  You are incorrigible; even HE can’t fix you.”

At some point (usually after a few days of such tormenting diatribe!), I suddenly recognize the fruit of condemnation: a tendency in myself to begin withdrawing from God and avoid talking to Him, as I feel ashamed and unlovable.  Since the Bible admonishes us that we will know good and evil by its fruit (Matthew 7:16; 12:33), and God certainly does not want us to withdraw from Him (James 4:8; Jeremiah 29:13), we can be confident that our withdrawal is the fruit of condemnation, a weapon of the enemy.

Conviction, as opposed to condemnation, is a tool used by the Holy Spirit to expose sin for the purpose of bringing us to repentance and, ultimately, healing.  It is the KINDNESS of God, not severity or judgment, that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  In His mercy, God exposes our sins and weaknesses for the purpose of giving us the ability to recognize that we need Him.  While the enemy exposes us to bring shame and condemnation, God only exposes for the purpose of healing.  He shines His light on our garbage to point out the places He is planning to heal, the places where we feel exposed and vulnerable.  God, the lover of our soul, wants us whole.   He allows us to repent in order to draw us closer to Himself, to bring greater intimacy in our relationship with Him, not isolation or withdrawal.

The conviction of the Holy Spirit regarding the garbage He wants to remove from our lives is part of the glorious process of becoming new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).  He gladly hauls all our mistakes, failings, sins, and bad decisions away to the sea of forgetfulness (Micah 7:18-20; Hebrews 8:12)! God wants us to be reconciled with Him, to remain in intimate relationship with Him, to include Him in all our thoughts, dreams, hopes, plans, and activities.  He LOVES us!  The fruit of the Holy Spirit’s convicting spotlight on our sin is always a desire to draw closer to the One who loves us, heals us, frees us, and holds us to His heart.

Don’t allow the enemy to trap you into picking through your trash — let God remove it and make space in your heart for what He gives you in return:  a huge deposit of His acceptance, healing, peace, and joy!