Recently I have noticed a trend of Christians (I am using this term loosely) coming out of the woodwork who maintain this progressive, hippy, chic version of a life devoted to Christ. It is a carefully developed facade, a sham that makes believers into trendy, easy-to-get-along-with, “enlightened” people whom non-believers approve of because of the “God-is-love-Christ-is-love-anything-goes” mentality.
This easy-to-swallow version of Christianity masquerades as a life devoted to Christ with an obsessive focus on the New Covenant, while completely ignoring the heart of God the Father shown in the Old Testament as well as the “scary” parts of the New Testament that are too bold and straightforward to deal with. It is all about “love”, “peace”, and “happiness”. Well, this may burst some peoples’ bubbles, but this mentality is not Biblical. They act as if through the Blood Covenant, they are above the Law. However, that isn’t how God sees it. Take a look at Jeremiah 31:31-34:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (ESV)
Notice that God did not say believers would be above the Law but rather that the Law would be within us! Keep that in mind as we dig a little deeper into the concepts of love, peace, and happiness:
Let’s begin with the concept of love. Yes, we are to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31), but let me ask you something. If your neighbor’s roof was on fire, would it be loving for you to just ignore it and mind your own business? I feel that it would be the more loving thing to frantically run up, knock on the door (or even bust in if you had to), and tell them to get out of the house right then and there because their roof was on fire! Yet, when people are living in sinful, Christ-less lives, we have no problem allowing them to burn in the flames of hell. Just because we can realistically visualize a flaming roof yet only imagine hell does not mean that hell doesn’t exist.
“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” Mark 9:43 (ESV)
“ And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 (ESV)
Hell is a real thing. Your neighbor may very well be heading there. It isn’t love to ignore their lack of salvation in order to not “offend” them. The opposite of love isn’t hate… it is indifference. God has outlined the Great Commission and commanded us as His people to follow through with that mission. No matter how you interpret it, God’s commandments and Word come before the world’s twisted definition of love. Love of the Bible isn’t a fluffy, progressive feel-good emotion. Love is a verb that insists on us taking action for God’s Kingdom. Because the truth of the matter is, loving thy neighbor is the second commandment. Guess what comes first? Love the Lord your God. God comes first. Period.
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'” Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)
“’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.'” Matthew 22:36-38 (ESV)
On to the topic of peace. This is where I feel like people have grossly forgotten (or chosen to forget) the heart of God. Yes, God is a God of love and peace. However, He is also a God of justice. In the Old Testament, there was wars, punishment, discipline, and sorrow. Does this make you cringe? If it does, make sure you brace yourself if you plan on reading the Old Testament; you might get very uncomfortable very quickly.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, many “Christians” are not just valuing the New Covenant and New Testament but they are also completely disregarding and ignoring the Old Testament. The danger in this is that it deprives us of learning about the personality, deep belief system, and general heart of God the Father. He is a trinity- we cannot decide to only pay attention to two parts of Him. Just as you cannot ignore one third of a friend’s personality, acting as if it isn’t a part of him or her. Yes, the Lord wants peace. But there is a difference between being a peace-maker and a peace-keeper.
A peace-keeper ignores the issues, brushes them under the rug, and allows everything to stay in a sort of tense, Cold War situation- everyone just bracing themselves for impending chaos. Strained peace isn’t comfortable. A peacemaker arms himself or herself, charges into battle, and fights for true peace. To the untrained eye, this can seem counterproductive, but let’s see what God’s Word has to say about it.
“Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.” Psalm 37:27-39 (ESV)
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)
“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14 (ESV)
Happiness. Fleeting, flaky, and failing. I am so thankful that Christ didn’t make happiness His priority, aren’t you? He even cried out to God in the last few moments before the beginning of his crucifixion for His Father to take the burden from Him (Luke 22:42). However, when God answered “no”, Christ accepted that. Do you think that He was “happy” as he was sweating beads of blood (Luke 22:44)? Do you think that he was pursuing happiness while his executioners were violently pressing a crown of thorns into His flesh (John 19:2)? Do you think He was exuding happiness while his persecutors were spitting on Him just days after they laid palm branches in His path out of reverence and worship (Matthew 26:67; John 12:13)? Christ wasn’t pursuing happiness. He was pursuing obedience and a way to salvation for us, His children.
While Stephen was being stoned, I don’t believe he was happy (Acts 7:54-60). I think he had the joy of Christ in his spirit, but do I think he was “happy” at that moment? No. I think that is the main issue: people mistake “happiness” for “joy”. Joy is an unfailing feeling of contentedness and satisfaction due to a heart full of Jesus. Happiness is more of an emotional state. Happiness isn’t “bad” by any means! It often occurs in our lives- especially if we have Jesus! However, we must realize that God doesn’t want us to pursue happiness. He wants us to pursue Him. If happiness fills us up on occasion or frequently, that is awesome! God wants us to live abundant lives filled with happy moments. However, overall He wants us to experience deep joy from a close relationship with him. After all, I don’t believe that Christians were happy back during the bloodbath known as the reign of the Roman Empire- just as I don’t believe Christians currently being beheaded and persecuted in the Middle East are happy. That isn’t the goal. We need to stop pursuing it as if it is God’s number one priority for us.
“But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,” 2 Corinthians 6:4 (ESV)
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3 (ESV)
“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22 (ESV)
Let us pursue holiness, the Great Commission, and loving God and others using a Biblical definition. Let us study God’s Word- all of it. Let us seek out the heart of our Father for understanding, thank Jesus and follow His teachings and life, and follow the deep calling of the Holy Spirit as we live our lives for Christ. We need to stop taking away the manhood of God. God commanded His people to fight wars (1 Samuel 15:18), Jesus turned over the tables in the tabernacle (Mark 11:15-16), and the Holy Spirit could be asking you to boldly stand for true faith in Jesus Christ today. Are you going to listen? Are you going to love someone enough to tell them their house is on fire? Are you going to desire peace enough to fight for it? Are you going to have joy inside of you even when happiness fades away when the Lord tells you He will not take away the cup?
Christianity is bold, many times confrontational, intense, and raw. We need to stop making it a sugar-coated, sexy fad. An authentic relationship with Jesus Christ is so worth it.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)