Author: Kyle Yarborough
I struggle with anxiety. At times, it can be severe. It can be debilitating and I can feel trapped or chained to a chair, unable to move. It can bring on nausea and headaches and it can cloud my judgement and thinking. It is also relatively common. About 40 million people are directly affected by anxiety each year in the US. That’s roughly 18% of the population. Less than a third seek out or receive treatment. Anxiety is yet another effect of sin in our world. For me, this struggle is a constant exercise in obedience and faith that my Father has my best interests at heart and that He is using my difficulties and trials to sanctify me.
Matthew 6:26-27 says “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” This is a daily reminder that worrying about moving halfway across the country, pursuing a new job, pouring into a new relationship, and all the other upcoming life changes cannot alter the path that He has determined for me. It is not mine to control. Believing that is difficult, but it brings a peace that only He can provide. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the patterns of this world and to start believing that success is determined by a number in your bank account, by the clothes you wear, or the car you drive.
David wrote in Psalm 27:1 that “the Lord is my light and my salvation — whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” More like, what then shall I fear; of what shall I be afraid? If I am not in control, then it does me no good to spend time fretting. This does not mean, “Don’t act.” It’s actually the opposite. Act in faith knowing that the Lord will guide you in his purposes, not allowing your heart and mind to be consumed by the temptations constantly before you. He is faithful to provide for those who live according to his word.
In 1932, just before the height of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said in his first inaugural address that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He sought to embolden his people for what lay ahead and give them the confidence to face difficulty. It would be a trying time but eventually industrial production rose to levels higher than before. The jobs returned but the people’s fears turned from employment to the conflict at hand, World War II.
A lot of our daily worries tend to be about things with very little long-term significance. That’s not to say there aren’t significant things to worry about in life, but each of these is an opportunity to lay our concerns at Jesus’ feet. In Mark 4:35-41 we see the disciples afraid for their lives as their ship struggles to navigate a heavy storm. Jesus, however, was asleep in the stern. Frantically, they woke him and asked, “Teacher, do you not care if we drown?” He rose from where he slept and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” and the storm dispersed. He then asked his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”, and they were terrified, asking each other “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!” Our prayer should then be “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
Too often, we carry irrational fears of things out of our control. We will always be able to find something to be fearful about. The Lord freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt but we struggle to trust him to provide for some of our most basic needs. There is little doubt that the onset of World War II struck fear and uncertainty in the hearts of the American People. So is fear truly something to fear? It is, but only when we fear the wrong things. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” My takeaway? Fear the right things. Fear of my circumstances gets me nowhere. To fear God is to desire to live in harmony with His righteous standards and to honor him through my actions. There is peace and sanctification in that.
Like the disciples, when we see Christ display His power over our circumstances, we fear them less, and we learn to fear Him more.
Author: Jared Lyda
The past month, for whatever reason, has brought death into the forefront of my Facebook and Twitter feeds and therefore my mind. The airport bombings in Brussels were about a month ago. There was an earthquake in Ecuador that killed over 500 people. 8 people died recently in the floods in Houston, TX. Aggie Muster, a ceremony that happens every year at Texas A&M to honor the lives of fallen Aggies, was Thursday night, April 21. One of the Aggies honored this year was Major Shawn Campbell, Texas A&M BYX Alumnus 2001. A junior on the drumline of my high school alma mater died a few days ago. An Oklahoma State BYX founder was killed in a Tulsa apartment fire within the last few weeks. Merle Haggard died about two weeks ago. Prince died last Thursday. And the list goes on.
We tend to behave in one of two ways when it comes to death — obsession or denial. Neither is helpful. Death is coming for everyone. So how does the Christian think about death? Why does the Christian think about death?
Death is not something people in their twenties like to think about. No one that young thinks they’re going to die soon. Death is something that we push out of our minds. Every now and then a celebrity dies and we start to think about death only to quickly push it out of our minds again. But let’s take a moment and not run to Netflix or Xbox or social media or friends and consider death.
Why should we think about death? Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The Bible says your life is a mist. You are here for a little time and then you vanish (James 4:14). Carrie Underwood sings about how this is our temporary home. This is just a stop on the way to where we’re going. Death is coming. It is universal. And it’s coming for everyone. No one is exempt.
Let’s not try to pretend that death isn’t sad or scary — it certainly is. It is right to be sad, it is right to mourn and to weep. But just like everything else in life the Christian has unshakable hope in life’s scariest and strangest times. For the Christian, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). When we die we get to be in the presence of our God for eternity. My mind doesn’t really have categories to understand the idea of eternity. Don’t read that sentence quickly and move on. We get to be in the presence of our God for eternity. Our hope is in Christ and being with him forever.
“We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
—2 Corinthians 4:18-5:1
We know how the story ends. In the end we win. We look forward to the day when He will wipe away every tear, when death will be no more, when mourning, crying, and pain cease, when the former things have passed away, and when God makes all things new (Revelation 21:4-5). The Christian understands what caused Paul to write, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
You’ve probably been asked, “How would you live your life today if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?” It sparks some interesting thoughts and a lot of fleeting motivation to change your behavior that typically fades within a few hours, but that’s not very helpful. And most likely you won’t die tomorrow.
I’m not interested in asking myself questions that will get me super motivated for an hour or two and then let me go back to what I was doing before. I’m interested in life-changing questions. I’m interested in life-changing sentences and paragraphs. I’m interested in thinking deeply about things that will change my perspective forever, things that will shape my worldview, and things that will alter how I live. I’m not interested in obsessing over death. But I am interested in allowing the fact that it’s coming to shape the way that I interact with those around me.
I want to remember how small I am compared to a big God.
I want to remember how fragile I am compared to a God who is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46).
I want to remember how limited my scope is compared to a God whose judgments are unsearchable and whose ways are inscrutable (Romans 11:33).
I want to remember how weak I am compared to an omnipotent God who does what he pleases (Psalm 115:3).
I want to remember how short my life and legacy is compared to a God whose name will be remembered throughout all generations (Psalm 102:12).
I want to remember these things and have them stir up worship in my soul. It is right to think on death because its reminder to us that we are small and fragile fuels our worship of a God who is eternal and all-powerful.
For now death does sting, death is sad, losing loved ones is painful. We cry. We mourn. We hurt. But we are not hopeless. We have a hope that is unfading and a joy that never ends. We serve an almighty God. Through him death is defeated.
Jared Lyda is the National Advisor for the Texas State, Kansas, Ole Miss, and Tulsa BYX chapters. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 2015 with a degree in Leadership and Development. He currently lives in Fort Worth, TX.
Author: Jayson Fisher Topic: Christian Living
Being a Part of a Local Church Matters Now
Here is another BYX buzz phrase. No, not “intentional” or “accountability” or “heart-level,” but rather “BYX is not the Church.” BYX believes that we do not replace the calling given by Christ to the Church (Matt. 28:19-20), but if we are honest with ourselves as college students, we often live our lives like BYX has done exactly that.
Too many men in BYX think the local church is something attended on a Sunday morning, not something you are a part of throughout your time in college. This can be extremely detrimental to your walk with the Lord after college when BYX, or any other parachurch / campus ministry, is no longer a part of your life. You will spend time filling a seat on a Sunday, and then Monday through Saturday you will feel the aches and pains that come with a relationship with Jesus that does not involve his bride. Before long, you will realize that being a part of the local church is critical to your spiritual health. Trip Lee, in a blog at Desiringgod.org, says this:
“And so we [as Christians] can’t say: ‘God has adopted me. He is my Father. I am glad he is, but I am just going to ignore his people altogether.’ That doesn’t make any sense, because if you are adopted in his family, you now have brothers and sisters.
This is a very similar thing to when we get saved. We can’t just think about things individually anymore, just like when I get married and now I am one with another sinner. We have to wrestle with things together. When we trust Jesus, not only do we become one with Jesus, we become one with his people. There is a unity that Jesus has already won for us, and we are now beginning to fight for it. It is just like how I can’t get married and then decide to ignore my wife. In the same way, you can’t just be adopted into a new family and ignore your brothers and sisters. It makes no sense. It is illogical.
So not only are you robbing them of the ways that you can edify them; you are robbing yourself of the ways they can edify you — and it is core to what it means to follow Jesus. So I encourage young men strongly: Do whatever you can to find a church that preaches God’s word, that is centered around the gospel, and where people want to fight to love him more.”
Paul writes in Ephesians 2:18-22:
“18 For through [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
The Church is something that all who have put their faith in the death and resurrection of Christ are a member of, and that does not start after college.
By not being a part of the local church, you are missing out on the single greatest plan God has to spread the gospel to those who do not know Christ. And by replacing the Church with BYX, you miss out on community with any other person who is not a college-aged male. Seek out a local body of the Church and serve on Sunday mornings, and you will be surprised at how quickly you feel a part of that local church. The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts all of us to get involved with the purpose and mission of the local church in Hebrews 10:23-25:
“23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Community is difficult, and some have found it easy to punt on the responsibility to meet together as the local church. Do not take that bait. Get involved, and not only will you reap the joys, but you will also be able to impact the lives of other believers. We all know that BYX is important, but if BYX is the only “spiritual feeding” you are taking in, you are doing the equivalent of eating a single Clif Bar and saying you eat healthy. BYX is a supplement to the local church, not a replacement for it. Continue to find ways to get involved with what the local church is doing in your community.
Jayson Fisher is the National Advisor for the Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, and Tennessee-Chattanooga BYX chapters. Jayson is studying at Dallas Theological Seminary for his ThM. He and his wife Kylan live in Dallas, TX.
I was talking by the time I was eight months old. I have been trying to get the last word ever since. My parents would say one thing, and, without fail, I would always have a response as if they needed the perspective of a child to help them make a better decision. I always had to interject my perspective into the situation. Some things never change.
I was always popping off, trying to convince my parents to see my side, pointing out the flaws in their thinking or just generally being disrespectful. But it didn’t matter because ultimately I never had the last word as long as I was under the roof of my parents.
As for our vertical relationship with Jesus, it works in a similar manner. These kids down here will pop off. The world will always have an opinion. We personally will deal in lies. Regardless of what the world, our peers or even our own minds have to say, Jesus gets the last word. Under his roof, what He says goes.
Look at Romans 8:31-34
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
God is the one who has declared us to be in right standing with Him, and He is the only one who has the authority to do so. No one has the right to condemn us, and we need to really abide in that truth in this day and age.
If you don’t believe that, just look around. It’s heartbreaking to see the way that people, each made in God’s image, interact with each other. When we fail to see eye-to-eye with each other, our initial inclination is often to discredit the other person by name calling and stigmatizing. If you’re too conservative you’re bigoted, narrow-minded and stupid. If you’re too liberal you’re immoral, hypocritical and illogical.
It’s so easy to get beat down by the opinions that are flying around our culture. Thanks to the plethora of information at our fingertips, we can learn how stupid we are with just a few keystrokes. It feels like we need to develop the skin of an elephant every time we go into the world or hop online, or we will be eaten alive.
Speaking from experience, the condemnation and negative talk doesn’t end when you withdraw. I can be harder on myself than anyone. I have a way of remembering things that others don’t and then heaping condemnation on myself for situations that have been long since forgotten by others or situations that haven’t even happened. I feed myself lies and pile on shame and condemnation.
But Jesus gets the last word. When He has every right and reason to convict and condemn, He loves and lifts up. He doesn’t put out a smoldering wick. We abide in the fact that The Lord has spoken and decided who we are and where we stand.
The rest of the noise has to be blocked out. Why should we give any relevance to the words of fallen man, be it ourselves or others, when the God who used His words to speak creation into existence says we are loved, righteous and forgiven?
So try this: if a thought or comment doesn’t align with what The Lord would have to say, then just let it roll off you. Test everything. Hold onto what is true. Under God’s roof, he has the final say. And that is great news for us.
I squatted over the telephone pole attempting to get my right foot on the top of the pole next to my left foot. I was 40 feet above the ground and the pole was shaking more than I would have preferred. I made the decision to just go for it and in all in one step I placed my right foot at the top of the pole and jumped out towards the trapeze swing. My left hand hit the trapeze but my right hand never made it over with my slightly awkward jump from the pole.
The Colorado portion of the COR Leadership Retreat isn’t about having success in every activity that we participate in; it’s about stretching yourself to try activities that you normally wouldn’t try. We certainly had that opportunity last week as we stretched ourselves on the giant swing, the zip line, rock climbing, peaking a summit at 12,500 feet in elevation and conquering the rapids of the Taylor River. Each experience is designed to grow the brothers in the purpose of the fraternity.
Men are not naturally willing to share their hearts with one another quickly. We need a shared experience, a common bond through activities in which we grow closer to one another. Colorado gives them the shared experience where brothers learn to trust one another on a much deeper level.
Mixed throughout the week were guided reflections times where brothers had the opportunity to reflect on their sessions from the prior week and seek the Lord in the vastness of the mountains. The Lord used those times to pursue the hearts of our men, and that became clearly evident as brothers grew closer to one another throughout the week. Debrief groups became deeper in conversation as brothers opened up about challenges and issues happening in their lives.
The brothers had the privilege of hearing from TCU BYX Founder Chuck James on the first night in Colorado. He shared with the brothers about the cost of leadership. He spoke on the importance of unity from John 17 and that unity requires a sacrifice. Chuck demonstrated his sacrifice in sharing with us some of his life challenges that often times prevent him from physically feeling well. The time inspired the brothers and challenged them in their leadership.
The brothers had the privilege of hearing from Texas A&M alumnus and board member David Pearson on the leader and the heart. David shared his personal testimony with the men and challenged them to learn from his experiences in life. He challenged the men to think deeply about the things we are tightly holding onto in our lives right now. We threw those challenges off the 12,500 feet Summit Peak together and continued on to share them with one another in our debrief groups.
The final night left a lasting impression on the brothers as we gathered for two hours in our debrief groups to encourage one another. Each brother had the chance to share a word of encouragement to each brother. I personally left deeply encouraged by the words my brothers shared as we got to know one another over the 11 days. We finished the evening in prayer and worship under the make shift lanterns of a cell phones and Nalgene bottles.
In the words of UTC Founder Scottie Hill, who attended the retreat, “There was not a brother who walked way from the experience unchanged, and certainly not a brother who regretted attending. It was one of the most formative experiences of my life to date, and I am pumped to see the lasting effects on my walk with Christ, my leadership in the fraternity and my impending excursion into the real world.”
When the opportunity presents itself in life, there are times where you just have to jump off the pole to experience all that God has for you.
Our third annual COR Leadership Retreat officially came to a close last week. As our 26 brothers left the mountains of Colorado to return to their respective campuses, the process of reflecting upon their experience has in many ways just begun.
It is nearly impossible to effectively share about the significance of our annual COR Leadership Retreat to those who have not had the privilege of participating in the experience. This is my third year to be a part of COR, and each year it seems to get bigger and better. Although I feel hardly capable of scratching the surface of the experience that was the Houston portion of this year’s retreat, I will attempt to paint a picture.
Our Houston crew had the privilege of getting to share in some experiences that few men will ever get to enjoy. Where else can 12 leaders representing 10 BYX chapters sit in a boardroom overlooking the city of Houston from 30 floors off the ground as they hear about integrity from Brett Williams, the founding president of our Gamma Chapter and a BYX board member?
Where else could these same young men spend an afternoon sitting at the feet of the pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, learning about life from a seasoned minister of one of the largest churches in one of the most populated cities in our nation? Where else could this crew go to the rooftop of this church and, as a group, pray in every direction over the lost and hurting people of the city?
Where else could this group of young men representing so many different states and schools get a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the busiest hospitals on the planet, with the former CEO of that same hospital, who happens to be a former board member and BYX alumnus from our Alpha Chapter?
Or where else would it be possible for these guys to take an all expense paid tour to one of the most respected museums in the country paid for by a board member of the museum who also happens to be a faithful donor and supporter of BYX.
And last but not least, where else could a group like this stop in Corsicana, Texas to take a tour of one of the most famous bakeries in all the land, given by a recent BYX alumnus and current vice president of Collin Street Bakery Thomas McNutt.
The group also had the privilege of sharing dinner with families of board members, hearing from other recent alumni and spending half a day hearing about life, work and family from another alumnus who is partner of a large oil and gas consulting firm. Needless to say, if it were not for COR, none of these experiences would have been possible for these men.
COR is one of the most significant events that we have the privilege of hosting each year. It is amazing to watch what happens when young men catch a larger vision for life. As our COR participants get a front row view into the lives of many successful BYX alumni, they can’t help but be inspired. When I say successful, I not only refer to success in their careers and ministries, I am also talking about the way they lead their families and give of what they have to the Kingdom.
As our men walk away from COR each year, they walk away with minds blown and hearts full. As they get a glimpse of the possibilities of Kingdom life, purpose and impact after college, they walk away changed by that vision that has been modeled by so many different men in their various spheres of influence. COR allows the leadership of BYX at the highest level to invest in many of our future leaders in a way that is life-changing. And if I’m honest, I too am walking away from this year’s COR Leadership Retreat changed.
It is with tears in my eyes as I write that throughout my short life on this Earth, my father has encouraged me more than anyone else. Whether it was during times of trials (there have been many) or during times of triumph, he has always been there to lift me off the ground or raise me higher. For all of this that he has done for me, it has been rare that I have had the opportunity to encourage him in the same way, building him up with Scripture.
Two weeks ago, I called my dad to wish him a happy birthday and catch up for a bit. During that call, he shared some of his recent struggles but maintained an attitude that reminded me of Job. I was able to encourage him in that way, reminding him that our response to testing and trials should always be worship.
“The Lord has given and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” -Job 1:21
In Job 1:1, Job is called “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” and remains a model leader in service, family and faith. He didn’t have a Bible, a local church, a small group or men’s ministry, yet he was known as “blameless and upright” and well respected by his community.
Why then does this quintessential man of God have everything ripped away from him in one nightmarish day? Job serves as a reminder that the amount of adversity we encounter throughout our lives is not proportional to the good and evil things we do.
In the face of great suffering, Job gives us a response that is contradictory to nature. When his servant brought him the news, Job rose from his seat, tore his robe, shaved his head and fell on the ground, worshipping God saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (v.21.)
I can only wish that this would be my first response to struggles. I would lose my cool and get ticked off. I would ask God, “Why me?” I would be downright angry. But that is not Job; that is not the model of response to trial. Job knew where he came from. He knew that he had entered life with nothing and would leave with nothing.
Job was spiritually rugged. He had built up his character throughout his life of servitude. While he was incredibly wealthy according to the standards of the day, he did not view his status as something to be lorded over people. Instead he chose to use his possessions to serve those in need. He placed his wealth in things above instead of the earthly possessions he knew he could never take with him. He did not complain when he lost everything because his complete trust was in God. Remember, he knew from where he had come.
Paul told the Romans that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4.) James affirmed this saying, “Count it all joy my brothers, when you encounter trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3.)
So when Job’s faith was tested, he displayed his spiritual ruggedness, and chose to worship God. It is adversity that truly reveals our character. The book “A Guide to Biblical Manhood” (p.22) asks, “Will you be rugged enough to have unceasing, unconditional worship to God even if all the perks in life go away?”
Would it not be great to answer that with a “Yes!” There are few guarantees in the life of a Christian. We will face trial, rejection and loss, but we are also guaranteed eternal life with our Savior. As Christians we should be working daily to store up our treasures in Heaven. Love God and serve others.
Is this always easy? No. Will we fail? Absolutely. That is not supposed to discourage us though! Christ securely holds our future, picks us up when we fall and rejoices with us in triumph. It is this, brothers, that gives us the confidence and resolve to stand firm through our trials as we await the day we are called home.
My kids love to collect rocks. This past weekend I found a bag full of newly-collected rocks that my daughter had picked up while visiting with her grandparents. We have so many bags of rocks around the house and in the yard now that I didn’t really think about it anymore.
I think we can easily go through life in that manner also. We don’t really think too much about it. We set out each day to accomplish our task lists of to-do items, and we can easily forget the bigger picture. Where did this rock come from? What has the rock been through? What part will it play in the future? These questions and more matter!
This is our fourth year of Called to Pray. We initially started Called to Pray in the heat of some intense challenges with the Nu Chapter of BYX in Nashville. Our chapter found itself in the midst of a religious freedom issue on campus in which we were courageously standing for our convictions.
Every visit to a chapter across the country brought questions of “How can we support the Nu Chapter?” The issue resonated with our brothers, and I wanted the deep convictions of the Nu Chapter to be celebrated in national unity. We wanted brothers across the country to have the opportunity to humbly pray for the Nu Chapter.
We set up a Google Doc so that brothers could sign up to participate in our 24-hour, five-day prayer initiative. The response from our brothers and alumni across the country was overwhelming. We filled up every 30-minute time slot so we added a second person to each 30 minutes time slot. We filled that up as well. We were confident that the Lord was moving through BYX and growing and challenging our men in pursuit of Christ.
The initial Called to Pray was so successful that we decided to continue to challenge our men to a 24-hour prayer each spring leading up to the Collegiate Day of Prayer, which is always the last Thursday in February. The CDOP is a united effort among evangelical Christians to collectively pray for college campuses and college students across America.
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
This year there are 1,205 campuses united in their efforts to pray for the Lord to awaken the hearts of college students on campus. We decided to couple our efforts for specific prayer requests for BYX with the larger efforts of CDOP to end our week of prayer together with thousands of others across the country.
Here are the specific prayer requests for BYX that we are asking those who sign up to pray for:
- For our brothers serving across the world.
- For our brothers who are pastors and ministers in the U.S.
- For our brothers leading out in their work place and communities.
- For the Board of Directors and National Staff members of BYX in continuing to guide and protect the vision of BYX.
- For the 190 men who serve as officers of their BYX chapters.
- For the current 2,300 BYX brothers at 34 universities in 16 states.
- For the Lord to use our BYX chapters and our men to impact their campus both spiritually and socially.
- For the future growth of BYX in developing new chapters.
- For the pursuit of Christ within the fraternity that God might continue to use BYX to develop young Christian men.
There is still time to join with us in prayer for all the the Lord is doing in and through BYX and on our campuses. I encourage you to take step back and look at the bigger picture.
As it turns out, a few of the rocks that my daughter brought home were a part of a bigger picture. A few of the rocks were brought home from her grandparents’ trip to the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Those are more than just a couple of rocks and that brings quite a different perspective to a couple of rocks.
I hate being stereotyped as holier than thou, Bible-beating, narrow-minded, intolerant or any number of other not-so-flattering adjectives simply because I am a Christian. But the honest truth is it grieves me even more when I realize that we Christians have conducted ourselves in a manner that validates that stereotype and gives it traction. Because this perception exists, we can find ourselves in an uphill battle to convince non-believers that Christians do love them because Christ loved us where we were.
I am admittedly guilty of being just as pompous as the next guy, and I hate it. If I’m going to share my opinions on the arrogance of Christians, then I need to first admit I have been a part of the problem. I also want anyone who feels an “us versus them” vibe will understand that the dichotomy between Christians and non-Christians must be acknowledged in order for me to effectively discuss the topic. I love both sides and will try to say what I want to say carefully. So here goes nothing.
We live in a post-Christian world. Consequently, we run into individuals and communities every day that hold opinions and stand for causes antithetical to those of Scripture. Then we act surprised and look down on them rather than trying to love and understand why they hold those beliefs.
We as Christians come off as horribly arrogant when we forget that apart from the grace of God we would be no different from the people and cultures that we sinfully look down upon. Period. Nothing in and of myself makes me better than anyone. Not my morality. Not my church attendance. Nothing.
Nothing but the blood of Jesus that is.
Paul spells it out for us in 1 Corinthians 6. He casts a net broad enough to catch everyone when he provides a list of sins common to man, reminding the audience (us) that these folks (us without Jesus) don’t inherit the kingdom of God. Then Paul drops this on us in verse 11:
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11
You know those people who we are so good about looking down upon and criticizing? You were one of them, and you would still be one them if it weren’t for the grace of God cleansing you, growing you and declaring you righteous before a holy and just judge.
Chip Ingram says that sin is an “equal opportunity condemner.” My sin makes me as worthy of condemnation as the most notorious terrorist, murderer or pedophile. The only difference is I have placed my trust Christ, who paid a price for my sins that I couldn’t pay myself.
We pretend that we are better than the unbelievers we disagree with, fancying ourselves as some sort of beacon of morality and wisdom because we show up at church or read the Bible a few times a week, if that. We are not better, but our Savior is.
Typically we are operating on different planes with different standards of truth and different moral compasses. Until an unbeliever surrenders his or her life to Christ, we have no right to hold them to the same standards to which we hold Christians. They haven’t signed up for that. It’s foolish to force our morality upon them. Loving, Gospel-centric accountability is something that we should only attempt to facilitate between believers.
If I was in their shoes, why the heck would I adhere to a seemingly antiquated code of conduct when culture tells me I can construct my own truth and chase whatever makes me happy? I would believe what I wanted to believe, and I would believe it with conviction. We have to stop acting surprised when non-Christians act like non-Christians.
Scripture is clear. Apart from Jesus we are dead, blind objects of the wrath of God, and people around us every day still find themselves in that state. That harsh reality needs to break our hearts. So many around us are still living apart from Jesus dead in their transgressions, and, if they don’t surrender their lives to Christ, they will stay that way for eternity.
We are not called to introduce non-Christians to a moral code but to a Savior. Until they make a decision to follow Christ, we love them as they are and look for the opportunities to share the Gospel because that is the most loving thing we can possibly do. Seek to win souls, not debates.
“Don’t ever forget that it is only by God’s grace that you are not in his position arguing his point and he in yours, defending the gospel. If you think about this, you will not reproach or hate him just because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his. Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Christians, are most expressly bound by our own principles to be gentle and moderate. If, indeed, a non-Christian could change himself, open his own eyes and soften his own heart we might have more reason to be offended at his/her stubbornness.” John Newton
Our vitriolic, moralistic bickering is driving people straight to Hell. What good is it to stand on a soap box and talk down to people, effectively widening the chasm between them and the only thing that is going to change them. We are the biggest stumbling block to people knowing Christ.
You want to stand for the Word of God? Good. The Word of God says to love your neighbor. The Word of God says to make disciples. And The Word came from Heaven, put on flesh and hung on a cross to extend grace and mercy to anyone who calls upon His name.
Let’s start standing for these truths first and foremost. From there, pray that we get the opportunity to go beyond that point of conversion to the process of sanctification with the individual. Pray as if lives depend on it, because they do.
I am my own worst critic. I see all these areas that I need to work on to grow in Christlikeness and get overwhelemed. If I were to collect all the areas I want to work on into a single list would discourage me beyond belief. Fortunately, a book I read recently simplifies the endeavor to grow into the image of Jesus.
In Randy Alcorn’s “The Grace and Truth Paradox,” he explains that Jesus was two specific things: grace and truth. Under that umbrella comes a substantial number of attributes that made Jesus the perfect sacrifice He came to earth to be.
How did Alcorn come to this conclusion. First, we look at John 1.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” -John 1:14
Right out of the gate, John establishes that Jesus was full of grace and truth. More than that, he became the physical embodiment of each.
On the cross, we see Jesus as the payment for our sins, earning us the unmerited favor of God that we could not acquire on our own. Saving grace flows from no other source than the wound of Jesus.
As for truth, we see Jesus perfectly living out the commands of his Father. Not only did he live out the Word, but He lived as the Word. Because Jesus was the Word and lived out the command of the Word, we see Him perfectly display an example for us to follow during His 33 years.
I don’t think I am oversimplifying Christlikeness by saying that if we want to properly represent Christ, we should strive for our lives to be marked by equal parts grace and truth. They need each other, and we need to learn to walk in each daily. Unfortunately, because of our current state, we get those out of wack and operate with more of an emphasis on one than the other.
If we lean too much on grace, we overlook sin. We refuse to call out our brothers who are in sin or can be far too passive about the direction that culture is going. When we fail to have a full understanding of truth, we try to beat people over the head with Scripture and don’t understand why they call us, as Christians, arrogant (more on that in the future.) Neither of those approaches are loving.
We need a well-rounded understanding of both to walk in each simultaneously. When we abuse grace, we ignore truth. When we don’t understand truth, we fail to extend grace. Jesus walked with a perfect balance of grace and truth, and we must learn to do the same.