27 November 2009


A while ago, someone commented to me that ideas are the most dangerous things in the world. This off-hand comment sounded strange to me at first. It sat unsettled until I took the time to think it over. I have gradually come to realize that this is true. Ideas are dangerous. Think about it:
  • Which is more dangerous: A nuclear warhead, or the idea behind it? A nuclear weapon would pose no threat if there were no idea of death and destruction behind it. Would it even have been invented?
  • Hitler was only as dangerous as the thoughts he transmitted to the German nation. The thoughts about the “uncleanliness” of Jews, homosexuals, and mentally and physically impaired people were the root of that genocide. Hitler was only as powerful as his ideas.

Ideas / thoughts are behind our every single conviction, action, word. They are what make us say the things we say, do the things we do, consciously and subconsciously. Most of the time we do not even realize it.
Christians can be just as “dangerous” with their thoughts. When we view the world through a Christ-centric lens we can effectively be “dangerous” to this world that is captive to another kingdom by instilling values of love, peace and joy. Conversely, when our thoughts are based on our own false, human understandings, we as Christians can just bring even more destruction and brokenness into the lives of the people around us.
When the Iraq war began a few years ago, a major news station held an interview with a prominent evangelical leader on TV. He praised the war efforts and declared that “God was on our side” in it. The news reporter began asking for his perspectives on fighting. “Doesn’t Jesus say in the Bible that we are supposed to love our enemies and turn the other cheek?” the news reporter asked. The pastor hesitated for a moment. His discomfort was apparent to the thousands of people who viewed the news that evening. Finally, the Christian leader carefully explained that Jesus’ teachings did not apply to politics or to the public arena, but were only to be practiced privately. Regardless of our individual stances on the Christian response to war, I’m sure we can all clearly see the dichotomous ideas the Christian leader was insinuating. There is something terribly wrong with the way he is reasoning.

All Christians currently, or at some point in their lives, have had thoughts, reasonings, and understandings that are contrary to their identity as people changed by the blood and truth of Christ. Many times we mix up “God’s truth” with other thoughts and convictions that we may already have had. This is very easy to do. Ideas and beliefs that are new or different from our already present schemas make us uncomfortable and defensive. Although we may think that we are shining examples of Christians who think like Jesus does, it is no different with God’s truth.

There’s a study that states that it is actually healthier not to wash babies every day so that they can build stronger immune systems. Try telling some mothers this. Keeping their babies clean is a ritual. Doing otherwise is inconsistent with the way they have been taught and will make them uncomfortable. Most mothers will deny that this research is true. In the same way, God’s truth can make us uncomfortable because it is not consistent with our already present (human) ideas. Instead of running away from such beliefs and reverting back to our own pre-accepted notions, we need to critically examine our philosophies and be open to discovering God’s truth.

This very issue is something that the early Christians at Colossae were having trouble realizing. Paul writes in Colossians 2:6-10:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,
rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and
overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive
through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and
the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in
Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been
given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

It must be noted that these Christians at Colossae were “rooted and built up” in Christ. They weren’t atheists or agnostics or even “Christmas and Easter Christians.” They had genuinely and whole-heartedly accepted Christ as the King of their lives. What had gone wrong? Somehow the Christians there had either begun “flirting” with other popular ideas of the day, or had borrowed from their former ways of thinking and added it to their new faith. They probably did not even realize they were doing it! The people liked some ideas their Christian faith offered, but it was not “good enough.” They chose some parts from Christ’s teachings that they liked and discarded the ones they disliked or maybe did not understand. Those holes were in turn filled with other “philosophies” and ideas, which as Paul said were from “human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”Although their ideas undoubtedly had some Christian theme imbedded within, God’s character had been distorted in some way. Somehow today we think that many of our ideas like these are permissible because they have some “Jesus” in them. As long as we have some biblical ideas, our understandings, perceptions, and worldviews must be true. This reasoning is false! Christ must be the center of our thoughts, not an afterthought or idea that is tacked on to our already constructed, human ideas. Christ is to be the identity of His followers!

One of Paul’s trademark sayings is that Christians are “in Christ.” Paul is apparently trying to make a very important point about a believer’s identity. We as Christians must realize that our true reality lies within Christ. Christ is the framework of how we should see ourselves. He is the very fibers of our identity. The decision to follow Him is not just something that involves our “quiet time” with God or our time here at church. Being “in Christ” means reconstructing our entire understanding of who we are based on who He is. This new realization of our identity in Him should affect every aspect about ourselves, especially the way we perceive the world around us. We cannot be wholly and radically transformed by Christ without being “made new in the attitude of our minds” (Eph. 4:22-23).Some of you may think, “Well, of course all of my beliefs are centered in Christ! I believe everything the Bible says. This sermon is for ‘those people’ who don’t know the Bible well enough. This sermon is for ‘those people’ who do not go to Sunday School or church regularly."

Many of our “Christian” ideas we have learned through osmosis are completely contrary to the teachings of Christ! Many times without realizing it we are like the church at Colossae. We think we have a pretty good handle of what “God’s truth” is, when in reality we have perverted many of His truth with our own reasonings, our own marred perceptions, our own culture, and even the church’s traditional teachings. As human beings, it only makes sense that our mental processes are still captive to our sinful nature and the principles of this world. The world has governed how we think and reason ever since we were born. Just as Christians need to be sanctified by emptying themselves of their sin, they also need to be sanctified of their minds. If there is one thing I have learned as I have continued to grow and mature, it is that we as Christians need to discover just what it means to be buried with Christ, to view our whole identity, our entire reality in Him.

Peter was one Christ-follower who thought he had his identity figured out. In Mark 8:27-33, Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is. Peter gives the winning answer. “You are the Christ,” he boldly replies. I can see Peter patting himself on the back. He has everything figured out. What Jesus says next, however, throws Peter for a curve. Jesus began to tell His disciples what it really meant to be the Christ. He told them how the Christ must suffer at the hands of men and die a painful death. He told them that they as His disciples must die to themselves and pick up their crosses. It got to be too much for Peter. He pulled Jesus aside and frantically rebuked him. “That’s not the way it’s supposed to happen!” I can see Peter saying. “Have you read the Scriptures? Have you heard what all the teachers of the law say? Jesus, you must be confused. The Christ is not supposed to die. Everyone knows that You are supposed to triumphantly defeat the Roman government and deliver us into a kingdom of stability and peace. And I'm supposed to be your right-hand man in battle. That’s what the Bible says!”
Like many of us today, Peter’s thoughts were distorted by human tradition. Even though his perceptions were based upon Scripture and the religious tradition of the day, it was completely contrary to Christ’s identity. He himself built his own identity out of this deceptive philosophy, thinking that he was to be Christ’s right-hand man in waging war. His identity was based upon the human traditions of the day instead of in Christ’s teachings of love.

Jesus dying on the cross was by no means what we would call “practical.” It was by no means utilitarian. It is completely contradictory to the way the world has conditioned us to think. Why do Christ's other ways of instilling the Kingdom need to be "practical?" We need to realize that God’s Kingdom values are counter to our own human ways of thinking. It may seem like it is upside down, but maybe that is the wrong way to look at it. Perhaps our world is the one that is upside down, and in reality, Christ's reality, God’s kingdom is the one that is right side up.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

- 2 Cor. 10:5

03 November 2009

You Are God of This City

Our cities cry to you, O God, from out their pain and strife;
You made us for yourself alone, but we choose alien life.
Our goals are pleasure, gold and power; injustice stalks our earth;
In vain we seek for rest, for joy, for sense of human worth.

Yet still You walk our streets, O Christ! We know your presence here.
Where humble Christians love and serve in godly grace and fear.
O Word made flesh be seen in us! May all we say and do
Affirm You God, Incarnate still, and turn men's hearts to you.

Your people are your hands and feet to serve your world today,
Our lives the book our cities read to help them find your way.
O pour your sov'reign Spirit out on heart and will and brain;
Inspire your Church with love and pow'r to ease our cities' pain!

O healing Savior, Prince of Peace, salvation's Source and Sum,
For you our broken cities cry-- O come, Lord Jesus, come!
With truth your royal diadem, with righteousness your rod,
O come, Lord Jesus, bring to earth the City of our God!

---E. Margaret Clarkson