Married to a New Master

I hate movies where a romantic commitment is violated.

For example, The Wedding Planner. It stars Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez in your typical romcom. It’s a perfectly fine romcom except McConaughey’s character starts pursuing Lopez’s character while he’s engaged to someone else. It takes McConaughey’s character to get to his wedding day before he confesses to his fiancée.

I know there are tons of movies like this. The man/woman who leaves someone else is excused because the existing relationship is bad and it’s “true love” they’re seeking after. It’s just not right.

Not that I’m perfect in this area. I can think of a couple times in my life where I accidentally (maybe?) led a girl on and wasn’t forthcoming with her. Perhaps it’s my experience in the pain of that which makes me abhor movies that glorify that.

It’s painful to someone when you’re committed to them and then you abandon them for someone else. However, in the grand scheme of our walks with Christ, there’s a situation where not only is that OK, but it’s desirable, joyful and freeing.

Romans 7:4-6 says —

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

There’s a switch in spouses here that’s beautiful. The prior few verses talk about how a woman is adulterous if she is with another man while her husband is still alive, but if her husband dies, she is not adulterous if she marries another man.

It’s the same way when we come to Christ. Prior to our salvation, we were married to the law, committed to following its ways. Because of that, we would always fall short because we can’t meet the strict requirements of the law.

But when we were saved, we were released from that commitment and to a new commitment to Jesus, to God, to grace. It’s a marriage to a new master, and it’s a healthy, vibrant and live-saving one.

So in this case, ditching a relationship as quick as you can for a new one is perfectly OK. In fact, if you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to do it as soon as possible.

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The World Is Crying Out for Authenticity. Let’s Give It to Them.

I watched the first 40 minutes or so of the GOP debate last night and wasn’t surprised by anything. By the time you get to the fifth of these things, there’s not much new to be had.

But as I pondered the debate this morning, I was struck by the fact that I wasn’t surprised. Candidates took shots at each other, at Barack and Hillary, at ISIS, just about everything imaginable. It was like they were reading from a script every time they talked.

I understand that’s kind of what you want in a debate. You prep for weeks before, getting your answers straight and formulated so you don’t embarrass yourself on national television. I totally get it.

But what you’re left wondering with all those scripted answers is this: “What do they really think? Who are they really? What will they really do when they get in office?”

We perceive that they’re missing a certain amount of authenticity. We’re afraid we’re not seeing who they really are. That’s why Donald Trump is doing so well – he’s being himself, saying what he really thinks, not crafting an answer to fit some party line or politically-correct stance. As crazy as some of his thoughts may be, he’s the real deal.

And that authenticity – as his poll numbers show – is what people crave.

Let’s look at two of the most popular musicians of this era – Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber – as examples.

Swift is known for her very personal songwriting, with tracks that seem to match up perfectly with her many public relationships. These tracks hit people hard because they can relate. It’s not a stale retread of the typical break-up song. It’s a fresh perspective, and she never seems to fail. That’s why she has over 67.6 million Twitter followers and each of her five studio albums have sold at least four million copies in the United States. Many musicians have taken to that style of being personal and vulnerable on their records.

If you know me, you know I’m a huge Bieber fan. That fandom took a boost with the release of his most recent album, Purpose. His first few releases were typical, cheesy, stereotypical pop music standards. But with Purpose, he turned a corner, quickly striking platinum with first-week sales of 649,000. And it’s not shocking. Yes, the production is vastly improved, constantly playing on the EDM movement of the current music scene. But his lyricism has grown significantly. He comes across as the real thing instead of some pop puppet with a pretty face. He’s credited as a writer on each of the tracks, and songs like “Purpose” and “Life Is Worth Living” get down deep and dirty into life.

People in my generation especially are tired of the phonies and the fakes and the liars. We’re tired of people who don’t tell the whole truth, who just stick to the status quo, who don’t take any risks. That’s why we love musicians like Swift and Bieber, politicians like Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Authenticity is the character trait that my generation respects and values the most. It says that you’re OK with people knowing who you are, you’re OK with sharing yourself, the real you, with the world.

Oh Christians, we have an amazing opportunity.

We have an amazing opportunity to be ourselves and win hearts for the Gospel. Jesus was Himself. God was Himself. Paul was himself.

Paul is my favorite example. Romans 7:15-19.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

Paul shows us exactly how we pursue displaying authenticity. He doesn’t necessarily have to give specifics of everything he does, but he’s honest about the fact that he’s fallen short and does things he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do things he wants to do.

This has always made Paul the most relatable of all the biblical figures to me. He doesn’t hide the fact that, well, he sucks at following God. “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh,” he says. Not only is that theologically-correct, it also takes a serious amount of authenticity to just be straightforward with it.

The ability to be authentic with God is something that attracts me to following Christ. Paul could write and say things like that and knew that it wouldn’t shut him out of being loved and used by God. The grace of God opens us up to be truly authentic with Him, with ourselves and with each other. If the worst response to our authenticity is people not liking us, we’ve still got the love of God.

So Christians, let’s be authentic. Let’s be ourselves. Let’s be honest. Let’s not hide things that don’t need hiding. What you share is up to you, but let’s think about how we can be more authentic and more honest with people.

Who knows how much further the Gospel can go when we’re honest about how much we need it, how much we are lost without it?

Who’s Really a Hypocrite? Let’s Not Forget Me.

One of the more popular tropes in Facebook pictures in recent days is the “hypocrite” meme regarding U.S. President Barack Obama. Let me share a few that I found doing a Google Images search for “Obama hypocrite.”

obama-abortion-hypocrite383119489_OBAMA_GITMO1_xlarge HYPOCRITE DEMAND OBAMA AHA

Brutal. Poor guy. I do love the graphic design of the last one. Putting the Obama O in “hypocrite” was a smart move.

But, in the interest of making all things equal, here’s mine.

HYPOCRITE GRAPHIC

 

The one on the left is the me that I like to present to the world, the one that I want to be in the church and like to show myself to be around Christians. It’s what I generally hope to be, and I think there are times, by God’s grace, when I am all of those things. But the right is what I really am a lot of the time. Sometimes, Jesus is Lord in my life. Sometimes sin is too fun to think that it’s awful. I deal with lust in my heart and my eyes all the time. And the Bible, while I want to put out that it’s always the primary lens through which I view the world, sometimes it falls down the list.

Hypocrite.

Is it an accurate statement to call President Obama a hypocrite? Sure. It’s also an accurate statement to call me a hypocrite. It’s also an accurate statement to call Paul a hypocrite. He said it himself in Romans 7:15 and 18-23.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

What did Paul have a beat on in his writing? There’s a natural conflict within the heart and the body of man. We may desire to do what is good and what is right, but oftentimes we don’t do those things. We desire to not do something, but we do it anyways.

EVERYONE is a hypocrite. Think about your own life. What are things that you’ve said in the presence of Christians or in a church setting? Have you gone back on those things? Have you broken your word? Have you been a hypocrite? Odds are, you have. In fact, I’m about 99.9 percent sure that you have.

I know 100 percent that I have. There are days where I pray against me doing something, fully desiring to avoid that thing, but I do it anyways. In that way, really, I’m a hypocrite before God. I’m willing to put my hypocrisy up against anybody’s and dare it to be worse than mine. I’m not trying to brag on my sin, I’m simply trying to say I’m pretty crappy most days, if not all days.

If it weren’t for the grace of God, I’d be damned to hell in an instant. But the beauty of the Gospel is that my hypocrisy, unlike Obama’s, doesn’t lower my approval rating with my constituency. God sees my hypocrisy and loves me the same. Nothing I do can remove His love from me.

So what’s the best way to kill hypocrisy? Go ahead and say you’re a sinner. Make it plain to the world. 

A couple years ago, I stopped making promises to God and have tried to cut out making promises to people. It’s not because I don’t care about God or people, it’s because I know that I will never be truly faithful to everything I promise them. If I promise to pray for someone, I’m lying if I never do. If I promise God that I will never sin in that particular way again, it’s likely that promise will be broken in a week. I don’t do resolutions either, because I’m going to break that junk quicker than you can ask me, “What are you resolving to do for New Year’s?”

I’m trying to be straight up with people and simply saying, “I suck. I sin. I do bad crap. Part of who I am. I hate it. I wish I never sinned. But I do. And the grace of Jesus covers me when I screw up, and it’s a daily thing.”

I don’t want to be a hypocrite. But I am. Just like Obama. Likely, just like you. And I’m OK with that.