Tag Archives: Lucas Miles

Making Sense of Psalm 119:71

In my pursuit to reveal God’s goodness and true character to the world, I often spend more time studying passages of scripture that seem to contradict his goodness, than those that validate it.  To put it another way – I focus on studying what I call the “problem passages”, so that I can understand them in context and help people see that God is in fact, better than we think he is.

In my recent book, Good God, I dealt with literally dozens of these problem passages, such as: the book of Job (yes, that’s right, the whole book), James 1, Hebrews 12, John 9, Romans 9, and so many more.  Although I tried to make Good God as exhaustive as possible in dealing with the questions that people might have about God, every now and then, I come across an additional verse that didn’t make the cut.  Perhaps I’ll release an updated version down the road that might include some of these, but in the meantime, that’s what my blog is for.

One such verse is Psalm 119:71.  It states,  “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”

Out of context and by itself, it’s easy to spot the apparent contradiction to the character of God that I present in Good God.  It appears that the writer is thanking God for afflicting him, so that he could learn his ways.  If you’re a student of the message of grace, or if you’ve read my book, then you know that this can’t be the true intention of the writer.  So what’s going on here?  What does the passage really mean?

As usual, context is king.

Let’s take a look at the full passage from a different translation.

Before I had trouble, I strayed from the true path, the path of righteousness, but now I live according to Your word. You are truly good, and Your acts are too; teach me what You require. The proud smear me with their lies; I will keep Your instructions wholeheartedly. Their hearts are dull and callous; I am delighted to study Your teaching. It is a good thing that I was humbled because it helped me learn Your limits.
-Psalm 119:67-71 VOICE

In context, the writer clearly states that his pain was as a result of his own choice to stray from God’s path.  Never is he accusing God of doing anything to him, but rather he is simply acknowledging that he was thankful that he experienced humility during his rebellion, otherwise he wouldn’t have turned back to God.  God didn’t bring him through bad things to humble him, but because he went through bad things and humbled himself – he was thankful.

Just another perfect example why context is so important in reading scripture.  Remember, when you come across a verse or a passage that seems to contradict what you know about God; take the time to study it out and see what it really says.

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The Shack Revisited

Since the release of my article, The Shack:  A Story of Freedom or Force?, I’ve received an almost constant stream of hate mail regarding the concerns that I expressed, not about the film itself nor even the book, but rather the beliefs of the author, which he himself expressed clearly in his new theologically driven book, Lies We Believe About God.  In this Young states, among other things, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”

My article in response to such bold and blatant theological error, which has received significant traffic and support over the past few days, was criticized as being unfair to Mr. Young, judgmental, and offering unsubstantiated accusations.  Because I am simply unable to respond to each individual diatribe that I have received over the past few days, I felt it best to assemble my response and to clarify my position, in a single follow up post – which I felt is only appropriate to call, The Shack Revisited.

To begin with, let it be known that I have never met Mr. Young, though I am certain that we have nothing short of a long-list of mutual friends and acquaintances, including pastors, journalists, filmmakers, etc.  From all of these mutual relationships combined, not once have I ever heard anything but wonderful things about Young’s disposition, character, and personal integrity.  As a fellow author and filmmaker, I also have the utmost respect for his creativity and talent, which are beyond evident in The Shack.  In fact, I have nothing against the man. I simply don’t agree with his theology, especially that which is expressed in his new book.

Contrary to this generation’s thin-skinned opinion, disagreement doesn’t equal insult.  I’m absolutely certain that Mr. Young and I agree about many things regarding the nature of God and the gospel of grace, but I would ask, “Are a few commonalities reason enough to ignore the false doctrines that he also holds, such as Inclusionism and Christian Universalism?”  The Apostle Paul didn’t think so.  He and Peter had much in common, but this didn’t stop him in Galatians 2:11 from calling Peter out for his doctrinal drift and theological error.  In doing so, I’m not questioning Mr. Young’s salvation, nor the beauty of his book, rather his love affair with progressivist theology, which is as equally harmful, if not more so, than Peter’s unwillingness to let go of his legalistic tendencies and constant people pleasing.

I’ve been amazed this past week at countless Christians who have been presented with excerpt after excerpt of Mr. Young’s own words describing his adherence to spurious doctrines such as Inclusionism, “Open Hell” (if he believes Hell exists at all), and Universalism, only to look the other way or justify his beliefs as being taken out of context.  Ironically, these same individuals, I have found, are among the first in line to call out legalistic tendencies in mainstream authors as an aspersion against the gospel itself.  Yet, when the pendulum swings the other direction, into liberalism, progressivism, and at times, antinomianism, all remain silent.  The consensus seems to be that there is no evidence for Mr. Young’s doctrinal drift and that The Shack is only a work of fiction, but this just isn’t the case.

In fact, Mr. Young’s own co-writer of the Shack, Wayne Jacobsen, said in an article he penned himself for Lifestream.org that when he first received the manuscript from Mr. Young that “universalism was a significant component in the resolution of that story.”  Mr. Jacobsen, in reference to his objection to Mr. Young’s position on Universalism, states, “Paul hoped to convince me I was wrong and sent me his paper on universalism.  We spent some time discussing it, but in the end I felt it took too much linguistic gymnastics to bend Scripture to that conclusion.”  As the article continues, Mr. Jacobsen explains that Mr. Young agreed to allow him to remove the theme of Universalism from the Shack in order to make the story more palpable to the audience that needed it the most.  Although Mr. Jacobsen was successful in removing the overarching concept of Universalism from the story-line, he says nothing of removing this line of thinking from his co-author, Mr. Young.  In fact, if anything, Jacobsen only further reinforces my concerns, that Young is not simply an Inclusionist, but a Universalist as well.

With that being said, I don’t believe the issue for the church is as much Mr. Young’s personal theology, as it is the obvious idolization of a fictional story by believers.  Hearing people speak about The Shack, one would think that Mr. Young has presented a clearer gospel than Jesus himself.  This is problematic for multiple reasons, but most importantly, it demonstrates the love lost in the heart of the church toward Christ and his word.  Like a desperate housewife bored with her first love, the church has revealed that it is on the prowl for a new gospel that is more exciting than the first.  This I intend to address further next week in a new post entitled, “Legalism or Progressivism:  Which is More Deadly to Faith?”

Until then, those who know me, should recognize that if the issues I’m describing where merely related to a movie, I would never take the time to present such a case, but in no way is this about a single author or a current film, but an evolving distrust for the church, the Bible, and ultimately for God.

“Who is wise?  He will realize these things.  Who is discerning?  He will understand them.  The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

– Hosea 14:9

 

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The Shack: A Story of Freedom or Force?

 

As a Christian it may be less controversial at the moment to offer an opinion about current politics, than it is to express one’s thoughts of the film, The Shack, based upon WM. Paul Young’s book of the same title.  Honestly, I, myself, have tried very hard to avoid sharing my two cents about the book or film, but after reviewing the author’s newest book, Lies We Believe About God, I figured it was time I added my voice to the theological stratosphere.

But before I do, allow me to add a few disclaimers.

I think that it’s worthwhile to acknowledge that believers often behave like the disciples in Mark 9:38. You remember the story. It’s where John informs Jesus that they saw someone else “driving out demons in your name” so they told him to stop.  Jesus rebukes them and uses the moment to reveal that the kingdom is bigger than their egos.  I think this is a lesson that the church needs to collectively relearn today.  It’s no secret that as believers, we have a tendency to shoot our own.  Every theological difference it seems provides opportunity for tearing one another down or spiritually posturing ourselves in hopes that all will see that we are really God’s favorite.

I should perhaps also mention that I know that millions of people have been impacted by The Shack, whether through the book or box office, and in sharing my perspective about the message of the film, I’m in no way desiring to negate the experience they’ve had.  I believe God speaks through a plethora of mediums, film included, and I’ve been a champion for finding God in some of the most unique places.  (I still hold that Avatar transformed how I think about eternity, and I’m also of the viewpoint that AMC’s post-apocalyptic sensation, The Walking Dead, has better theology about God than most Christian churches.)  I point these examples out to express that I’m not a religious prude and that God is able to give revelation even beyond that which may be intended by the writer or director – and The Shack is no different.

But although inspiration can be found in the most unique places, we should still remember that inspiration doesn’t always equal truth.  As Christians, all revelation must always pass through the lens of scripture to ensure that we don’t drift into theological half-truths that can damage our faith.  Film, books, and television can inspire, but only the Bible can offer doctrine.

With the renewed interest in the book, my concern is not that people will ascertain their beliefs about God from the film, but rather that the film will introduce people to additional teachings and materials from the writer.

The challenge for me in Young’s writings, as both a storyteller and theologian, is that they only partially uphold Biblical ideas about God’s nature, such as his goodness, grace, and mercy.  For this reason, it’s easy for the new believer to miss the subtleties of Young’s extra-biblical message, and, perhaps even for the more veteran believer, to mistakenly label Young as a modern Christian reformist who is merely kicking over sacred cows of Christian tradition.

But true reformation is always rooted in absolute truth – specifically that of scripture.  Young’s deconstructionist tendencies, mostly absent of scriptural support, prove that his intention is not only to kick over sacred cows, but also to vacate the farm all together.

Although it’s been speculated in the past that Young held to a form of Christian universalist theology (that all are saved or will be saved apart from faith), Young seems to have clarified his stance in his new book, Lies We Believe About God, which also contains a foreword from known universalist Baxter Kruger.  In the book, Young states, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”  As you can see, Young leaves little question as to where he stands on the topic of universal salvation and even goes on to describe Hell by saying, “I propose the possibility that hell is not separation from Jesus but that it is the pain of resisting our salvation in Jesus while not being able to escape Him who is True Love.”

The Shack’s blurred gospel message, along with his association with Kruger, are perhaps enough to theologically villainize Young, but this isn’t the point – nor should it be.  Despite his post-Christian leanings, Young isn’t the villain.  The bigger issue is that Young’s stance reveals and represents the binary choice that religion all-too-often presents to its adherents – either God is angry and fault-finding or he’s all-inclusive and universally accepting. The first option is easy to debunk as it is rooted in judgment and legalism, but the second choice, universalism, is challenging to refute without one sounding unloving in doing so.

As I’ve pointed out before, although the universalist ideology appears to offer a loving solution to legalistic Christianity, in reality, its message is one of force.  Much like Rob Bell’s distorted gospel message in Love Wins, Young’s God rejects the biblical concept of freewill and “loves” you so much he’ll force you into the kingdom.  Personally, I believe God is better than this.

This in no way means that one cannot enjoy The Shack as a film, but it should not be used to shape our understanding of God any more than Dante’s Inferno should shape our view of Hell.  With that being said, I do agree with Young that the common religious understanding of God is quite flawed, but instead of departing from the truth of the Word and the foundations of Christian faith, as I believe he does at least in part, I have proposed a reformation of thinking that is based upon scripture and a renewed understanding of God shaped by gazing into the person of Christ.

It is for exactly this reason I wrote the book, Good God:  The One We Want To Believe In But Are Afraid To Embrace.  Upon releasing Good God, there were those who in fact immediately labeled me a heretic, but the difference between my stance and that of Young’s, is that my presentation of God was not just based upon whimsical thinking or fantasy, rather on specific verses of scripture and teachings of Jesus.  While Good God indeed kicked over many sacred cows of traditional theology, it remained loyal to the inerrancy of the Word, the love of the Church, and Jesus’ teaching on the final judgement.

Although I hope Young recognizes how far he’s slid in his post-Christian thinking, I’m more concerned now with the masses who have been influenced (or will be) by his teaching and universalist agenda.  My hope is that people recognize that viewing the Father from each of these extreme spectrums has the tendency to expose one to error.  The only way one can truly construct a proper theology of heaven, hell, love, and judgment is by beginning with the solid and trustworthy revelation of Jesus Christ.

For those looking for an alternative to the narrowed-minded view of God offered by legalism and tradition, but who still value the foundation of scripture, the message of Christ, and the truth of the gospel, I would invite you to consider the almost too-good-to-be-true God that I present in my book, Good God.

 

 

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The Power of Humility


Years ago a friend of mine was struggling in his restaurant business due to some poor decisions that he had made.  Upon asking for my advice, God revealed to me in a vision one day exactly what my friend needed to do in order to reverse the situation and save his company.  Unfortunately, the first step required operating in a great deal of humility toward his family in order to carry out (no pun intended), but the man was sadly unwilling to comply and in time ended up losing his store and ruined his relationship with his family.  I truly believe if he had responded differently, much of this could have been avoided.

The Bible tells the story of another man who was in danger of losing, not just his business, but his entire kingdom due to a lapse of judgment.  This man’s name was David.

After conducting a secret affair with a married woman, David tried to cover up his initial moral lapse in judgment by having her husband killed on the battlefield.  With each poor choice, David’s sin became compounded; lust, sexual sin, murder, and now deception.  God then revealed his sin to the prophet Nathan and as a result the prophet warned David of God’s judgment and anger against him.  But David’s response was anything but ordinary.

With a seemingly contrite and repentant heart, David confesses, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  It was a simple sentence, but it demonstrated his heart for God.  As such, God spared David’s life and restored his place on the throne of Israel and Judah.  His deliverance was rooted in humility.

Thankfully today, as New Covenant believers, we possess an even greater covenant than David did.  Through the Cross, Christ bore in his body the penalty for sin, and we are now (as believers) no longer in danger of God’s judgment, but this doesn’t excuse the need for humility, nor strip it of its power.  In fact, humility is just as powerful today as it was for David.  Like my friend above, humility can make the difference between experiencing God’s deliverance or falling back into the fruit of our own efforts and works.

Humility offers a simple path to embracing God’s attitude and opinions, and acknowledging that as people, we don’t have it all together.  In the end, it’s one of the most empowering tools that we possess in the kingdom.  In fact, humility is the key to our salvation.  Although salvation is offered to us, by grace through faith, it takes humility to receive it in the first place. Only when our heart is humble can we acknowledge our need for a Savior.

Is God speaking to you today?  Is your heart soft enough to listen and humbly obey?

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Lucas Miles Reports Live from the National Religious Broadcasters 2017 Convention!

This week thousands of Christian industry leaders flocked to Orlando, FL for the annual National Religious Broadcasters Convention.  I had the opportunity to report all of the happenings live on The Harvest Show.  Here is my segment from today’s show:

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Is God Rigging the Election?

“God is in control,” shouted one church-going woman recently in a conversation about politics when a man suggested that someone other than her candidate might win the election due to millions of Christians’ lack of political involvement.  But is she right?  Is God really in control?  And if this statement is true, then what does it really mean?  Is the election rigged…by God?  Are our efforts in voting, campaigning, and sharing our various political platforms meaningless and unfruitful?  Does the real outcome on November 8 belong not to the American people, nor corrupt politicians, but really to God Almighty?

If you ask many Christians, I think they may answer yes.  But is this what the Bible says?

As I mention in my book,   Good God ; The One We Want To Believe In But Are Afraid To Embrace, the Bible never states ‘God is in control’.  Rather, the Bible portrays a world where personal responsibility matters and where humankind receives the fruit of the seeds that we plant.  But this biblical truth of personal responsibility is often eclipsed by what I refer to as “the doctrine of the extreme sovereignty of God.”  And although the idea that

HEMPSTEAD, NY - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican Nominee for President of the United States Donald Trump meet for their first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Monday September 26, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“God is in control” has become a normal way of viewing God, it sadly leaves people to assume that everything that happens in the world, including the outcome of elections, was either approved by God or directly caused by our heavenly Father.

The reality is that the doctrine of extreme sovereignty is birthed out of convenience.  If everything that happens is “God’s will”, then it’s easy to divert the attention off our personal shortcomings, or political apathy, and chalk up the outcome of life, and the upcoming election, to God’s master plan.  I suggest that this is exactly the line of thinking which has allowed and perpetuated the current anti-Christian culture and lack of biblical values in our society.  Christian apathy in political participation has resulted in the passage of unconstitutional laws, which have unduly and illegally separated church and State.  Christians have falsely concluded regardless if they get involved in the political process, the outcome is divinely rigged.  Whatever God wills will happen.

Because of this, corruption has thrived, values have become distorted, and all the while the church is mostly silent – after all, God is sovereign.

Or is he?

Some might be surprised to discover that the word sovereign never appears in the King James Version of the Bible.  While it is found over three hundred times in the Old Testament of the New International Version – as in “sovereign God” – it is simply used a moniker equivalent to what is translated in the King James Version as “Lord God.”  In fact, never in one instance, even in the New International Version, is “sovereign” used to describe God in the sense of “controlling everything”.

With regard to politics, some would argue that Romans 13 definitely substantiates the idea that God is responsible for “establishing all authorities”.

However, the Message bible shines some additional light on the meaning of Romans 13:1-3 which reads,

Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.

Another translation (J.B. Philips bible) provides additional insight by stating “all legitimate authority is derived from God’s authority”.

Paul never intended this passage to be a blanket endorsement from God for all those who are in power.  He simply stated that legitimate authority comes from God.  This isn’t referring to particular candidates and specific individuals, as if every politician has been hand selected by God, but rather it’s speaking to the benefit of the rule of law, and how godly laws help protect society from an infestation of evil and those who participate in it.

Some might attempt to prove God’s hand in the political process by referencing Old Testament passages in the Bible that mention God appointing certain men to be rulers in the Old Testament, like King David, Jeroboam, or even the prophet Jeremiah.

But we have to take note that these men were in a nation that actually recognized God’s directives and leadings.  Israel, when they weren’t in rebellion, gave God a say in the governance of their nation and, as a result, God’s voice was often heard and the people affirmed his leading through their acceptance of his choice.  Today is no different, throughout the earth, God is still preparing and elevating people to lead and govern, but this doesn’t mean that every nation always accepts his choice or acknowledges his plan.  In fact, a perfect example of this would be 1 Samuel chapter 8, where Israel demands that Samuel appoint a king over the people.  In this instance, the people rejected God’s form of government for the nation, and instead forced Samuel to appoint a king for the people – a king who’s reign was full of lies and ended in corruption and rebellion against God, I might add.

God’s will for Israel was originally rejected, causing him to pivot and eventually give the people what they wanted – an earthly king.  But think of all of the pain and hardship that could have been avoided, however, if Israel had sought God’s plan for their country from the beginning.  How many lives would have been spared?  How many wars would have been avoided?  We may never know, but what we do know, is that the people played a role in the outcome of the nation.  The same is true today.

We stand at the crossroads of one of the most important elections our country has ever had.  The media wants us to believe that it is a circus and a laughingstock, yet the potential results are anything but funny.  The next president will most likely appoint three or more Supreme Court justices who will define the rule of law regarding moral and social issues like abortion, sexual identity, and religious freedom.  In addition, they will be at the forefront of perhaps one of the greatest oppositions that this country (and perhaps the world) has ever faced – radical Islamic terror.  Who stands in office matters.  Your vote matters.  Your political involvement matters.  There is no separation of church and State, because the church is filled with individual private citizens with a right to vote, speak out, and be involved.  Should we do so in love and respect?  Absolutely!  But whatever we do, let us not for one second succumb to the lie that God is in control of the outcome of this election or any election for that matter – because God doesn’t rig elections and he loves mankind enough to allow us the freedom to decide our future, our politicians, and the outcome of our nation.

What will you decide?

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Why America is in love with the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty.

In my book, Good God:  The One We Want To Believe In But Are Afraid To Embrace, I tackle one of the most widely held false notions about God – his sovereignty.

For some time the church has held to this idea that God is divinely controlling all things – the bad and the good – and that our lives are the result of his choice, will, and dominion.  Although this might sound spiritual, it’s actually a form of Gnostic teaching and rooted in pagan mythology.  The Gnostics believed that “god” was both light and dark; that is that he embodied both good and evil.  In fact, they taught that the father was “dark” and the son was “light” and that the son came to save us from the father.  This is why John writes in 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”  This would have been revolutionary to the Gnostic people.  John proclaimed that the God of the true gospel is all light and that there is no darkness – no confusion, nothing hidden, no ill intention.  From his biblical understanding, in Christianity, we understand that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one in the same – God in three persons.  Gnosticism taught their separate identities, much like the various deities that dwelt together on the Greek’s Mt Olympus.

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Today, this Gnostic teaching, has resurfaced in Western theology through the doctrine of extreme sovereignty.  I believe one of the reasons why sovereignty teaching (and hyper-Calvinism) is so attractive is because of its removal of personal responsibility on the life of the believer.  As Christians, many are frustrated today by the continual devaluation of personal responsibility in our society.  According to today’s world, crime is due to guns and not criminals, sexual perversion is due to nature and not sin, the list goes on and on.  So removed is the idea of personal responsibility that in several countries in Europe pedophiles actually received disability benefits.   But it’s important that we see that this loss of personal responsibility does not exist only in the world today – it’s also in the church.  Through the doctrine of sovereignty, adherents distance themselves from the power of their own decisions and behavior, by claiming things like God “has them in this season”, “is leading them through a desert time”, or “trying to teach them something”.  Cloaked in spiritual language, religious minded individuals unable to come to grip with their own depravity, cling to the idea that God is in control of the outcome of their lives, and hide from the reality that, outside of the impact of others’ freewill and the result of a fallen world, their lives are the summation of the choices they make.

This is the exact same belief system that Job was rebuked for in the last chapter of the book of Job.  Job, a man who faced massive amounts of suffering and loss, mistakenly thought that God was the source of his pain.  Job, overconfident in his own righteousness, was unable to see how his fear and pride (two of the biggest themes in the book of Job) affected his life.  He was also completely unaware of the existence of Satan.  Job saw all things (light and dark/good and evil) as existing in the Godhead and would rather blame God than himself, nature, or the enemy.  But in the end of the book, upon finally seeing God face-to-face, Job saw the error of his ways, repents and says, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.  You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’  My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

In reality, God’s goodness is displayed in the freedom to choose that he bestows upon his children.  Personal responsibility should actually empower us, not condemn us.  When we realize that God is not the cause of our pain, it frees us to draw near to him, rely on his grace, and seek his guidance in our life.  If the problems of life are God’s will for us, what hope do we have?  But if God is really “for me”, then I can stand firm, resist the enemy’s advances, and walk in victory.  This doesn’t mean that bad things will never happen, but if and when they do, I can rest in the knowledge that God is not the source of my pain.

Theology is simple, “If it’s good, it’s God. If it’s not, it’s not.”

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Is Justin Bieber a Real Christian?

Justin-Bieber-Expected-to-Release-Album-in-2015-News-FDRMX-1024x576As someone who spends time ministering in Hollywood, I hear questions like this all the time. “Is so-and-so a real Christian?” It’s happened recently with Selena Gomez, Shia Labeouf, Chris Pratt, and now, Justin Bieber. The young pop star recently was quoted in Rolling Stones magazine stating, “I just wanna honestly live like Jesus… We have the greatest healer of all, and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice. Whatever you believe. Share it. I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in.”

Honestly, I’m amazed that the first question that so many have after hearing words like that is whether or not it’s real. Why doubt? In a day where most Christians are afraid to invite a friend to a weekend service or are unwilling to retweet their pastor’s latest 140 character message, a passionate and faith-filled testimony like JB shared in Rolling Stones should be applauded. I read the article and wanted to get saved all over again! How awesome, that someone so influential would risk their fame and open themselves up to so much potential criticism by telling the world the impact that Jesus has made in their life! I would take 1 new convert like Bieber over 300 unmotivated-sour-faced-know-it-all Christians any day of the week, even without ever winning a Grammy!

Earlier this year, Justin attended the Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Australia. Kudos to Hillsong BTW, because they limited the media’s access to Justin while there and protected his privacy, so that he would feel comfortable attending. At my church, Oasis (www.oasisgranger.com), because of my influence in entertainment and role in coaching top performers, we have regionally and, at times, nationally known figures attend church frequently. They are there to worship – not sign autographs or take selfies. It’s important that people give them their privacy and let them set the precedent of what’s acceptable behavior. The last thing they need is someone saying, “So are you really a Christian?”

Obviously no one knows what’s in someone’s heart, though we all love to think that we do, but personally, I’m cheering for Justin. Will he “fail” publically? Perhaps, but I know one thing, societies’ criticism and skepticism of celebrities’ faith sure doesn’t do anything to help them stand. In fact, I would partially blame the church’s incessant need to sniff out if someone’s conversion is real as one of the reasons why those in the spotlight have trouble living a life of faith from the beginning. Think about it – Celebrity X finds Jesus and tells the world about it. Next the church (you know the place that is actually supposed to receive them and welcome them in) responds by criticizing the legitimacy of their experience and offering judgment instead of acceptance. What do you think this does in the life of the new believer (aka Celebrity X)? Failing to be accepted as a “real Christian”, celebrities like Justin are often forced to follow Jesus in isolation and without a community of faith. Like a sheep that’s stranded away from the flock, this makes them more prone to attacks from the enemy, discouragement, and stumbling. Then when they “fall”, instead of offering grace, the church responds with an “I told you they weren’t a real Christian” attitude and only further pushes them away.

Our skepticism may very well say more about our own lack of faith in the working of the Holy Spirit, than it does about whether or not an individual celebrity actually had a real change of heart. Why should we be surprised when someone like Justin Bieber gets saved? Because of his past behavior? Really? What about our past behavior? Have you ever had too much to drink? Have you ever looked at pornography? Told a lie? Guess what? The Bible teaches that if you’ve stumbled at just one point you are guilty of breaking the whole law! If we are going to question Justin Bieber’s salvation based upon his behavior, perhaps we should also be questioning our own.

So am I saying that he should just get a pass on his behavior? No, I’m saying he got a pass and it’s called the Cross! I’m not implying that sin doesn’t matter, but I am stating that our behavior is not what determines our salvation. Sure, true salvation produces good fruit; but let’s not pretend like we never stumble ourselves. If most Christian’s lives were as public as Justin’s, we’d probably question their salvation too.

Justin Bieber Switches On The Westfield Stratford City Christmas LightsBeing in the spotlight is never easy. Nor are the pressures of the entertainment industry. What is easy though is standing on the sidelines and judging someone else’s performance that is actually in the game. Are there some that use “their faith” as a means for selfish gain? Absolutely! Are there some who claim they have a relationship with Jesus, but have no evidence of the fruit of this relationship in their life? Without a doubt! But can’t we at least allow a young man some time to figure things out before offering judgment regarding his spiritual integrity? Wouldn’t you want the same courtesy?

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Righteousness and Accountability

Personal success stems from a commitment to personal accountability. There is no way around it. We need each other in order to fulfill our dreams and calling. But don’t be fooled, simply telling someone that you’ve sinned or that you are struggling, isn’t true accountability.

When I was younger, I was quite religious. I prided myself on living a good life and being a moral person, but inside I was dying. My heart desired sin desperately and I often found myself wishing I could be like my unbelieving peers, who lived however they pleased. As I often say, I loved Jesus just enough to be miserable. My commitment to him wasn’t strong enough to overcome my struggles, but it was strong enough to feel that I couldn’t abandon my faith completely. So I was stuck; caught somewhere in between a lust for this world and a passion for Christ. I wasn’t living the victorious life of which the Bible so often spoke.

At the time, I thought having an accountability partner would solve my problems. So a friend and I would get together once a week and share with each other our struggles and our thoughts. This helped for a time, but after awhile, I began to find ways to bend the truth, lying to both myself and my friend as to how I was each week. I imagine he would then do the same, not wanting to be the only one who was admittedly struggling. At best, it was sin management and at worst it was deception.

My story unfortunately is quite common. Much of the church is focused on what I call sin management. Sin management is when we place our focus on simply trying to manage or prevent sin. It is important that we realize that the absence of sin is not the goal of Christianity, but rather intimacy with Christ is our pursuit. We could in theory be completely free from sin and still not have fellowship with Christ. The cross of Christ wasn’t about getting you to stop sinning, as much as it was to remove the barrier of sin and to make us righteous. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are justified by faith in the cross and ushered into the peace of God. It’s important that we realize this – our righteousness is no longer dependent upon our actions, but rather THE action of the cross of Christ. This is the gospel of peace and all of Christianity rests on it.
Accountability then, in the New Covenant, isn’t to focus on managing our sin, for our sin has already been dealt with, but instead, it’s to remind us of our righteousness. When we fall short and when we fail, we remind one another, this isn’t your nature any longer, you aren’t “just a sinner saved by grace”, you were a sinner, but now, through Christ, you’ve been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! Overcoming sin is as easy as embracing this new identity. Think of it this way, you don’t have to teach a dog to bark and a cat to meow. They do it instinctively. In the same way, as long as we think we are still “in sin”, we will continue to live in sin, but when we realize that we are in Christ, we will begin to live as Christ lives – and find true and lasting freedom from sin. As I heard a Pastor Andrew Wommack say once, “We’ll begin to more holy on accident, than we ever could on purpose.”

Today, I remind you that you are accountable. You’re accountable to your new nature, to your renewed mind, to your justification in Christ, to the Spirit of God who dwells on the inside of you, and to your eternal destiny. You are righteous. When you realize this, you will live like this!

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The Power of a Humble Heart

There is perhaps nothing more powerful than a humble heart.  Humility, the most misunderstood of all virtues, is the ability to accept and acknowledge God’s opinion and perspective in our lives.  This is where the power lies.  The moment I accept and embrace God’s perspective, I share in his strength and am able to flow in his plan.  This level of empowerment is often missed in our traditional understanding of humility.  Typically, when defining humility, most would only associate it with being lowly in spirit, but this is incomplete.  True humility, simply put, is being sensitive to God’s perspective in our lives.  This definition allows variety in our personality while keeping the emphasis on embracing God’s perspective.  Regarding this level of empowerment, Psalm 149:4 states,For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”  The surest way to victory is to embrace God’s perspective and that is that he “takes delight in his people”.  When we know God’s love for us, we are empowered to be truly humble. 

In this, when I know that I am loved, it becomes quite easy for me to admit fault, acknowledge weakness, and seek forgiveness from those around me.  This kind of humility seems may seem counterintuitive to our minds, but only in reaching this level of security in God’s love for us, can we ever really be free to be ourselves.  To admit fault, seems like such weakness, but in reality, it brings power.  In fact, humbling yourself to those around you, confessing your weaknesses, in actuality is the greatest sign of God’s power and personal confidence working in your life.  A truly great person, one who is fully established in who they are in Christ, should have no complaint in admitting their shortcomings, for regardless of their weaknesses; they know their position in Christ.  Additionally, they know Paul’s confession in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “for when I am weak, then I am strong”.  Like Paul, when we walk in true humility, we gain access to the power of God and begin the road to abundant victory in every area of our lives. 

Only a person insecure in their faith, unsure of how God feels about them, would struggle to demonstrate or show weakness.  This ignorance and insecurity causes them to overinflate their abilities, refuse to see their flaws, and make the false assumption that they are always right.  Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they desperately try to cover their shame with anything they can find.   Their self-worth is so low, that acknowledging one more fault, in their mind jeopardizes their personal value more than they are able to bear.  Therefore they stand firm in their positions and behavior, refusing to acknowledge that they are the ones to blame.  In actuality, all of us make mistakes, even the most spiritual of people.  In every situation and conflict, we all play a part.  Resolution comes by acknowledging this.  The sooner we acknowledge our weakness to those around us, the quicker we will begin to overcome our relational conflict.  Breakthrough is as close as our willingness to acknowledge our humanness.  (Please note, in Christ, we are complete in our spirit man.  In our spirit, we are righteous, holy, and perfected forever.   But in our minds and flesh, we are still being renewed day by day; none of us have fully arrived.  To only take the perspective of the spirit, will cause you to ignore areas of your mind that are still in need of renewal.  To only take the perspective of the mind, causes us to fail to notice our fullness in Christ.  So as far as God is concerned, we are blameless through Christ, but as far as our brothers and sisters are concerned, we must acknowledge our faults.)

As we further strive to maintain a life defined by humility, below are a few questions to consider.

1.)     When was the last time that I took even partial responsibility for another’s pain or an incident of relational conflict?

2.)    How often do I ask those around me how my behavior patterns affect their lives?  Would I be able to receive and deeply consider their answer if it was a negative response?

3.)    If humility is embracing God’s perspective, what am I doing in my daily life in order to gain this perspective? 

4.)    Make a list of 10 behavior patterns that you display (i.e. running late all the time, have trouble listening) and how these patterns might affect those around you. 

5.)    Make a list of as many promises as you can think of regarding God’s perspective towards you. 

6.)    Return to these questions often.

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