May 13, 2017

How to talk about sin (and idolatry) in the world today

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:30 am by sanguinemare

Here’s a great article one of my friends posted on Facebook today by Tim Keller titled “How to Talk About Sin in a Postmodern Age“.  There’s good reminders in there for us as Christians to be aware of how idolatry manifests itself in our own lives today, and it also gives suggestions on how to approach others about what sin and idolatry actually mean.

Here are a few excerpts that I liked.  To start with, here are some that I felt were good reminders for the Christian – that we all have a tendency to want to have control over our lives, or to worship things in place of God:

“In the beginning, human beings were made to worship and serve God, and to rule over all created things in Godʼs name (Gen. 1:26­–28). Paul understands humanityʼs original sin as an act of idolatry: “They exchanged the glory of the immortal God . . . and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:21–25). Instead of living for God, we began to live for ourselves, or for our work, or for material goods. We reversed the original intended order.

And when we began to worship and serve created things, paradoxically, the created things came to rule over us.”

“[Romans 1:21] tells us that the reason we turn to idols is because we want to control our lives, despite the fact we know we owe God everything: “Though they knew God, they neither glorified God nor gave thanks to him.”

“[Luther] observed that the Ten Commandments begin with two commandments against idolatry. This is because the fundamental problem in lawbreaking is always idolatry. In other words, we never break the other commandments without first breaking the first commandment—the law against idolatry. Luther understood that the first commandment is really all about justification by faith, and to fail to believe in justification by faith is idolatry, which is the root of all that displeases God…

For example, letʼs say a person cheats on his income tax form. Why does he do that? Well, you say, because he’s a sinner. Yes, but why does his sin take this form? Lutherʼs answer would be that the man only cheated because he was making money and possessions—and the status or comfort from having more of them—more important than God and his favor. Or letʼs say a person lies to a friend rather than lose face over something she has done. In that case the underlying sin is making human approval or your reputation more important than the righteousness you have in Christ.

The Bible, then, does not consider idolatry to be one sin among many. Rather, all our failures to trust God wholly or to live rightly are, at root, idolatry—something we make more important than God. There is always a reason for a sin. Under our sins are idolatrous desires.”

In other words, we need to remember that everything we have is by God, and through God, for our good.  And thus, all our faith and trust should be put in Him, and not in the things He created.

Then, Keller gives some advice on how to approach the topic of sin and idolatry with those who may not believe.  I personally struggle quite a bit with this because I tend to get side-tracked like he mentioned here and go into apologetics, which usually results in both sides feeling unsatisfied and believing the same things they started with. So I thought these were some good pieces of advice:

“The typical way Christians define sin is to say that it is breaking Godʼs law. Properly explained, of course, that’s a good and sufficient definition. But the law of God includes both sins of omission and also of commission, and it includes attitudes of the heart as well as behavior. Those wrong attitudes and motivations are usually inordinate desires—forms of idolatry. Yet when most listeners hear us define sin as “breaking Godʼs law,” all the emphasis in their minds falls on the negative (sins of commission) and on the external (behaviors rather than attitudes). There are significant reasons, then, that “lawbreaking” isnʼt the best way to first describe sin to postmodern listeners.

I ordinarily begin speaking about sin to a young, urban, non-Christian like this:

Sin isnʼt only doing bad things; it’s more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.

Why is this a good path to take?

First, this definition of sin includes a group of people postmodern people are acutely aware of. Postmodern people rightly believe much harm has been done by self-righteous religious people… When we define and describe sin to postmodern people, we must do so in a way that challenges not only prostitutes, but also Pharisees, to change.

There’s another reason we need a better explanation of sin for postmodern people. They are relativists, and the moment you say, “Sin is breaking Godʼs moral standards,” they will retort, “Well, who is to say whose moral standards are right? Everyone has different ones! What makes Christians think theirs are the only right set?” The usual way to respond is to become sidetracked from your presentation of sin and grace into an apologetic discussion about relativism… I take a page from Kierkegaardʼs The Sickness unto Death, and I define sin as building your identity—your self-worth and happiness—on anything other than God. Instead of telling them they’re sinning because they’re sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I tell them that they’re sinning because they’re looking to their careers and romances to save them, to give them everything they should be looking for in God. Such idolatry leads to drivenness, addictions, severe anxiety, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment.

I’ve found when you describe their lives in terms of idolatry, postmodern people do not offer much resistance. They doubt there is any real alternative, but they admit sheepishly this is what they are doing. I’ve also found this makes sin more personal. Making an idol out of something means giving it the love you should be giving your Creator and Sustainer. To depict sin as not only a violation of law, but also of love, is more compelling. Of course a complete description of sin and grace includes recognition of our rebellion against Godʼs authority. But Iʼve found that if people become convicted about their sin as idolatry and mis-directed love, it’s easier to show them that one of the effects of sin is to put them into denial about their hostility to God. In some ways, idolatry is like addiction writ large. We are ensnared by our spiritual idols, just like people are ensnared by drink and drugs. We live in denial of how much we are rebelling against Godʼs rule, just like addicts live in denial of how much they are trampling on their families and loved ones.”

Thank you, Tim Keller, for this great article :).

June 11, 2015

Christianity and Binge Drinking

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , at 12:00 am by sanguinemare

This is a topic that is often on my mind, since college and after.  I admit I have a tendency to be perhaps too Pharisee-like in how much I dislike drinking in general, but I thought this was a pretty good, balanced and Biblical article on the topic that addresses the problem and yet not going too far off the other end like I might in some situations.  I do think the consequences of drinking, especially in today’s society, is pretty dangerous, and something that people don’t think about enough in this culture.  And I think something one of the commenters brings up is also a main issue – that in addition to making excuses for poor behavior, as the article touches upon, drinking is often also due to some deep-seated pain (loneliness, fear, self-loathing) that has no other outlet and is not addressed.  I hope we as a Christian community can become safe havens for people in that situation – that true love and acceptance can conquer the need to drown one’s sorrows or numb one’s feelings through drugs of any sort (and yes, that includes alcohol).

(accidentally published this on the wrong blog… oops… so the original post date of this post was actually 8/26/2014 at 9:54pm)

June 9, 2015

Christians, Be Careful What You Say On Facebook

Posted in Good reads tagged , , at 4:07 am by sanguinemare

I’m not sure how reblogging works, as this is my first time doing so, so hopefully this works haha. But anyway, thought this was a good reminder for how to respond as Christians.

(Note: Comments have been disabled since it’s become impossible to sift through them all for moderation. I’ve responded to the most frequently asked questions here. Please take the time to read them.)

While the Bruce Jenner* controversy is at its peak, be very careful about what you are tempted to say about it on social media. Though your gut reaction might be to post a comment/article that articulates your disgust, I beg you to reconsider. Here’s a couple of reasons why.

  1. Many of you are either looking at porn, or something close to it. I know this because some of the pages and videos that you “like” on Facebook show up on my news feed. You probably don’t realize this, because you keep doing it, and I keep seeing it. Unfortunately, all sexual perversion is a result of human corruption. You have it, I have it too. But you…

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February 8, 2015

Death is not the end

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , , , , at 4:12 am by sanguinemare

Here is another story that I came across a long time ago (more than half a year ago!), that I saved because I wanted to share.   This is a very touching blog post by a woman who had just lost her 5 year old son, her apprehension in explaining the loss to his twin brother and younger sister, and the hope that heaven brings despite it all.  I think it’s an amazing testimony to the strength God gives in times of need.  Get your tissue boxes ready.

January 22, 2015

None of us are too bad to become a Christian

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , , at 2:27 am by sanguinemare

Just wanted to put this here:

Adam Ford’s great comic on how none of us are too bad to be saved.

January 21, 2015

The Heresy of Worshiptainment

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , at 3:55 am by sanguinemare

Here is a great article by Mike Livingstone about The Heresy of Worshiptainment, and why it is important for us in our churches not to focus on being “entertained”, but to really hear and soak in the message of the Gospel.  To have Christ and God at the center of worship, rather than human stars.  I hope and pray that the churches you all attend are grounded in the Word rather than man-made idols, and that your hearts will crave not the “great music” or “experience”, but rather the true conviction and saving grace and mercy of Christ.  That applies to me as well.

September 3, 2014

“Romance” novels

Posted in Good reads, Random Interesting Facts tagged , , , , , at 3:32 pm by sanguinemare

I ran across this article on my facebook newsfeed today, titled “Fifty Shades, Twilight, and Teaching Young Women To Desire Abusers“.  The article makes the point that those who read Fifty Shades seemed to have more adverse health behaviors and were more likely to have partners with violent or abusive/unwanted behavioral tendencies.  I would have to say that the study is far from robust, and as it mentions itself, there is no temporal connection – meaning, there’s no way to tell whether it’s because people who are already like that are more drawn to the books, or whether people who read these books are more likely to fall into those behaviors.

Having ready the Twilight series (somewhat out of boredom) in my college years since they were a quick read and my housemate owned them, I don’t think the books are necessarily as bad as the article is portraying.  It’s a bit like how people cry “Stockholm Syndrome” with Disney’s (and theoretically all other versions…) Beauty and the Beast.  I think people are reading much more into it than is there, and is not what the consumers actually get out of the stories.  Although I will gladly eat my words if someone shows me a well-done study showing that kids or young girls have actually been psychologically damaged in looking for partners after consuming those products.

On the other hand, Fifty Shades of Grey is something else all together.  Out of curiosity, I did peruse a couple pages of the book at a bookstore once since it was everywhere for a good year or so… and I literally had to shut the book because I felt like my IQ points were dropping.  As the article mentions, it was basically pornography in written form – no substance, just random (and bolded!  What kind of literary book bolds and italicizes random moans/thoughts??  Which I guess answers the question… it’s not literary fiction at all) words and events thrown together with no rhyme or reason.  And it is almost not surprising then, that consumers of this type of work would gain a false perception of the world, much like the visuals of pornography does.

One of the comments there, written by Amy, said the following:

“Thank you so much for writing this. It breaks my heart to see so many women ensnared by this pornographic trash disguised as literature. As a teenager, I read this sort of garbage and it was incredible damaging and though it has been over a decade since I filled my mind with this disgusting stuff, it nonetheless followed me into my marriage and resulted in issues with my husband and me.

I would also encourage young women to be very discerning regarding romantic movies and even so-called Christian romantic fiction as it is blatantly emotionally pornographic and can be quite damaging as well. The unrealistic expectations, obsessive infatuations portrayed as romantic heroism, etc. are extremely unhealthy to ingest. You are what you read, so read well.”

I really liked what she said.  As someone who also reads fanfiction (not always of mature content) and has read romance novels, I know that I also probably have a somewhat warped view of the world.  Men are not all romantic, there is not necessarily someone who we are destined to be with and who will always be faithful, and of course, there is the depictions of intimacy that probably aren’t what most people experience (at least, not without a lot of practice and working together).  “Emotionally pornographic” is an apt description of the experience. So as Amy said, you are what you read.  So read well.

April 18, 2014

The Cross and Christian Sexuality

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:35 am by sanguinemare

Well, it’s certainly been a while since I posted here.  Haven’t had as much time as I would like to review sermons or growth group sessions and write them on here.  I did watch this yesterday/today though – it’s by a pastor who leads at a church that my current church was a church plant of (lots of “church” in that sentence haha).  I think this is a really good sermon for people who wonder about what Christianity and the Bible say about sexuality.  Have you ever wondered how far can you go with your partner who is not yet a husband or wife?  What about pornography?  Masturbation?  How far is too far?  To anyone who is struggling with this, has struggled with this, or has suffered because someone else is struggling because of this, I point you to this great sermon by David Platt.

May 8, 2013

Potential pitfalls of teachings of emotional purity, chastity, courtship

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , , , , , at 12:31 am by sanguinemare

I’m not sure what kind of strange movement is going on in “modern Christianity,” but yesterday and today I stumbled upon different sources discussing how the teachings of “emotional purity” and other things have messed up the current generation in how they think of relationships, themselves, and their relationship with God.

One was the whole thing with Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping, and how she says her Mormon teachings on chastity and purity were what caused her not to run from her captors.  I can’t find the original article I read it from, but here’s another one that addresses the main points.

Today I stumbled upon another article about emotional purity and courtship, and how that teaching has affected someone’s lives, even now after a marriage of 7 years.  I don’t know where they are teaching this stuff, but if this is the psychological fallout, that’s terrible.  Every time I hear of girls (or guys!) feeling worthless because of something like this, and/or allowing terrible things to continue happening to them because of it, I just get really upset.  “Don’t you know your own worth?!” I want to yell.  What makes it worse is that the two situations here are from girls who have been brought up Christian, so should theoretically know what they are worth, and what is important in God’s eyes, and yet that so clearly is not the case.

Clicking around some links from the article, I gather what the 2nd article’s author is talking about is from a fundamentalist Christian teaching based on Bill Gothard and the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) he founded, and more specifically the homeschooling branch called the Advanced Training Institute (ATI).  Here’s the FAQ page about that, and the mission page of the website trying to help people through it.  Some of the doctrine I am getting out of reading some of these the articles/sites is pretty scary.  [edit: ok, now that I’ve read a lot of stories on the site, let me say it’s way more than scary.  GET OUT. NOW. FALSE DOCTRINE AND HUGE POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE]

Given that I am neither Mormon nor Fundamentalist, I don’t want to judge either of these two groups, but I seriously want to say, to all Christians, that you should look to the Bible as your sole source of Truth and what God truly desires of us.  Not any person or leader.  Even in church, think critically and weigh the pastor/priest/leader’s words against what you know of the Word.  Does it match?  Does it make sense in the context it was written?  If not, be careful and do some studying and searching.  Talk with other Christians, maybe even those not in your church, to see whether what you have been taught all this time may not be the real (or full) truth.  Christianity is about a personal relationship with God, not your relationship by proxy through someone else.  So make it a priority to discover who He truly is and what He desires from you.

What I did really like about the article the author posted was her section on faith vs. formula: “I don’t think God likes formulas, because formulas run contrary to faith. Formula says, “I will follow a God that I’ve put neatly in a box, and He will give me the desired results.” Faith says, “I will follow You even when I can’t see where I’m going, even when the world is collapsing around me.” Formula says, “I will not risk. I will be in control of my future.” Faith says “I will risk everything. I will trust Him whom I cannot see, surrender what I cannot control anyway.” Formula is the assurance of things planned for, the conviction of things seen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). But we are afraid. So we control instead of trust. We don’t take a step unless we can see where we’re going. We build neat little formulas and say “THIS will keep me safe!” Then we blame God when our puny formulas fail.”

This is so true, in so many aspects of our lives as Christians.  We plan and try to do all the “right” things, then cry and complain when they don’t go as we want.  And we expect God to act a certain way, or help us do things a certain way, so when He says “go there” or “do that”, we don’t because we aren’t looking for that and miss it when he answers/directs us.  And then we do things the way it ought to be done, and get angry when it goes wrong because he “never” answers our prayers.  Instead, we should focus on Him and keep our eyes and ears open for what He might have to say, or what he might want us to do.

Here is the follow-up for her article, which I think also has some good points.

If you ever find yourself in any of those situations, or are currently in one of those situations, I pray and hope that you will be able to walk out into the light and freedom and truth that God wants you to experience.  I hope you will not feel worthless because of something that is out of your control, or feel guilty or ashamed and that God or people could never love you because of it.  Christ died for all of us, no matter what sins we have done or gone through, because we ARE worthy in His eyes.  Worthy enough to suffer and die for.

On that note, I found a nice article on that site about forgiveness – what is is, and is not – which I thought might be appropriate to share here for those who need it.

God bless.