Anyone read facebook lately? Anyone stop reading facebook discussions because of how offensive and incendiary they quickly become? In the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage there have been an avalanche of articles and posts on social media both for and against gay marriage. This was inevitable because people on both sides of this issue are very passionate about what they believe. What does not have to be inevitable is some of the vitriol that begins being exhibited by Christians as things begin to get heated. Whether or not the “they started it first” argument is used or not, as those redeemed by God through Jesus Christ – and – as those who are called to manifest the fruit of the Spirit – we need to learn a very valuable spiritual lesson. We need to learn how to share offensive truth less offensively. Hopefully this article will be helpful in doing so.
First of all – a true confession is in order. I am a recovering offensoholic. In my past I have kind of enjoyed being sarcastic. The ability to slip in truth wrapped in little barbs of sarcasm and veiled insult is a “skill” I am wanting to unlearn as quickly as possible. God is revealing to me that more often than not these verbal darts are not very effective when sharing truths that in themselves are going to be offensive to the person hearing them. The proverb, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” has sparked repentance for the way I’ve said things more than once. There are times when I finish writing a piece that I have to go through a Holy Spirit edit several times – before I have any peace in posting or sending it. The problem is that in our current situation – barbs and sarcasm will quickly turn what could be a logical, profitable conversation into an all out verbal war. After being nailed by the verbal shrapnel of several of these conversations, I want speak so that if there is a descent into ugliness, it is because of truth shared in love. There is no gain when truth is shared in an effort to win – or to score points with Christians who quickly gather to “my” side. The biblical fact is that God wins in all matters of truth. If I speak His truth with love and a genuine desire to engage in an exchange of ideas, I believe God will use it to do deeper work in people’s lives.
One of the things we must understand is that our culture no longer has any clear authority by which it speaks. Just like in the book of Judges we live in a society where every person is their own authority. Judges 21:24 says, “. . . and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” That is where we are currently. Therefore we need to grasp that everyone we speak with is an authority unto themselves. Thus when we share the Scriptures, they will not accept them as an authority. Now please understand that God’s Word was, is, and always will be truth. Whether people agree with that or not does not matter – God’s Word is still true. When you try to share this, people will be offended – and often will say things that will be offensive to you. We will be accused of being someone who does not think, someone who holds to antiquated ideas, someone who is brainwashed, or as I was recently called . . . an idiot. Are these things offensive? Yes they are. BUT – this is where we can become even more effective in what we share. Let me explain.
When we are insulted, we have a choice to make. First, we should review what we’ve said to make sure that while sharing the truth, we did not descend into any kind of name-calling or inflammatory statements. Remember, our message itself is offensive to the lost. Paul spoke of the offense of the cross – and Jesus Himself told us that we would be treated like He was treated. People who are already offended with our moral point of view, and who do not know Christ, will more often than not say offensive things. Get used to it – and be ready for the temptation to say similar things back to them. Also know that if you do – the opportunity will no longer be there to influence someone. It will most likely deteriorate into stronger and stronger comments, insults, and end in a verbal barrage and a scorched-earth mental landscape. Once we determine if we said something unnecessarily offensive, we can proceed in the conversation. (By the way, if you said something you should not have said – apologize. You’d be shocked how many times this begins to disarm the conflict allowing it to move back into a conversation.)
The second thing I am going to suggest may seem very hard, but it will allow you to be able to converse with the person so much better. In order to share it though I need to ask a question. Do you want to know what they think? Please re-read that question because I did not ask if you want to convert to their way of thinking – but – do you want to know what they think. What I’ve found over several conversations is that when I genuinely try to hear what they are saying and thinking, it helps me to share truth with them more effectively. Too many of the conversations I’ve read recently have made a quick trip to the most commonly used arguments against each other. I can almost predict what will be said in the first two or three rounds of statements. What I cannot predict is the reasoning behind them – or the hurts that a person has because of previous barbs thrown their way. If you don’t want to genuinely hear what they have to say – you won’t have any genuine ministry to offer them. But if you go deeper – even being willing to listen or read things you won’t agree with – you will be able to discern what needs to be discussed. You may even find room to offer an apology for how they’ve been dissed and dismissed. If they know you care enough to listen – they may start listening to you.
Once you begin the conversation in earnest – listen for statements that reveal serious conflicts with the message of the gospel. I usually read and listen looking for their source of authority (usually themselves in the end), their view of Who God is (this usually is a hodge-podge of ideas from self, internet sites, and on some occasions actual study of the Bible), and what they see as the problem with things as they are currently. This last concept is basically what they see as sin (which is a word they will almost never use as you do) and what offers redemption or salvation from the problem (again two words they will tend to avoid). From this point I begin to engage the person with questions involving these things: 1) What or who is their authority? (Who or what has the final say in their life) 2) What determines if something or someone is good or bad? 3) What is the problem or problems in life? And then finally, 4) What is the answer or answers to these problems. As I ask questions about these things, I respond to their answers with the gospel – sharing lovingly, graciously, and usually with reference to my sin and how God saved me from the penalty for it. I make a beeline to the gospel – and seek to eventually draw things in that direction. That does not mean that I try to share the “plan of salvation” at every turn. Instead it means that I deal with issues concerning salvation such as: Who is God? What is sin? Who or what has the right to call something sinful? How can a sinful person know a holy God? How can a righteous and holy God love us without being a hypocrite about His righteousness and holiness? What did God do to pay the price He demands as the penalty for sin? These are the things I head to in the end – because they are the things that matter. But in the meantime I also try to understand where they’ve come from – and if there are serious hurts and problems in their past. When these things come up – I want to genuinely care for them, apologize when Christians have been unloving and unkind, and offer real love to them in praying for and empathizing with their offenses.
The goal in all this is to truly love them and share and show them Jesus. This is not hard . . . actually, apart from God’s grace it is impossible! I cannot tell you how many times I have to stop and pray – back up – and deal with wanting to offend back because I’m offended. I thank God that He did not deal with me in this way – because I would have been consumed in wrath very early in His gracious dealings with me. We cannot back up from sharing that sin is sin. We cannot back away from being honest about what the Bible proclaims. This is not love – it is dangerously stepping away from God’s righteousness and truth simply because it may offend. We share the truth – but we do so without the verbal barbs – without referring to the most offensive examples of homosexual activism (or any activism for sinful activity). We speak the truth without name-calling (even if we’ve been called and are continuing to be called names). We choose to ask penetrating questions not just so we can probe their thinking – but hopefully so that they will probe their own thinking as we lovingly share what the Bible has to say.
I go back to John chapter 4 and how Jesus addressed the Samaritan woman at the well. Let’s be honest saints – that situation was made for some serious name-calling. She was a Samartian – she was guilty of adultery – she was an outcast from her own society – she held errant spiritual views – and she was currently in a sexually immoral relationship. Wow, what a list of potential names that provides. Yet Jesus did not use a single one of them. He asked questions – made biblical statements boldly yet lovingly – and eventually through hearing and understanding her – was able to address her deepest spiritual needs. Her need, by the way, was not to be proven wrong in an argument. She needed living water. The result of that conversation was that her sin was boldly and lovingly addressed, she was drawn to admit her sin and turn to God, and finally – she became a witness to others of God’s grace as she was saved. Now that is where I want to see a conversation go in the end! Just one more comment though – as you learn to do this not everyone will be converted instantly – or possibly even at all. But the sound of loving, biblical, redemptive conversations will ring further than you think. Imagine what one would look like on facebook? We’ve all seen the ones that turn nasty – with both sides eventually walking away with verbal bloody noses. Imagine one where the believer does not descend into name-calling of any kind – but – where they endeavor to do their best sharing the truth in love. That, my precious saints, will look very different. It is also what we need to begin seeing more and more as the grace of God is expressed in love through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. So share the truth, precious redeemed ones! Share it even if it carries with it the offense of the cross – the offense of seeing ourselves as sinful and lost – the offense of being in need of God’s forgiveness – and the offense of being available only through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just DON’T do this one thing – share this wonderful message in an offensive way that adds to the offense of the cross – and does NOT reflect the love and patience of God or the fruit of His Spirit.
Calvary Core Values
Core Value #4 – Worship
As we continue to look at the core values at Calvary Chapel we now want to address worship. First off I want to acknowledge that the public worship of the church and the music and style of it is quickly becoming a flash point for many churches. What is sad about this statement is that there is no universal music style that can be claimed by anyone as more “biblical” than another. Worship is solely about giving glory, honor, worth, and praise to God Himself for Who He is and what He has done. Worship is about singing to God out of love and obedience as we give Him the glory that He is due. Worship is singing about God to each other and the world around us so that their thoughts can be lifted to worship Him as well. But worship is about so much more than just music and singing.
A Biblical view of worship recognizes an understanding of Romans 12:1-2 as absolutely essential. This passages reads as follows:
“Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2, NASB)
What we learn from these verses is that worship – a true spiritual service of worship to God goes way beyond what you sing on any given Sunday. It goes way beyond singing altogether. What we read here is that worship involves our entire way of living. Our entire bodies should be presented to God every day as living, holy sacrifices. When we live like that – giving all of ourselves to God daily – then we are doing what we should logically do. The word for “spiritual” in Romans 12:1 is the Greek word “logikos,” from which we get our word logic. The only logical way to live when we understand the gospel – is as a 24/7/365 sacrifice of worship to God. This is in everything we do – everything we say – even everything we eat, drink, or anything we ever do. We learn this in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – whatever we do is to be done to the glory of God. Therefore worship goes far beyond the 15-30 minutes we spend singing in a service. It is something we do with our entire lives as we live for the glory of God.
Having addressed that worship is a way of life, I also want to address how worship is viewed when we gather together on a typical Sunday morning to worship God corporately. First off, our corporate worship should not exceed our private worship. Some come and worship on a Sunday morning nothing like how they are worshipping God during the week. What I mean when I reference private worship is what we are doing as we seek God during our time alone with Him each day. There is an inherent danger that comes with times of corporate singing. We sing songs that are celebratory – and that in themselves can incite us to excitement. But are we ever excited about God, about the work of Christ, about the gospel, about the work of the Holy Spirit, or about God’s faithfulness? I know this is a difficult question to answer – but do we even think about such things much during the week? Can we go a week with little or no thought to God, His greatness, and His glory – and then come into a worship service and find ourselves singing with great excitement and passion? There is something very wrong with that kind of picture and practice.
God warned His people about public worship that does not match private devotion. In Isaiah 1 He asks Israel why they needlessly trample into His temple for “their” sacrifices and worship. He found it offensive that they were one thing in public worship – and yet quite another in private life. If we truly worship God – it should be that our public worship is little more than the overflow of our private devotion to God. If things regularly go beyond this – it is honestly not worship – it is hypocrisy. That is why at times I grieve over my own heart and its readiness to get all excited in a public venue – when my private devotion has severely been lacking. What should we do when this is the case? In Joshua, when Achan had sinned and grieved God, Joshua called upon him to “give glory to God” in a confession of his sin. You see, God was most glorified in Achan’s life, not in some public display that did not match his private life, God was most glorified when Achan stopped everything else and took the time to confess and repent of his sin. Saints, there may be times when the best worship service ever – would be little more than us stopping our usual routine – and gathering to a time of getting on our knees or faces and confessing sin in our lives.
Let me make a few comments on music in worship. Unfortunately there are often as many tastes in music as there are people in a congregation. That is because what style of music you enjoy has far more to do with your personal tastes than it does any particular command of God. What I find is the following kinds of scriptural commands when it comes to worshipping God in song.
- Sing to the Lord
- Sing to Him, Sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders
- Sing to the Lord all the earth
- I will sing praises to Your name
- We will sing and praise Your power
- Sing to Him with a harp of ten strings
- Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy
- I shall sing of your strength
- I shall joyfully sing of your lovingkindness in the morning
- Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious
- Sing for joy to God our strength; Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob
- My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God
- I will sing for joy at the work of Your hands
- O come let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
- I will sing of lovingkindness and justice
- I will sings praises to You among the nations
- Let my tongue sing of Your Word
There are 88 different times when we are called, actually many times commanded to sing to the Lord. Therefore, regardless of what style you may prefer, it is a given that we need to – no – actually we are commanded to sing to God. Often that singing is connected with joy – in fact more often than not it is connected with joy of God Himself or some work He has done that should be stimulating us to joy. And – how important this is – God absolutely is to be the focus of our singing. Just about every command that involves singing – calls us to sing TO Him. Therefore, we are absolutely, unequivocally committed to singing to God in our worship services. We want to work hard to make sure that we do not distract from this fundamental focus of worship as we sing. That is why we also make certain choices to make the vast majority of our singing – congregational in nature. It is also why we shun any kind of performance in our music. We want our worship teams and any individual who leads in worship – to focus themselves on God as they sing to Him. Their leadership is first by example as they themselves are worshipping God. Then we ask them to lead us as we join together with them to worship God.
This is also why we want to be very careful about anything that might begin to turn our corporate worship into more of a concert than an opportunity for the body of Christ to give God the glory, honor, and praise that He is due. Some have made their stages very elaborate – using light shows and having different kinds of moving backgrounds behind the words that are projected on the screen. This, in itself, is not evil – but we avoid it because we do not want to distract from God being the focus. As your pastor I personally think that the more ostentatious we become in our staging, the more likely we are going to get away from worship being simply singing to God and telling Him how utterly magnificent, beautiful, majestic, holy . . . and the list can go on forever and ever!
There is another reason why I ask our worship teams to remain low key as they worship God and lead us to join them in it. Jesus said in John chapter 4 that God seeks worshippers who worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Worship is something that is inherently spiritual. God forbade men making images of Him in the Old Testament. Any picture we try to make of God is going to fall infinitely short of Who He is. He is Spirit, He is everywhere at once, and He is infinitely present and powerful in the everywhere He is all at once. The more we make our worship something physical, the more danger there is in us falling into idolatry by making God less than He is. Thus the focus needs to be on the truth of Who He is – not on the show going on around the singing. Worship in Spirit and truth focuses on Who God has revealed Himself to be in Scripture. That is the greatest and most trustworthy revelation we have. That is why we put such a great focus on the Word of God in our worship service.
Worship, true worship incites us to greater, grander, more glorious thoughts of God. These thoughts are driven by what God has said about Himself in the Word. This is also why we try very hard to sing what is Scriptural about God. That is hard to do – because too often we get more excited about the music than we do the lyrics. The danger that is once again inherent due to this is that we sing “really cool songs” or “very reverent songs” or “very moving songs” whose lyrics actually do not accurately represent Who God is scripturally. Worship that is not singing “truth” about God – is actually idolatry – since it is singing about who we would like God to be rather than Who He actually is according to His revelation of Himself in the Word of God. Too be perfectly honest with you as your pastor, I am concerned more and more that the songs of today are so theologically light – and more “this is how I feel.” The other concern I have is that too many of our songs are turning to how God is making much of us – rather than true worship which is us making as much of God as we possibly can.
Worship is about God – living for Him – singing to Him – and as I just said at the end of the last paragraph – making as much of Him as we possibly can. We cannot overdo true worship – because we can never give God all the glory that He is due. But it is my desire as your pastor to encourage you first by example and then by precept to give everything you have, every day God allows you to live, and in everything you do to glorify God. Just as God says to us in His Word, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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