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God demands we live ethically. But what about those times when we don't? The most vital issue Christianity answers is "How can we be right with God when we are not thoroughly good?" There is profound misunderstanding on this point. Part of the confusion is because many err in defining goodness according to human standards. God, on this view, is concerned with what kind of individual one is "on average." If the good outweighs the bad—if good is predominant—then God winks at the occasional moral lapse.
I've always thought the slogan "God doesn't tamper with free will" was odd. Here's my reason. I have a friend who was on her way to India with a mission agency when she was diverted to Thailand because of an air-traffic controller's strike. Upon her arrival, she discovered that the mission team in Thailand there had been praying for more helpers. They hailed her rerouting as a wonderful answer to their prayers.
Over the years I've become increasingly concerned with one tactic of some well-intentioned ambassadors for Christ: leading a person in the "sinner's prayer." It can be meaningful, but it has a liability. The prayer goes something like this: “Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins so I could be forgiven. I receive You as my Lord and savior. Thank You for coming into my life. Amen.”
Everyone has a crutch. Will yours hold you up? When people ask me, “Isn’t Christ just a crutch?” I have a simple reply. I tell them, “You’re right. Christ is a crutch. But you’ve asked the wrong question.” No one makes fun of a lame person who uses a crutch. So the real question is, “Am I lame; am I crippled?” because crippled people need crutches.
The curious thing about the God of the Bible is how unlike us He is. His wisdom confuses us; His purity frightens us. He makes moral demands we can't live up to, then threatens retribution if we don't obey. Instead of being at our beck and call, He defies manipulation. In His economy, the weak and humble prevail and the last become first.
In the New Testament there were no “altar calls.” Instead, baptism was the public focal point of conversion in the early church. It served to protect against substituting mere intellectual assent for genuine faith, and it can serve the same function today.
The identity of Jesus' executioners is irrelevant to Christian dogma. What's critical to dogma is that Jesus truly died and was raised, not that any particular group was responsible for His death. Indeed, from the perspective of theologyall men were responsible for the death of Christ because all sinned, and this the New Testament is very clear on.
The way the relationship between politics and Christianity is discussed in the media almost always irritates me. Often an individual is identified as an evangelical leader who speaks for Christians - and I've never heard of him. Christian political opinion is usually inaccurately portrayed as a monolith. Now, Protestant orthodoxy is a monolith defined by the ecumenical creeds; but as we begin to work out the implications of our faith in the world we start to diverge, and that's certainly true when it comes to politics.
If you vote for a pro-abortion candidate for personal reasons (like economics) that are not more weighty than justice concerns (the wholesale destruction of children), then you are doing something profoundly un-Christian. If this happens often enough, you are either not a Christian or your Christianity completely fails to inform your political life. One wonders if it informs any other aspect of your life as well, and if it doesn't, then by what right do you call yourself a Christian?
I understand that prayers at events like these can be controversial. The pressure is great to offer an invocation that everyone will be comfortable with. But since there’s a large diversity of beliefs—and non-beliefs—here, I realize that simply isn’t possible. Therefore, since I have been asked to offer the prayer this morning, and since I am a Christian, I will pray in a way that is consistent with my conscience. You are welcome to enter in if you like, or simply quietly wait for me to finish, as you wish.