We all tell ourselves lies, even Christians. It’s not that we consciously play some mental game to talk ourselves into believing a lie. The path to self-deceit is more subtle than that. But here’s how it often works in the life of a Christian.
We’ll often read in scripture something that God expects, which we find hard to do, and in fact, would prefer not doing. For example, every Christian knows this teaching of Jesus, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15. Jesus’ teaching is quite straightforward and unambiguous. Yet, almost all Christians refuse to forgive someone of something they’ve done to them in the past.
Given Jesus’ strong warning in this teaching, how would we dare risk not forgiving anyone and doing so quickly?
Here’s where the lies begin to shape themselves. And it may be more than one lie, each layered on the next, that gives us “moral justification” for not forgiving someone.
I spend a good deal of my time spiritually mentoring 20-30 year old men, often single. And I’m still shocked when they freely disclose, without a hint of embarrassment, that they’re living with their girlfriend. I’d expect this indifference to violating God’s moral laws from non-Christians. But, I often get the same response from men raised in Christian homes and who actually attend church with their girlfriends!
So, why is this happening and how can you frame the discussion for your own cohabitating children, grandchildren or the singles you’re mentoring? Here’s how I try to address this issue.
Evangelicals almost never talk about their priesthood. And, I’m not referring to those men in robes and vestments standing in front of church, leading worship and dispensing the sacraments, as in the Catholic Church.
I’m talking about you and me! And every born-again Christian – priests.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 1:9
The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, is introducing one of the most radical ideas ever, in any religion. That every born-again Christian is a priest! Prior to that, all religions had a class of spiritual leaders who believed they were intermediaries between the people and the gods. And this religious class perpetuated that idea because it kept them in power and control.
In the case of Israel, the priesthood actually was God’s idea, not mans. But with Christ’s death, the priesthood in Israel ended because Jesus became our forever high priest. “Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.” Hebrews 8:1,2
Priests on earth
So, while Christ is our heavenly priest, on earth we are his priests. However, we don’t stand between God and man as priests of old did. There is no human being, no pastor, no elder, no religious leader, we need as an intermediary between Jesus and us. Yes, there are elders and pastors assigned to lead churches, but they no longer stand between God and us. Christians have direct access to God, because we are all priests of God! So if we don’t stand between God and man, what is our purpose? To serve God, by serving humans – not to stand above them, but to stand alongside of them!
Here are 5 ways you and I can be better priests.
I’ve been asked many times if it’s wrong to serve, if our hearts are not really in it.
I hope not.
Perhaps half the time I’m serving others, I do so without any great excitement and occasionally with real reluctance. Jesus told this story that get’s right to this point.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
Which of the two did what his father wanted? ‘The first,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’” Matthew 21:28-31
Would Jesus prefer we serve, with a great attitude? Of course he would! But in the end, obedience, even without enthusiasm, is better than disobedience. But why is it I, and perhaps you as well, enjoy serving some people but not others?