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Summary: Let our lives speak louder than our words

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Living Among the Pagans

TCF Sermon

November 18, 2007

Does anybody else here think that the level of public discourse in our country has fallen to new lows? No longer do we have respectful disagreements. Seldom do we agree to disagree about opinions on politics or other issues.

Rather, what seems to be happening is that on both ends of the political spectrum, we find people willing to condemn their political or social enemies,and to do it publicly, with great fanfare, and with little or no respect, and often insulting, for their opponents.

What’s sad is that Christians are sometimes guilty of the same thing. Doesn’t it make you cringe when the pastor of a Baptist church is best-known, not for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and all that entails, but for crude and hateful speech, intimidation and just plain callousness.

Of course, we’re talking about Fred Phelps, pastor of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka Kansas, a congregation of about 70 which includes mostly family members. If you want to learn more about him and his views, you can visit his websites: godhatesfags.com and godhatesamerica.com

However, I don’t suggest you do that unless you have a strong stomach. Here are a few quotes from Fred’s lovely daughter, Shirley, who has apparently been anointed to answer the questions that come in to their website. One questioner asked:

Is there ever any remorse for the harsh message you proclaim?

Here’s her written response:

HELL NO!! We are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ – we rejoice for every bit of it! We will leave the maudlin, squally drawing back for you ignorant earth dwellers that have not bothered to wrap your rebellious minds around the fact that God HATES drawing back! His soul has no pleasure in you creeps that run from his word and his standards – so shut up about that! So – if you have any sense WHATSOEVER, you will shut your odious cake chute and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and OBEY all of his written word you dumb nerd!

This church pickets the funerals of dead soldiers. They rejoice in the doom of sinners. But I don’t see that in scripture.

Ezekiel 33:11 (NIV) Say to them, ’As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.

2 Peter 3:9 (NASB77) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Yes, we want sinners to repent, even as God does. But no, we should not take pleasure in the death of the wicked – God doesn’t. Now, admittedly, this is an extreme example of what I’m talking about this morning. But we could cite other examples of things Christians say and/or do in public, that fly in the face of what scripture tells us about how to behave.

So, with that as an introduction, let’s move to our primary text for this morning.

1 Peter 2:11-12 (NIV) Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

The NAS of verse 12: Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Now, think about this verse, and compare it to what we just heard, which again, is certainly at the extreme of examples we could cite. Here’s another verse which proposes a similar idea:

Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV) Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Even if you agree with the views of this church, in part or in whole, it’s hard for me to see how telling someone to shut their odious cake chute, how calling them a dumb nerd, how calling them a creep, even begins to live up to the admonition to be wise in the way we act, or to have conversations full of grace, or to live such good lives that people will be won by our behavior. How does telling them God hates them help draw them into the Kingdom of God?

Certainly God hates the sin, which caused Him to send Jesus to pay the price for that sin. But He also loves the sinner.

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