Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

What Christians Should Be Bad At


I’m A Poor...
When Christians Should Underachieve

There are passages that tell us that there are things that God cannot do:

  • Titus 1:2 “God... cannot lie”
  • 2 Timothy 2:13 “...He cannot deny Himself”
  • Hebrews 6:18 “ is impossible for God to lie”

Such passages started me thinking that there are a number of things that as a Christian, I should be a real underachiever and just down-right poor at doing.

Christians should be truly poor liars

Many people in our culture are not into truth. In reference to the scandal involving South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, one Huffington Post pundit said, “The executive leadership he showed in confessing his sins... was really bad”. Steve McMahon said on MSNBC’s Hardball, “What I would have suggested is that he put out a statement which says: My wife and I separated two weeks ago. I left the country to have some private time, and I’m not going to have anything further to say about it” (World Magazine, July 18, 2009, p. 76).

As we read the Bible we will quickly discover that not only is God unable to lie but He is dead set against lying:

  • Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness”
  • Leviticus 19:11 “Nor lie to one another”
  • Proverbs 6:16 “There are six things which the Lord hates... (17) a lying tongue”
  • 1 Timothy 1:10 “Immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers, and liars and perjurers”
  • Revelation 21:8 “And all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone”

Christianity is a lifestyle rooted in absolute truth (1 Timothy 2:4). It naturally follows then that those who call themselves Christian must be truthful not just to God, but to others, including themselves. By contrast, World Magazine recently published an article entitled “Lie to me”, which pointed out that one of the challenges negotiating with Iran is that in Islam lying is expected. “At least a half a dozen verses of the Quran instruct Muslims to practice deception, or to lie, when it serves the purposes of Islam. Taqiyya means ‘guard’, as in guarding oneself against unbelievers, which can include lying to them or deceiving them. ‘We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them’, according to the authority of Abu Al-Darda. In one passage (Sura 16:106) Allah allows Muslims to go so far as to deny their faith when under ‘compulsion’, as long their heart remains ‘firm in Faith’” (July 18, 2009, p. 62). Christians certainly can feel the temptation to lie, even for supposed “good ends”, and we have learned that any lying bears a high cost, sooner or later. There are a number of passages in the Bible in which someone lies, even a hero, and while the immediate context does not condemn or condone the behavior, there is a cost. Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister and almost lost her (Genesis 12:13-20), Rebekah encouraged Jacob to deceive her husband to obtain the blessing, and she did lose him (Genesis 27:12-13; 28:1). Ananias and Sapphira simply wanted to appear a little more generous than they were, and they lost their lives (Acts 5:1ff). “We’re bad liars. When caught, we confess rather than stonewall” (World Magazine, July 18, 2009, p. 76).

We are very poor at making sin look romantic

People Magazine about 15 years ago listed the ‘Top 100 romances of the 20th century’. Over half were adulterous, but People treated all of them as glorious” (World Magazine, July 18, 2009, p. 76). When David committed adultery with Bathsheba the “love” involved is not pictured as something high, noble or wonderful. Neither is David simply a man who is pictured as caught up in a passion that cannot be resisted. Instead God compares David to an incredibly heartless and selfish man, who simply consumes (2 Samuel 12:1-4) with no thought for anyone else. “D.G. Myers teaches literature at Texas A&M and keeps A Commonplace Blog ( Myers writes, ‘All the literary world loves a lover, especially if passion overwhelms his commitments and will... The literary ideology of the Western world is that the adulterer is subjected to erotic passion, as if he were the unwilling victim of a power outside his control. Myers goes on to say, ‘The Jews have a word for this. The word is idolatry’”(World Magazine, August 1, 2009, p. 23). Among other things, Christians cannot romanticize sin because they intelligently understand the following truths:

  • Sin always hurts others, including both the innocent and God.
  • Passing up on a forbidden relationship does not result in misery, rather opting for the forbidden relationship, in the end, most certainly will. David’s life is never as filled with blessings as it was prior to his adultery. Thus, we can never accept the theory that if you walk away from love you know is wrong, you will be miserable the rest of your life.
  • When I resist temptation I am not “sacrificing”, rather I do not have any right to what is forbidden. We must never believe that in passing on a forbidden relationship that we are making some selfless and agonizing sacrifice. 
  • The very fact that one of the words used of sin is “trespass” infers that we do not have any “right” to move into a sinful activity. No, we are not being unfairly denied our “rights”. When it comes to sinful things or activities, we have “no rights”.

Christians should be very poor at being boastful or arrogant

The Bible frequently stresses the necessity of being humble:

  • 1 Kings 3:7 “I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or 
    come in”
  • Ezra 9:13 “Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve”
  • Proverbs 30:2 “ Surely I am more stupid than any man” 
  • 2 Corinthians 3:5 “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God”
  • 1 Timothy 1:15 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all”

Our encounter and obedience to the gospel message has been the best thing that ever happened to us. Besides all the benefits of eternal life and the forgiveness of our sins, this encounter has brought us back to reality. It is far more difficult to be over-confident once we have owned up to the ugliness of our own sins. Our “better judgment” and “feelings” did not lead us in the right direction. Our instincts were not always right, and the opinions of others that we followed, even the opinions of famous authors or personalities often turned out to be dead wrong as well. In addition, dealing honestly with our sins has likewise delivered us from ignorance and has brought us a wealth of knowledge.

Our society often assumes that the person who lives in the big city is the more knowledgeable person, yet living in the big city can often lead to a very culturally narrow field of knowledge. Time magazine ran an article about the lack of religion in some parts of America, it included a story of a couple who came to see an Episcopal priest after they had been to a service, and asked the question, “Our teenage son wants to know who the man is hanging on the plus sign”. Eric Metaxas, who has written two biographies and 30 children’s books noted that four years ago, Dick Cavett, a former talk show host, walked into a Park Avenue bistro. Metaxas notes, “Cavett is totally brilliant, knows everything there is know about everything – except that he has lived in New York City since he left Yale in the late 50’s, so he has been part of the epicenter of secular culture”. In this Bistro, Metaxas has a chance to introduce Cavett to a priest who was also an intellectual. Cavett then asks the question, “Where does the Golden Rule come from?” (World Magazine, August 1, 2009, p. 24). The lesson is that intellectuals in big cities who seem to know everything are often completely ignorant of the eternal and consequential concepts that Christians know incredibly well.

Christians should be very poor at keeping to themselves

When I was traveling in Tennessee we spent some time in an area inhabited by various Amish families and we even visited a store owned by an Amish family. To my disappointment, the people who ran the store did not seem friendly nor did they even try to convert me. I was actually offended by this. I thought to myself, “If they really believe they have the truth, why are they not trying to share it with me? Are they completely unconcerned about my soul? Or, do they think that I am not worth the trouble?” It seems that we have a good number of people in our world, both religious and secular, who prefer to keep to themselves, yet Christians should have a hard time withdrawing. “He was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present” (Acts 17:17). I need to remind myself that evangelism is not about me being uncomfortable, rather, it is all about having the same care and compassion for the lost that God does. If I really did not care what happened to others I would not be trying to reach them. So people should feel almost flattered when we try to reach out to them, because it means that someone cares about what happens to them, and believes them to have eternal value. I am reminded of Jeremiah when he thought about giving up and just remaining quiet and keeping to himself – he felt as if he almost blew himself up (Jeremiah 20:9). Likewise, Christians are often extremely poor at quietly sitting on the sidelines and not being involved. If you can only briefly self sorry for yourself , and can only remain quiet with the gospel for a short period and always find yourself getting back into the fray for what’s right – then you are likely doing just fine.