Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Innocent as Doves

Innocent as Doves

Blameless and Innocent

  • “Behold , I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
  • “So that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10).
  • “So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15).
  • “In order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:22).
  • “Therefore, beloved since you look for these things, be diligent to be found in Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).
  • “And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless” (Revelation 14:5).

The Challenge of Remaining Innocent

The challenge of remaining innocent is not merely to be abstaining from practicing sin, but equally from becoming jaded and cynical in our thoughts. In the parable of the sower Jesus warned us about becoming choked with the worries, riches and pleasures of this life (Luke 8:14). Yet we can equally become choked by the cynicism of this life. We can develop a heart that simply looks with suspicion upon the promises, threats and claims in Scripture (Hebrews 3:12).

“I spoke at a panel for a Center for Faith and Work Los Angeles conference, in which the moderator asked me to describe a significant challenge in my job as a Christian journalist. My answer: It’s the struggle not to become jaded and cynical when I’m on the front lines reporting on all the injustice and sin and suffering in this world. Confession: If I weren’t a journalist, I probably would have jettisoned news articles for novels, where whatever tragedies the characters face, I can lean on the comfort that none of it is real. But as a journalist, my job is to wade into the pool of humanity, to swim with the creatures down below, to collect the cries and moans and screams, then surface onto a dry corner so I can shake off my emotions and personal thoughts, and somehow scratch out a factual report on what I’ve seen and heard.

You don’t have to be a journalist to know that this world isn’t right. Visit the New York Times’ website, and in one page you see headlines about the latest mass shooting, about threats from a belligerent Russia and a Machiavellian China, about clashes between Israel and Gaza, about President Donald Trump’s latest faux pas, about the impending environmental disaster. Even the less political sections are full of doom and gloom about “modern love” stories of Tinder dating and third divorces, Hollywood’s latest self-kissing shenanigans, and the dangers of diet soda (this one is particularly hard for me to swallow).

Last month, I spent about a week in Seattle reporting on two topics: homelessness and domestic abuse. During the day I hung out with homeless individuals who told me stories of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse in their past, and at night I researched domestic abuse and read testimonies from abuse victims. Day and night, my head was immersed in thoughts of abuse and homelessness, issues I know will never disappear until the Second Coming of Christ, because oppression and poverty are familiar human companions as old as Genesis 3. Yes, abuse and poverty will always be with us. The stories I write are not new but recycled – different names, different faces, yet same time-old stories, and at times I feel like every article is similar in its revelations: “This world is broken. Its people are broken.” In the pool of humanity, unless I anchor into something solid and secure, I am no longer an intrepid reporter wading for truth. Instead I’m defeated, lying flat on my back as I crash to and fro, letting my own waves of sin and brokenness wash into my nostrils. Perhaps it’s my natural bent toward melancholy, but I let that happen to me more often than I’d like to admit. 

So the biggest challenge in being a Christian journalist? It’s the struggle to hold on to innocence – the innocence of putting full trust in God’s sovereignty, that what He says about His character and purpose is true. We journalists can be proud and self-righteous, imagining ourselves to be crusaders for the voiceless. So it’s humbling to remind myself that without God, without that conscious, disciplined, continuous abidance in Him, I can lose my mission as a journalist in an instant”  (Confessions of a Christian Journalist, Sophie Lee, World Magazine, April 9, 2018).

Innocent Concerning Evil

  • “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil” (Romans 16:19).
  • “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

What this means is that I should not feel ashamed if I find myself “out of the cultural loop”. In fact, being “out of the loop” can be a blessing. I don’t really need to know all the details concerning current sinful practices. Paul wrote, “For it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). For a moment consider the fantastic marriage experienced by Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:25 “both naked and not ashamed”), and then after they chose to walk on the dark side, how everything changed. They were immediately uncomfortable in each other’s presence (3:7), because they were uncomfortable in the presence of God (3:8). Such new knowledge also led them to distrust each other and sell the other out in order to protect self (3:12). The new knowledge or enlightenment that was promised by the Serpent did not liberate them, rather it brought shame, self-preservation, accusation, and inhibition.

The Innocent Trust and Obey

  • “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

This same Noah when he was given what many of us would consider to be an impossible assignment, did not argue with God or procrastinate, but rather promptly obeyed (Genesis 6:22). The same is true for the other examples of faith who are mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11. None of them argued with God.

  • Abraham left his homeland (Hebrews 11:8 “When he was called obeyed”).
  • Even when Abraham was told to offer up his only son, he did not argue with God, rather he acted (Hebrews 11:17-19). 

On a Practical Level

  • This means that if God says that I can remove a sin from my life, then I believe that, rather than spending precious time debating the logic or possibility of that in my head. When I am debating with a command of God, I am being choked. Remember, the disciples who said that Jesus was teaching “hard things” never grew, but rather left Him (John 6:60).
  • If God says that I can add various virtues to my life, then I believe that and immediately start working in that direction.
  • If God says that all things are possible when it comes to me fulfilling His will, then I believe that. Being innocent means that I trust God’s perspective far more than my own.
  • If God says I need to be pure (Ephesians 5:3), then I don’t think of 100 reasons why such is not possible.
  • If God tells us people to be united on His truth, to speak the same thing (1 Corinthians 1:10), then I believe that.
  • If God says that everyone can change, then I act upon that and share it (Acts 17:30).

I am impressed by Peter’s innocence and clarity in John 6:68. When some were complaining about what seemed to them to be impossible teachings to practice and Jesus asked if Peter wanted to quit as well, he said, “Lord to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). 

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017