When we use them, these “visions” can mean something special to the person who experiences them or reads the image. Images are representations of an idea, a description that is brought about by words, an effort to make something tangible through the use of words.
Here are two images I have often used to talk about my personal struggle with sin.
One is me going around and around a mountain. I really want to climb up the side of the mountain, but I can’t. I am stuck on the same level of the mountain, just going around and around.
The other image is me wanting to enter a room. I really want to go in, but I can’t. I am stuck in the threshold. Something is keeping me from entering the room. The threshold is as far as I can go.
Why are these images important?
Because to me they represent my inability to grow, to move beyond my sins; I want to leave my sins behind but I can’t.
John Bevere is trying to communicate as much when he writes about the sins that contemporary society “allows.” It is uncomfortable to write about them but these sins are real and today many are “excused”.* Christians indulge in many of them and think nothing of it. However, these sins and our attitude about them can keep us from growing closer to God.
The sad thing is that many pastors preach a message that can keep people from growing. The irony is that message is the message of grace.
You know the message. It is such good news. Here is a super-simple explanation. God knows you and knows every sin you are capable of. He does not expect you to be perfect, a superman or a superwoman. As a human parent, do you love your child as a child or are you withholding your love until your child matures? You know the answer; you love your child at every level of development, an unconditional love. When your child stumbles, what do you do? You pick him or her up and don’t scold the child for stumbling. Our God is like that. He opens His arms to us and loves us unconditionally. His grace is extended to us to forgive our sins. That is a soothing, relaxing message. We are ok despite our failings.
This same New Testament message can also be what keeps us going around and around or stuck in the threshold. This New Testament message can lead to an attitude that no matter what I do, “my sins are covered” by grace.
I don’t know about you, but I want to leave my sins behind.
Here is where John Bevere confronts the reader with his idea that too many Christians serve “the world” or today’s culture or their peer group. Instead of serving God, they try to fit into contemporary life. The compromises are so frequent that serving God is no longer number one.
Hence, Bevere’s title “Good or God?” Do you follow the rules of contemporary society or God’s rules?
The New Testament is not devoid of commandments. By looking at the Book of Ephesians, Bevere has found many commandments that call us to a higher standard.*
We make a major error when we think that God is pleased when we give our lives to Him and then make no further effort to know Him. This is where “growing in grace” comes into play. Second Peter 3:18 tells us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.” There are many ways to do that. We grow in grace by reading God’s Word and letting it “dwell in us richly” (Colossians 3:16) and by praying. I was disappointed for many years by my college students who rarely read textbooks. What did they expect of me? I was to come to class, lecture and give them all they needed to know to pass the test. Christians have that same expectation. They go to church, expecting the pastor to educate them, but they rarely ever make much effort to read the Bible themselves. Donald Whitney states “The Scriptures contain all the knowledge we will ever need to learn of God, His Son, and His Spirit, at least in this life. God`s desire for those He has saved is their sanctification and transformation. He wants us to become more holy like Himself. He wants to transform us into the image of His Son. The way to do this is by meditating on the Scriptures and applying their principles to our lives as we yield to the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.”
I would go even further, as we worship in church, spend time with other Christians in Sunday school, pray, read our Bibles and actively study Scripture, God will give us power to stand against the lowered standards of our culture. Pastor Bevere has drawn a lot on Ephesians for his list of New Testament commandments and he uses Ephesians again to warn us about falling into the idea that “grace will cover our sins.” “Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey Him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. …Carefully determine what pleases the Lord; instead expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. …So be careful how you live [5: 6-7, 10-12, 15].
By merely meeting the standard of “good” we may fit into our clique. By meeting the standard of “good” we may be super successful as we compromise our way to the top. By meeting the standard of “good” we may be going around and around and stuck in a threshold.
Don’t you want to mature as a Christian?
Meeting the standard of “good” probably won’t allow that to happen.
Meet the standard of God and you will understand this scripture: Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.
*Don’t tell lies, Don’t let anger get out of control, Don’t steal, Don’t use foul or abusive language, Don’t be sexually immoral, Don’t be impure, Don’t be greedy, Don’t tell obscene stories, talk foolishly, or tell rude jokes, Don’t be drunk with wine.