THE STANDARDS…

“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.  Blessed are those who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart—they do no wrong but follow His ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.  Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all Your commands. I will praise You with an upright heart as I learn Your righteous laws. I will obey Your decrees; do not utterly forsake me”  [Psalm 119: 1-8].

“Today truth has been kicked to the curb”  Tony Evans*

This past Sunday, I used a video of Pastor Tony Evans to kick off my adult Sunday school class.  His message made a big impact on me.  The past few years, I have had a few struggles trying to be a Christian living in this world.  I know The Bible tells me to not “be of this world”; to keep my eyes on His kingdom.  I should not be so concerned with what happens in human culture but it has been hard.  You see we live in a world today that is being overrun with very important and powerful people who provide alternative facts, opinions and perspectives. What was once considered truth is now being questioned.  We all have relative perspectives; one person’s perception of reality does not have to totally agree with another’s and that is ok.  I must accept that each of us is unique but if we truly cannot see anything the same way, truth is in trouble.  We have to have some standards.  I have just written four posts on sin and if we take a point of view that sin just depends on how we look at it, it seems to me that anything that man can do can be justified.   

John Stott died in 2011 and he was very aware of the shift into relativity that has gripped faith in God.  This even has a name: Post-modern Christianity.  Before I plunge into an effort at a simple definition, let me warn you.  Post-modern thinking and Post Modern Christianity are not bad conceptualizations except when they is taken to extremes and today we are living in times when people do not temper their comments.   We live in a time of “EXTREME!!!!”  Maybe it is a perverse desire for attention but many people love using what I call “over-the-top” language.

Experience is important but Post-modernism posits that it is more important than reason.  Subjectivity is more important that objectivity.  A spiritual approach to faith is more important than an intellectual approach to faith.  Images are more important than words.  Outward manifestation of faith is more important than inward manifestation.

The value of the experiences we have in life cannot be ignored but if we place so much value on our individual experiences then truth becomes relative.  Reason no longer matters.  Understanding others becomes very hard because everyone is so far apart in their separate realities. 

We have to have some standard by which reality is measured.  We need some source of reliability.  Tony Evans says “we need an original source.”  John Stott writes that we have to have some way by which we measure our performance.    Stott writes that to “some good-minded people this comes as a genuine surprise.  They have their ideals and think they attain them, more or less.  They do not indulge in much introspection.  They are not unduly self-critical.  They know they have had occasional lapses.  They are aware of certain character deficiencies.  But they are not alarmed by them, and they consider themselves no worse than other men.  All this is understandable enough until you remember two things.  First, our sense of failure depends on how high our standards are.  It is quite easy to consider ourselves good at high-jumping if the bar is never raised more than waist-high.  Second, God concerns Himself with the thought behind the deed and with motive behind action” [Stott, 64].

In his book Basic Christianity, Stott turns to the Ten Commandments. Here are our standards.  This is our truth. 

How do we stack up against the the psalmist quoted above when he makes it very clear that we should keep God’s statutes, we should follow His ways, obey His precepts and steadfastly obey His decrees.  Are we making an effort to follow God’s commands or are we ignoring them, making up the rules as we go along.  Are we looking to His commands for guidance or are we ignoring them, creating a reality that does not exist in an objective world.  Are we tapping into the power of His commands or are we watering them down, making life an easy-going existence that seeks comfort more than challenge.

We can always accept the “low bar” and maintain the figment that we are doing well [Thank you very much!].  But what if God really wants us to jump over a high bar?  Pastor Evans loves to preach with powerful images and one such image is the high jumper versus the pole vaulter.  If you look at high jumping, the athlete accomplishes his goal by using his own body to cross the bar.  If you look at pole vaulting, the athlete uses a pole to go much higher so they can cross a much higher bar.  Maybe we can take that image and say that God’s commands can get us over the high bar; we can use His Word to give us the power we need to live the best life we can live. 

This post introduces a series of posts that searches for truth in God’s commands, some standards by which we can live.  Maybe Post-modernism has gripped Christianity; maybe truth is in trouble, maybe it even “has been kicked to the curb.” 

Over the next few posts, I will examine each commandment in what Stott calls “a healthy exercise…[to] see how very far short of [the Commandments] every man falls.”

Of course Commandment number 1 is next: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

*From Tony Evan’s video teaching “The Books of 1, 2 and 3 John.”

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