Are urban legends ruining your faith?A spiritual urban legend is just like a secular urban legend. It's a belief that gets passed around as fact. Spiritual legends are dangerous errors that eventually bring disillusionment and heartache. Here are a few:
1. Forgiving Means Forgetting
Forgiveness is not an act of self-induced spiritual amnesia. God doesn't forget. When the Bible says God remembers our sins no more, it means that He no longer responds to us based on those sins. They no longer derail our relationship with him. They no longer anger Him. They are gone--completely--from our account. But it doesn't mean He can't remember all the things we've done. But, because of love, He chooses to move on with us as though they never happened. Thanks to Jesus.
But remember, God's forgiveness seldom if ever removes all the consequences or restores all that we've broken. Instead, it offers a second chance.
2. God Has a Blueprint for My Life
God doesn't have a blueprint for our life. He has a game plan. A blueprint contains a specific set of detailed instructions for everything. A game plan sets forth general guidelines with lots of freedom and flexibility for adjustments. In most situations, we have lots of room to exercise choice.
Often our big decisions aren't nearly as important as a life of daily obedience. People ask God in all sincerity if this is the right one to marry while they are ignoring his instructions for right behavior with the one they are dating.
The starting place for finding God's will is obeying the commands and instructions we already know. It's hard for an athlete to follow a game plan if he misses all the practices.
3. Everything Happens for a Reason
Implied in this is a wrong understanding of how God interacts with the world. Specifically, it says God directs all things. God had a reason for that senseless act of violence. This way of seeing God turns us all into puppets. God's little play things who really have no freewill. Do you truly think God needs toys?
No matter what happens, God is in charge but not in control. Free will changed that. And he's good. But that doesn't mean he's the direct cause of everything that happens. It doesn't mean that everything that happens is something he wants to happen.
Consider this: Did anything happen in the world today that was outside of God’s wishes? Did everything that God wanted to happen today, happen? The answer? Of course not. Did someone die today not knowing Jesus as their Saviour? Of course. Yet the Bible says it is God’s will that no one would die not knowing His Son.
And, sometimes the hardships we face are the results of sinful choices. That's not God's doing. That's our doing. I’ve said it many times in these blogs; the reason for most of the bad things that happen in my life is that I make bad decisions or others make bad decisions that affect me. Neither of those are God’s will nor fault.
Evil is not supposed to happen. It does. Obviously. But it shouldn’t. To make sense of things, we’re tempted to offer easy answers. But when people are in pain, we need to resist the urge.
The biblical response to those in pain is simple, but profound. Cry with those who cry. “I don’t know why this happened, but I’m crying with you” is a far better answer to someone who has lost a loved one than crap like “God must have wanted another angel.”
4. We Should be Winning People to Church Rather than to Jesus
I think one of the biggest reasons people leave church is because they come into the church with expectations that are way too high. If you listen to the average church-goer, he will say something like this: “We have a great pastor. You will love our pastor. Oh, our music is so fantastic. We have this great worship team. You will love our church. Won’t you come to our church?”
So, we get people all fired up about the church. They are excited. The problem is if somewhere along in there we don’t tell them about Jesus they will get the idea that the church is going to be their source of happiness. The church is going to be the solution to their problems.
Jesus saves, not the church. Talk more about Jesus.
5. Ranking Sin
Christians have become good at focusing on the moral failings of others while ignoring their own.
Sexual sin is a problem, so is gossip. And divisiveness. And quarreling—sins Christians routinely ignore. Mostly because we commit them. I would suggest that just as many congregations have been ruined by gossip, divisiveness and quarreling as have been stained by sexual sin. But you’d never know.
I’m all for following Jesus with my sexuality. But I’m also all for submitting our need to gossip, our divisiveness and our quarreling to Jesus and dealing with that seriously.
Imagine what the church might look like if that happened. So, here’s an idea. Instead of pretending someone else’s sin is worse, deal with your own. That should keep both of us busy.
6. Judging Outsiders
Jesus said he didn’t come into the world to judge it, but to save it. I completely get the urge to judge our neighbors and even the world. Things bother me too. But I must refrain. Being a follower of Jesus demands it.
I once had a conversation with a lawyer. I asked about representing a client he believed might be guilty. ‘Doesn’t that put you in a horrible bind?’ I’ll never forget his answer.
“You’re confusing my role, Mike. I’m not the judge. I’m his lawyer. My job is ethically and legally give him the best defense possible. The judge will decide whether he’s guilty or not.”
So…, the world has a judge. And it’s not you. He’s fairer than you. More just than you. More perfect than you. And far more accurate. In the meantime, do your job. Help bring people you know to understand the love Father has for them as demonstrated through Jesus.
I'm constantly amazed by the number of people I run into who decide what they will believe not so much based on the facts as on what they wish the facts were.