Cynical Christianity

If I had to choose one word to describe my default way of thinking, I would choose “cynical.”

Yikes.

I hate cynicism. I really do. I hate the way it feels, you know? It’s that slimy, gross feeling. If you’ve taken your dog for a walk and you forgot to bring a doggie bag, but your dog needed to go and you didn’t want to be that neighbor, then you know exactly what cynicism feels like.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the pastor being interviewed said he was confronted by a mentor of his about this very thing. His mentor asked, “Why do you keep smearing crap on your blessings?”

My point is cynicism is disgusting.

But I also love it.

And I hate that.

I love being cynical. And I disguise my cynicism all the time. “Oh, I’m just pointing out what could be better.” “Man, I loved that movie…except the editing was weird sometimes.” “Well, that’s just how life is.” “You can’t be disappointed if you don’t have expectations.”

It’s just so easy to be a critic. We breathe cynicism. We carry around unlimited cynicism in our pockets. We pay $40 a month to have constant access to it. We drink it up. We share it. We pass it around. Cynicism is more common than the common cold.

But, as a follower of Jesus, I’ve never encountered a command from Jesus to be cynical.

Maybe I’m missing something. Or maybe I’m obeying someone besides Jesus. Maybe I’m believing some lies about deserving a perfect, comfortable, happy life. Maybe I need to repent.

I most certainly need to repent.

Sometimes, though, we don’t know what to turn to when we turn away from sin. I know I need to turn away from the sin of cynicism, of tearing down, of being selfishly critical. But what do I turn to instead? I think one of many answers can be found in Colossians 3.

And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:15-17

This passage is so rich. And I think there’s a significant emphasis of which I want to take note.

It’s the trifecta of commands to be thankful.

Instead of being cynical, I believe we’re commanded to be thankful.

Paul starts with the peace of Christ ruling your heart, bringing you into communion with fellow believers. And then, “Be thankful.” Be thankful for Christ ruling your heart! You don’t deserve that. But Christ rules your heart because he wants to, because he deserves to. Because that’s better for you. So you have peace with others because Jesus rules your heart. That’s amazing. That’s something to be thankful for. If you don’t know what to give thanks for, give thanks for Jesus ruling your heart. Give thanks for peace. Give thanks for friendships.

Paul moves on with a command to let the word of Christ live in you, and let the word and wisdom of Christ move you to encourage others and, get this, give thanks to God. If you know the words of Jesus, you will be able to share those with others. To know the words of Jesus is a gift. To be able to hear them and understand them is another. To be able to know, hear, understand, and share them is a third. To be able to do all those things and sing praises to God is a fourth gift–and a most remarkable one at that. We don’t deserve any of those gifts. Yet we have been given them and more. Thanks be to God!

Finally, Paul lands the plane. He says whatever you do, whenever, wherever, with whoever, do it for Jesus; and while you’re doing whatever you’re doing and doing that thing for Jesus, give thanks! Thank God for the morning coffee. Give thanks for that song on the radio. Give thanks for your boss. Give thanks for that paper that’s due. Give thanks for any ability you have, any skill you possess, any holy thought you have, any desire to do good, and any joy you might feel. Yes, this will take you all day.

I had another friend tell me he recently that he was looking at a list of people he was praying for, and while praying and thinking through that list, he thought, There are so many needs. So many people need prayer. And these are just the people on my list! There are so many more people and needs and prayers to pray. This will take me all day!

Then it hit him. When Paul says pray all day, it’s not a suggestion. When you realize how much you have to pray, you end up praying all day. The same thing goes for gratitude. When you realize how much you have for which to give thanks, you end up giving thanks all day.

Now, this isn’t something I’m a pro at by any means. In fact, you might be way ahead of me in this spiritual practice of thanking God throughout the day. I hope if you are, then you start to teach others; and if you’re a day behind, that’s OK. Read Colossians 3 and focus on verses 15-17. Memorize them if that helps. Pray for the Spirit of God to give you a spirit of obedience. Then practice. Practice right now, practice tomorrow, practice the next day after. And when you succeed, thank God. And when you fail, thank God. His mercies are new every morning.

– Matt Welborn

 

My Greatest Need

There are situations in life and circumstances in life that I wish God would rescue me from and heal me from. There are physical, emotional, and relational needs that I have that I wish God would simply restore to perfection. I’m not alone in this. We all know that life is hard, that brokenness exists, that pain is deep. Mark 2.png

I’ve come to discover however that my greatest need is by far not the mending of my physical, emotional, or relational struggles. My greatest need is for my sins to be forgiven. God in His grace through the cross of Christ has met that great need, and my heart should be responding with great joy and gratitude. That however is hard to do in the midst of these other difficulties in life.

Yet God’s Word makes it crystal clear that the meeting of my spiritual needs through Christ is far more miraculous, necessary, and impactful than the changing of any emotional, mental, or relational circumstances. This gospel truth is most clearly found in Mark chapter two, when Jesus heals a paralytic.

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man,carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” – Mark 2:1-12

Most of the times I’ve heard this story taught, it’s had a focus on the great length that this paralyzed man’s friends went to in order to help their friend find healing. Now, this teaching is beneficial, convicting, and applicable to our lives as followers of Christ. Yet in the times I’ve been taught this story growing up, I’ve never seen with such vividness the truth that Jesus was drawing the attention of the crowd to.

The paralytic’s greatest need was not for his legs to be healed so that he could walk, run, and jump. No, the paralytic’s greatest need was for his sins to be forgiven.

In verse five, Jesus makes this abundantly clear. He looks at this paralyzed man laying on a mat and says “your sins are forgiven”.

I can only imagine what his friends were thinking. They had just gone to great lengths to bring their friend to Jesus. They had even torn through a roof to do so. Yet Jesus looks at their friend and merely says “your sins are forgiven”.

Now, this was not only a statement that proved this paralyzed man’s greatest need. Rather it was also Jesus proclaiming His deity and ability to forgive sins (v. 10). The Lord Jesus Christ we worship and dedicate our lives to is able to forgive us of all of our sin. Every last grievance and shortcoming.

My prayer is that I would come to understand that even when my emotional, relational, and physical needs aren’t met in immediacy (although this wasn’t the case with this paralyzed man), that I have a reason to sing and worship because my spiritual needs are covered. The Son of Man has forgiven my sins. As a man who has placed my faith in the Lord Jesus and what the life and death of Jesus did for my eternal state, I have forgiveness of all sins. Oh that I could train my heart to be overjoyed with this reality.

Our God is good and great. Our God does no wrong, and He does not fail.

The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame. – Zephaniah 3:5

I add that sentence and verse as a reminder that even when physical, emotional, or relational realities don’t change, God does no wrong and He never fails. He always does what is best and what is right. I’m an imperfect man who has to fight hard to cling to this truth. It’s not easy to claim this promise but it is no less true. What God does is right, and He does not fail.

Rejoice, believer.

Rejoice, follower of Jesus.

Your greatest need has been met in fullness by the precious blood of Christ on the cross. Bring your physical, emotional, and relational needs to Jesus. Cast your cares upon the One who loves You and cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). You are the apple of his eye, and you are hidden in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 17:8).

Yet in the changing difficulties of this life, rejoice that the Lord has seen fit to look at you and say, “Your sins are forgiven”.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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