People drive selfishly. One of the great adjustments that I had to make when moving from Auburn, AL to Houston, TX was the awful traffic. On the northwest side of Houston, you will not get anywhere fast from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. It’s just not possible. Too many people, not enough concrete. And let me say it again, people drive selfishly. I say it all the time. People drive in such a way that it is evident…they care only about themselves. You kindly let them into your lane (the one they want so desperately to be in), and they don’t even acknowledge your kindness with a wave of the hand or a nod of the head. They assert their wills even if that means running the innocent into the ditch. They block intersections. Because they are going to make it through that light even if it means that everyone else on the intersecting street has to wait for them to clear the intersection to move forward though they are staring at a green light. People drive selfishly. I feel much better now, having gotten that off my chest and telling the world (well, at least the readership of Focus Online). Well, obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, and hopefully, I am one (most of the time, anyway).
Generalizations make a point. They summarize what is generally true. Then, important cautions can be issued about not joining in with the majority who do a thing. I used to never generalize when I preach because I concluded someone might not understand. But then I realized that both Jesus and Paul used generalizations. While only rarely is absolutely everyone within a certain class of behavior, a vast majority can be and thus the need for warnings.
Paul’s words to Titus intrigue me. “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’” What follows intrigues me even more, “This testimony is true.” Paul agrees with the prophet who said this. His cautionary words to Titus follow. Titus’ preaching should be affected by this general truth about the surrounding culture. “For this cause reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith…” (Titus 1:12-16). He would further warn about those who “…profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.” He then admonishes Titus, and subsequently all readers presently, to rise above the norm of society, “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Not everyone on the island of Crete was liar but such duplicity was rampant in that place. Christians must not be of such ilk. Titus receives this letter from Paul while he is in Crete, where Paul has left him to do the Lord’s work, and he wants him to appoint elders among the church in every city there (Titus 1:5). Obviously, the men appointed and the righteous in those churches would be exceptions to the “always liars” culture of Crete.
Jesus continually hammered the Pharisees and scribes for their spiritual rottenness while they pretended otherwise, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites…” (Matthew 23:15). Surely, there was a noble exception or two to the rule! Nicodemus, for example, would ultimately shine far above his Pharisee counterparts. Of course, he could eventually have been unceremoniously stripped of his Pharisee-moniker as was the Apostle Paul! While Nicodemus came along slowly, first coming to Jesus by night to avoid detection (John 3:1,2), his different heart was evident in John 7. While other Pharisees were judging Jesus on the basis of appearance and not judging “righteous judgment” (John 7:24), Nicodemus was trying to direct them to the Law for measuring Jesus properly (John 7:51). The fact that Nicodemus was an exception to the general rule is made abundantly clear when he and another formerly secret disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, make a public and bold request to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:38,39).
Like the way they drive indicates, Americans are selfish, ungodly and even idolatrous. I don’t hesitate to say so. They can so often claim to be Christians but they do not follow Christ. They follow themselves. They make the rules. Jesus is not the head of their church, they are. If they want a “Christianity” that includes homosexuality, profanity and adulterous marriages, they will have it and proclaim it good. If they want to believe “once saved, always saved” — though it flies in the face of literally hundreds of passages that say our eternal reward is conditional upon ongoing belief/obedience — they will have it. If they want to reject the necessity of baptism in God’s plan of salvation, they will ignore Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-6, Colossians 2:12,13 and 1 Peter 3:21 without a second thought. If they want to exchange God’s model and His mission for the church into a veritable social club engaged in unauthorized practices, they will. When the focus is self, when the idols of entertainment and pleasure replace God, people will listen to their own hearts rather than the words that give life (John 6:63,68).
“But as for you…” really says it all. Stay alert to the spiritual dangers lurking all around you. Dare to stand squarely upon truth no matter how unpopular it may be. Live the Lord’s message only if few choose stand to with you. The world will not understand nor appreciate your stand for the truth…it never has. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master’” (John 15:18-20).
We are excited to have Tony write as a guest author. Tony works with the Decker Prairie congregation on the northwest side of Houston. Tony and his wonderful wife Sheri have two children: Sheli (22) and Brett (19).