Publication:Pastoral Letter, February 2012
Dear Friend in Christ:
The Biggest Loser is a NBC reality show that features very overweight men and women who are interviewed and, if qualified, enter a rigorous fitness and weight-loss program. They go to a ranch and are trained by professionals who confront them with reality, exercise, diet, and how to change from within.
Recently, Covenant Church of Mobile hosted the Season 11 winner and the runner-up for a great weekend of encouraging testimony. The ladies are sisters, Olivia Ward and Hannah Curlee, and daughters of our longtime friends Keith and Betsy Curlee, who at one time lived here. Not only did Olivia and Hannah lose weight, but Olivia’s husband and their parents and sister did as well-the family has together lost more than 500 pounds so far! The results are stunning and beautiful. The “Biggest Losers” were, in fact, the biggest winners!
I cannot adequately summarize their testimonies here, but I was surprised by the spiritual side of their journey. Their inner changes were brought about by facing reality and doing the hard things essential to accomplish healthy goals. The irony was that the trainers and the camp were not “Christian”. There is no “Christian reality” any more than there is “Christian heart disease” or “Christian diabetes” or “Christian cancer”. Reality is just what it is for all of us, and dealing with it is a spiritual issue.
The Biggest Lie
Keith Curlee stated in one of the services that the biggest lies are the ones we tell ourselves. “Repentance can only come when we face the truth. That is the Holy Spirit’s desire for us. If we do, He can help us.”
The sad fact is that we have an enemy that helps us to accept the lie. He is a liar, the father of lies, and destroys us through lies. Only the truth can set us free. Jesus is the truth made flesh and wants to bring truth into our flesh, beginning in our spirit and our soul. Fantasy is fatal and many Americans, not to mention others, are living in a fantasy. “Virtual reality” is not reality; it is a fantasy.
The great lie is that we don’t need God; we don’t need to repent, change, and be transformed. “I’m okay, you’re okay” is not okay. Secularism is a lie. The actual “biggest loser” is the person or nation that believes that lie. Russia did, China did, and multitudes do. Europe has increasingly believed it. I fear that our nation is more and more living a lie and needs some very Biblical reality therapy.
The Secular Lie
Freedom of religion is now freedom from religion. “We do not need God,” the secularist says. The idea of separation of Church and State has now moved into separation of God from State. Many say, “Religion is not the answer; it is the problem.” Never mind what happened to atheistic or idolatrous states of the past. Once we are removed from faith in God, we move to faith in somewhere else, ourselves, or the state, and we start to live in the lie. We refuse to look in the mirror of truth. The Word of God is the mirror of truth.
The Marxist ideal of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” at first seems benevolent (except to the one who has the ability). In fact, it has produced dependence upon the state more and more and more.
That idea was tried in an early settlement of America; it produced starvation as more people refused to work and there was not enough food for the community (in those days, they couldn’t just print money). Then a new principle was tried: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” Each one was given a plot of ground to plant and reap from. The result was abundance. Now that seemed harsh at first, but it was highly motivating! Reality set in, and people were fed. Which principle was most benevolent in the long run?
Removing accountability from the equation removes responsibility from life. Irresponsibility is unreality. God created us to be accountable to Him, and we all will be sooner or later. That accountability should lead us to be and act responsibly (see Galatians 6:7).
Genesis 16:7 says, “Be not deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.” Several Biblical and natural principles are implied in that verse: 1) We are deceived if we ignore natural law; 2) Ignoring natural law, in reality, is mocking God; 3) If we do not sow, we will not reap; 4) If we sow only to ourselves, we will reap corruption; 5) We will ultimately give an account to God and reality. Pay day can be delayed, but not forever denied.
At present, our nation, our churches, and our families do not require much accountability. We bail out irresponsible banks and businesses. We subsidize failure. We give money to those who spend it on drugs and alcohol. We invite church members to belong to Christ’s community without accountability. We raise and support disobedient children. The list goes on. We give money to nations without concern for their accountability … money we borrow from China, a communist nation-God help us! We have become a debtor nation that believes a lie.
We build prisons as monuments to irresponsibility; we make divorce pay and reproduce future irresponsible candidates for those prisons. Meanwhile, we think that the rich will have enough money to pay for it all. We call evil good and good evil. We celebrate personalities who flaunt immorality and persecute those who take a firm stand. We promote gay marriage and accuse those who oppose it as bigots. We act as though there are no consequences. “Whatever” is okay; it’s all the same, some think.
Is “Love” an Escape?
Let’s talk about love. We “love” everything: food, entertainment, football, and whatever our flesh desires. And of course, God loves us, and we love Him. God is love, and He loves us and sent His Son. So, what is love? What is God’s love? Obviously, His is different from ours. Is God’s love an escape from reality? If God loves us, can we live any way that we desire without consequence here and hereafter? If God loves us, does that mean that our diet and exercise do not matter? If God loves us, does that mean there is no hell?
I am all for true love; it has saved my life many times. True love is love with truth. Thinking back upon Olivia and Hannah, it was non-Christians that loved them enough to tell them the truth about themselves and what they had to do to get better. They not only told them the truth; they walked it out with them. They did not just beat them with truth; they loved them in the truth. That is God’s kind of love.
Christians who think that, because God loves them, they can be irresponsible, disobey, and escape are only delaying the “payday”. And preachers who fail to tell the truth do not really love their people with the love of God. Jesus loved Israel; He wept over it, but He told them the truth-the truth that many ignored. Sadly, “payday” came. Lies don’t prevent paydays; they only delay them.
In 2001, I had a quadruple bypass. It was a “payday”. Sure, God loved me; He warned me. I was short of breath, “but just out of shape.” I nearly died. A Jewish doctor told me the truth.
Yes, the blood of Jesus cleanses and covers our sin(see I John 1:7; Exodus 12:13). Are we free, therefore, to sin? No, if we do, we become a slave. That is reality (see Romans 6:1-16). If we are free to receive God’s gifts, yet fail to be good stewards, are we still accountable? Yes (see I Corinthians 4:1-5). Israel was freed from Egypt by blood, but died in the wilderness because of disobedience. Many Christians are in “the wilderness of irresponsibility”. Will they go to heaven? Yes, but probably earlier than they should have, and will give some answers to God.
Is it harsh to say that? Probably, like saying, “If you don’t work you don’t eat.” But, in the long run, it is kind to warn those you truly love (see Ezekiel 2). The hope is that the truth in love will cause us to grow up, not just grow old (see Ephesians 4:15-16).
Rewards of Reality
There are great promises to those who face and deal reality. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (see John 10:10). He did not come to condemn us, but to save us (see John 3:16-17). He came to show us the truth and love of God, to deliver us from the lies of the devil, and the lies we tell ourselves that destroy us. What would life be like had He not come to bring us the truth?
When I saw beautiful Olivia and Hannah, I saw but some of the rewards of reality and changing one’s realities. No, it isn’t easy; it can be very difficult, but the path can lead to heavenly results: health, increase, and heaven itself. It can lead to saved marriages, saved children, saved jobs, greater influence, and most of all, God’s pleasure.
Accepting reality can make us cry, but change can bring joy. Truth may hurt our feelings but God’s love will bring us through. Lies will make us blind, but truth will cause us to see the light.
The good news is that when we face the truth, there are others who will help us walk it out. We may have to find new friends, but there are those who have overcome the same tests and are more than willing to lend a hand. The Church can be such a place. There are many kinds of support groups now, and they can be good places to find help. Most of all, the same Holy Spirit that brought the truth will help us to walk it out. He is the One who goes along beside us.
Can we face it? Can our family? Can our nation? I pray so. Recently, I was made aware of a family in serious conflict. They were trying to “fix each other”. After I listened awhile, I suggested, “Stop. Fix yourself.” I advised that each person make a list of things that they could personally change-realities. ” Ask God to help you face and fix that.” He can fix us, if we face reality. That is called “repentance”, a great place to begin for a happier new year.
Please continue to keep CSM in your prayers and in your budget this month. If you would like to make a contribution online, please visit our website at www.csmpublishing.org where you’ll also find news, updates, and ongoing conversation about what God is doing around the world. You can also register for our upcoming annual CSM Leadership Conference, May 16-18, in Gatlinburg, TN. Our theme is “The Power of the Prophetic Word”. We’d love to see you there!
P.S. Check out two outstanding new audio Bible teaching resources, “The Power of the Prophetic Word” and “The Courage to Change”. I believe these will be a blessing to you and your friends.
Scripture Reference: Genesis, Galatians, 1 John, Exodus, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ezekiel, Ephesians, John