Why Are We Here?

Walk into a doctor’s office and look around. Why is everyone there? Because they’re sick and they need a physician to get better. Walk into a Toastmasters club and look around you. Why is everyone there? Because they want to get better at speaking in front of people and they need help. Walk into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and look around you? Why is everyone there? Because they are struggling with alcohol and they need help overcoming.

Here is what is interesting about the above organizations. No one tries to hide their sickness in a doctor’s office. No one tries to hide their fear of public speaking in Toastmasters. No one tries to hide their struggles in an A.A. meeting. Why? Because in these settings they all know everyone is there for the same reason and they are all too desperate for help to hide it.

Now, walk into a church’s assembly and look around you? Why is everyone there? The reality is everyone is there because they are all sinners and need a Savior (Romans 3:23-24). They are all there because they’ve learned without God they can’t make it and they need Him to help them win the victory over sin in their lives (Romans 7:14-25).

This is where we start having trouble. Even though that is where every single one of us is. When we come into a church’s assembly, we often perceive something different. Instead of seeing a group of people who are struggling with sin and have gathered to get some help, most of us see ourselves as struggling with sin but see everyone else as really good people who are just coming together because they are so spiritual. When we’re at a doctor’s office, we don’t care if everyone knows we’re sick, but when we’re “at church” we try to cover up any spiritual sickness we have going on. We don’t want others to see. We’re afraid they’ll look down on us.

Sadly, some Christians are like that. Some are like Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-50 who actually don’t realize how sick they are. If asked why they are there, they really might say, “Because I’m so spiritual,” while in their mind adding, “Too bad everyone is not as spiritual as I am.” Having met too many of these Christians, many of the rest of us put a lid on our real struggles and try to fight them alone until they become too big to hide. Sadly, in those situations some folks just give up the spiritual fight entirely.

In this situation, the ones who should really be ashamed are not the ones who have continued struggles. Rather, the ones who should be ashamed are the ones who think they’ve got their lives under control on their own and aren’t being honest about how sinful they really are, how much they need a Savior, and how humble they really ought to be as they’re dealing with people whose sins are different. Remember, in the parable of the prodigal son, it wasn’t the prodigal son who was the bad guy. It was the older brother who was too good to go in and celebrate with the returning prodigal and the father.

Please, take a good long look at yourself. Why are you here?


Be Successful In Your Teaching by Being Humble

Matthew 7:1 says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” It has become one of the most misused passages in my lifetime.  How many times have you been involved in a religious discussion, read a passage, and then applied it, and the person on the receiving end states “that is your interpretation?”  It is a most discouraging response, and usually ends any kind of dialogue.

Jesus encountered these situations throughout his ministry and should we not also expect to have to deal with the same objections.  I’ll admit that sometimes we hold people to standards we cannot even maintain ourselves, and the hypocrisy is obvious to everyone but ourselves.  It’s one thing to judge someone’s intent, as Jesus stated in the first part of Matthew 7, but Jesus also says in the same chapter, “thus you will know them by their fruits” (v. 20), referring to false teachers. 

We should not be fearful or angry when answering objections to the truth. However, in patience and love, we can allow the Bible to answer their questions.  The reason many preachers and Christians aren’t convincing people about salvation is not because of the lack of knowledge, but how we go about teaching people.  If we speak down to people or come across arrogantly with our knowledge we’ll lose any hope in the conversion process. 

In Matthew 23:23-24, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees saying, “Woe to you, scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”  We’re wasting our time in teaching if our reputation is one of arrogance, lack of forgiveness, and impatience.  Jesus followed this by his condemnation of people who outwardly appear righteous, but inwardly are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

In verse 25, he mentioned persons “full of extortion.” It is pathetic that some in the church have a business reputation of dishonesty and greed, yet parade around quoting verses, attending every service at church, nitpicking other Christians, becoming the worst examples, discouraging other faithful pilgrims, and having no influence in the world.  We need to be firm in our convictions (2 Thess. 2:15), having great faith by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This includes:  the giving of our means on the first day of the week and not leftovers (I Cor. 16:1-2), encouraging those around us, showing proper respect for every person we contact, helping those in need, and “not be weary in well doing” (2 Thess. 2:13). 

Let’s consider our faith, outward conduct, and attitude toward God and our fellow man, before we go about trying to teach others. 

–Phil Barnes


God is Not the Lucky One, I Am

Most of us have heard of the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18:11-12.

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”

No doubt, there is a lot we can learn from comparing this to the tax collector’s prayer. However, I thought of this prayer because I read David’s prayer in I Chronicles 29:14-16.

But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own.”

I notice that the Pharisee admitted that he gave tithes of what he got, not just what was his own. But I also notice that his tone is totally different. David praised God. The pharisee was seeking God to praise him. David offered willingly from what God had given him. The pharisee did what was the rule–tithing. David understood his place before God. The pharisee just didn’t get it.

The lesson for me in this is how easy it is to take a look at my own work and think I’m something great. It is so easy to get wrapped up in my pride and think God is lucky to have me on His side because of all I do. I need to learn from David, however, that whatever I offer to God, whether it is material contribution, physical effort, time, or teaching, I’m only giving back a portion of what God has given me. Why do I have money to use in the Lord’s work? Because God has blessed me with it. Why do I have strength to perform the Lord’s work? Because God has blessed me with it. Why do I have time to spend on the Lord’s work? Because God has blessed me with it. Why do I have intelligence to teach the Lord’s will? Because God has blessed me with it.

God is not lucky to have me on His side. I am lucky to have Him. Of course, as some will point out, I’m actually not lucky. It doesn’t have to do with luck of the draw. God is on my side not because my name was drawn out of a hat, but because He loves me. How on earth could I ever come to God as this Pharisee did and act like God is so fortunate to have me. I need to humble myself and realize how fortunate I am that God has blessed me so greatly.


Don’t Brag About Your Past Sinfulness

Recently, someone introduced me to a video clip entitled “Four Yorkshiremen.” The video is of four apparently wealthy Englishmen reminiscing about the good ol’ days when they were poor. For a little over three minutes these men humorously one-up each other about how poor and miserable they were as children. They didn’t argue about who was wealthier. Rather, the point was seemingly that the one who had to overcome the most was really the best of the lot.

This video is played for laughs and it is very funny. However, it reminds me of a similar competition I’ve heard among Christians. We all know it would be bad to compete over who is the better Christian or who is spiritually the strongest. Instead, Christians sometimes get together and start talking about what they were like when they were sinners.

Don’t misunderstand me. I think it is great to lead with our weaknesses and be open and honest about where we’ve been and why we need a Savior in Jesus Christ. However, sometimes I’ve seen these conversations seemingly get off into a competition about who had to overcome the worst enslavement to sin. The problem is these penitent Christians almost sound proud of how sinful they had been. Have you ever heard folks get into that kind of conversation? Have you ever been involved in that kind of conversation? It is almost as if we have to prove to everybody that we were the worst and not in the humble way with which Paul claimed to be the chief of sinners (I Timothy 1:15). In that passage, Paul was actually giving glory to God about how much forgiveness God had. He was not bragging about how bad he had been and how much he had to overcome.

If you’ve never been in on this kind of conversation, you can ignore this article. However, if you have, allow me to offer you something to think about. When we are truly penitent of our sins, mourning for what we’ve done (II Corinthians 7:10), there will be no part of us that wants to brag or prove we were the greater sinner. The fact is, just like those four Yorkshiremen, all this does is give us some kind of backdoor pass to bragging about our spirituality. We aren’t bragging about how spiritual we are now, but we are bragging about how we had to overcome more and therefore are more spiritual.

 As we share the gospel with others, we may share the sins from which God set us free. As we strive to overcome sin, we will most certainly confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). As we glorify God, we may admit the sins over which we were powerless and from which God freed us. However, we’ll never have the desire to prove we are the best because we were the worst. We’ll never take pride in how awful we were. We’ll never purposefully try to one-up each other in our past sinfulness. We won’t feel the need to prove anything about our spirituality. We’ll simply be thankful God forgave us. Let’s keep it there.