Tag Archives: scripture

How does a person become a Christian?

In continuing through our preaching series on basic doctrines of the Christian faith, yesterday’s lesson at Lake Merced Church was focused on answering this question: How does a person become a Christian?

Here it is:

To listen to further preaching, visit the westcoastwitness.com Sermon Archive.

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Is Recreational Marijuana Use Moral Even if It’s Legal?

Have you heard about California’s Proposition 19 set to be on our state ballot this November? If passed this proposition will legalize marijuana use in California for persons 21 years of age or older and will also legalize growing the plant in private residences within state borders (NBC ran an interesting story on this yesterday highlighting possible negative ramifications).

Current polling data shows this proposition would pass were it voted on today, but before all you closet potheads load the UHaul to move to California, we need to talk about a couple of things.

The purely medicinal application of Marijuana is valid – it certainly does ease chronic pain better than most pharmaceuticals. BUT … that is being so abused here in California it has become a huge joke. Cancer patients, those suffering from AIDS or MS – it makes sense for them to be able to get a prescription for Marijuana as a pain reliever and appetite stimulant, but when a person can stub their toe and get the “green” light to legally smoke pot (often indefinitely), something is wrong with the system. It’s a joke.

As for recreational use. habitual substance abuse has the potential to negatively define a person’s identity and rule their life.

Before I gave my life to Christ I was a huge pothead. Smoking marijuana every day made me lazy, mentally slow, damaged my lung capacity, and killed millions of brain cells. I viewed myself as a stoner. That affected my everyday decisions and my life ambitions. All I really wanted to do was get high, and I was okay with that – it was simply part of who I’d decided I was. Additionally, I was very addicted to marijuana despite the claims from proponents who tout its non-addictive nature. While it’s true most scientists claim marijuana is not physically addictive, the same say it is highly psychologically addictive. Looking at it simply in terms of personal health, it’s an incredibly stupid habit to develop.

From a spiritual standpoint, a couple of Scriptures should be considered. Galatians 5:19-21 is a good place to start.

Galatians 5:19-21
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions
21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This is a heavy Scripture. Written by the apostle Paul, it lists several sins that lead to death for “those who live like this.” That word “live” is an important one, because Paul isn’t saying a single individual sin will sever one’s relationship with God; rather, if a person lives in rebellion to God’s rule they should not expect to be known by Him.

I’m reticent to lump recreational marijuana use in with drunkenness. I believe key differences are present between the physical intoxication afforded by cannabis verses alcohol – namely, alcohol is much more dangerous and severe.

I do, however, believe Galatians 5 speaks against marijuana and all illicit drug usage for followers of Christ for two reasons:

First, the phrase “and the like” is included in verse 21. While it’s true the effects of marijuana are mild when compared to the effects of other drugs or alcohol, it is still an intoxicant that impairs you and is bad for your health. Legal or not, it is “like” other vices listed in this passage.

Secondly, the original Greek word translated ‘witchcraft’ in verse 20 is “pharmakeia” – the root behind the English word “pharmacy.” When most people think of ancient witches or wizards, they think black cats, cauldrons, and spells, but that’s not a historically accurate image. First century witchcraft was associated with the ‘magic’ substances practitioners sold. Magic potions, magic powders, and magic herbs were used with spells and incantations to remedy certain ailments – they would also get you high. Witchcraft is condemned not only because of its tie to idolatry, but also because it involved substance abuse.

Drug use and substance abuse is nothing new. We must take Paul’s statement that “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” seriously.

You also have Romans 13 to consider:

Romans 13:1-5
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.
4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

The Bible teaches it is morally appropriate to follow the laws of the land (of course we are not to when they violate the commands of Christ, but if we are honest we must admit most don’t).

Even if the state of California legalizes recreational marijuana usage, it will still be illegal according to Federal law. California’s state officials do not mind breaking Federal law (they thumb their nose at the Federal system often), but does that mean it’s morally acceptable to follow state officials in their lawlessness? That would be wrong.

I hope this proposition does not pass.

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What if every sin you committed showed up as your Facebook status update?

And it did so instantly and in real time? Woah.

Can you imagine status updates like this?

  • ___________ just stole money from the cash register at work.
  • ___________ is drunk, and cussing out his neighbor.
  • ___________ is viewing pornography and ___________.
  • ___________ is attempting to sleep with a guy she met at a club.
  • ___________ is pridefully thinking he’s better than everyone else while he reads Facebook status updates.

Were it this way, would you be more addicted to Facebook than you already are?

Shame on you! (but I might be too).

I don’t know why this thought about sin showing up in status messages struck me, but it did and I caught myself thinking, “Man, I’d be a lot more careful!”

Now I have to ask the question … why?

Psalm 139, Matthew 6, many Proverbs and other Scriptures remind us that God sees everything, and He’s the only one that ultimately matters.

So your sins show up as your Facebook status updates in real time. Everyone sees. What difference should that make?

If you’re a disciple of Jesus … none, but you know it would.

Being aware that others really know what’s going on in our lives causes us to be vulnerable in a way we’re not with God. Perhaps we take His omnipresence for granted. Perhaps we’ve written off the old saying, “God sees all,” as a mindless cliché. Perhaps we don’t really believe He notices everything we do.

Regardless of the reason, there’s something about knowing another person is aware of our sin that causes most people to want to get over it and stay over it.

Years ago I struggled with an addiction to pornography. I knew God saw me and what I was doing and I knew I was dishonoring Him by my actions. I tried numerous times to get over this sin on my own, but I couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t until I got others involved that I broke the habit. I confessed my struggle to a few of the guys at church, and told my newlywed wife what was going on. Then I took it a step further.

I bought a calendar, hung it on the wall in a room of our house, and told my wife that each day I stayed pure in that area I would mark an ‘X’ on the calendar for that day. I knew that every day my wife would see that calendar, and I decided I was not going to disappoint her.

That added layer of accountability helped me heal from that sin. With God’s help and the help of others I’d confessed my struggle to, I healed from an addiction to pornography.

While most of you would find Facebook reporting your sins involuntarily to be horrible, have you ever thought about sharing your struggles with someone else … voluntarily?

It could be that’s the missing ingredient in the recipe to help you truly get over it:

James 5:16
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Confession and the prayer of others = healing.

I found this healing the Bible speaks of … and I didn’t even need Facebook to confess my sins for me.

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