One of the reasons I can’t get wholly behind Christian radio is that they often whitewash the troubling doctrines and the tough-to-swallow parts about Christianity, when they could be contextualizing those difficult doctrines and glorifying God for them.
By taking verses like Philippians 4:13 out of their horrific context (the reason you can do all things through Christ is because he was beaten half to death by religious people like me in the worst hate-crime ever perpetrated) they rob them of the gospel, and turn them into pithy truisms. And I’d argue that’s not very “safe for the whole family.”
With that in mind, periodically over the next few days and weeks I’ll be posting some verses I’ve found that will likely never be featured on your local “positive, upbeat, and encouraging” affiliate, along with reasons I think they should.
Today’s “upbeat verse” (mouse over to read the text)
The fact that the Lord is against the Ninevites ought to give us great encouragement. In fact, anybody who doesn’t publicly speak out against a city like Nineveh, one “completely full of lies and pillage” ought not ever claim even partial righteousness, much less perfect holiness.
God, perfect in holiness, promises in this seemingly horrific verse to someday completely rid the world of places like Nineveh.
Then He does it in the most surprising way. God sets Christ up as a spectacle, and throws filth on him. God lifts Jesus’ “skirt” over his face, and shows to the nations his nakedness. Jesus pays the penalty for people as wicked as the Ninevites. People like me.
And by his stripes we are healed.
I started yesterday with Nahum 3:5-6
Today we’ll keep it in the Old Testament with another seemingly non-uplifting verse:
There are tons of these types of verses in the books of the law that are never going to see time in a top ten list of encouraging verses. But they should. The encouraging thing about a provision in the law specifically calling for the protection of orphans and widows? Those are the most marginalized segments of society. Nobody can read that kind of provision and then turn around and say “God doesn’t care about me.” In fact, God cares so deeply for his people that he will kill with the sword anyone who doesn’t care for even the least of them.
But the real encouragement in this verse is again that it points to Christ. All of us, at some point in our lives, have failed to care for (and have thereby afflicted) widows and orphans. This verse would be crushing, apart from Christ, because we find ourselves on the receiving end of God’s death penalty. But God’s wrath was kindled against Christ, and he killed him.
And we get credited Christ’s righteousness.
This is another in my latest series (that started out as one ginormous post I decided to break into several) on verses that will never be read on Christian radio.
This one is a verse that, if you are reading out loud to your underage children, (a practice I wholeheartedly discourage with any of my writing) I’d stop.
(mouse over the verse to read it)
We are not likely to see much at all from this section of Ezekiel make it to the air on Christian radio. It’s really racy. The translators make the wording a little softer, here, but let’s face it, Zeke was not afraid to shoot straight with the people of Israel. He crosses well over the line of propriety and decency. But we here in the Evangelical camp are committed to all of Scripture being God-breathed and profitable. Even the parts that make us blush.
I love (is that a weird word in this context?) this verse because in it I find a God who is not afraid to tell his prophets all the dirty stuff going on in the hearts of his people. God doesn’t pretend like the junk isn’t there. This is a prophecy that most commentators agree is about Israel and Judah, the chosen people of God. And yet God doesn’t go through and clean up the storefront so that the nations won’t find out how bad things are. No, things are pretty rough when this type of lusting is going on. And God includes details in this verse that he could have left out. But he didn’t.
When Christ came and died, he was aware of what he was paying the penalty for. All of the sin, evil and brokenness in the world. He didn’t just pay generally for general sins. He paid for that specific act of lust, for those specific acts of unfaithfulness. What a Savior.
This is the latest in a series. To read the series from the beginning, click here.
Romans 1:18 in combo with Romans 3:23
I’ll give it to Christian radio. They might have actually played these as the “verse of the day.” But I’ve never head it. The first one says that the wrath of God (not exactly a ratings-hog of a concept) is poured out against the unrighteous. The second verse then clarifies (in the same book, a couple of chapters later) that all of us are unrighteous. (Even and especially religious folks, see Romans 2:17-29, especially verse 23)
Neither positive, upbeat, nor encouraging, as I read it. God’s got a whooping stick with my name on it. And yours.
But here’s where not taking the verses out of their context is helpful. Romans is Paul’s most in-depth systematic treatment of the gospel. He spends 11 chapters explaining it’s theology, and the remaining 5 explaining how that theology ought to change the way we live. He nails all of us to the wall in the first three chapters, and then spends the remaining 8 of the first section showing us how Christ satisfies the law, and saves us, from the mass-murderer to the serial rapist to the smug, self-satisfied religious guy (who is worse than both, if you ask me).
Without the bad, discouraging, and condemning verses like Romans 1:18 and 3:23, the gospel makes no sense. Rescuing someone from a building that isn’t burning down is foolish and annoying. If you die during that rescue (as Christ did), it adds tragedy to foolishness. But if a building is burning down, it’s the ultimate display of love to die in the act of saving someone.
These verses show us just how much our spiritual “building” is crumbling in burning embers around us. And that’s encouraging, no matter how you phrase it.