Monday, April 21, 2008

Can I ever not sin?

An astute reader asks:

"When it's said that it is impossible to never sin, does that mean that it's just physically impossible to prevent your body from doing sinful things or does it mean that temptation is just so great all people are simply bound to falter sooner or later? On a tangent, it is easier to prevent yourself from physically saying something or doing an action, but it is much more difficult if not impossible to keep thoughts of such actions from running through one's mind. Is it sin to have thoughts of wanting to commit sin acts? Why do these persist after being saved? Is it indication that one may not be saved?"

Dear reader,

First of all, let me just say that I really "get" your last bit! My words and actions seem pretty clean to most people. My thoughts on the other hand.....If you were to suddenly develop telepathy, I'd stay miles away from you! Actually, I'll take it back about my words too -- I can be pretty nice to people, but to just be nice isn't enough. All the time I say things that are funny, or clever, or which get me out of trouble, but they're not loving, they're not holy. God isn't saying them. I'm not saying them by His power. And, that's not right. I aim for the goal of being transformed from glory to glory into the image of Christ Jesus, who is One with God and who is God and who shows us the Father. When people see me, I want them to see the Jesus, and seeing Jesus to see the Father too. But, I'm not there yet! Perhaps that will answer your tangential question :-)

On the other bit, I'm going to say something that may sound a bit strange. I don't think it's very helpful to think of sin and our sinning in terms of what is or is not possible. Put simply, the Christian life isn't lived in the world of possibilities, because the Christian life really is nothing less than sharing in the Life of God -- and God is so great, the words "possible" and "impossible" become virtually meaningless when talking about Him! As Jesus put it, "All things are possible with God." Elsewhere, in a different context, Jesus even said, "All things are possible for those who believe." (i.e. those who trust God and are walking by the Spirit.)

Now, you'll immediately think, then, "So, I can overcome sin?" Actually, I didn't say that :-) I know! Now it seems I'm contradicting myself. What I mean, though is exactly what I said. Opposing sin, pursuing a life of holiness, isn't about what is or isn't possible, because it's not about you and what is available for you to do or not do. It's about God in Christ and what He is doing, not only in you but in the whole creation.

How does this perspective work in practice? I'll try to describe it.

First of all, if you think, "Hey, it's possible for me to overcome bad, anoying habit X." (Where X is mental pornography, or habitual anger, or gossip, or whatever.) Then you go try to do it. In my experience, this just doesn't work. The reason why is because sin isn't just your private bad habit. Sin is more like a wound in the universe -- a total way of being and doing that's much bigger than just you. Sin and death are dramas you are caught up in.

Actually, sin is a much bigger matter than we normally think. Normally, we think of "sin" as bad things that we individually do. Sin, however, is much, much darker and more sinister than that. Sin is the way of doing things that is out of fellowship with God. Sin isn't just about you and God or you, your neighbor and God. Sin always occurs on a cosmic stage, whether you see it or not. Think of Adam's sin in Genesis. Now, Paul in Romans says that through that one person's sin, the whole world was plunged into death and everyone was made to be a sinner! Granted, that was Adam. If we're honest with ourselves, though, when we sin, it really isn't that different -- even when we're only sinning in our minds. When I cultivate lust in my mind, I have trouble relating to the women around me. In that way, even a teeny weeny sin tucked away in an itsy bitsy corner has a way of deranging a big chunk of the Universe. The glorious thing is, the righteousness of God is far, far more powerful than sin! Paul goes on to say that by Christ's one act of righteousness, the many were made right with God. The good things we do in gratitude to God in Christ, by the power of His Holy Spirit, participate in Christ's life and goodness and so, also, happen on a cosmic stage. Revelation 12 even says that those who suffer for Christ's sake in faith are the reason why Satan has and will lose! So, sin and righteousness are big things, not little private things. They occur on the stage of the Universe, not just of our hearts. Think big, cosmic struggle of Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, Life and Death when you think about sin and righteousness -- not just about you, your immediate neighbor, and God.

Not just sin and death, but Life and Peace are dramas in which you are participating. Jesus Christ has played the central act by dying for our sins and rising for our justification. Right now, he's hidden behind the curtain, but he'll return to center stage at The End when He comes again for our glorification with Him. The main guy on the stage now is the Holy Spirit. The problem is, the audience out in the world can't see Him because He is spiritual and not physical. We're the supporting cast. By our living in Him, He makes himself "visible". He forms Christ in us; He unites us to God through Christ Jesus. We're not the stars of the show, though. The act isn't about us and what we can or cannot do. The act is about Him. Our role is supporting -- we help to show Him off. That's what faith and repentence are -- what taking the Lord's Supper at church is, what preaching is, what ministry in Christ's name is. In the process He, as the Savior God, does in and through us for our world what neither we nor the world can do for ourselves. What is impossible for human beings is possible for God. God overcomes sin and death. When the curtain is lifted at The End, the grand finale will show Christ (and us who trusted Him) glorified, ruling and reigning over a creation in which the power of sin and death is no more.

When you view things this way, a lot changes. Before, when I sinned I thought things like, "Whoops. Well, I guess I'm just a sinner still. Try better next time, since right now I couldn't help myself." -- Which is a wrong way of thinking, because it isn't repentant. Alternatively, I have a break down: "*%&W&SD. I did it again! I'm so embarrased. I hate myself. How can I ever be forgiven? Am I even realy saved? I'm doomed. The Holy Spirit must have taken a vacation; God must hate me. How can I ever call God 'Father'?" (Literally, I've felt like this before. Even the *@&#&&SD part!) This isn't a right way of thinking either. Actually, it's blasphemous -- because "nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Both ways of thinking -- the way I think when I think *I* can overcome sin, and the way I think when I think I can't -- are wrong. The way to think is "The God who raised Christ from the dead can and will overcome this." Then, I confess my sin -- to a brother in Christ sometimes even -- ask for forgiveness and get up again. Through the week, then, I look for ways to join God in what He is already doing as He destroys the works of the Devil. My salvation from this point of view isn't about me or what I can or cannot do, have or have not done. In life and in death I belong to my faithful Lord Jesus, and the anchor holds.

I hope that answers the question, at least in part! Feel free to squeek if it hasn't! Meanwhile, Pastor Mike?

Pax Christi,

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Suicide: Forgivable but not Permissable

Does God forgive suicide? I have read many responses to this question (as it is asked often). There are some with a hardline approach, saying that no, he will not, supported by reasons that one is taking away God's gift of life, one cannot repent for the sin after death, and also that it falls under the commandment "thou shalt not kill". For them, those reasons over rule any reasons for suicide save perhaps mental illness. There is however another view I have read that no, a believer is not eternally damned, generally following the view "once saved, always saved". I am curious for your thoughts on the subject.

Before answering this question, I think it’s good to make note of a few things. The first is that SUICIDE IS NEVER A SOLUTION TO PROBLEMS. If you feel abandoned and tempted to commit suicide, know that you are cared for and loved by your family and friends more than you think. Tell a friend or family member what you’re thinking, and be as open and honest as possible (even the people who love you and care about you the most can’t read your mind). Also, if you ever suspect that a friend or family member is considering suicide, talk to them. Just ask, “You’ve seemed really upset lately. Have you been considering suicide?” and let the conversation go from there. I know this is intimidating, because we often fear that we’ll say the wrong thing. But trust me; nothing we say is worse than remaining silent. The main point isn’t necessarily for you to say the right thing anyhow; it’s for you to listen and show love. If you feel the situation is out of your control, contact a professional counselor. (If you don’t know where to find one, ask your pastor and he/she will help you.)

Now all that being said, the question this reader poses is not an easy one to answer, because the Bible doesn’t directly address the topic. We really don’t have any examples in Scripture of Christians committing suicide. (The closest we come to is Judas.) So, to find the answer to our question, we need to piece together things that we do know from the Bible…

Death is not the will of God. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Likewise, Jesus defeats death through his resurrection, implying that death is God’s enemy (and defeated enemy, at that). God is the giver of life. From the time of our birth, our life is in the hands of God. Suicide is, among other explanations, an attempt for us to take control of our lives, which are not ours to control. Even those who argue that God forgives suicide will still admit that suicide is not God’s will. If they though otherwise, they wouldn’t have to argue that God would need to forgive it.

God is a forgiving God because of Jesus Christ. Our sins are forgiven in and because of Jesus Christ, and not on our own merit. Those who argue that God does not forgive suicide are assuming something that often goes unmentioned: that our being forgiven depends on seeking forgiveness for every last sin we commit. Hence why suicide can’t be forgiven; once we’ve committed the act, it’s too late to repent and seek God’s mercy. The problem with this assumption is that it is entirely impossible for us to confess every last sin we commit. We’re just plain too sinful to be able to identify every sin. Our forgiveness rather rests in the act of Jesus Christ. God desires us to turn to Jesus Christ and to repent of our sins, even naming those sins to him specifically, but it’s not as if God is listening to our confessions with a checklist of every sin we’ve committed making sure we’ve covered them all. Christ, as our intercessor, makes sure that to confess all of our sins on our behalf for us. So, our salvation doesn’t rest on whether or not we confess every last sin we commit. It rests in Jesus Christ.

Given the above, we can conclude that God can, and does, forgive suicide. But, we also must be aware that this does not mean that God permits suicide. Forgiveness and permission are two very different things. Suicide is forgivable, but it is still a sin and still displeasing to God. God is the author of our life, he knows the plans he has for us, and desires to use our lives for the sake of His purposes.

Pastor Matt, your thoughts?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"How odd of God to Choose the Jews"

An inquiring reader asks: "Why did God abandon the Jews? Were they not his people before the coming of Christ? I suppose they did crucify him (and they don't believe he's the savior) but wasn't that all part of God's plan to sacrifice his son for our sins?"

Dear reader,

Sometimes, in order to answer a question, the question needs to be challanged. The questions we ask have presuppositions behind them. This one has several -- very common! -- presuppositions. To give your question the space it deserves requires us to examine those presuppositions.

First presupposition: "God abandoned the Jews." Did God abandon them? I know this is a common belief among many Christians, and many Christian teachers hint that they believe this even when they don't explicitly teach it -- but is it true? To be honest, I can't think of a single passage anywhere in the Bible that teaches that it is true, even among those passages that most polemically attack "the Jews". Also, I can think of one major passage in the New Testament that teaches something stunningly different. In Romans 11 Paul writes: "I ask, then, has God rejected his people [the Jews]? Of course not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin...." Paul goes on to say quite a bit in Chapter 11 about Israel and its destiny in God's future plans, including quite a few things that leave Christian theologians stunned and questioning to this day. So, in a straightforward sense, the Bible teaches that God still has a purpose for the Old Israel, even as He has a purpose for New Israel, i.e. the Church of God.

A second presupposition: "Old Israel was God's people before the coming of Christ." This presupposition raises a complex matter, because in one sense it is true -- God had and has, on a straightforward reading of even the New Testament, a plan for Old Israel. But, in another sense, this presupposition is not true, because as Paul puts it in Romans 9:6 "But it is not that the word of God has failed. For not all who are Israel are Israel..." He goes on to talk about how a person could be born physically in a line of blessing, yet miss out on that blessing through a hardness of heart that God nevertheless uses as part of His glorious plan. He gives the example of Jacob and Esau. Both were children of Isaac, so both were in the line of the promise. The blessing became focussed, however, in Jacob only. "Why" is mysterious: you could read the Genesis account over and over again, and always be discovering more layers, I think, in answer to the question "Why?" The key matter, however, is that God was in control, and His grace won out through human obedience and disobedience as He molded his people of promise. When we sit down and read the whole Old Testament, especially in light of the gospels, this picture grows till it becomes huge. God molds his people again and again, seemingly rejecting some and embracing others, working in the agony and the glory of their spiritual adventures and misadventures before Him. He does this slowly, painstakingly, taking hundreds of years till everything comes in to focus on one poor little adolescent Jewish maiden, Mary -- an infinitely unlikely figure who looks like a rejected nothing before the world. You know the rest of story! My point is that the question of who is / who isn't God's people / person is a more complex matter than it seems on the surface. It's not that we can't tell anything at all -- we can. We have Israel in the Old Testament, for example, and today we have (both?) the Church (and Israel?). But within the purview of the Bible "Israel" and "the Church" are not without their own elements of divine mystery.

A third presupposition: "The Jews crucified the Lord Jesus." This presupposition is correct, I'm sad to say. However, it is correct in a way that immediately makes any person who has felt the Holy Spirit's convicting presence shudder. Perhaps you've seen this picture: the risen and ascended Jesus, clothed in brilliant white and outlined is mysterious shadow, lovingly cradles in his arms a weary and wounded modern man in modern dress. But, your vision is immediately drawn from the nail-scarred hands of the Glorified Lord to the weak, limp hands of the man he embraces, for the man's hands carry a hammer in one, nails in the other. "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John the Baptist said of Jesus at Jesus' baptism. Most every Sunday in worship I pray, "Lord Jesus Christ, holy lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on me a sinner!" Old Israel took its role in crucifying the Savior -- along with blessed Peter who denied Him, his disciples who abandoned him to death, the Romans who did the dirty deed, and even me. As you pointed out, Jesus himself had his place as well, as Great High Priest, making the ultimate sacrifice on the day the sins of us all were atoned for. In making that sacrifice, as the ultimate High Priest, Jesus cried "Father! Forgive them -- for they know not what they do." With that act, Jesus blotted out forever the guilt of those who murdered him, and the guilt of those who, however distant in time and or space, sinned against God and so required for their atonement His sacrifice.

Now, I would write more, but I think this is enough to chew on. (And enough for Pastor Mike to process and throw his immensely valuable two cents in!) So, after questioning the question, instead of giving you an "answer", I'd like to give you a challange: go and read Romans 9 through 11. I think it will answer your original question, perhaps with the presuppositions shaken up just a bit.

P. Matt

Why Creation?

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", and I offer the question, why creation? Why was God compelled to create? He is beyond the instinct of earthly organisms to procreate. Are we comparable to a build-your-own ant farm? because we are mere ants to such a caliber of being. He is beyond needs and wants so could it all quite possibly be pointless? I am hoping there are indications of reasons in the bible and reassurances other than "have faith".

stray, wavering reader

I find myself chuckling at the build-your-own ant farm analogy. I had an ant farm once. It lasted about a week. I grew bored with it and didn’t give it the care it deserved. The ants died, so I threw it out and moved on to playing with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Action Figures. So is this what we are in relation to God? Are we nothing more than God’s “hobby,” completely expendable so that if something with this ant farm that we call the universe goes wrong, God can just throw us out and move on to another hobby? I’m sure we all hope not, and moreover, the Bible assures us that this is not the case.

In the beginning of Ephesians 2:10, we are told that we are “God’s workmanship” (NIV). The word translated “workmanship” is the Greek word “poiema.” Poiema is an interesting word. In the Bible, it’s used nearly exclusively to describe the creation of God. In other Greek literature from around the same time period, though, it’s used to describe the work of an artist. (The English word “poem” is actually derived from “poiema”) I think this is a much more helpful analogy. God is artist/poet.

Imagine, if you will, a master painter in his studio. He’s just created a masterpiece. The beauty of it is captivating, so much so that it captures the attention of anyone who catches a glimpse of it. In the painting, one can see the very personality of the painter. He’s put his emotions, his experience, his very being into the work. It’s a masterpiece not to be matched, and it has become the painter’s prize possession. Now the painting obviously is not essential to the painter’s life. He could live with out it. But he nevertheless takes great joy in his masterpiece; he will never part with it.

I think this is a better, more biblical, analogy for thinking of creation. We are God’s masterpiece. By His very nature, God is a creative God. That’s simply who He is, it’s in His very nature to create. So, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God made them beautiful, with just the right balance of color, light, texture, forms, variety and any other aspect of creative expression to make His masterpiece perfect. God could still be with out His creation, but He still takes joy in it and delights in it, just as the painter with his masterpiece painting.

Pastor Matt, your thoughts?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Telling the Truth in Love

Anonymous writes:
"Say you and a person you don't particularly like got into an argument.Now I know that I am suppose to love my enemies so I don't want the argument to go on and start offending him/her. But how can I stop the argument without being rude or arrogant sounding. I've played over every imaginable type of way to stop an argument but none of them seem to do it. (The friend I am arguing withis an unbeliever, and Christianity is most likely the thing we will bearguing about.)"

Dear anonymous,

Every relationship is unique; yours is, no doubt, unique as well. The dynamics of your relationship with this person play a large roll in how you should respond to him or her. I'm going to make a few guesses as to those dynamics based on the description you've given. First, I know you "don't particularly like" this other person; second, I know that this person is argumentative, and particularly likes to argue with you (knowing you are a Christian) about Christianity. That's my profile.

From that profile, I can guess some of the other relationship dynamics. Now, these are just guesses, but I suspect something like what I'll write below describes your relationship. Some people like to argue. It's a way for them to get attention or respect. Religious people care deeply about what they believe in, and Christian religious people care deeply about others, because they worship the Savior -- i.e. because what we believe in is Love outpoured for the sake of other people, we care about others. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that grilling a Christian is a good bet if you want to get attention by arguing. I suspect this other individual is of that type. He / she likes to argue (for whatever reason), and they've picked you as good target because your passion for God and compassion for people leaves you wide open. This doesn't make them a "bad" person completely. Who knows why they like to argue? Perhaps they have few friends. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is tugging on their heart-strings, or providentially ordering an encounter with you. What it does likely does mean is that you're not in a situation where Christian Truth is up for grabs in shutting the argument down or moving to a more productive mode of discourse. You're in a situation where the other person needs or wants a friend, and argument is their primary way to get it.

So, what do you do? I suggest loving honesty is the best policy. Next time you're with this person, without anger and in a way firm but open, make it clear that you're happy to talk about Christ, but that you're not going to try to prove Him or put Him to the test through argument. Then follow through with it. If the other person insists on being a jerk (and, if you've in kindness refused to argue, then the other person is being a jerk if they insist on making things hostile!), then firmly tell him / her that you're not going to argue, invite them to church, and tell them they know where to find a friend if they want one. Then leave it be. Being firm like this isn't being unkind or un-Christlike -- it's simply offering to move the discussion in to more productive terms, and then letting the other person whether they'll have it on those terms or not.

That's my opinion. Pastor Mike?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Let's Talk About Sex

Warning: This post discusses mature themes and is intended for a mature audience.

Question = Is this site for real? I mean how much of it is true and how much of it is false? I ran across it when i googled "God be with us" ...

After posing the question, the reader provided the following link: This website argues that the typical Christian prohibition of masturbation, and some other pre-marital sexual practices are not necessary. It tries to make the case that more or less any sexual practice other than traditional vaginal intercourse is acceptable in any context.

Now there are numerous problems with the site and the argument. For starters, there’s no indication as to who is making these claims. We don’t know the author’s identity, let alone his or her background. Already, this takes away any authority it may claim to have. Secondly, there are tons of errors in their interpretation of Scripture passages to which they refer. Now, the website also refers to medical and psychological studies (though they don’t make any specific citations, again diminishing the credibility of the argument) which also support their cause. I’m less learned in these areas, but I suspect that if the way they mistreat Scripture is any indication, these citations are also likely to be questionable.

We could take the time to go through each argument and Scripture reference and see how they’re inaccurate. I suspect, though, that most reading this probably don’t have the time for such in depth analysis to be fruitful. Instead, I’m just going to make one criticism of the general claims this website makes.

The teaching of this website in no way resembles the teaching of Jesus. In fact, it’s much more similar to the teaching and practice of the Pharisees. The Pharisees claimed to obey the Law of the Old Testament to the letter, and were very quick to point out when others failed to do so. However, the Pharisees were also what you might call “technicians,” in that while they technically obeyed the Law to the letter, they would use technicalities to completely disregard the spirit of the Law. One classic example is divorce. According to Old Testament Law, a man could divorce his wife only if he had just reason. We know from some historical evidence that some Pharisees were quite generous in defining what a just cause for divorce was. According to one rabbi, if your wife so much as overcooked dinner, that would be cause for divorce. Obviously, you can imagine how this kind of interpretation led to an abuse of the Law’s intention. The Pharisees were, by and large, seeking their own gain and doing so by creating technicalities in the Law of God.

This is essentially what this “sex in Christ” website does. The author of it creates technicalities that allow a person to be sexually active without actually being sexually active. Just as the Pharisees created a way for men to divorce their wives more easily by redefining what a just cause for divorce is, this website tries to accomplish it’s goal by redefining what actual sex is by limiting it to vaginal intercourse. By that standard, everything else (masturbation, oral sex, etc.) is fair game.

The problem is, this is the exact opposite way Jesus handles the Law. Jesus wasn’t interested in following the Law to the letter and then creating technicalities so that we can do most anything we desire anyhow. Jesus was interested in maintaining the spirit of the Law. In other words, Jesus saw in the Law broader principles by which we lived. For example, Jesus might say to the author of “Sex in Christ” what he said in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

Being a Christian is not about following the Law to the letter. Rather, it’s about understanding more broadly the type of lifestyle God calls us to. The Christian life is not a self-seeking life, it’s a life that lives to the glory of God, and it’s very difficult to live for God when we’re trying to create loopholes to satisfy our own desires.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What is Money's Role in Christianity?

This week's questions: What is money’s role in Christianity? How much can we want it? How much should we strive to make more? Is it not right to keep some for yourself?

Obviously, without money, there would be no church building, there would be no lunches, no bibles would get printed without the existence of money. One way or another, God’s church needs money. Where is the boundary between needing money for the good of God, and the need of money that stems out of greed?

Is it possible to be a rich Christian?

Answer: I’d like to begin the answer to this question with a story. Recently, I visited the home of a prominent church leader who shall remain nameless in this post. During the visit, he and his wife showed me and the other guests the addition they had just put on their house. The main feature of the addition was the bathroom, which was the fanciest bathroom I had ever seen. It was huge, roughly the size of my bedroom, had a giant walk-in closet with more pairs of men’s dress shoes than I had ever seen outside of a store, and even had heated tiles so your bare feet don’t get cold in the morning. It was incredible. A couple days later, I was with friends and this church leader’s name came up in conversation. I then said to my friends, “You should see that guys bathroom!” I was immediately disturbed by what I said, because I realized that despite all the good things this man does for the Church, what I’m going to remember about him is his bathroom.

About a week later, I was talking to a friend who works for a church in Pittsburgh. He told me that he and others in the worship band were practicing when a homeless man entered the church. The man approached the drummer and asked him for money. The drummer replied that he doesn’t like to hand out money, but would like to help meet his need. So he asked the homeless man if he had a place to stay. The homeless man replied that there was a place he could stay, but the woman charges a modest fee per night, which he doesn’t have the money to pay. So, the drummer took the man to this woman’s place, paid for a couple nights lodging and worked out a deal with the woman where the homeless man could shovel her driveway and sidewalk to stay additional nights. As he left, the drummer asked the homeless man if he had gloves. When the homeless man said “no,” he took of his own gloves and gave them to him. Now I don’t know this particular Christian personally; I don’t even know his name, and have only seen him a few times. But, whenever I think of him, the first thing I’m going to think of is this, selfless, Christ-like act he did.

I think these stories provide a negative and positive example for how Christians are called to handle their money. A few weeks ago during Advent, we looked at the ministry of John the Baptist on Sunday mornings. John the Baptist lived his life in such a way that everything he did, down to the clothes he wore and the food he ate, pointed to the Kingdom of God. We’re called to the same type of witness. Everything we do is to point to Jesus Christ, down to the clothes we wear and the food we eat, and the way we handle our money.

As far as how much we should desire money, you’re right that we do need some just to live and function. The distinction between the “needing money for the good of God” and “the need for money that stems out of greed” is the same on both the personal and church level. The distinction is: for what purpose do we desire the money? I know of many churches and individuals who have a lot of money and do a lot in the world for the sake of Christ with that money. (Consequently, yes, it is possible to be a rich Christian.) I also know a lot of churches and individuals who have a lot of money and use it all for their own good, with no concern for using it to bear witness to Christ in the world. (Consequently, being a rich Christian is a very difficult thing.) That’s the difference between need for money and greed, whether or not the money is used to honor Christ.