Cancerous Christianity

Cancer. That one, singular word cuts into the fabric of our lives with fear and anxiety, doesn’t it? Every person knows someone who has battled against cancer; perhaps you know one who is in the middle of the fight right now. This lethal, fearsome disease is waging war against their body, seeking to wrack their frame with total destruction.

Or maybe you are that ‘someone,’ and you’re in the fight right now or you just got a clearance letter from your doctor stating life might finally return to normal. Undoubtedly, cancer is an insidious and terrifying illness that clear-cuts a wide swath of victims of all ages and backgrounds every year.

The Difference that Equals Destruction

But why does cancer bring such devastation upon the human body? It all comes down a very simple difference that equals destruction. Some define cancer cells simply as, “free, independent radicals that want to break away from other normal cells and go unregulated. Wikipedia’s definition echoes the same idea: “Cancer cells are cells that grow and divide at an unregulated, quickened pace.”

Characteristics of Normal Cells (from Cancer Research UK)

Normal body cells have a number of important characteristics. They can…

  • Reproduce themselves exactly
  • Stop reproducing at the right time
  • Stick together in the right place
  • Become specialized or ‘mature’

How Cancer Cells are Different

Cancer cells are different to normal cells in several ways. They don’t die if they move to another part of the body and…

  • Cancer cells don’t stop reproducing (they continue out of control)
  • Cancer cells don’t obey signals from other cells
  • Cancer cells don’t stick together
  • Cancer cells don’t specialize, but stay immature

The end result: Cancer cells bring utter destruction to the human body. They don’t want to live in the place where they belong. They want to do things their own way…

 

My Way and the Highway to Chaos

We all want our own way; don’t we? We think we know what is best for our lives. Why should we follow someone else’s advice? We know what we like and dislike, so why should somebody tell us differently?

Popular culture tells us, “Have it Your Way” (thank you, Burger King). Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way!” The very idea having getting “our way” seems to feel and sound so right.

But then we open our Bibles, begin following Jesus, gather with other Jesus-followers – and what inevitably happens?! Things don’t go our way. People don’t treat us the way we like. Awkward moments occur when we have to sit next to people we don’t even know (God forbid!). The music isn’t our style, the food is stale, the carpet color is horribly out-of-date, the pastor preaches way too long, and people don’t smile enough…

And so we shout, “I’m not getting what I want, so I’m going to complain until I get what I want or I’m just going to leave.”

And we shake our fists, open our mouths, flap our gums (me included), and treat the God-appointed leaders over us like waiters at a 1 star family diner, who are not giving us the right meal that we think we ordered, paid for, and need (right now).

But the local church is not a restaurant; it’s a family. And just like free radicals – cancer cells – destroy the human body, so complaining, individualistic, independent Christians destroy churches every day.

Even deeper, what does our complaining say about how we think about God? Perhaps something like this, “Maybe God, you’ve given me what I need, but I don’t trust You to give me the leaders, satisfaction, and fun that I want.” Ultimately complaining seems to say, “God isn’t really all that good…I trust my opinion about what’s right for me, rather than what God has set for me.” And the cancer sets in and slowly turns out of control.

 

God’s Mission, Our Way?

Don’t skip this: there are actions, attitudes, and words you and I can use or engage in that are cancerous to the Body of Christ, the Church.

There are actions, attitudes, and words you and I can use that bring destruction rather than life – that tear down and divide rather than build up and unite.

And it all comes down to this simple question:

Our way or God’s way? Which mission are you on? We are all on a mission, but the question is, “Whose mission?” Your way or God’s way? Are you Dividing or Uniting?

Two Contexts. One Problem.

Philippi: The believers in Philippi, “evidently were complaining (to God and each other) and arguing (with each other). As a result they were not ‘without fault’ among the unregenerate; they were not shining like stars in their world (2:15). The Philippian assembly needed to show themselves as united and as one in Christ. Non-Christians were not being attracted to Him by the saints’ strifes and contentions.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Philippians, 655-56). Therefore, Paul challenged them to deal with their complaining and arguing for a very specific reason and the same message connects with us today with incredibly relevance. So let’s turn to Philippians 2:14-18… [Part 1: Cancerous Christianity: When Dividing Overrules Uniting.] 

Corinth: The church in ancient Corinth was in an environment and culture not a lot different than our own. Immorality, sexual promiscuity, drunkenness, early forms of narcotics, religious pluralism, prostitution, etc… all were prevalent in Corinth. The people did life their way. Debauchery and depravity and self-centeredness were the name of the game. But then the Gospel message entered the picture and men and women started turning to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, hope, and eternal life, and their lives were radically changed.

And yet, they still were prone to act, think, and talk like they were still entrenched in their previous way of life – doing it their way. And so the apostle Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write so that their progressive sanctification would be aligned with their positional sanctification. In other words, they had been declared “right” in God’s sight through Jesus’ work on the Cross, but their lives still shouted out that they needed to rehearse the Gospel and live righteously for God’s glory – every single day.

They were doing life their own way, and what’s the first example? They were dividing. There was a cancer spreading in the Corinthian church that could bring destruction. Dividing was overruling their unity in Jesus Christ. And the same actions, attitudes, and words can also take over like cancer among us, too. So let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:10-17… [Part 2: Cancerous Christianity: When Dividing Overrules Uniting]

Listen to the full audio messages entitled Cancerous Christianity – Parts 1 and 2 by simply clicking on the play buttons below or by subscribing to our iTunes podcast. These messages were originally delivered at North Park Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI, on Sunday evening Jan. 12th and Jan. 19th, 2014.

Author: Michael Breznau

:: Who I AM: Husband | Father | Pastor | Speaker | Author | Singer | :: I am a redeemed follower of Jesus, and I'm passionate about inspiring others to follow Him with radical faith. | :: What I DO: I love and pursue knowing the Triune God. I am crazy-in-love with my amazing wife and children. I serve as Staff Pastor and Missions rep for LifeChange Action. Prior to my current role, I had the privilege of serving as the Lead Pastor of North Park Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, MI, and Pastor of Youth and Christian Education at Evangel Baptist Church in Taylor, MI. | :: The Wallpaper: God gave me the opportunity to be trained for ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary, where I completed the Master of Theology program (Th.M in Pastoral Ministries; magna cum laude). I also hold a B.A. in Ministry and Music from North Tennessee Bible Institute & Seminary.

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4 Comments

  1. A few scriptures you might consider:

    “But none of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters. Don’t call anyone on earth your father. All of you have the same Father in heaven. None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others.” (Mat 23:8-11- CEV)

    “But Jesus called the disciples together and said: You know that foreign rulers like to order their people around. And their great leaders have full power over everyone they rule. But don’t act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant (Greek:: one who waits on tables) of all the others. And if you want to be first, you must be the slave (Greek: bond slave) of the rest.” (Mat 20:25-27- CEV)

    “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mat 15:8-9)

    Post a Reply
    • Hello Dave,
      Thank you for taking the time to join the conversation. I appreciate you sharing some Scripture passages here. Do you have thoughts directly relating to the content of my message/sermon – specific to Philippians 2 and 1 Corinthians 1? I’d be happy to interact. Thanks so much.

      Post a Reply
      • Hi Michael:

        I really have little to add to what Jesus said, which I believe to be rather self-explanatory.

        What Jesus spoke were the “words of God” as passed down to us through Christ by God the Father. However, men and women on their own initiative–starting with Paul–established themselves as teachers and leaders over God’s people. Yet Jesus never authorized any of this. Instead, Jesus commanded His apostles and disciples to go forth “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I HAVE commanded you.” The disciples of Christ were instructed to share information, not take charge of God’s people.

        The apostle John embellishes on this problem in I John Chapter 2, where John calls those who “deny” (Greek: contradict) the instructions of Jesus “antichrists.” God gives us great freedom to do what we please, whether or not our conduct is correct: but almost 2,000 years of pastors and preachers appointing themselves as teacher/leaders over the flock does not make it so. Thus today we witness approximately 45,000 different Christian denominations, all divided over mattes of doctrine–doctrines that are primarily the ideas and concepts of men and women who refuse to be led by Christ and His simple words.

        The apostle Peter said it is God who saves and grants us eternal life: “You have the words of eternal life.” So just as Jesus declared, He alone is the Christian Teacher and Leader.

        Of course we all are free to disagree with Jesus Christ…

        Post a Reply
        • Hello Dave,
          It appears you do not believe all 66 books of the Bible to be inspired by God and without error? Am I correct in that assumption? If you do not believe Paul and the other apostles were faithfully handling and handing down the truth and teachings of Jesus Christ and that the epistles of Paul, James, John, etc… are on equal authority with the rest of Scripture, then I’m afraid we’d be at an impasse for further conversation regarding ecclesiology (the study of the Church).

          I agree that Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd, the Cornerstone, the Head of His Church. We, as the New Covenant Community of the Spirit, are His Body, of which He is in complete control. And we are to be One (John 17; Ephesians 2, 4; 1 Corinthians 1). However, Christ has also directed us to have under-shepherds/elders/pastors under Him as the under-leaders of His Church. Therefore, the church is not a vertically leader-less movement on earth.
          For instance: “When they [Paul and Barnabas] had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” (Acts 14:23)
          Also – “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you…” (Titus 1:5)

          Yet, as I noted, if you do not believe the whole of Scripture to be equally authoritative and instructive for all matters of life, faith, and practice, then we’d have to start with a completely different discussion on divine revelation.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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