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Houston, we have a problem! I am not sure if these words can be considered a quote of an Apollo launch into Space, but I seem to remember them this way. To say there is a problem is to speak about something that is not operating according to plan, something is not right in accordance with design.

Problems are a fact of life, but what some call a problem is nothing more than one’s opinion of how something should be done, why it should be done differently than is currently being done. For instance, have you heard someone say about you or some others, “You should visit more.”? It’s likely you have, and you can feel the weight of the remark because you agree that you should visit more. Well, let me ask, is there some obligating standard that says this, or is this just an opinion that resides within the one who said this to you? If it’s the former, what is that obligating standard? Perhaps some person says to you, as they take you aside, “We have a problem!” Well, okay, what is the problem? As you listen you notice there is no problem, but only a difference of opinion. Caught in an awkward situation, you try to figure a way out of the conversation because you notice this is nothing more than destructive talk toward another person.

Is there a problem? If there is, then let the problem be identified and measured against a standard that is more than a mere “I think.” With this approach, a true problem can then be given attention and fixed. If this occurs, then many personal relationships can be and will be nurtured, enhanced and strengthen.

Let me say a word or two about a real problem existing among Christians. What is a Christian? Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines the word “adherent of Christ” (p. 194); Baker Dictionary of the Bible defines it as “follower of Christ” (p. 297). Think about the definitions and consider the following questions. 1) Is one a Christian who is a practicing homosexual? 2) Is one a Christian who is engaged in talk that is dirty, vulgar and disparaging? 3) Is one a Christian who is intimately, sexually involved with another not his (her) spouse? 4) Is one a Christian who sees things of the world more interesting than the ways of Christ? 5) Is one a Christian who allows work to pull away from meeting with the saints? Questions like these, and many more, get to the heart of the problem for many people. They address the question of what is a Christian and, perhaps, focus on being a follower of Jesus. Too many, I am afraid, have a definition in mind that is nothing more than a redefining of the word. In other words, a Christian is not a follower of Christ in all regards, but one who is baptized, has some degree of loyalty to the local congregation, but not loyalty to the extent one’s life is drastically changed.

In Acts 7, as Stephen was preaching to a hardened people (just before he was stoned to death), he cites Scripture to point out the problem with those who say they are aligned with God; because they compromised the Lord’s way, the Lord “…turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: ‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices, during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon’” (Acts 7:42-43, ESV). In other words, they wanted alignment with the Lord and His way, but they did not shed the ways of man.

This is a real problem! So many there are who feign being a Christian, but do not want to hear, much less do, that which the Lord said. In truth, they only want to be accepted by a local church because of a sense of belonging. Those who think this way, who have identified themselves as a Christian, are just as lost as to whom Stephen spoke. They have a problem! RT