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The Hole in The Reversal of World Vision

Well that was fast.  Shortly after the news of World Vision’s decision to redefine marriage and hire same-sex couples, they now have reversed that decision. On one level that is fine and good.  I am glad they did it but I am not impressed by it.  Consider how it is framed:

  • “they made a mistake. . . .”
  • we were merely trying to serve the poor but in the process “we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith”
  • “We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board’s intent.”
  • “While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.”

I spend a lot of time helping Christians who sin and need to properly repent think through the process.  I would never counsel anyone who has sinned to use this type of terminology.

Note first how it is framed in “oops” terminology.  We made a mistake.  You know, like turning left instead of right at the intersection.  Or maybe it is like taking down measurements of a room and writing down 12 1/2 feet instead of 12 feet.  We all know there was no mistake.  No one in that room who crafted and approved the change of policy that created this whole mess looked at it later on and said, “Dude!  Where did those words about homosexual Christians and marriage come from?”  An organization that size doesn’t write formal policy changes on a whim, it flows from many strategy meetings and discussions at the highest levels.

Second, note how it keeps this whole discussion on a interpersonal level.  There is no sense in any way that there was sin even though the board was approached in a Matthew 18 sort of way.  Where is the sense of dismay because they sinned against God?  Read it in its entirety and you will find nothing there.  This is the most egregious aspect of the whole thing.  A couple of days ago they decide that marriage is something that man defines and they don’t want to tear apart churches on such a divisive thing such as same-sex marriage.  You see, it is all about Christian love and unity.  They decide that you can be gay and Christian.  But then, when all hell breaks loose they decide it was an oopsy and they are sad that people are sad and hurt.

When you find yourself on the wrong side of what the bible says you are not resisting man, culture, or belief systems.  You are resisting God.  You sin against Him and you are accountable to Him to repent and actively turn from that sin.  You are to embrace what He calls true and you are to hate evil.  I am glad they reversed their decision.  But I am not impressed.  Nothing at all has really changed if we are judge this through the lens of their apology.  The same convictions that ultimately led to their first policy change are still there, they just pulled back on policy so that they could not be smacked about anymore.

Here are a couple of other posts from men who speak well on this whole subject.  Dr. Trueman and Dr. Jones.

Marriage as A Living Sacrifice

I was asked to put down in article from my short message for our Valentine’s Banquet. The following is a distillation of that message.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Three reasons for the message: First, because we need to learn to see that the whole of our lives are in submission to God’s Word because we believe it is God’s Word. Second, because it is easy to “do marriage” and not carefully think through how we do it. And third, because marriage should look different with Christians.

So the challenge I wish to give is simple but hard. That together you must strive against the constant pressure of this age to properly reflect God’s purposes in your marriage. And this all starts by constantly reminding your spouse of the mercies of God. Paul spent eleven chapters unfolding the rich, boundless mercy of God to us, poor sinners. He gave us His Son, while we were still His enemies, to redeem us and bring us full forgiveness from our sins. No longer children of wrath, we are now His children.

With that in mind, husbands and wives need to learn first of all how to offer themselves as a living sacrifice to God. This is the essence of true worship, the daily giving ourselves to God because of His mercies toward us. We were once dead in sin but now we are alive in Jesus. Therefore we need to help each other think as those alive in Jesus. We need to help each other work and serve as those alive in Jesus. We are to help the other become holy, separated unto God.  We are to examine what and how we do things to consider if they are acceptable offerings of worship to our Holy God. It is to be a marriage that acknowledges the Lordship of God in our lives and actions.  In other words, marriage cannot be passive.  You have made a covenant with your spouse and if both of you profess love for Jesus and you hope in His saving work on the cross for your salvation then you must labor to grow together as a pleasing sacrifice.

This means you fight against conformity to this age. This age is constantly pressing in on your marriage.  Only a foolish person would not be aware of it. It seeks to conform you to its ideals and goals and delights. A biblical, God-glorifying marriage is a rebellious marriage. It shakes its fist to this age and the god of this age. It stands to make a contrast to the many counterfeits that seek to replace it. But this only happens if we know what worldliness truly is. It can be defined in three ways:

It is a belief system. Paul writes, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5)  It is a belief system that turns our focus from Jesus and the glory of God and onto anything else. What is the great deception that lies at the center of this world’s teachings?  You can take all of them, the religions and the philosophies.  The convictions and the beliefs and they all boil down to one key point—they distract you from resting and trusting and enjoying the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And when you see your spouse buying into a false belief system you need to pray for them and challenge them. You must provoke them to consider their path.

It is an attitude.  Simply put it is a rebelling against the Lordship of God, His designs and purposes. Jesus said it bluntly,  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23) You can easily fall into a self-centered, self-righteous mind set.  But if you are wise you are always seeking to better express things like justice, mercy and faithfulness.  You are mindful that your marriage must not devolve into just doing the right things, but rather, it exists to promote the mercy of God to those who watch.

But the way Paul says we resist the pressure to conform to this age is by renewing our mind. How is this done? It is a huge subject but here are two key ways it is accomplished. First, as a couple you must practice repentance. Embrace the fact that you will sin and embrace that you both need to repent. As you confess your sin and you learn to reject sin together you will find yourself feasting upon the gospel that broke the power of sin in your lives. A healthy marriage is one where the couple is constantly growing in holiness and godliness in their day to day living.

Second, practice the art of biblical remembering. Remember what you were before Jesus. As Paul says in Ephesians 2, we were dead in our sin, we were held captive to our lusts and under the control of Satan. When a person forgets what he was before Christ he becomes spiritually smug and sin is sure to follow. But we also need to remember Jesus Christ. There are hard times in any marriage and this is why we need to contemplate Jesus. As the author of Hebrews points out, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

In addition you must remember the days past when you were faithful. There will be times you fail and difficult days. During those times you can lose hope and think that things will never change. But it is good for you to be able to look back in your life to the times you saw God’s blessing and care working clearly in your marriage. It encourages you to press forward. This is what the writer of Hebrews told his audience where were in danger of apostatizing, “But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,  partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.  For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  (Hebrews 10:32-35)

Also remember Jesus’s suffering when you suffer. “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20)  Your  marriage is not fireproof.  If you seek to honor the Lord in your marriage it will come under attack from outside and even perhaps from the inside.  There are those who look to be lovers of Jesus, but that is before the sufferings of Jesus come.  Marriages become dry deserts because the partners had a worldly view of marriage, one that focused on having fun, being fulfilled and such.  But suffering reveals our idols like nothing else. But for all who love Jesus, there will come that day, or year when you shall make the decision to stand for His name and only His name.

And finally remember that Jesus shall return. He shall bring all things to light including your marriage.  And when he does your marriage will be done. Too often we forget that marriage is temporary and in eternity there shall be none of it. We shall receive reward or suffer loss in how we honored it as a gift from God.  All things shall be made plain and, praise God, all things shall be made new. So we help each other by reminding the spouse that this moment is not all that there is. Rather we help each other look to what is to come.

The Need for Repentance

Yesterday I proposed that repentance is something that is good, or as I said it, the “good stuff.”  My thinking behind this is that often repenting is seen as unpleasant and bad, something to be avoided.  When a person thinks this way then they are doomed in at least a couple of ways.

First, if they are not a Christian then they are simply doomed to a life that will never experience the joy of full forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  They shall remain in their sin and they have only the expectation of the eternal judgment of God that hovers over them.  As Romans 2:4-5 bluntly states it, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”   There is nothing in that passage for one who rejects Jesus to hope in.  So when I have a non-Christian who comes to me for help I have limited options.  I must point the person to Jesus Christ as their supreme need.  I can address as well the surface issues, such as drugs, anger, or drunkenness but in the end all that I can offer is behavioral changes that never address the core problem of being enslaved to sin.

Second, if they profess to be a Christian then I must have them realize that to remain in a sin is simply contrary to the gospel.  Paul makes this abundantly clear in Romans six when he states, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  He goes on to describe how our union in Jesus Christ causes the dominion of sin to be broken.  To be sure the presence of sin is there, but not the power to enslave you as it once had.  He has given us the Holy Spirit so that He wars against the sin within us so that we do not do as we wish (cf. Galatians 5:16-17).  We have the Word of God that is, in part, given to us to grow with respect to our salvation (cf. 1 Peter 2:1-2).  Therefore, when one tries  to hide the sin or short circuit the process of turning from our sin they are living in a manner that is alien to their identity in Christ.  It is certain that they will lose a joy in their fellowship with the Lord and His people.  It is certain they can expect our Father to discipline them(cf. Hebrews 12:5-7). And it is certain that no change will truly occur for them as they are seeking to do it in their own power.

But if the non-Christian repents, meaning they turn from their sin and their idols to God alone through Jesus Christ then they are finally in a right relationship with Him.  They have now the ability to begin to truly change and grow.  Their sin no longer must have mastery over them.  For the Christian who finally comes to grip that they have given themselves over to a sin, if they recognize the need to repent then much good also occurs.  Though there might be pain, as they begin to sever relationships and activities that must be put away, there is also the encouragement that comes from the Spirit who desires their holiness.  There is a new perspective on life as they turn from a mind set on the things of this age to the hope of eternity where sin is wiped away in its entirety.  They place themselves in the paths where God’s daily, sustaining grace flows rather than the dry wastelands in which they only recently wandered.

So, you need to help a person repent.  The first thing you need to do is build hope in them.  They need to see that repentance really is the good stuff.  Life is found in repentance.  Forgiveness is found in repentance.  Jesus is found in repentance.

Next post will discuss what things you will want to look for with one who says they are repentant.

Repentance As The Good Stuff

You are tasked with the responsibility of working with a man or woman in your church over a sin that dominates them.  They have possibly come and acknowledged it to you or the leadership; or more than likely that person has been confronted with this sin and the need to put it away.  The ugly stuff is over with.  The confrontation is done, the angry looks and cutting language that the person used while being backed into a corner have passed away.  Tears are dried, blame-shifting is abandoned and finally the truth, or at least most of it, is finally drawn out and now comes the good stuff.  Repentance.

Do you think of repentance as the good stuff?  To many the answer is no.  But it is.  The nasty, smelling, filthy stuff is sin tucked neatly away beneath a well-pressed shirt or a neatly maintained bank account.  As that sin is hidden it invariably grows in power and its tendrils reach out into new areas of the life until one day it all comes crashing down around you.  Someone had the audacity to peek beneath the surface, to ask questions that could not be easily evaded.  And the next thing you know someone is sitting with you to deal with this sin and is very serious about the task.

Been there?  I have.  On both sides of the table I might add.  I have rejoiced when I sit and see relief on the face of the one trapped in sin, as they realize they are not alone anymore and that there is someone who actually cares about them and their soul.  They are fun for the confession of sin comes tumbling out , often in gasps coated in grief and shame. They want to know what to do.  They desire the help.

Then there are those who are like a feral cat in a corner.  Nothing is going to come easy.  Questions are met with scorn, answers have to be dragged out and then carefully dissected to discern what was actually said versus what the person wanted you to assume.  “I don’t remember” becomes the defense of the day.  They listen with suspicious expressions as they try to discern how much you actually know.  But finally, the truth comes out and lies writhing before all who witness it.  They confess the sin and they appear to own it as well.  Now, as I said earlier, comes the good stuff, repentance.

And so we are back to you.  Pretend you are sitting in my office and you experienced the paragraph above as an interested bystander.  I asked you to be there so that you could learn how sin acts and reacts when it is being confronted.  I wanted you to see how ugly it can be, how destructive it truly is.  You are wide-eyed and thinking that the next time I ask you to sit in with me that you will suddenly develop flu-like symptoms.  But then you hear me say that you want that person to begin to meet with you for the next several weeks to begin to put this sin behind them.  Do you know what to do?  What to look for?

The task may seem daunting but usually it is not.  It requires that you love Jesus, love the gospel, love the person and understand how repentance manifests itself.  Like I just wrote, it is the good stuff.  It is redemptive in its very nature.  It is helping lift a beloved brother or sister out of a pit that has them trapped.  It is embracing them as a fellow sinner who needs to grow in grace and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Next post I will begin to lay out the essence of repentance.  This is important because there are a lot of forgeries out there and if you are going to help that person turn and triumph in Christ over their sin then you better be ready.

Calvin and Repentance

I am reading Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Ordinary Way of Leading Sinners to Christ and came across a good quote.  The authors, Beeke and Smalley are interacting with whether Calvin believed in what some call a “pre-conversion” where the sinner is prepared to trust in Christ through an awareness of his sinfulness.  I will lay that point aside for now but may pick it up again some other day.

However, in that discussion the nature of repentance came up.  To repent simply means to change one’s mind but too often that is over-simplified in the preaching of the gospel.  Calvin preferred to define it as, “the true turning of our life to God, a turning that arises from a pure and earnest fear of him; and it consists of the mortification [a putting to death] of our flesh [the sin within us] and of the old man [the unredeemed nature], and in the vivification [the making alive] of the Spirit” (from Calvin, Institutes, 3.3.5, p. 32 of the book).

I like this definition because it captures the essence of what happens when the Spirit of God works in a sinner so as to cause them to turn from their sin and to the living God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9).  A true repentance is not a halfway repentance.  It is one where you are done bartering with God, trying to negotiate the terms of surrender.  Because of the Spirit of God working in you there is the clear recognition that Jesus is Lord and that you having nothing that you bring to the table.  You turn to Him and that necessitates that you turn from the countless idols from which you were pursuing.

Good thoughts.

You Better Be Right If You Want to Preach

An email showed up in my inbox today that made me sit back and take a long, hard examination of my responsibility in preaching.  I won’t discuss the details but the issue centered around a series I did a few years back on divorce and remarriage.  I hated that series and my stomach still gets tight thinking about it.  It is one of those series you need to do but you realize you better do it right because you are affecting people’s lives in a major way.  And the  series did just that for several in the church.

Now the series is in the background and yet it still lives on because of the internet so a certain man listens to it and now writes to me for counsel.  Hard counsel.  I don’t know him, but I am now accountable for him because I decided to preach.  I will respond to him and I think my counsel will be an encouragement to him.  But it makes me do some serious thinking again about the nature of pastoral ministry, especially in the arena of preaching.

Those who read this blog consistently knows I have strong thoughts about the light and frothy preaching that so many practice in my country these days.  For too many, the Sunday gathering of people is more like an event that is planned out to create an experience rather than the careful proclamation of the Word of God to the People of God as they gather in the name of Jesus Christ their Lord.  My personal desire is to cause the people to hear the Word and be confronted with it in such a way as to force them to make a decision each week, “Is this true or not?”

But if you are going to preach you better be right in what you say.  You better work hard on the text of the bible from which you are preaching.  You better be up there in the pulpit with a confidence that you understand the text and you can teach it to the people.  But you also better remember that those people are not there because of you, at least they better not be.  They are there because they are people purchased from their enslavement to sin by the blood of Jesus.  They are His and not yours.  And therefore you better be careful with that thing you call “the Word of God” because that is what it is, God’s Word and not yours.

Realize that those people listening to you are assuming you worked hard on the passage this week.  They are assuming you know what it means and are convinced that they need to hear it and obey it by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And when you preach through the bible you will have to teach on subjects that will affect people in a major way.  How people raise their children, go to work, view their household, think about marriage, interact with people and countless other things will be affected.

So when you say from the pulpit, preacher, that “the Word says. . . .” you better be right because someone there is going to actually act on what you preach.

Now, perhaps I can get back to the sermon I am finishing right now for this Sunday.

A Tongue and A Holy Hill

The title seems a bit vague doesn’t it?  But it is not.  Yesterday I wrote an introductory post on the nature of the noxious and notorious sin of gossip.  I used strong words because our Lord uses strong words.  One of the challenges of teaching and preaching is to not inadvertently reduce the impact of the Word of God’s terminology.  We must let it say what it says and deal with it there.  And when the bible talks about gossip, slander, tale-bearing, and accusations there is little kindness exhibited.

Hear first the Word of our Lord from Psalm 15):

O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.
He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, But who honors those who fear the LORD;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken.

David speaks of God’s tent and God’s holy hill and they refer to the tabernacle of God and Mount Zion where it would rest until the Temple was built.  It speaks to the presence of God and the ability to dwell with God.  Who is welcomed by God as a worshiper?  That is what is being asked.

To understand this rightly we must remember that it is written to people who belong to the covenant of Moses.  It is not written to those outside of Israel as an invitation to come and worship, but to those who are already “inside.”  But, of course, many in Israel were inside in name only for their hearts were far from God.  And so, in this Psalm, David gives clear instruction as to those whom God receives as worshipers.

Notice that it is focused on character and not position, wealth, power, poverty, or anything else external of the heart.  It is interested in the state of the heart and the overflow of that heart into their lives.  There are six couplets that define a person who is welcomed by God to come and worship:

  1. He approaches life with a seriousness about his works (2a)
  2. He uses speech for righteous reasons (2b-3)
  3. He treats his fellow man properly and respectfully (3b-c)
  4. He is known by those with whom he associates (4a-b)
  5. His word is good (4c)
  6. He is not a lover of money (5a-b)

Now all of these are worthy of expansion but I only will give my attention to the second point.  David deals with the internal speech first (2b).  It is a uprightness of speech and it is that hidden speech that is in his heart.  God despises hypocrisy.  Many a person can smile with his mouth and snarl in his heart.  Many can say the right thing because he is supposed to, but in his heart hate and despise.  But not one who wishes to worship.

Now David consider the external speech (3a). The slanderer’s tongue is a great evil. Slander is speaking that which is false with the intention to hurt.  It is different from gossip, which is speaking that which is true with the intention to hurt–though there is certainly overlap and usually both are present at the same event.

Gossip and slander has many great allies today to help them spread: Text messages, blogs, emails and the ubiquitous cell phone. It is interesting that alongside the grievous sins of sexual immorality and homosexuality listed in Romans 1, that Paul adds the slanderer and the gossip.  The KJV translates them as “whisperers and backbiters.”  J. B. Phillips does it even better by doing, “”whisperers-behind-doors, stabbers-in-the-back.”

Understand this and understand it well, you cannot come to God and worship if your tongue and your heart are filled with hate and evil speech.  You cannot get off the phone having shared your supposed prayer requests and then have a good quiet time with God.  Therefore it is worth one’s time to consider if their lack of spiritual growth is due to a mouth that causes them to be far from God.

The true worshiper has much in which to hope (5c).  He will never be shaken.  There is a depth and stability that comes with being a man or woman of faithfulness and righteousness.  The big talker is just that, a big talker; cheap, they are a dime a dozen. But a faithful person is a rare jewel who is to be treasured.

How are you approaching life?  Are you digging a deep foundation that is upon the Rock of Jesus Christ?  Are you preparing for the storms of life by storing up wisdom now? The promise is certain, you will never be shaken and you shall withstand all that this world shall hurl at you.

What about those who are caught up in gossip and slander?  Recognize that it is deadly and soul-destroying.  Recognize that you are not welcomed by God to come and worship.  You need to set aside your bible and your notes and go be reconciled.  You need to separate from fellow gossipers and you need to begin to put on good, grace-filled language that is timely and beautifully adorned by one established by the gospel of Jesus.

Biblical Separation Biblically Done, Pt. 3

Today is the grand and glorious day (or not) when Oprah, Joel Osteen, and Rick Warren appear on Oprah’s Lifeclass.  I have already written two posts on this here and here and as my title points out this is my third post.

I just had the privilege of listening to part of Joel Osteen interview with Oprah.  It was all about pushing his new book, I Declare, which is nothing more than re-branded “Name It and Claim It” trash.  It is that deadly idea that somehow we can create our own reality and make ourselves happy, successful and, of course, rich.  Oprah loves the book  and said to him, “Do the declarations for 31 days and your life will be changed forever.”   Then she gave me a bit if an eyebrow-raise-moment when she giddily stated, “I am!  I do declare.” All of this to Osteen’s approval.  Then I had the blessing of having “Pastor Joel” lead the people in some of the declarations.  He asked all the people to stand and repeated loudly these words, “I am strong. I am healthy. I am confident. I am secure. I am talented. I am creative. I am disciplined. I am focused. I am valuable. I am beautiful. I am blessed. I am excited about my future. I am victorious.”

I could spend the time talking about the silliness of those declarations and how they reveal the idols of the hearts of all who so enthusiastically shouted them but it is not the point of this post.  But the Lifeclass does help me in my point related to when a Christian should separate from others.

When we talk about biblical separation there can be a lot of heat generated.  Among those commonly known as Fundamentalist Christians separation is a key doctrine.  Some of them practice it in a manner that is gracious and concerned for truth, while others practices it in a manner that is hateful, political, and motivated by power.  For most Fundamentalists the key text for the doctrine is 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 where the key line is “Therefore, come out and be separate from them.”  I will examine this passage, but not now.  This post is to simply give a broad sense of God’s perspective regarding those who teach false things and our reaction to them as Christians.

In Ezekiel 13 there is that powerful denunciation by God to the false prophets of Israel.  The people of God are in sin and rebellion.  The covenant they made with YHWH is certain.  And the covenant made it clear that if they loved and obeyed the Lord they would be blessed but if they sinned and rebelled then they would be cursed by Him.  The cursing was in progress, the glory of God was departing from the nation and pagan kings were circling the borders.  And what do the prophets say? “Peace.”  But there is no peace.

That is the lie of the false teacher.  They always and ever point away from our hope and life in God alone.  The alternatives are seemingly endless but they all flow from the same hellish lie, there is something other than the one true God that we need.  Our hope, our striving, our delight and our joy comes from something other than God.  James says in chapter 4 that the reason there is fighting and murder is that we lust and do not obtain.  He goes on to then explain what that heart of lust really is, spiritual adultery.  And to give your heart over to the desires of this age that is in rebellion to God is to make yourself an enemy of God.

Yet that is what the false teacher does.  He or she does not lift up the utter necessity of the Cross of Jesus Christ.  They will either point you away from the gracious saving work of God through His Son or away from your utter inability to do good.  It shows itself in a multitude of ways and time does not permit it.  It can be the legalist who tells you that through your efforts you earn the favor of God.  It can be the spiritualist who tells you that you can imagine and declare a new reality for yourself.  It can be the religionist who tells you that by following certain religious practices that you are perfected.  It can be the atheist who tells you that nothing really matters because this is all there is, so live life as you wish and then die.

When you come to the New Testament it takes little effort to see that we are to separate from those who teach falsely or lead people away from the truth which is God’s Word.  Jesus tells us that we will know the false teacher by his fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).  Just prior to this He reminds us that the way of salvation and the way of truth is narrow, few are on it and many are on the path that ultimately leads to damnation.  No one can accuse Jesus of softening up the “message.”  Paul warns the church in Rome to keep an eye out for those who come into the church to create dissensions and tripwires by not teaching that which is true.  They are people controlled not by a love for Jesus but their own desires (Romans 16:17-18).  In almost every New Testament letter there is strong denunciation of those who seek to introduce strange teachings into the Church (Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 6:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:3).

A follower of Jesus must decide whose company he keeps.  I am not saying that we reject relationships with non-Christians, that is folly.  But I am saying that the Scripture does not tolerate us buddying up with those who teach false things.  Certainly we are not to seek to minister along side those people or act as if our differences are small and unimportant.  There is a battle for truth that goes all the way back to the time of creation.  It is not less of a battle today and it will only get worse.  To have a man like Rick Warren allow himself to be placed beside a Joel Osteen or to appear on stage as a treasured guest by Oprah is a contradiction to the gospel he believes.

Biblical Separation Biblically Done, Pt 2

So, Joel Osteen and Rick Warren are going to appear tomorrow on Oprah’s Lifeclass.  Earlier I introduced this situation and today I want to give the “so what” of it.

To start it off here is one person’s comment regarding Joel and Rick’s appearance:

Lifeclass has had a ribbon of ‘healing’ ideas running through it from the beginning. It’s good to see a move toward Christ-consciousness amist all the New Thought talk Iyanla has been doing this season. I think viewers unfamiliar with Joel and Rick will be surprised at how well the ideas will all blend together.

I started watching Joel weekly since his Next Chapter interview, and it is a very uplifting half hour. Rick’s PDL book sits right next to my Myss, Williamson, Tolle, Dyer, Gita, Emerson, and mythology/astrology, history of religion books. We just kicked off his “40 Days in the Word” series at church this week. Gooood stuff. Different kind of Book Club ; )

When your book that is supposedly a Christian book sits comfortably beside astrology and mythology books as if they are one and the same that is baaaaaaad stuff.  To have your teachings be seen as so similar to the teachings of the New Thought and Eastern mysticism is not something about which to be pleased or proud.  It is something to weep over and spend a long time alone before God searching your heart.

Let’s be clear, a Christian can write a book or speak at a conference and yet not be Christian about it.  It is easy.  One can do the same things and include bible passages and yet not be biblical.  Even easier!  All you have to do is not have the foundation of your words and message be on Christ.  Talk all day long about God, but never draw in that critical point that Jesus is God in the flesh.  That He alone is able to reveal the Father to us.  And when I say “Christ” I mean the gospel, the good news that defines what Christianity is.  If your book on parenting is heavy on how-tos but never gets around to grounding parenting in the gospel then it might be handy but it is not Christian.  To quote bible verses and yet the words of your message are not as a result of those passages, rather the verses are merely appended afterward, don’t call that biblical.  Or, to use a passage but not use it rightly also means it is not biblical.  Just because you preach a sermon on David and Goliath and use that passage to talking about slaying the ‘giants’ in your life doesn’t mean you or your audience understands that passage.

This is where the rub is.  The bible clearly teaches that we are to avoid those who actively hold to false, differing doctrines. The most blunt is Paul in Galatians where he writes:

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!  For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men?If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:8-10)

Paul links the proclamation of the true gospel with trying to please man.  In other words, the gospel (though it is truly good news) is something that has the habit of not pleasing mankind.  Frankly it annoys them to the point of violence at worse and mocking at best.  It is not broad, it is very narrow.  There is but one way that man can be reconciled to God, and that is through Jesus, God in human flesh.  We are dead in our sins.  We are unable to please God. We are a people who have made it our life to not acknowledge God as God nor give thanks.  The result is that the judicial wrath of God rests upon us.

Where then is the hope?  How can we be right with God.  In Ephesians 2 we have in verse 4 two of the greatest words ever put together, “But God . . . .”  He goes on to say that it is through God’s love and grace we are saved through Jesus Christ.  Not out of our efforts but the pure grace of God.  How?  Because in Jesus salvation rests.  He died a unique death that was as our substitute.  As sinless man He took our sin and suffered our death.  As promised He was raised from the dead thus securing our salvation.  Sin’s power was death and he utterly demolished it.

This is the gospel in a basic form.  The call to mankind is to turn from their ways, their gods, their goodness and turn to God through Jesus by faith.  To reject a hope that is not utterly bound up in the person of Jesus, who is both the author and the finisher of our faith.  If you read a book on parenting and it is not founded on the sinful condition of you and your child and the need of the grace of God in both of you then you are not reading a Christian book on parenting.  In the same way, if you hear a message on how to have joy now and it is not thoroughly on the need to turn from sin and to God, to lay down your life and follow Jesus, and to embrace the promise of eternal life that God has given even in the midst of sorrows and suffering, then it is not a Christian message.  And that, my friends, is what you don’t hear from a person like Osteen and certainly not from Oprah.

Warren seems to know the gospel.  The problem is that it gets all tangled up in his vagaries of theology where he constantly shifts and moves rather than taking a clear, solid stand.  Get him among Arminians and he sounds Arminian, move him across the hall to a Reformed group and like magic he sounds more Reformed.  Did feminists just walk in?  No problem he has a gear for that change.  Trying to get him pinned down to what he constantly believes is as hard as trying to get him to just use one bible translation in his books.

But what makes this so bad is that he also chooses to snuggle up to people like Osteen and Oprah.  I have not heard him in the Lifeclass yet.  I am scheduling myself to watch the show and my hope is that Warren will aggressively put forth a clear declaration of the gospel.  Not a vague one that emphasizes man, but a Christ-exalting, blood-bought, sin-destroying, truth-magnifying gospel.  The kind that separates.  The kind that got the Apostle Paul kicked out of cities.  The kind Paul tells Timothy to not be ashamed of, but to embrace it and the suffering that it brings.

Too long on this second post already so I will continue this later…

What Do Urine And Salvation Have in Common?

Last night I went to pick  Zach, my three-year-old, up from his class at church. When I dropped him off, the sign-in sheet asked, “Any special instructions?” I hesitated, then left it blank. I suppose that this was a mistake. When I went to get him, I lifted him up and sat him on my hip only to quickly find out that he, at some point in the night, had failed to utilize his potty training abilities. The smell was terrible and I was embarrassed.

All of my kids have gone through this stage. Right when we think the training is over, they revert back a couple of months later. When it happened with Katelynn, the doctor told us that we have to just let her do it. He told us that she will be both annoyed and embarrassed by the feeling and smell. This will be enough to make her stop. Sure enough, that is what happened. Same thing with Kylee. Same thing with Will. They would have an accident and come in crying due to the uncomfortable feeling and smell. They recognized it and wanted it to change, even though they were not sure how to take care of the problem. But I don’t know what is going on with Zach. He just does not seem to care. It has been over a month and nothing has changed. It is like he does not recognize that there is urine all over him and the smell, somehow, does not bother him. He can go all day with wet pants and not think twice.

Where am I going with this? I’m getting there.

Here is a unique take on the Lordship debate.  I am not sure I like the idea that he chose to use his son as an example but he did and that is not my problem.  If you go on to read the article, and you should, don’t stumble over his decision. What I do like is how he uses that situation to illustrate a way through the debate that still rages in areas of the Church today regarding the nature of salvation.  In other words, where does repentance fit into salvation? Read the rest here.

UPDATE: fixed bad grammar in title.

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