Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Wake-Up Call.

The Christian landscape is fraught with danger in these last days and we would do well to keep due diligence in watching carefully what is being taught in our churches. This is especially true in these postmodern times that we are supposedly living in. The influence of the postmodern “emerging” church is extending well beyond the borders of the churches specifically identified as officially part of the “emerging” church. Books by postmodern authors are popping up in Christian bookstores all over.

Here in the Columbus, Ohio area, we have LifeWay Christian Bookstores. One of the smaller branches is located just a few miles from my home and I go there frequently. As with many bookstores, there are both good and bad materials stocked there. I cringe every time I walk past the Bible section and see the “Biblezines” there on the shelf. Turning down another isle makes me cringe once again as I lay eyes on “smiley boy’s” (Joel Osteen) book, “Your Best Life Now”. But I have not run across any books by Brian McLaren and other well-known postmodern authors in the smaller store.

I do occasionally go into the LifeWay “mega store” at the north end of Columbus. That particular store stocks everything. That includes books by postmodern authors such as Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and Leonard Sweet. Mainstream Evangelicalism is being infiltrated by the philosophy of these postmodern “thinkers”, more than anyone can imagine. Do not naively think that this postmodern thought is only limited to the “emerging” church. Just as many evangelical churches jumped on the bandwagon of the seeker-sensitive movement, they are now jumping on the postmodern fad exclaiming “us too!” While many may not currently be jumping in with both feet, they are nonetheless beginning to subtly adopt some of the teaching being promoted by the “emerging” crowd.

In the church that I currently attend, one of the members of the pastoral staff who was serving as the youth pastor at the time, was quoting out of Brian McLaren’s book, “A New Kind of Christian” to the youth group. This was told to me by someone in the church who assists with the youth ministry. This man asked me whether or not I was familiar with the material, since he reported that much of what was quoted seemed to be doctrinally off-base. I had seen the book in a bookstore a long time ago and picked it up briefly, but quickly decided that it was not worthwhile, so I put it back on the shelf and moved on. I usually do not spend much time reading heretical material. Time is much too precious to waste on nonsense. However, since this incident in our church, I pay a little more attention to these things to at least read enough of the material to discern what is being taught. After this issue was brought to my attention, I went and did research on the book and looked over the material more closely. The material was indeed heretical and introduced ideas that countered Biblical teaching. I put together the material gathered in my research and gave it to the particular gentleman that brought it to my attention. I then sent the research off to the youth pastor with a stern warning concerning the material. Before the McLaren incident, our pastor quoted out of one of Leonard Sweet’s books and even showed a picture of the book’s cover on the overhead screen in one of the Sunday morning services. At that time I was not very familiar with Sweet’s material either. Since that time I have not heard much mention of this material being used, and certainly nothing being quoted out of works such as Brian McLaren’s.

But I can’t help but wonder how much this material has altered their reasoning and philosophy of ministry. Are they still utilizing much of the material but not making public mention of these works? Are they more secretive now because some people are more privy to what is going on? One thing that really annoys me is that there are many things that simply will probably never be preached from the pulpit for fear of offending some people. I have also noticed a subtle tendency toward a shift to a more “conversational” dialogue style of teaching. I personally refuse to lead Bible studies consisting of a sort of round table style of discussion where everyone merely expresses their view of what they think a passage means to them. This is not a case where I do not encourage discussion. But I always begin with a determination of what a certain passage means within its context, and then open up to discussion on how it applies to our lives. It really does not matter what the Bible means to me or what it means to you. What matters is what did God mean when it was written and how does it apply to our lives.

These are certainly spiritually dangerous times in which we live. We need more than ever, to be like the first century Bereans in Acts 17:11, who diligently searched Scripture to verify the truth.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

John MacArthur on the Importance of Doctrine.

John MacArthur is a guest blogger at the Pyromaniac today with a timely message on the importance of solid doctrine. At a time where we constantly hear the message that doctrine does not matter, Dr. MacArthur is expressing the importance of basing our lives on God’s truth. This is greatly needed, especially at a time where some are calling for a “New” Reformation, overemphasizing behavior over belief. The absence of biblical truth today has created a void in the Christian community that is being filled with unbiblical nonsense.

I have deep gratitude for MacArthur’s ministry, because it played a crucial role in helping me to understand and teach the Bible. People have asked me how I learned to understand and teach the truth. It was through the ministry of Grace to You and other solid Bible teachers (such as Alistair Begg) that helped shape my understanding of Scripture, coupled with the constant study of Scripture. Sadly, I have received little help from local church ministries. I can think of only a couple of local churches that I have been a part of over the years that really made an honest attempt at helping to equip me for ministry. Others have given lip service to the importance of training, but most of the time the training offered was centered on things like “how to handle difficult people”, “how to use ‘ice breakers’ in small groups”, etc., but nothing about understanding and teaching solid Bible doctrine.

The best advice I can give to anyone, is to immerse yourself in material written by solid men of the faith. Recognize the value of the material written by solid men of the past such as Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards. The theology from a “bunch of dead guys” is timeless truth that is just as relevant today – even more so. But most of all develop a fervent love for the Bible and study it with all your heart. (1 Peter 2:2) The Bible should be our ultimate guide. Don’t just follow the teaching of men. Filter whatever you are taught through Scripture. Learn to interpret the Bible within its proper context and mine the deep truths contained within its pages. Remember that you have access to the greatest teacher of the Bible at all times – the Holy Spirit! (John14:26; 16:13, 1 John 2:27)

Friday, December 02, 2005

What I am Reading.

I have started reading a book entitled “Reclaiming the Center”, by Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth and Justin Taylor, dealing with the influence of postmodernism on the evangelical church. This is going to be a good book that discusses in-depth the issues pertaining to how evangelicalism is being influenced by postmodernism. I believe this is something that every Christian needs to gain a keen understanding of. Postmodernism’s influence on evangelicalism is growing and it is not just limited to the emerging church movement. Many pastors are being influenced by the writing of men like Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet and the late Stanley Grenz, to name a few. This influence is dangerous and is an imminent threat to the core foundations of biblical Christianity.

It is going to take me awhile to get through this book. I am really busy right now with school over the next couple of weeks. I am finishing up a semester and have a project and finals coming up. But I will eventually be posting some of the information as I go through the book. But it may be awhile. Between working full time, going to school, a wife and two small children, it is difficult to consistently have time to write clear, thoughtful posts.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Peril of Spiritual Infidelity

Those who are trumpeting the message that behavior is more important than belief would do well to take a closer look at Scripture. Rather than disregard or hold belief at a level of lower importance, Scriptural truth should be the basis of our actions. In fact, the Bible never separates truth from practical application and a call to act on that truth. When Paul would teach doctrinal truth, he always connected the truth with practical action in the life of the believer. (2 Peter 3:10-12) He would present the truth in such a way as if to say, “in light of this, this is how we should live our lives.” If we would teach expositionally and present the truth within context, Christians would be able to note the connection. That is the beauty of true expositional teaching and the reason why it often becomes difficult to make this connection with the incessant barrage of topical teaching so prevalent today. It becomes too easy to pull verses out of context to essentially teach what we want and miss the whole point of the passage. Furthermore, it allows too much latitude to skip over passages of Scripture that a pastor just does not want to deal with, but would really be beneficial for the congregation to hear. It is too convenient for the pastor skip over anything he thinks would offend some people. My question is when did Jesus ever avoid certain truth because it was offensive?

The peril of not abiding by and defending God’s truth can be seen in the Lord’s condemnation in His letter to the church in Thyatira. The Bible teaches us that they were a church dominated by love and good works. In fact, their works continually kept increasing. But they had one major flaw; they tolerated false teaching in their midst. The Lord gives a very strong condemnation to Thyatira promising harsh judgment, unless they repent.

19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:19-23, NKJV™)

The terms associated with sexual immorality are often used in Scripture in reference to spiritual apostasy. (Leviticus 20:1-5, Leviticus 17:7, Deuteronomy 31:16, Exodus 34:15-16)They are certainly not flattering terms. Proverbs 7 provides a description of how a harlot cleverly seduces the undiscerning. If you want to get a vivid picture of the cunning tactics of a harlot, read Proverbs 7. The seductive qualities of false religion bear a striking resemblance, with spiritually deadly consequences.

“6For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, 7And I saw among the naive, And discerned among the youths A young man lacking sense, 8Passing through the street near her corner; And he takes the way to her house, 9In the twilight, in the evening, In the middle of the night and in the darkness. 10And behold, a woman comes to meet him, Dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart.”
(Proverbs 7:6-10,

“21With her many persuasions she entices him; With her flattering lips she seduces him. 22Suddenly he follows her As an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, 23Until an arrow pierces through his liver; As a bird hastens to the snare, So he does not know that it will cost him his life. 24Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, And pay attention to the words of my mouth. 25Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths. 26For many are the victims she has cast down, And numerous are all her slain. 27Her house is the way to Sheol, Descending to the chambers of death.”(Proverbs 7:21-27, NASB®)

In much the same fashion, believers are in the same dilemma today due to the prevailing shallow understanding of biblical truth. Unfortunately, believers are easily seduced by a spiritually that bears a resemblance to Christianity, but in reality, runs counter to Scripture. The charge that knowledge of the truth is not all that important does not square with the teaching of Scripture. Israel fell into the same peril due to their neglect of the truth and we would do well to take note of the error they fell into so that we do not make the same error. Spiritual naïveté is dangerous.

“18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.”
(Proverbs 29:18, NKJV™

The “revelation” spoken of here is referring to the revealed Word of God. Without the proclamation of God’s divinely inspired truth, people operate according to their own desires, which leads to the path of destruction.
The only remedy to avoid being taken in by the harlotry of false religion is to take heed to God’s Word. Knowledge of God’s Word produces wisdom and understanding. God is our heavenly Father who has given us His Word to keep us from falling victim to false teaching.

“ 1 My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, 2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; 3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.”
(Proverbs 2:1-5, NKJV™)

“ 10 When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, 11 Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, 12 To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things, 13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; 14 Who rejoice in doing evil, And delight in the perversity of the wicked; 15 Whose ways are crooked, And who are devious in their paths; 16 To deliver you from the immoral woman, From the seductress who flatters with her words, 17 Who forsakes the companion of her youth, And forgets the covenant of her God.”
(Proverbs 2:10-17, NKJV™)

Friday, November 11, 2005

What You Know Still Matters.

It seems that it is becoming popular to emphasize behavior over truth these days, that how you act is more important than what you know. I can understand some of the concern here and can appreciate the emphasis on our actions. I think that we have observed through the years examples of people who merely possess head knowledge, but exhibit little behavioral change. Their knowledge has no impact on their life because it has not been embedded in their heart. Scripture warns us not to be mere hearers of the word, but to be doers of the Word.

"22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."
(James 1:22, NKJV™)

But the admonition is not to ignore the Word of God, but simply to take action on the Word. To dichotomize truth from behavior is plainly wrongheaded and misses the point that Scripture is teaching.

Yet, influential leaders such as Rick Warren are sending the message that what you know really is not all that important. In fact, he is calling for a so-called “New Reformation” based on behavior rather than on belief, implying that the Reformation was only concerned with knowledge. But this notion is ridiculous, for any amount of study of the Reformation reveals the reformers truly had a heart for God and desired that their lives lined up with God’s truth. Are we therefore to conclude that men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield who stood for the doctrinal principles that were laid out during the Reformation were only concerned with head knowledge? Are we therefore to ignore the fact that their stand on Scriptural truth and the proclamation of that truth changed the hearts of men that sparked the Great Awakening? I wonder just how much of the writings of theses men Rick Warren has read. How about the multitudes of believers who have reached out to the poor and destitute, demonstrating Christ like love with the earnest desire that in the process they would share the truth of the gospel? Scripture does point out that we are to take the opportunity to take care of the needs of people. (Galatians 6:9-11)

"9)Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
10So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith."
(Galatians 6:9-11, NASB®)

Certainly, the church needs to be reminded to reach out to the needs of others. And, unfortunately, much of the church has had a tendency to become self-serving. However, nothing in Scripture teaches us to emphasize meeting social needs above ministering the truth of the gospel. Sidelining truth for social causes is taught nowhere in the Bible. Furthermore, Scripture does not declare that the church’s primary focus is to champion social causes. Scripture emphasize the need to diligently battle for the truth.

“3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
(Jude 1:3, NKJV™)

"God has called us to enjoy and fellowship with each other and work together. We're all in this together," he said, adding Baptists can "celebrate our diversity and celebrate our unity."
“Warren: Global Baptists 'are all in this together' “
By Trennis Henderson
Biblical Recorder, July 28, 2005

“Urging Christians to pursue “a new reformation” in the 21st century, Rick Warren told delegates to the Baptist World Centenary Congress, “The first Reformation was about belief. This one needs to be about behavior.”
“We need a reformation of not creeds but deeds,” emphasized Warren, author of the best-selling book, “The Purpose Driven Church,” and one of the keynote speakers for the global meeting, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Baptist World Alliance.”

“Rick Warren challenges Baptists to launch ‘new reformation’`“
By Trennis Henderson
Associated Baptist Press, 7/31/2005

But what Rick Warren is promoting is spirituality apart from biblical truth. Of course, he would deny this, but if you examine the tenets of what he is promoting, it very subtly undermines Scriptural truth. Rick Warren is promoting a unity that is not based on biblical truth. Rather, he is downplaying the need for upholding the truth of Scripture. It is interesting that he can call the toleration of unbiblical teaching “diversity”, and has no problem unifying with those like T.D. Jakes who departs from the biblical teaching of the trinity. Warren apparently also has no problem fellowshipping with those like Tony Campolo who disregard the biblical prohibition on homosexuality amongst many other unbiblical positions.

Rick Warren also openly ridicules the Southern Baptist Convention for withdrawing from the Baptist World Alliance over the continued left ward drift into liberal theological views. Not least of which is the growing acceptance of gay marriage in the BWA.

“During a July 28 press conference, Warren addressed a question about last year's decision by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest BWA member, to withdraw membership and funding from BWA. "I think that was a mistake," he said flatly. "When the Southern Baptists pulled out funding, my wife and I wrote a check for $25,000 to BWA.
"I see absolutely zero reason in separating my fellowship from anybody," he said.
Noting he has theological differences with many of the diverse denominations that invite him to speak, Warren added, "That doesn't stop me from fellowshipping with them."
When he heard of the SBC's withdrawal, he added, "I thought, 'This is silly! Why would we separate ourselves from brothers and sisters in the world?'"”

The Biblical Recorder, July 28 2005

"Warren: Global Baptists 'are all in this together' "
By Trennis Henderson

It seems clearly apparent that to Rick Warren, doctrine really does not matter. He may talk about it and may discuss it with his congregation, but it seems to take a back seat in importance compared to the overemphasis on unity.

Certainly we should be concerned for the needs of others and the church should play an active role. This can open up opportunities to share the gospel. But the gospel and biblical truth should be of primary importance, not secondary. Just look at what happened to nearly every mainline denomination that dropped Scriptural truth for the social gospel. Each one has derailed into apostasy. And this is exactly where mainstream Evangelicalism is headed today.

Scripture is replete with passages that emphasize the need to know and meditate on God’s truth. After all, how can you act on what you do not know? A brief survey of the Christian landscape today reveals that this lack of knowledge of the Word of God is destructive. The prevailing absence of a biblical world view amongst Christians is alarming, not to mention the widespread sin and worldliness.

Often referred to in Scripture as the “law”, “precepts”, “statutes” and “ordinances”, God’s Word is to be diligently taught among His people.

6"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
7You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
(Deuteronomy 6:6-9, NASB®)

18"You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
19"You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.
(Deuteronomy 11:18-19, NASB®)

"1How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the LORD.
2How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart. 3They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways.
4You have ordained Your precepts, That we should keep them diligently.
5Oh that my ways may be established To keep Your statutes!"
(Psalm 119:1-5, NASB®)

Consistently, Scripture teaches that the Word of God is to be held closely to our heart. It is not something to be regarded with superficial understanding. The term “heart” as it is used in Scripture means more than in an emotional sense. Heart refers to both, mind and emotions, the center of man’s inward life that ultimately governs his rational and emotional functions. Unfortunately, much of the church today tries to dichotomize mind and emotions, but the Scripture refers to both.

Lack of guidance from God’s truth leaves the believer to follow their own devices and seek their own understanding. Vulnerability to sin prevails. The only way that a believer can purify their walk is by the Word of God.

"9Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. "
(Psalm 119:9, KJV)

"11Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."
(Psalm 119:11, KJV)

I have more to post on this soon.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Change in Plans.

I know that in a previous post I mentioned that I wanted to do a post on Leonard Sweet and planned on doing that sometime soon. Well, it is going to be awhile before I get around to doing that. Not because I don’t think that it is important, but I need a break from peering through the sewer drain of the emergent sewer of heresy, before I am overcome from the toxic fumes emitted from the doctrinal ooze! I need a break before I start banging my head against the wall! It is very discouraging to read some of the absolute absurd teaching.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Misconceptions We Are Led To Believe

I was listening to Part 1 of an interesting three-part series on Focus on the Family a week ago entitled, Do You Have a Christian Worldview”? (If you go out to under the broadcast archives, scroll down until you see the title of the broadcast) It was concerning how youth are hungry for spiritual truth, and included Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. What really stood out in the program was the fact that young people, contrary to the popular misconception produced by postmodern culture, really are indeed interested in truth. Apparently Lee Strobel was told halfway though a discussion he was having with an unnamed “scholar” concerning his book, "The Case for Christ", that young people would not buy his book because youth are not interested in truth today. Yet the largest group he receives letters from stating that they came to faith in Christ as a result of the book, are from the 16-24 age group! So much for the folly of postmodernism!

So much of this foolishness could be avoided by simply believing the Bible. Scripture is clear that the chosen vehicle for delivering the message of saving faith is through the simple preaching of God’s Word. Unfortunately, man thinks that he is smarter than God and can improve upon God’s simple command. Paul claimed to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). This is what Paul preached.

It is interesting how we are led to believe many things that upon closer scrutiny are simply not true. Take for instance the notion that in order to reach the lost, we need to find out what the “seeker” wants, and then tailor our message and ministry to meet those wants in order to attract people to the Gospel. This is what led to the plethora of marketing methods that have been imposed upon the church, under the premise that unless we adopt those methods, the church will become irrelevant and wither and die. This has become the battle cry for the past couple of decades. A look at the results would indicate that the effect of these methods has had a negative effect on the health of the church.

Now we are told that unless the church jumps on the bandwagon and learns to ride the wave of postmodernism, the church will essentially be swept away into irrelevancy. We have been in this position before; the admonition to change or die is once again upon us. But we need to look at where we have been and closely examine the results. We must scrutinize everything with the text of Scripture. If we do not abide by God’s Truth, we will be led further away from God. If one were to judge success based purely on numbers, it would seem that we have experienced success. But numbers are deceiving. Even the statistics prove that we have failed miserably. Even though we have built bigger and bigger mega-churches, according to Barna Research, while the population has only increased a mere 15%, the number of unchurched has increased by a whopping 92% since 1991. Furthermore, Biblical illiteracy has run rampant and worldliness has taken root.

But God’s Truth is spiritually discerned and it is God who opens the eyes of man to His truth. This is not a result of man’s clever formulas and methodologies.

“18For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19For it is written,

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to
save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21; NASB®)

“9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”
(1 Corinthians 2:9-14,

“3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:3, NKJV™)

It is God who chooses and grants salvation. In John Chapter 6, many of the multitudes could not grasp the words of Jesus and ultimately turned away. Jesus does not come back with clever words or fleshly appeals in order to win them back. He does not try to find out what things interest them in an attempt to lure them in. He merely underscores the fact that it is God the Father who grants salvation to those who will be saved.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37, NKJV™)

“63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (John 6:63-66, NKJV™)

No amount of human persuasion alone can save anyone.

There is no record in Scripture that the apostles employed clever methodologies. Their tactic was simple; just boldly proclaim the truth and abide by God’s Word. Dr. James MacDonald points this out in an article describing his philosophy of ministry.

“The focus on human persuasion in evangelism has produced an array of church growth methods that could be accurately sub-titled "how to fill your church with tares." The early church appears to have placed no emphasis on evangelistic methodology. Their approach was simple and powerful, they were BOLD! Many times in the New Testament the Greek word translated boldness which literally means "openness" or "candor," to speak freely especially in the face of hostility. It does not imply using a loud voice or an obnoxious presentation of spiritual truth that disregards the willingness of the listener. Boldness is the Spirit-directed conviction that one must share the good news of Jesus Christ and not fear the response or reproach of the listener. Spirit-led boldness has been replaced in our day by "the fear of man which brings a snare" (Proverbs 29:25).”
(from Pillar Four in “The Four Pillars” by James MacDonald)

The Scriptural command is simple;

"2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Timothy 4:2, NKJV™)

This is to take place whether of not it is popular, for verses 3 and 4 tell us that the time will come when people will no longer tolerate sound doctrine. The term “preach”, means to proclaim something publicly and openly, with urgency, a message that needs to be heeded and obeyed. Unfortunately, much of what is passed off as “preaching” today is nothing more than casual, conversational dialogue. It is interesting that we seldom hear this passage proclaimed in many churches today. The Bible does not teach that since people do not want to hear truth, we therefore should water down or dress up the truth to make it palatable.

Greg Laurie, who pastors Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, also did not follow the clever philosophy of the church growth movement. His book, "The Upside Down Church", tells of how they simply followed the Bible and actually did the opposite of what church growth experts recommend. Yet the church grew tremendously. I need to read that book again; unfortunately I will need to purchase another since the book was destroyed some time ago when our basement flooded. Tim Challies has done a good review of this book.

The church desperately needs to get back to the simple truth of Scripture, rather than following the latest clever formulas and philosophies produced by men. Our duty is simply to proclaim the message of the Cross to as many as possible. It is the sovereign God who brings about saving faith, not the clever techniques of man.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Reality Show for “Preachers”?

Well it looks as if American religion has stooped to a new low. A new reality TV show, “Pulpit Masters” is set to air late this fall on TLC (The Learning Channel). They are currently looking for people to audition for a slot in the 10-part, inspirational series. The new series sets out to reveal the next great “preacher”. However, this is not necessarily just for preachers with a Christian message, but for anyone with a “unique and positive message” that they want to share. You merely need to be inspirational, not biblical. The website advertising the show claims that “We’re offering all comers of all denominations a chance to share their own spiritual message and reach out to an audience of millions.” Those that are welcome include “anyone with the desire to stand before an audience and share their own spiritual insights and message.” Those that are not welcome are those sharing a message “of hate, violence, superiority or any other negative ideologies and beliefs.” Of course, that can be interpreted many different ways. I would imagine that those who desire to proclaim the true biblical message of the straight and narrow way to salvation through the finished work of the cross of Christ are probably not going to be very welcome. Perhaps a message with a vaguely veiled message of the gospel would be tolerated, but not the straight-forward message of the need to die to oneself and repent of sin.

Of course, with the current climate of American Christianity, nothing should shock us. Regardless, the notion of competing with all the glitz of an American Idol style of contest is sickening to say the least. If you can imagine the contestants polishing up their routine and dressed in their slick, glitzy attire. This is nothing more than man’s effort and wisdom, not the power of God. What is sad is that there are probably going to be plenty of Evangelicals involved in this.

What a far cry this is from what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5,

“1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corithians 2:1-5, NKJV™)

It was Paul’s reliance on God’s power, not his own effort and ability that contributed to the effectiveness of his ministry.

“7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;”(2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB®)

Paul viewed himself as lowly and common encumbered with frailty. But this weakness does not hinder the messenger, but rather it is the power of God that allows His work to be accomplished through frail man. But this weakness is what is essential for God’s power and glory to be seen.

The type of humbleness that Paul displayed is something that is scarce in the evangelical landscape today. Much of what takes place today reeks with man’s arrogance and pride. This robs people from experiencing the true, transforming power of God. It is also a significant hindrance to experiencing true revival. We must strive for humility if we truly want to be used of God.

“6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,”(1 Peter 5:6, NASB®)

Scott Hill over at Fide-O wrote a good post on the lack of humility in the church, especially in the arena of Christian music.

The message that “Pulpit Masters” sends is contradictory to the Word of God; that fame, fortune and worldly wisdom based on man’s effort is what is needed to influence and change the world. What is really needed is the life changing message of Christ and Him crucified and the solid proclamation of God’s Word.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

So Much to Post, So Little Time.

There are several things that I want to write about, but I have been quite busy lately and have not had much time to do so. Things should be settling down now, so hopefully I will have a little more time to write some posts. When I first started blogging, I wondered what I would write about and if I would consistently be able to come up with enough subjects to post about. Now I have a whole list of things that I want to write about and the list keeps growing! Now I just need to find the time to sit down and focus so that I can research and write some intelligent posts.

I want to write some posts concerning Leonard Sweet. He is another postmodern author who has become influential with many in the Christian community. While Brian McLaren is one of the foremost spokesmen for the emerging church, Leonard Sweet is also having a profound influence on many churches that are not necessarily identified as “emerging”. But in my estimation, Sweet’s philosophy and teaching is just as dangerous. I hope to post this information soon.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Emerging Christian “Hippies”

Well, it seams that what the emerging crowd is actually doing is taking a nostalgic stroll back in time to the ‘60s. Scott Hill over at Fide-O, in his post, “Things That Make You Go HUH?”, mentioned in his closing statement “The emergent “conversation” is nothing but a bunch of “christian” hippies trying to be cool”. This is quite fitting and a good analogy to the emergent menagerie. He is not alone in being at a loss to clearly define the Emergent church. None of the rest of us can come up with a clear definition either. Neither can the “emergents”. And, just like rebellious adolescents, the emerging crowd is still trying to “find” themselves and have no clue about what they want to be when they grow up. Of course, it seems that the emerging folks take pride in that fact, as if the inability to define them means that they are beyond scrutiny. After all, according to them, they are still just a “conversation”. Not so! Let’s put it this way. If you were walking down the street and observed an unknown hideous substance oozing from around a sewer drain, you certainly would not need to clearly define what the substance was in order to come to the conclusion that you probably should not touch it. Anyone with a minimal amount of common sense would determine that it is probably not good for their well-being to even touch it, let alone ingest the stuff! After all, consider the source – it would be coming from a sewer. The same goes with most of the teaching of the emerging crowd. What is “oozing” from the movement is definitely not good for anyone’s well-being.

We can only hope that these emerging “hippies” will someday awaken from their drunken stupor induced from the copious amounts of their intoxicating postmodern brew, and exlaim (to borrow the line from Pecadillo’s blog), “I drank what?!”

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Not Everyone is Emerging.

It is refreshing when I find pastors that exercise good discernment, especially with the postmodern emerging phenomenon. Dr. James MacDonald has a good article posted on his radio ministry's web site in response to the Emergent church. Of course, some of his statements are a little more gracious than I am toward some of the leadership of emergent, such as Brian McLaren. But nonetheless, his assessment is right on and I am glad that he is speaking out.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Growing Interest in Medieval Mysticism

There seems to be a rapidly growing interest in the writings of medieval mystics within the church today. This is especially true in the emerging church movement, but is becoming prevalent throughout evangelicalism. Basically, mysticism is an attempt to attain direct knowledge of God apart from objective truth and instead relying on subjective experience to acquire spiritual truth. Scripture speaks out against such speculative and subjective experiences as a basis for acquiring truth. (Colossians 2:18-19) Sometime in the future, I intend on posting more on the subject of mysticism and its infiltration into the church.

But this is going to become an issue of increasing concern as time goes by, as the church continues to move further away from Scriptural truth. I have noticed more and more that some are turning to the mystics of the medieval church for spiritual guidance. Some time ago, in a sermon my pastor was preaching, he gave reference to a book written by Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Roman Catholic Monk entitled, “Practicing the Presence of God”. In the sermon, our pastor did not disclose the fact that Brother Lawrence was a Catholic monk. I remembered something about this book from a few years ago, but I had to research the information again. I then emailed my pastor warning him about the questionable teaching of the book (which is really based on medieval mysticism) and the doubts concerning Brother Lawrence’s conversion. Here is the content of the letter:

"I just wanted to comment on last Sunday’s sermon (Oct. 17). The content was good and the video presentation supported the message well.

However, I was troubled by your mention of Brother Lawrence’s writing, “The Practice of the Presence of God”. You mentioned Bro Lawrence’s writing TWICE as if to emphasize it in such a way as if you were trying to encourage people to read this book. What you failed to mention was that Brother Lawrence was a Roman Catholic Monk! I realize that salvation is not reliant upon what church one may attend, but it does depend on what one believes about Biblical saving faith.
I certainly appreciate Bro Lawrence’s attitude in his desire to commune with God, and his apparent departure from some of the more ritualistic aspects of the monastic lifestyle in the Roman Catholic Church. His desire to prayerfully commune with God continually is certainly commendable. However, his writings seem to lack sufficient Scriptural substance especially where Biblical salvation is concerned. I looked up some information on Brother Lawrence and found “The Practice of the Presence of God” online. There is nothing mentioned in the writing about Bro Lawrence coming to the realization that he was a sinner and needed to trust in the finished work of Christ for salvation. In fact, the following quote indicates more of a salvation by works philosophy.

“and that as he was conscious of his readiness to lay down
his life for the love of GOD, he had no apprehension of danger.
perfect resignation to GOD was a sure way to heaven
, a way in which
we had always sufficient light for our conduct.” (Emphasis Added)

“The Practice of the Presence of God”
Brother Lawrence

Contrary to what seems to be implied here, Jesus is the only sure way to heaven. I investigated a little further into information concerning his conversion. Here is what I found:

“In the winter seeing a tree stripped of its leaves and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he had received a high view of the Providence and Power of God, which has never since been effaced from his soul. This view had perfectly set him loose from the world and kindled in him such a love for God that he could not tell whether it had increased in the more than forty years that he had lived since.”

As related by M. Beaufort

Even in this account of Brother Lawrence’s “conversion”, there is no mention of him coming to saving faith. There is no mention about him trusting in the finished work of Christ.

Unfortunately, it seems that Bro Lawrence embraced a mysticism that set aside the truths of Scripture. This is on par with other medieval “mystics” who did much of the same thing. It seems that these people, in the absence of Biblical truth and faced with the dead, dry Roman Catholic dogmas, were left to try to cling to anything that would fill the empty void that only God can fill. What is tragic is that there really is a mystical dimension to our relationship with Jesus Christ. There is a legitimate experience of being in the presence of God, but it is ALWAYS within the framework of Biblical truth. What is most disheartening is that the false experience can in many ways mimic the real thing, robbing the unwary seeker of that wonderful legitimate experience of God. What is really tragic is that at the end of life, the only thing that awaits those who do not experience genuine saving faith is a bleak eternity separated from God. I also have doubts about the late Mother Theresa’s so-called experiences as well. It seems that she too, embraced a false spirituality. Despite all her talk about prayer and compassion for people, judging by her writings, she still embraced the false teachings of Roman Catholicism. She was certainly a wonderful, compassionate person, whose life can teach us much about self-sacrifice and love for others. However, these qualities in and of them self, do not save anybody. I would also not recommend her writings to be read by evangelical Christians as sources of Scriptural truth.
I realize that we cannot judge what is actually in the heart of a person. I cannot look into the heart of anybody and determine if they are really saved or not. But we can and should, scrutinize their doctrine in light of Scripture.

Brother Lawrence’s writing has become another tool the Catholic Church uses to lure undiscerning people back into the Roman Catholic faith. Since his writing says nothing that would counter Roman Catholic doctrine, the Catholic Church can capitalize on the lure of the mystical attraction of publications such as “The Practice of the Presence of God”.
Observe the following website inviting the visitor back into the arms of the “Mother Church”!
(If you scroll or search to the bottom of the page under “Spirituality”, there is a section “Some excellent Catholic devotional works include”. There you will find “The Practice of the Presence of God” listed.)

These types of “mystical” writings have become a favorite of the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church. They serve their purpose well to present a type of spirituality that seems to mimic a genuine experience of Christianity and adds a little “spark” to the cold dead unbiblical doctrines of Catholicism.

We need to be cautious and exercise discernment. We need to be like the first century Bereans in Acts 17:11. We also need to keep in check our disenchantment with legalistic churches of the past. We must not allow our frustration with the legalism that unfortunately pervaded many of the fundamentalist churches to cause us to throw out the truth in exchange for something that seems like a refreshing change. Let’s not throw out the proverbial “baby with the bath water”. There are plenty of writings by solid Bible believing writers over the past 400+ years that provide excellent examples of abiding in Christ, yet are grounded in Scriptural truth. I am alarmed that we are beginning to ignore the solid history of evangelical Christianity in exchange for false medieval mysticism.

It seems that there is serious question as to whether or not Brother Lawrence embraced Biblical saving faith. I believe it is extremely dangerous to view any of his work as Scriptural authority and to recommend it others, regardless of how “spiritual” it may sound on the surface. "

This is not a time for Christians to just absorb whatever they are taught – as never should be the case – but this is a time where we, more than ever, need to be discerning and search the Scriptures diligently.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Rick Warren’s Erroneous Views

“16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err, And those who are led by them are destroyed.”
(Isaiah 9:16,

Nearly everyone is familiar with Rick Warren’s popular book, “The Purpose Driven Life” that seems to be all the rage today. While there are certainly some good things in the book, it has glaring weaknesses. Overall, the book just seems to exude with a man-centered theology. Warren’s use – or should I say misuse – of Scripture is prevalent throughout the book. It is not that there are not some very good points made in the book, but it lacks in substance. Unfortunately, many of the good points tend to overshadow many of the errors. A great deal of discernment is necessary when reading through the material. The closer that error comes to the truth, the more dangerous it becomes. But I am seeing very little benefit from the material due to the inherent shallowness and subtle error. Tim Challies has an excellent review of the book posted on his website. Phillip Johnson also has offered his opinion of the book as well on his blog.

But beyond the book, there are many things that disturb me concerning some of his comments and philosophy. In fact, many things are downright heretical. Just the other day, I came across a post on Slice of Laodicea (see "Rick Warren Speaks on Peter Drucker, Catholicism and the Fundamentals of the Faith") that exposed some of Rick Warren’s views. As I clicked on the links, I certainly became acquainted with his skewed doctrinal and theological views. His view of the fundamentals of the faith is appalling. He was featured at a conference at the Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle conference on religion, politics and public life. According to Warren, the Fundamentals of the Faith “is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity”. What Rick Warren is calling “legalistic” and “narrow”, is the document drawn up back in the 1920s to define the fundamental doctrines of biblical Christianity in response to the onslaught of liberalism. Here are the five fundamentals:

1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The Virgin Birth.
3. The Blood Atonement.
4. The Bodily Resurrection.
5. The inerrancy of the scriptures.

These doctrines cannot be compromised in any way without denying biblical faith.

Many people are unaware of the extent of Warren’s errors. I have heard people mention that they may not agree with everything he says, but that he was basically on track with the fundamentals of the faith and basic theology. In fact, this was my former view as well. But things that I have read prove otherwise.

What is really revealing is the section on his website for Holy Family Parish that is featured on his site that sponsored two Purpose Driven events this last week. If you go out to their website, you will find a description of who they are.

“Welcome to Holy Family's presence online. We're a Catholic parish community striving to continue the work of Jesus Christ in the world. Rooted in Catholic tradition, we celebrate liturgy by sharing the Word and Eucharist in a dynamic, creative and contemporary way.”

Apparently, you can embrace heresy and yet actively participate in promoting and giving advice on how to be a Purpose Driven Church.

To illustrate how evangelicals are being duped into believing Catholicism is just another evangelical church, just look at the slogan displayed on Holy Family’s web page. It reads, “An Evangelical Church in the Catholic Tradition.” In other words, they are trying to say, “Hey, we are one of you, we just embrace a little different expression of the same thing.” Couple this with an endorsement by a well known evangelical leader such as Rick Warren, and the deception is even greater!

Here is a quote from Warren in the interview:

“I think, though, it's what Augustine said: "In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity." And I think that's how evangelicals and Catholics can get together.”

Wrong! Catholics are very wrong on certain essentials such as sola fide and sola scriptura. Evangelicals have no business getting together with Catholics, particularly with initiatives that deal with spiritual matters. I agree with declaring liberty with non-essentials, however, the differences with Catholicism do not deal with non-essentials as Warren implies, but rather they are essentials. Here is another statement made by him concerning Catholicism.

"And, you know, growing up as a Protestant boy, I knew nothing about Catholics, but I started watching ETWN, the Catholic channel, and I said, "Well, I'm not as far apart from these guys as I thought I was, you know?” "

Also, in the same interview, Rick Warren discusses the issue of breaking down barriers between different groups. He promotes an attitude that it really does not matter what you believe. He quotes a statement made by T. D. Jakes who holds a modalistic view of the trinity as well as affirming much of the Word of Faith teaching.

"And we were talking about this barrier breaking down between black, white, Pentecostal, different groups, and T.D. Jakes – you know who he is – and T.D. Jakes said, "One of the things television did is it allowed people to watch each other's services from a distance and go, 'That's okay.' "

For a good article on the concerns about T. D. Jakes, I would recommend reading the Christian Research Journal article, “The Man, His Ministry, And His Movement: Concerns About The Teachings Of T. D. Jakes”

Rick Warren is wrong on so many points, but he wears a “mask” of basically conservative evangelicalism. There are many things that are objectionable that were discussed in the Pew Forum interview. I would encourage you to read the transcript carefully. The church needs more than ever to exercise discernment and carefully examine what some Christian leaders are teaching today.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Interesting Invitational Music

Awhile back, Steve Camp posted on his blog a satirical list of top ten signs that indicate you were in a bad church. The second sign, “Worship team performs their favorite Led Zeplin medley; with an altar call of “Stairway to Heaven”, is really not far off from reality. At least not at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Community Church. Scott Hill over at Fide-O, apparently visited Saddleback about a dozen times and shared his list of 15 Things I Learned at Saddleback.” One of them was “I learned 'The Living Years' by Mike and the Mechanics makes for a very sentimental invitation song after you have preached a message on respecting the elderly.” Yes, apparently they really did play that song for an invitation!

The more I learn about Rick Warren and his ministry, the more concerned I get. At one time, I thought that Rick Warren was basically solid theologically, even though I did not necessarily agree with everything he said or did. At least he seemed better than Bill Hybels and Willow Creek. But I think that is what many people think. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. The more I read about his philosophy and teaching, the more I realize he is not as sound as many think.

I recall when his book came out , “The Purpose Driven Church”. The book made some good points, but there were many things that I did not like about it. I recall a statement in the book that set me on edge, where he essentially slammed expositional teaching. And then of course we have his latest effort, “The Purpose Driven Life”. I received a copy of the book as a gift. The book proved to be a great disappointment. It did make some good points, but I just thought that it turned out to be quite shallow and just seemed to ooze with a man-centered theology. He often misused numerous passages of Scripture and used so many different translations of the Bible, many of which were loose paraphrases that had a tendency to distort the text of Scripture. The reason Rick Warren concerns me so much is that he is one of the most influential Christian leaders in America. The church better start exercising discernment and return to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, rather than latching onto the latest fads of the moment!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Threat from Within

It seems that many in Evangelicalism perceive that the threats to the church are coming from outside the church, but the real impending danger is coming from within. When you think about it, history shows that threats from outside the church seldom destroy it. The church at Smyrna in the book of Revelation (Rev. 2:8-11) suffered from persecution, but the Lord has no words of condemnation for this church. The heavy persecution did not destroy it, but rather purified and strengthened it. Compare this with Laodicea. (Rev. 3:14-22) That church was rich and thought they needed nothing, existing in their comfort zone. They were lukewarm and the Lord has no words of commendation for them. Churches in countries where they are heavily persecuted are generally strengthened spiritually. Also consider the strong condemnation given to Pergamos and Thyatira due to their spiritual compromise, tolerating false teachers. Thyatira was dominated by plenty of love and works, but those things will never make up for religious apostasy.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders that false teachers would arise from within their ranks who would lead people astray. This is exactly what is happening today. There are numerous influential teachers that are bringing false teaching into the church.

“28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:28-31, NKJV™)

The most effective strategy that Satan can use to attack the church, is to recruit men from within. This is the greatest danger because these men generally posses certain “credentials” in the form of seminary degrees or they have become popular in the Christian community. Many of these men have become leaders in fast growing churches and as a result, many people are impressed by their results. Most disturbing is the charisma these men possess. People are easily taken in by their winsome personalities.

Take for instance, Brian McLaren, who is now one of the official leaders in the “emerging church” movement. His teaching is riddled with error. He appears to maintain a doctrinal position where he tries to be as ambiguous as possible, seemingly avoiding taking sides in any theological “camp”. Despite his attempts to be as vague as possible, when you examine what he says, his teaching is nothing but heretical. He often tries to claim that he embraces historic biblical Christianity, while in practice he ends up denying the fundamentals of the faith. His teaching creates confusion by introducing more questions than answers. In the process of “borrowing” from many different traditions, as he proposes in his book “A Generous Orthodoxy”, the true message of the gospel becomes muddled and the fundamental doctrinal teaching of Scripture becomes obscured.

McLaren has authored several books including "A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey". I wrote a post some time ago explaining the dangers of the philosophy that McLaren promotes through the book. I also have a link to an article in the Christian Research Journal in that post to a review of the book by Doug Groothuis. One of his more recent works, A Generous Orthodoxy is essentially an attempt to get the reader to borrow from any theological “tradition” regardless of the doctrinal position of that group.

If you want to get an idea of what Brian McLaren’s philosophy is, watch the video of the PBS special "The Emerging Church" and read the transcript. Also, read the transcript of the PBS interview with McLaren. Pay close attention to the way that he handles such things as homosexuality and the concept of hell.

What McLaren promotes is all too often par for the course in the postmodern “emerging” church movement. I have covered this topic in several posts on my blog, The Postmodern Journey to Apostasy.

Much of what is taught by these teachers is truth intermingled with the error so much so that it tends to mask the error. Little by little, error is slowly introduced into the church. A relatively minor error is introduced into the church and a few people are somewhat shaken, but that soon passes. Then something a little more erroneous is introduced and again, some people are a little concerned, but things eventually settle down. It seems that people eventually adapt to the change. This happens repeatedly, slowly eroding away truth. Usually, the slide to apostasy is not sudden, but is a gradual process as churches begin letting down their guard. Churches just don’t suddenly wake up one day and decide that they are going to set aside the Bible and deny biblical teaching. It usually results from a gradual drift as a result of spiritual apathy and laziness.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Positive Effects of a Godly Upbringing

The Pyromaniac has a great post that explains the events that influenced the life of Charles Spurgeon that shaped him to become the great preacher that he was. Let us not underestimate the great influence we can have on our children and the importance of a godly home life in shaping our children’s character!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lessons from the Church at Ephesus

1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’ (Revelation 2:1-7, NKJV™)

I know that the evangelical church is in a mess today and we need more than ever to diligently guard the truth. However, we need to be careful that in our endeavor to battle for the truth that we do not neglect our fellowship with Christ and keep our hearts tender for the Lord. We can get so caught up in the battle that our service becomes more mechanical and loveless, and we can drift into dead orthodoxy. While the Lord certainly commends the Ephesians for their stand on the truth, he CONDEMNS leaving their first love – Himself! The danger can be so subtle. We get caught up in battling and can neglect our time in fellowship with our Savior. If our love for the Lord begins to wane and we begin serving more out of duty, we run the danger of becoming cold and loveless. This also affects our relationships with other people resulting in a poor witness and testimony. (1 Cor. 13:1)

This reminds me of the passage in Matthew with Mary and Martha. Martha was busy laboring away, but was so preoccupied with the task at hand that she neglected the most important thing – spending time with Jesus.

“38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42, NKJV™)

Much like Martha, we too can get so caught up in the work that we essentially shove Jesus aside in the process. We get into a rut and our service becomes a dull routine. Yes, we ARE certainly to stand firm and labor for the truth, but let us not forget to make time for our fellowship with the Savior. Let us also not forget the battle is ultimately the Lord’s, not ours. Just as the Lord had ownership of the battles that Israel faced (1 Samuel 17: 46-48; 2 Chronicles 20:14-16), He is also in charge of the battle that we are involved in. We are essentially His soldiers taking orders from Him. And guess what? We know from Scripture that He will be victorious in the end! (Revelation 19-22) Even if it seems that everything is in total chaos at times, in reality the Lord has everything under control and He will triumph in the end. It is very encouraging to reflect on those passages of Scripture. No matter what happens, we are secure in Christ and will be spending eternity with Him as He rules and reigns for forever.

The Lord warns the Ephesians that if they did not repent, he would take away their witness and their ministry would no longer be a light to others. The remedy was to repent and “do the first works”, to return to the fervent love and zeal they had when they first began with Christ.

This, however, is NOT an excuse to avoid battling or laboring for the truth. Unfortunately, I hear a lot of this today. We simply need to be reminded not to neglect our relationship with Jesus.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

More on the Frog in the Kettle

Satan’s conversation with Eve in Genesis 3 may not seem very subtle at a casual glance. There was a response to my last post that pointed this out. It seems that Satan questioned the Word of God outright. In fact, compared with some of the errors that are prevalent today, it certainly does not seem to be that subtle. But the term subtle here is used in the sense of being crafty. This also illustrates an effective tactic that Satan uses to twist the Word of God. There is a crucial lesson to learn here. First, let us examine the texts in Genesis 2:16-17 and Genesis 3:1-5 to see Satan’s crafty scheme.

“16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."”

Genesis 2:16-17, NASB®

“1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, " From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.' " 4 The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."”

Genesis 3:1-4, NASB®

The words describing the serpent carry the meaning of subtle in the sense of being crafty or sly. For instance, in Genesis 3:1, the Hebrew word, “aruwm” translated “subtil” in the KJV, “cunning” in the NKJV and “crafty” in the NASB, carries the meaning “subtle”, “crafty”, “sly”.

God’s command to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 was that he could freely eat of any tree in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 3:1, Satan begins by twisting the Word of God with the false statement that God commanded that they could not eat of any of the trees of the garden. This was contrary to God’s actual command. Also notice that Eve adds to the command by saying that they could not touch it. But God did not say that they could not touch it. Since the command was given to Adam and God had placed Adam in charge, it could be that Adam added the restriction not to touch it in order to protect her. Or maybe the addition was simply an indication that she did not fully understand the command. Satan could have figured that her lack of understanding made her vulnerable, so here was his chance. But notice when he first questions Eve how he twists the prohibition to extend to all of the trees in the garden. In his conversation with Eve, he introduces doubt and confusion on the Word of God. At this time, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of Satan. When Eve met up with the serpent, it is interesting that she does not appear at all disturbed at the notion of a talking animal. Perhaps they were in awe of God’s creation and Eve figured that this was but one more wonder in His creation. Of course, God did not create talking animals. The ability of the creature to speak was Satan’s doing. Satan indwells the serpent here in order to deceive Adam and Eve for the purpose to entice them to disobey God. Here was Eve in the garden and this crafty and seemingly interesting creature approaches her engaging in this conversation. This creature appears intelligent and seems to know about God. Through the course of the conversation, she probably began questioning her understanding of God’s command. She probably began thinking that “maybe I really got everything wrong, and here is this enchanting creature enlightening me on this topic. Hey, you know, maybe he is right, this stuff really looks desirable. Well it can’t be all that bad can it? After all, it will make us all the wiser. Why would God not want us to have something so good?”

While Satan seems in a very direct manner to attack God’s Word and His character, there is much more going on here. Satan cleverly sets Eve up before making a direct assault on the Word of God. He begins with the false notion that God was depriving them of anything good (i.e. restricting them from all of the trees). From that point, he then takes it a step further with the logic that it does not seem plausible that God would prohibit them from partaking from this particular tree, especially since it seemed so desirable and seemed to have so much to offer. After all, if they would take part of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, then they will be so much wiser and be like God. Satan presents the notion that God was holding out on them!

"3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully."

2 Corinthians 11:3-4, NASB®

When Paul addresses the Corinthians with his concern about their vulnerability to false teaching, he uses the same basic term that was used to describe the serpent in Genesis 3.
In 2 Corinthians 11:3, the word “craftiness” in both the NKJV and NASB, is translated from the Greek word “panourgia”, which means “craftiness” with the sense of being specious, meaning that it merely possesses a look and feel of truth, but is in reality false wisdom. Satan made his argument seem plausible, but it was indeed false.

If you look at issues such as the “emerging church” movement, you see a similar pattern to what Satan used. It starts with the questioning of God’s Word, especially through the use of deconstruction. Then we have the introduction of blatantly false claims, once the confidence in the Word of God is shaken. Little by little, God’s truth is called into question. A little whittling away of truth here and there over time, and heresy finds its way into the church. I will elaborate on this in some future posts. But I believe that many of the problems in evangelicalism can be traced to the shallow understanding of God’s truth. If Eve’s apparent misquote of God’s command is an indication that she lacked a thorough understanding of the Word of God, then this should be a lesson for us that we need to thoroughly understand God’s truth. Words are important and precision is necessary in order to accurately and precisely communicate the message. Subtly change the words and you can alter the message. This is why I am such a stickler for formal equivalency – as opposed to dynamic equivalency or paraphrasing - in Bible translation. I am not a fan at all of so-called paraphrase Bibles.

This is why it is extremely important that we thoroughly understand the Word of God. Unfortunately, a growing number (dare I say majority?) of Christians barely possess even a cursory understanding of biblical truth. No wonder Christians today are so vulnerable to false teaching. I can hear the serpent’s “hiss” all around us!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Frog in the Kettle

The Pyromaniac’s postings on the state of evangelicalism have been excellent and he has articulated the issues well. He discusses the issue of how the church has become obsessed with constantly following the latest fads. I agree with his assessment. However, while it is true that these fads eventually run their course and fade away, they nonetheless do their share of damage to the church. The church does not go unscathed, and suffers damage with each successive bout of pragmatism.

A famous experiment was once conducted that involved placing a frog in a kettle of water. Don’t know who ever thought up this experiment, but it serves as an excellent illustration. If the frog were placed in a pot of boiling water, the frog would immediately jump out so as not to be scalded. Then the frog was placed in the water while it was yet cool. As the frog sat contently in the water, the water was heated one degree at a time. The frog adapted to the gradual changes in temperature until it boiled to death!

The church can be likened to that frog. Christians sit nice and comfortably in their churches, while the leadership implements changes devised by the latest “experts” and popular authors. The changes are so subtle and incremental that Christians adapt to each successive round of change until they eventually boil to death in heresy!

Suddenly springing heresy on people does not work well since people will immediately resist and cry out. But introduce subtle changes over the course of time and Christians will incrementally adapt to the new environment. Of course, spiritual apathy on the part of believers plays an important part as well.

Satan uses a clever strategy in order to dilute the truth. Satan used this successfully back in Genesis 3:1-5, with the statement “yea, hath God said?” He subtly introduces doubt on the Word of God. He does not launch an outright attack on God’s Word, but introduces an apparent clarification, with his own little twist. He promises “enlightenment”.

This is how Satan distorts the truth. The Corinthians were in danger of succumbing to this tactic in 2 Corinthians 11:1-4 prompting a heartfelt warning from Paul. The most deceptive lie is the one that comes closest to the truth. The truth tends to mask the error.

It is crucial that believers immerse themselves in the Word of God. The more they know the truth, the more they will be able to spot the error when it comes along. We need to be like the first century Bereans in Acts 17:11, who “searched the scriptures daily” to discern whether the things taught were true.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Wanted: A Few Good Men – Can You Handle the Truth?

The Pyromaniac has been posting a series on the state of the Evangelical church. The articles are right on target with defining the key problems in evangelicalism. Many of us have been bombarded with the latest trends and fads being thrust on us from the pulpit of many of our churches. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am getting quite fed up with the nonsense.

Evangelicalism is in urgent need of a return to biblical truth and biblical ministry. We desperately need a return to the truth of Scripture, but it will require men to take a firm stand and exercise discernment, employing sound wisdom and judgment guided by God’s truth. What we need are a few good men like the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12, who had a keen understanding of the times in which they lived.

“32 of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command;” (1 Chronicles 12:32, NKJV™).

These were men who understood the times in which they lived and could provide Israel with sound judgment and guidance in order to win the battle at hand. This was not a case where they were trying to find ways to engage in pragmatism, attempting to blend Israel with the culture of their day. Not long ago, I herd someone imply this in a dire attempt to justify a pragmatic approach to ministry in reference to adapting to the postmodern culture. In fact, the preacher went so far as to say that the men of Issachar probably dressed in the “garb” of the day, with the implication that they were focused on trying to engage the culture. I thought to myself, “Well of course they dressed in the garb of the day, what else do you think they wore”. But I doubt that the men of Issachar were scoping out the culture to adopt the coolest fashion of that time to prove that they were as hip as everyone else. If you could imagine the men of Issachar cruising around the countryside, saying “Hey, gettin’ phat for God”! People in every generation dresses in the basic fashion of the day. Look at paintings of Jonathan Edwards or pictures of Charles Spurgeon. They all dressed in the “garb” of the day. I hate it when preachers really push the text of Scripture to try and make it support the latest fads, trends or gimmickry. Unfortunately, with the lack of discernment today, most people just sit back and think “Wow that was profound.” But the men of Issachar were not focused on fads or gimmickry. Their thoughts were centered on the battle at hand and were keenly aware of the challenges and dangers they faced. They knew how to guide Israel in troubled times as they prepared to engage in battle. Today, we too, should be focused on the battle for truth. I am not advocating that we should drop evangelism and the mission of making disciples in order to devote all of our time in constant battle over every minor issue at hand. But the type of error that exists today threatens the purity of the gospel message that people desperately need to hear. Furthermore, the church is threatened by “wolves” that are ready to devour the flock of God with their aberrant teaching. The issues are not minor, but critical. The church is faced with everything from liberalism, “seeker-sensitive” pragmatism, the Word-Faith debacle, and the latest, the Emerging Church movement that in many respects is nothing more than repackaged liberalism. More than ever before, we need to understand the times and be willing to battle for the faith.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3, NKJV™)

The term “contend earnestly”, means to literally do battle. This is not exactly a pleasant thing to do and is often quite grueling. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was keenly aware of this since he fought vehemently against the errors that were creeping into the church in his day. He even experienced rejection from his own brother due to his stand for the truth.

“Controversy is never a very happy element for the child of God: he would far rather be in communion with his Lord than be engaged in defending the faith, or in attacking error. But the soldier of Christ knows no choice in his Master's commands. He may feel it to be better for him to lie upon the bed of rest than to stand covered with the sweat and dust of battle; but, as a soldier, he has learned to obey, and the rule of his obedience is not his personal comfort, but his Lord's absolute command. The servant of God must endeavour to maintain all the truth which his Master has revealed to him, because, as a Christian soldier, this is part of his duty. But while he does so, he accords to others the liberty which he himself enjoys.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Address at the Tabernacle, 1861

What we need today are more men of this caliber who are willing to engage in battle with discernment of the times and understand the strategy the church should take in light of the dangers being faced. There is nothing wrong with understanding the culture in which we live, in fact it can help us get an idea of the magnitude of the challenges that we face and how to navigate the dangerous waters. Understanding the culture can give us insight concerning the challenges of communicating with the people of this generation. I am not advocating totally ignoring the culture. This is indeed a part of “understanding the times”. But pursuing the challenge to communicate with the culture should never interfere with or alter the message, nor should it take preeminence over the proclamation of truth. For example, since people in our culture today do not like to be told they are wrong and do not seem to respond well to propositional truth, we are told that we should avoid those things when communicating with people of this generation. Scripture teaches that we are to do otherwise.

“2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4, NKJV™)

The word “preach” is translated from the Greek word “kerusso”, which means to proclaim something openly, verbally, with authority, an urgent message that needs to be heeded and obeyed. This is to take place regardless of what the culture wants. Just focusing on engaging in a philosophy that seems to draw a crowd is deceiving. Numeric results marked with emotionalism and sentimentality is not a good indicator of success in reaching the culture. The real test is whether those who profess to be followers continue to walk with Christ, keeping His Word. (John 8:31)(1 John 2:24) The pursuit of pragmatism causes us to circumvent the truth of God. It only clouds the message of Scripture and weakens the church. It muddles the message of the gospel, so much that the world gets a distorted view of God. Certainly, some methods of delivering the message can change over time. For example, we are now utilizing the power of the internet in order to proclaim the truth of God’s Word. Television and radio have been used for many years. There is nothing wrong with utilizing new methods as long as those methods do not alter or distract from the proclamation of God’s truth. The methods must harmonize with the message, not detract from it.

We have been informed by the church growth experts for more than a decade that we need to treat people as consumers, being sensitive to their “felt” needs. The implication is that we can entertain and coax people into the Kingdom of God. But according to Barna research, while the population has only increased 15% since 1991, the number of the “unchurched” has increased by an astounding 92%! You would think that the church would learn that it just is not working. It is interesting that in Barna’s article, he admits that “Stirring worship music won’t attract them because worship isn’t even on their radar screen.” and “Church events cannot effectively compete with what the world has to offer.” But here is a statement made by Bill Easum of “21st Century Stategies”, claiming that we need to engage the “unchurched” in worship. This is from an article by Easum outlining his observation of the trends for the 21st Century church.

“focuses worship primarily on what a person experiences about God instead of what a person learns about God. This trend is confirmed by the growing unchurched, biblically illiterate, ethically void, population growing up outside of the influence of Christianity. Their basic need is to experience the presence (immanence) of God, not to be educated about God or the church. Emphasis is placed on stirring the heart and emotions, not educating the head.”

The Church of the 21st Century” by William M. Easum

But man in his unsaved state lacks any ability to worship God. The natural man is dead in his sins and trespasses, and cannot seek God or do anything to please God. (Romans 8:5-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14)

Because the church has so neglected the truth of God’s Word, people in the church lack discernment to ward off false teaching. The influx of false teaching can be likened to disease that enters the body due to the failure of the body’s immune system. When there is a total breakdown, the body is left vulnerable to any disease that may attack it. The condition is called AIDS. John MacArthur preached a two-part series some time ago entitled “Spiritual AIDS”, where he likened the spiritual condition of the church to the human malady called AIDS. It has been awhile since I listened to that message, but I recall him saying that as with the physical condition, when the body loses the ability to ward of disease, it is usually not AIDS itself that kills the person. It is usually the other diseases that the body cannot defend itself against that does it in. This is a good analogy of the condition that threatens the church today. Due to a shallow understanding of God's Truth, Christians today lack the level of discernment necessary to distinguish between truth and error. Consequently, the church is becoming plagued with various sorts of doctrinal "disease".

Paul instructed Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”(2 Timothy 2:15, NASB®). The way that we can be approved of God is by handling the Word of God with great care, striving to interpret it with precision and accuracy. Until leadership in today’s church takes this message to heart, the church will continue to falter. What the church needs today is for more men to step up to the plate who are willing to properly and accurately handle the Word of God and boldly proclaim it.