What Will it Take?

question-mark3-misallphotoWell, as we set upon the end of one year and the beginning of another, I cannot help but look back and reflect on this last year.  I think we can safely say that we have seen definitive evidence of the decline of the church’s influence in the American culture.  With the re-election of a president that is one of the most pro-abortion, anti-life records in political history, a president who has openly promoted the profanation of marriage by endorsing homosexual unions, it has become clear that our country has embraced a non-Christian ideology.  This is not major news, many Christians have been sounding the alarm for years, but it has gone unheeded.  But now as we face a new year before us, my question for the church in America is “What is it going to take?”

Consider this, we have seen the growth of megachurches and seeker friendly country clubs for years now.  Every week, hundreds, even thousands of people walk the aisles, prayer “the prayer,” sign a card and are proclaimed “Christians” in their congregations.  Those people are never taught about sin, righteousness, judgment, condemnation, the wrath of God, repentance or the sacrifice of Christ.  Instead, they are given gospel-light messages that consist of Christ loving them so much that He’d rather die than live without them.  They are told that God only has their best life in mind and all they have to do is follow a ten step program to get a better job, better marriage, or better kids.  There is no call to holiness, no attempt to cause the people to question their worldly mindsets, no testing to see if they are actually in the faith.  What is left are a room full of goats who have been mesmerized into believing they are in fact sheep.

In these same churches, the sheep that do exist are either marginalized or simply shoved out the door to make way for the vision of the “goat-herder in chief.”  This has allowed the growth of these country clubs masquerading as churches to go virtually unchecked.  With little to no opposition inside the churches, they grow like a virus in a compromised immune system, with almost the same deadly effect.  The more churches that adopt worldly advertisement growth techniques, the less the true Word of God is preached.  The less it is preached, the worse the compromise within the body and the more sin is tolerated.  The end results are people who claim to be Christian, or even “spiritual,” but who have no personal sense of the wickedness of their sin.  Thus they allow and even promote blatantly sinful behavior. Can the re-election of a man who is anti-christian, anti-life and pro-homosexuality be a surprise then?

That is not to say that there are no real Christians in America.  They are still many sound biblical churches faithfully preaching the Word of God.  But I fear that even truly born again Christians have become more affected by worldly philosophy than they realize.  Go into most churches today and ask Christians what is more loving, to confront sin and unrighteousness boldly, pointing people to the need of Christ’s propitiatory death on the cross, or to win friends through kind works, easing them into the gospel.  Inevitably, many will choose the latter.  Most Christians today have succumbed to the world’s belief that it is simply unkind to point out sin and to warn of the judgment to come.  They believe the message is “too harsh” and will drive people away.  The result is that a small percentage of truly born again Christians are going out of their way to share the gospel with the lost in our country.  And an equally small number are trying to call out the churches who aren’t even on the biblical program.

So how did this year end with the country embracing a false Christian president who embraces universalism, denounces true Christianity, promotes murder of the unborn and homosexuality?  Simply because the church has allowed our influence to wane.  We have allowed the propagation of false churches by not calling out with a unified voice against them.  We have not resoundingly called them false teachers and have been willing to work in conjunction with them as “co-belligerents.”  As they grew, we simply let them go on unchecked.  Additionally, we have not combated the false gospel of “Jesus loves you just the way you are,” with the bold proclamation that all mankind is deserving of the wrath of God and the only escape is Jesus Christ.

The American culture has watched a watered down version of the gospel propagate throughout the country and sees it for the phony message that it is.  They have no desire to be a part of it and walk further and further away from it.  Yet, the true gospel has not been preached with boldness and regularity.  The true church has involved itself in any number of other activities – politics, protests, Tea Parties, etc. – yet does not offer the true message of salvation to a world immersing itself in sin.  The country sees the true church as harsh and judgmental for it does not call to the world in compassion to the Savior.

So today, on December 31, 2012, I ask you as a member of the true church of Jesus Christ, “What will it take?”  Will you, in this next year, be willing to step up to the plate?  Will you stand against the false gospel of the country club churches?  Will you call them out for the false teachers they are?  Will you work to make sure your church steers away from such nonsense?  Will you get you and your congregation worked up to preach the true gospel to a lost and dying people?  If not, what will it take?

Unity in Truth

A dear friend and brother in Christ, who used to host a Christian talk show on radio many years ago handed this me during the growing conflict I was experiencing in the seeker sensitive church we were in at the time. While it is likely this counsel could be improved upon (as is the case with all works of man), I think it good and godly counsel.

Having Harmony in Your Church Through Humility in Handling Doctrine

Discord in most churches is caused primarily by the straining out of gnats and swallowing of camels, If a church does not have agreement on the essentials, it is not a church of Jesus Christ, On the other hand, members of the church who think that every little pet opinion or “favorite” emphasis is worthy of debate (and the risk of unity), dishonor Christ also, Too few Christians can distinguish and discern which doctrines have what degree of gravity, Thus, we end up with either large congregations that ignore doctrine for the sake of gladhanded surface hospitality or small fortresses of “defenders of the only way” where you feel like you’re on trial whenever you speak!

Here are four broad areas of doctrine. If you will attempt to distinguish which area a given issue belongs to, you will have an easier time dealing with that issue. Thus, less chance of getting personally uptight and less chance of offending another. This material will help when used correctly, Two cautions before we start:

1.Truth offends. The assumption in this material is that we are dealing to some degree with lovers of truth. Unfortunately, our churches are not full of such people, You will encounter that problem.

2.Some doctrines overlap. This material and chart are convenient general categories, not rigid compartmentalizations, There is especially some blurry areas between II and 111 and between 111 and IV, Not only that, but when you are in a lively discussion of some issue, other issues come up which could put you in several categories at once.

You might be talking about some doctrine where you are aware that you are building a case from a very thorough connection of Scripture. The person you are trying to convince may refuse to yield to a passage of God’s Word.

All of a sudden, you are into the IMPERATIVE of the authority of Scripture as well as an open discussion of your original issue. These situations will require more wisdom yet.

Nonetheless, despite these two cautions, working with this material can revolutionize your spiritual walk with regard to harmony, discernment, unity and pride,

EXPLANATION OF CHART COLUMN 1

The first column is the type of truth you are dealing with, A BIBLICAL IMPERATIVE, BIBLICAL IMPLICATION or BIBICAL INTERPRETATION, Notice the first three deal with items directly from Scripture, but Item IV concerns things created in you by the Holy Spirit through your own context, your own understanding of principles and your own application to various areas of life,

COLUMN 2,

The second column explains how to recognize these areas, This column gives the definition of the first column, BIBLICAL IMPERATIVES are the foundational truths such as the Deity of Christ, the Authority of Scripture, the Trinity and the Substitutionary Atonement. People who deny these truths are not Christians.

A BIBLICAL IMPLICATION also has no room for denial because it is an area where the Bible cannot teach but one thing. However, misunderstanding is possible because the truth is not stated in so many words. Rather it is woven through the fabric of Scripture. Even if you have a few passages where you are thoroughly convinced that your conclusion is obvious, you are humble enough to admit not only that a different view could be held by true Christians, but lo and behold, great people of God through the centuries have not been as certain as you are.

Thus, you become willing to patiently learn how to present your case and give folks lots of room to discover the conviction you have. For example, should Christians send their kids to government schools? For example, how fallen is man’s will? For example, Covenant vs Believers Baptism,

I believe firmly and staunchly in what I’ve concluded the Bible teaches on each of these. But, 1 view you as a Christian, and will not doubt the genuineness of your salvation for having not yet come to the same conclusions.

A BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION hinges on one passage or the interpretation techniques used for several passages, For example, Daniel 9,..where does the countdown of the 490 years start? Your answer from Isaiah and Ezra will influence your entire view of eschatology. So why should we argue about the interpretation of Revelation 5 if we already know our impasse is in the middle of Isaiah? Or perhaps the interpretation of the words °a cause” in the sin of being angry at a brother without cause! It comes down to an understanding of a particular, If we view it differently—and we both honestly can view it differently—that’s it! Fortunately, God has seen to it that no essential matter of faith or life is in this category,

Finally the DAILY WALK INDIVIDUALIZATION, Friends, if we haven’t got chapter and verse—even if we believe we have the mind of Christ on the matter—we must humbly avoid playing God over another conscience, Does Walt Disney promote the occult in Fantasia? Are certain beats of music admissable? Should you pray before, or after, your morning shower? Come on, folks! Romans 14 insists that we acknowledge liberty and conscience in these areas,

COLUMN 3 & 4

Columns 3 and 4 prescribe the limits of what we do with these doctrines. This will be as helpful as the recognition,

A BIBLICAL IMPERATIVE is not compromised or glossed over with anyone. Earnestly contend!! Don’t get off on blood transfusions, time travel and other things with cults and secularists, The only questions between you and them are: Who is God? Who is man? Who is Christ? What is truth? Stay on the subject with them,

BIBLICAL IMPLICATIONS are to be worked out carefully among believers, You have an obligation to the brethren on both sides. Be able to articulate what you believe and love them in what you consider their “future maturity”,

BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION makes for “iron sharpens iron” discussions with friends, but the church today should not be divided on predictive prophecy,

On DAILY WALK INDIVIDUALIZATION you may set an example, if you wish, but you are confusing your own authority with the Bibles if you command something that it doesn’t.

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It’s About The Cross

While many will discuss whether Christians should even participate in Christmas celebrations (which is discussion worth having) one thing thing we all agree upon is that almost 2,000 years ago Christ took on human flesh and was born into this world. The Incarnation is truly one of the greatest miracles of God. Divinity took on humanity, He became like us. But He did not do this for a parlor trick, or because He was bored. Christ became man so that He could die for us. God took on flesh so that He could be executed in our place, to pay the price for our sins. Then He rose three days later, proving His power of death and giving a promise of eternal life to those who would repent and trust in Him.

As we consider the season of Christmas, and whether we should or should not celebrate it, let us dwell on the miracle of the Incarnation. Let us be in awe of His death and resurrection. And let us share with everyone, “It’s about the cross.”

Divided We Stand?

To preface my thoughts, I want to ask that each of you who read this, read all the way to the end before making a judgment call.

I would like to chime in on the valid points raised by Chris in the previous post. One of our readers, Jon Gleason commented on the issue of “working togetherism” which is one as I have seen way too often the problem that comes with everybody seeking unity at the expense of doctrinal purity just so they can “work” together. The end result ends up being things like ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) or the Manhattan Declaration just to name a few. The results are not what is intended and where does the line in the sand actually get drawn. I have seen this in Europe, America, and in West Africa.

My dear friend and brother, Chris, mentioned as an example that he and another brother disagree on soteriology but still work together for the sake of the gospel. Of course, without knowing the specific points in question, this has always been a huge issue with me, because we are dealing with matters of eternity more times than not when we are talking about the doctrine of salvation. You cannot teach salvation by faith alone when or if the “brother” is teaching the addition of works, baptism, or whatever. As a small side note, I do not believe this is the case with Chris.

In my understanding of Scripture, this cannot be a joining of hands if such views take place. I understand there can be variations though on smaller points within the overall foundational truths. For instance, I would struggle to work with somebody from the Church of Christ, or Methodist, or Catholic because they all fall under the same boat – they believe and teach contrary to the Scriptures in the doctrine of Sola Fide.

The question is “How can two walk together except they are in agreement?” How can I stand in the pulpit or on a street corner giving forth a gospel appeal if the person preceding or following me is teaching a different means or way of salvation? Or, even how can this take place if the other “brother” insists that the salvation of the human soul is somehow in the remit of those who are completely and totally dead in trespasses and sins?

Is our desire to go on mission or preach each Sunday from the pulpit or share a tract or CD on a street corner so pressing that we will negotiate fundamentals of the faith or the truths for which our forefathers and the Reformers (as an example) laid down their lives because there was no compromise to be found.

However, I would ask if we remember Martin Luther? “Here I stand, I can do no other.” His reference was to the Bible alone – Sola Scriptura! Too often, we, as evangelicals and fundamentalists have a pathetic tendency to “read INTO” the Scriptures what we want it to say and these areas then become “fundamentals of the faith.” For example, type of hymns used or not used, Bible versions, rapture or no rapture, the timing of rapture if you hold to this point, Sunday school or none, etc., etc., etc.

We should well remember that where Scripture is silent, that we should remain silent. Where the Scriptures are not decisively clear, in those areas there can be room for flexibility and even working with others. Sadly in my past, I have found myself sitting in various camps on some of the above issues and refusing to get along with those who held varying (mostly only slightly different) views than my own.

What a travesty and I can certainly understand the frustration that comes when we see the bickering and arguing that takes place within our circles. In the meantime, the cults continue to take away people to their perdition because we are MORE concerned about being right than with being Biblical! Then, to our chagrin instead of finding a Biblical position, if we are not careful we will swing to the realm of ecumenicalism where all hold hands together and sing “Kumbaya” or “Michael, row the boat to shore.”

Can we proceed without “demonizing” or “anathematizing” others? Yes, we can and should if the issues are only on a secondary or tertiary level. However, I am convinced that places like DefCon and all those involved should insist that on ALL primary levels of doctrine, that there will be no compromise for any reason or for any person. There is a place for discernment and one cannot read the New Testament epistles and not realize the depths of effort that went into the writings of these men to pursue truth in all realms of early Christianity. Yes, we are even highly admonished to rebuke those who are seen departing from the faith AND from what was taught to them.

I for one will not give my support of some of those who claim to be ministers of the gospel when what they are preaching is leading people down a primrose path to destruction or is defaming the name and cause of Jesus Christ. This would most certainly include people like Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, and Ravi Zacharias who are openly endorsing anything and everything from New Age thought to Roman Catholic mystics.

As a loving word of caution, I do not believe all these men necessarily started out with the intention of climbing in bed with everybody all for “the sake of the gospel.” It was gradual but the end result was still the same. My point here is not one of disagreement with Chris, but a clarification of my own thoughts on what is and should be important to those who claim the name of Christ.

To summarize, when we find ourselves disagreeing on tertiary or secondary issues, there is nothing wrong with debate or enjoying a coffee together. Some secondary issues may be another person’s tertiary issues though and we must have the discernment and wisdom to see that others may see things differently. We may not be able to work with somebody in realms such as swapping pulpits with another with whom we disagree on secondary or tertiary issues, but it does not mean (as Chris has rightly stated) that we must tear them to strips or “condemn” them to hell for those differences.

However, when the doctrinal truth is at stake and we are dealing with the core doctrines of the Scripture, there cannot and must not be any compromise. If at the end of the day, we have compromised just so we can share the gospel, we will find that the gospel we proclaim has also been compromised and we will be seeking to give free tickets to the celestial kingdom all because we failed to stand firm in the faith once delivered to the saints.

Divided We Fall

7100094_f496It was a post from my friend and fellow evangelist, Bobby McCreery, that got me thinking. He wrote, “I’m no expert, but it seems one reason revival tarries is the fact that there is so much division in the body of Christ. So many brothers biting and devouring each other over secondary and tertiary issues like baptism and eschatology grieves my heart. I am not saying these issues are not important. I am saying my prayer is that our love for Christ would cause us to love one another in spite of our differences.” I could not help but echo the sentiment of my friend. So often in the Christian community we are ready to go to the mats over issues that, while important, are secondary to the essential doctrines of the faith.

These essential issues – such as: the nature of God; the deity of Christ; the Trinity; salvation by grace alone, through faith, in Christ alone; the sufficiency of scripture (and that scripture is inerrant); justification; and imputation – are what all Christians should be willing to go to the grave over. They are so essential to the very nature of our faith, that to remove any one of them would do irreparable damage to Christianity. These are doctrines that we must be absolutely unified on. Yet today, the doctrines which, while important, do not cause the cause of Christ to crumble have been elevated to first order status. Christians are going to war over doctrines which have been debate by good and godly men for centuries. What is worse, where some of the learned men of the past have been willing to call each other brethren despite their differences, today, Christians are declaring each other false believers, false teachers, or even worse, heretics. And all the while, we ignore the words of our Savior, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35 ESV).

This is not to say that every discussion or disagreement over doctrinal issues is a failure to show love to each other. In fact, it is very important that we as Christians be willing to wrangle over tough doctrinal teachings so that we may come to a full and mature understanding of our faith. But in so doing, we are not to despise one another for differing beliefs. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul teaches more mature believers in the faith that while we are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols (because it is only meat and the idol has no power at all) those who are weak, or lacking maturity in doctrine, may see this as sin. Paul calls on the more mature Christians to be willing to abstain from eating meat around them in order to keep from adversely affecting the weaker brethren’s conscience.

Inherent in this teaching we see a couple of principles. First, that of the opposing views, one is right, one is wrong. Those who are right have a greater and more mature understanding of the teachings. Second, those Christians who are more mature are taught to not lord over the weaker brethren due to their advanced wisdom. They are in fact, called to work with the less mature brethren at their own level. Incumbent in this is that the mature brethren will instruct, in love, the weaker. In other words, we are told it is less important to prove our being right in this matter than it is to love our weaker brethren and to build them up in the faith.

Now, I would agree that this matter of meat sacrificed to idols is not a debate of eschatology, soteriology or baptism. However, the principle, I believe remains. When we discuss our viewpoints of doctrine, it must always be with the mindset that we are talking with fellow believers. One of us is going to be wrong in our beliefs, but unless this is a core matter, one can still be a Christian if they are indeed wrong. Thus, the debate is not about finding a tare among the wheat, but the education and edification of our brethren. If we approach the matter purely from the standpoint that anyone who does not understand the wisdom in this view of doctrine must change their mind or else, then we have wrongly declared hosts of brethren anathema, even though they have agreement on the core essentials.

Often times, disagreements on secondary issues can turn into nasty, knock down, drag out arguments. The unfortunate result is that some Christians end up becoming unwilling to affirm other Christians as brethren when they refuse to see their “wisdom” in an area of doctrine. However, in Romans 14, Paul admonishes Christians who debate over the eating of certain foods or days on which one should worship. Remember, in this passage, Paul is talking specifically about Christians. So when he asks, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” (v. 4a) he is pointing out that those who are in disagreement on this secondary matter should not be calling into question the salvation of the other. He goes on to say, “It is before his own master that he stands or falls,” (v. 4b). Paul is saying that only God can make that final determination when it comes to a brother’s wrong understanding of a secondary doctrine. That means it is not up to us to declare them anathema!

In this same passage, when writing of the debate over days of worship, Paul writes “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind,” (v. 5b). Did we just read that correctly? Did Paul just say that two Christians could have two separate viewpoints on a matter of secondary doctrine? Yes! Paul just taught us that we can disagree and still be brethren. Why? Because “the one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God,” (v. 6). In other words, even though we may disagree with brothers and sisters in areas of secondary doctrinal matters, we all worship the Lord and submit to our beliefs in honor of Him. It is in fact possible to rightly worship God with differing views on non-essential matters.

Paul repeatedly teaches for unity among Christians who have differing view points. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul calls out those who evidently decided that some apostles and teachers were better than others. Believers had aligned themselves under Paul, Peter and Apollos. Some were rejecting the other three and saying, “I follow Christ,” (v. 12). Paul admonishes this manner of division saying “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (v. 13). Like matters of secondary doctrinal matters, we can even get into arguments over who preaches better, or which preacher has the right doctrine (because after all, that’s the doctrine I believe!). Paul calls the brethren into unity under Christ, even though there were differences between the teachers they sat under.

Again, I know some are going to say, “but (insert doctrine here) is not what Paul was writing about! So this does not apply to my situation.” The issue at hand though is the principle that Paul was teaching, which goes back to what Christ taught His disciples. There are going to be differing viewpoints among Christians on a variety of secondary doctrinal matters. We can discuss and debate the matters, but only if we are doing so with unity amongst the brethren and love for one another in mind. If we are seeking to prove ourselves right at the expense of others, if we are willing to declare brethren anathema because they do not believe as we do, if we just become downright mean and nasty to one another, then we have failed to obey the command of our Lord and Savior. And to make matters worse, as my friend said in the quote at the beginning of the article, revival tarries. Why? Because, while we are hacking and slashing at each other, the gospel is not preached to the world. And what little of the gospel message that does make it into the hands of unbelievers is now tainted by our lack of love for those within the Christian camp. So, the world marches on, blindly unaware of its headlong plunge into Hell, while we sit arrogantly smug that we proved ourselves right to someone we should have been linking arms with in the proclamation of the gospel.

Christians this must not be so. We must be above the petty bickering, back biting, and name calling. Let us discuss and debate, let us educate and edify. Let us be a blessing to one another, even when we disagree. But more importantly, let us be unified in the core essentials of the faith and let us proclaim, as one voice, the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.

“Do Something” – Charles Spurgeon

spurgeon_chairAs we watch our world plunge further and further into sinful and evil debauchery, there is only one thing that can be done to save it, preach the gospel! Yet there are far too many “churches” that simply refuse to obey the command of Christ to do this. So, I commend Christians to read the quote by Spurgeon and plead with you, “Do something!”

“Brethren, do something; do something, do something! While societies and unions make constitutions, let us win souls. I pray you, be men of action all of you. Get to work and quit yourselves like men. Old Suvarov’s idea of war is mine: `Forward and strike! No theory! Attack! Form a column! Charge bayonets! Plunge into the center of the enemy! Our one aim is to win souls; and this we are not to talk about, but do in the power of God!'” – Charles Spurgeon