Make Disciples, Not Converts? Really?

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Cliches are normal in any language. Sometimes they are able to capture a snippet of thought accurately, other times they muddy the waters of theological judgment. Of course, the impact of any cliche is purely subjective, but it seems that western Christianity is full of cliches that are just not biblically supported. Obviously from the title, you know which one I have in mind so I won’t waste time getting to the point.

Where in the bible do we even find a hint that a convert of Jesus Christ IS NOT a disciple? For the most part, I get it. I get that the idea here is that we focus on making true disciples rather than just a mere decision to follow Christ. However, the reality of the matter is, when a person repents of their sin and trusts in Jesus’ finished work to save them from their sin, if their regeneration is from the Holy Spirit and they exhibit a life that bears fruit and perseverance in Christian character and godliness, that person is not only a convert, but a disciple of Jesus Christ. The moment anyone is saved from their sin, they become a disciple. A follower of Jesus. A convert of Christ. The idea that we can gain a convert but not a disciple is not only unbiblical, but absurd.

One of the ways this cliche gains ground is from the Carnal Christian doctrine and Decisionism. Although they are distinct in some ways, both feed off each other. They propose that a person can become a Christian, yet still live carnally. Also, they teach that a person can have Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord. Furthermore, you can make a decision to follow Christ, but still be a babe or carnal for most, if not all, of your christian life. If such a thing is believed and taught in your church, run.

For the most part, a person may have good intentions when stating this cliche, or they are ignorant of its presupposition. That happens. We want to try and provide someone with the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. Also, not everyone that states this cliche may come from a Carnal Christian perspective (at least not knowingly). But the main thrust here is to challenge even the possibility that someone can become a true convert to Christ, but not be a disciple. They may be a young disciple, a new disciple, or even a false disciple if they fall away. But, in the mean time, they are disciple nevertheless until proven otherwise. The same goes for the word convert. They are semanitcally interchangeable.

In Acts 3:19 Peter preached repentance and conversion. In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas described to the Phoenicians and Syrians the conversion of the Gentiles. In Psalm 51, David mentioned teaching transgressor God’s ways and converting them (sounds like the Great Commission in a nutshell). In Acts 6:1 it mentions how disciples were multiplying. Acts 14 also mentions making many disciples, and they just started in the faith. And even verses that don’t use the words translated as “convert” or “disciple” in both old and new testaments still semantically explain what conversion and being a follower of Jesus/God is, and are an inclusive list which helps us to systematically understand that to turn from sin and turn to God is conversion and discipleship. Sure, it involves lifetime dedication, devotion, repeated repentance, and obedience to the one you profess to know and love. But it is still conversion and discipleship nevertheless. And to throw a wrench in this whole matter, even Judas was called a disciple when, in reality, he was not.

It would necessitate a bible study of multiple passages and words that would help illustrate my point further. Nevertheless, it is my hope that we grasp that this cliche doesn’t really demonstrate a biblical understanding of a follower of Christ. No matter how you slice it, a disciple is a convert and a convert is a disciple. They can be used interchangeably. And that is the beauty of language and words within language. There may be times when using the word “convert” describes an entry level understanding of just coming to faith in Christ, and other times when someone calls you a convert of Christ and you have been in the faith for years. The same goes for disciple. Some can call you a disciple of Christ and you just got saved yesterday, and you can be called a disciple after years of obedience to Him. It depends on the context and how the word is used. And Scripture illustrates this fact.

Therefore, if the Holy Spirit has indeed saved you, regenerated you, called you out of darkness into light, and you drop your nets, repent, and follow Christ, from that point forward you are a disciple and a convert to Christianity. However, remember that you can be a professing disciple/convert, but not truly be one. I pray the Lord opens our eyes to this truth.

-Until we go home

A Devastating Question for Lifestyle Evangelists

A Devastating Question for Lifestyle Evangelists

If you have followed DefCon or any other site that affirms gospel-centered theology, you have already run across mounds upon mounds of reasons why lifestyle evangelism is unbiblical. We’ve expounded, extrapolated, and exegeted this to death in order to reveal why trying to win souls by simply just living your life before the unsaved is plainly unbiblical. But the one thing we have failed to do is teach how to engage a person that believes we should simply let our good works shine before men, and then be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within you when they ask you.

I like to keep the target of an article directly in my gaze. Therefore I will not exhaustively offer my insights as to why I think this strategy of evangelism is good or bad depending on the context.  But here is a mock conversation that will reveal the most devastating question you can ask someone that believes in lifestyle evangelism, which will allow the drill of the gospel to penetrate the problem at its core and root out this man-centered method.

(Background: You are walking down the street and you see someone with a sign by a booth that says “FREE HUGS.” You notice it also has Jesus’ name on some of the other signs, so you walk over to investigate)

Lifestyle Evangelist (LE): Would you like a free hug today?

You: Sure. What’s it for?

LE: We just want to demonstrate the love of Christ and show that we love you?

You: Ah. I see. Do you preach the gospel when you get people who are interested?

LE: We are showing the gospel by sharing the love of Christ through hugs.

You: So what is the greatest demonstration of God’s love to mankind?

LE: Jesus Christ dying for our sins.

You: So how do your hugs measure up?

Did you catch the point? The last two questions really expose the root problem of merely “demonstrating” the love of Christ without opening your mouth about the gospel. And the previous to last question really sets up the penetrating question at hand.

If someone feels that they are being more effective (which is pragmatism by the way) by sharing the gospel through their lifestyle and neglect to share the good news of Christ, by asking them, “What is the greatest demonstration of God’s love?” you will bypass any defense and shoot right to the source of why Christians should even bother to spread the gospel in the first place. The sacrifice of Christ for sin! Even more so, when you ask them “How does their (insert good work here) measure up?” it pinches the nerve of this pragmatic error and hopefully causes the hearer to question their means of “spreading” the gospel. Or, in their minds, letting their good works shine. Because it causes the person to take notice that they are basically saying their good work, whatever that may be, is a proper or better demonstration than Christ’s sacrifice for sin.

If it is true that Christ died for our sin, and that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us, if this gruesome act is what God had to undergo in order to save men from sin, death, and hell, how in the world could any of our good works ever measure up!? Sure we do good works because we are saved, and yes, as a byproduct of our preaching our good works compliment our message, but there is nothing (and I mean nothing) that we can do (ever) that will be a better demonstration of God’s love other than what He has already done! Let’s read that one more time. This is extremely important. There is nothing we can do to demonstrate the love of God in such a way that would project the glory of the gospel than what God has already done. That should be one of the greatest assurances for fearlessly speaking the gospel. But oftentimes, it’s not. Forgive us Lord for our unbelief.

I’m not saying taking up your cross is not a powerful testimony. But it’s not the gospel. I’m not saying you can’t give to the poor. But it’s not the gospel. I’m not saying you can’t show kindness, goodness, meekness, humility, love, self control, gentleness, and the like. But it’s not the gospel. I am not saying that your works amount to absolutely nothing when trying to be a witness in the world. But it’s not the gospel! All these things are types and shadows that should point to the gospel message. And even if they do demonstrate the power and love of Christ in some measure, none of our good works should be held to such a high regard that we think it measures up to the love of Christ efficaciously demonstrated to us on the cross. Tell the old, old story of He who paid an eternal price for our sin and gave Himself for us to make us free from sin’s power!

Remember that the above conversation is only an example. Each conversation is unique and can flow in different directions. However, don’t lose sight of the main point. It might take a little persuasion to reveal what you are trying to say, but as long as you keep the last question in sight (really the last two questions), you should be able to drive home the single, most important point of how the gospel should be shared – that we should tell someone what is the gospel, not just show them! To do otherwise is to essentially say that what we are doing is a better demonstration than what God has done.

-Until we go home

The Origins of the KJV

I’ve been told by some KJV-only advocates that one reason they believe the KJV to be THE KING-JAMES-ONLY-115396838242English Bible is that they claim it has been purified 7 times and the Bible prophesied it would be so! Here’s one web site that explains their position. And their summary is:

The seven English versions that make the English Bibles up to and including the Authorized Version fit the description in Psalm 12:6 of the words of the Lord being “purified seven times” are Tyndale’s, Matthew’s, Coverdale’s, the Great Bible (printed by Whitechurch), the Geneva Bible, the Bishops’ Bible, and the King James Bible.

The Wycliffe, Taverner, and Douay-Rheims Bibles, whatever merits any of them may have, are not part of the purified line God “authorized,” of which the King James Authorized Version is God’s last one — purified seven times.

They allude to but do not explain how they made these determinations, but conclude that the 1611 KJV is YHWH’s purified Word. I do find it curious that only English Bibles are included in their lineage of purified Bibles. What does the non-English speaking world do? As for the lineage of the KJV, there is no basis for argument. Here’s how HCSB: Navigating the Horizons in Bible Translations records it:

When in 1604 King James authorized a committee of scholars to publish a new Bible, he directed them to start with the Bishop’s Bible and retain what was already accurate and elegant and excellent, while consulting the original language sources to see if any modifications were necessary. In the introduction, Miles Smith states,

Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one . . . , but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.

So the KJV, strictly speaking, is not a translation but a revision. In fact, it is a revision of a revision (Bishop’s Bible) of a revision (Great Bible) of a revision (Matthew’s Bible) of a revision (Coverdale’s Bible) of Tyndale’s translation. “A great deal of praise, therefore, that is given to it belongs to its predecessors. For the idiom and vocabulary, Tyndale deserves the greatest credit; for the melody and harmony, Coverdale; for scholarship and accuracy, the Geneva version.”

Yet the authorized version continued to undergo change. From the same book:

By the time the 1762 Cambridge and 1769 Oxford editions were printed, English spelling was standardized. There were nearly 24,000 changes from the 1611 editions.

Advocates of the KJV argue that the only changes were punctuation, spelling, and correction of printers’ errors. Even that would qualify as an “update.” However, also included in the 24,000 changes were around 1,500 significant changes.

Something I was unaware of is that many English Bibles relied on Latin rather than source language sources for most of the Old Testament:

in the chain of revisions from Tyndale’s Bible to the KJV, the last 34 books of the Old Testament were never translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic! Tyndale only translated the Pentateuch before he was martyred, and Coverdale translated the rest of the Old Testament from the Latin. Therefore, technically, even the RV, ASV, RSV, and ESV contain 34 books of the Old Testament that were originally translated from the Latin and then “carefully compared” to the Hebrew and Aramaic. (ibid)

With the recent availability of ancient manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls we have access to more and older manuscripts for nearly all of the Old and much of the New Testament. Part of the main goal of accuracy in translation deals with the target language; how can the idea given by God in Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew be best translated into today’s English? Advances in translation techniques and software in the late 20th century had given translators the best tools yet to ensure English Bibles deliver the meaning of the inspired texts given to His prophets and apostles.

Those who think English forms of speech from 500 years ago and the faulty sources used by the KJV, it is difficult for me to comprehend why some Christians think the KJV is the best and/or only English Bible we should use. It is a good English Bible, but it is not inspired. Once more from Hcsb: navigating the horizons in bible translations:

The first words of Pr 26:23 were always taken as “silver dross,” and it was hard to understand the sense of the verse. Then starting in the late 1920’s thousands of clay tablets were unearthed at Ras Shamra. The language turned out to be Ugaritic, and the tablets greatly increased our knowledge of Near Eastern poetry, Canaanite mythology, and Semitic vocabulary. The Ugaritic word spsg was discovered, which means “glaze.” By dividing the Hebrew differently, the first line can be translated, “Like glaze on an earthen vessel,” which is an apt comparison to “flattering lips with an evil heart.”

As archaeology and linguistics improve our understanding of the language and culture of the ancient Near East, at some point it becomes incumbent upon the English-speaking church to produce a new translation of God’s Word.

May God grant us wisdom to truly seek the meaning of His message to His people, and avoid treating any translation as a religious relic to be revered.

As a postscript, because some people commenting are mistaken in believing the KJV to be supreme, here is a short article examining errors in the KJV. It’s a good translation, but it is the product of man.

Every Christian Believes Election

Every Christian Believes Election

Not everyone consciously affirms the doctrine of election. The reasons for this vary and are definitely outside the scope of this particular article. But whether you don’t like it, don’t agree with it, or are simply neutral about it for the time being, predestination and election are concepts in Scripture that every believer will be confronted with. Even if you choose not to deal with it, the unbelieving world still has heard about it, learned it when they were in church as a kid, and/or logically deduces it through the knowledge that God knew before hand that man would fall, and yet still created us. So even if we bury our head in the sand and ignore this, the world will not let us. And, if we have faithful pastors and brethren in Christ who challenge, edify, and provoke us in godliness through the word of God, they won’t let us ignore this topic either.

Although you may hold to a more unique position concerning predestination and election, you will probably sympathize with either of these two views:

  1. God chose to save some out of His own free will, without regard to their future faith in Him.
  2. God chose to save some out of His own free will, but with regard to their future faith in Him.

I hate to be overly simplistic, but this is really the pivot point of almost every predestination conversation. Regardless of whether or not you believe man’s will is totally free or a slave, whether man can fall away from grace, or that man has the ability to resist God’s grace, this is where the starting line is painted.

Does God choose men from before the foundation of the world in accordance with man’s future faith? Or does God do this freely from His own volition without regard to who He knew would choose Him? This may sound a little extreme, but I propose that, although this conversation is important, and that I lean toward God choosing of His own volition without regard to our future faith, in the grand scheme of things, both are essentially saying the same thing, just with different emphasis. Here’s what I mean.

Whenever I get into a conversation with someone that strongly insists that God foreknew who would choose Him, and therefore chose who would be saved from that, my normal reaction is not to exegete Romans 8:29 properly (although certain contexts may allow for it). Nor do I fret when someone dogs election and predestination when they make mention of how God is a tyrannical, diabolical, evil, etc., for electing some to salvation while choosing others also to hell (which is often a straw man, misunderstanding, misinterpretation, ad hominem, and most of the time, a deliberate negligence to comprehend the doctrine of reprobation. Meanwhile wrongly attributing predestination to double predestination). I just simply ask if they believe God is omniscient. That’s all. Here’s why.

If God is omniscient, then that means He knew even before all of us were born who would be saved. God still possessed this knowledge of whom He would choose, and He had it without our permission. How we see God working this out from Scripture can be debated, but it can still be a bit of a red herring sometimes to discuss in my opinion. Because since God is omniscient, He knew from the foundation of the world who was destined to salvation. Understanding this, if God knew who would be saved, even before we were born, how does the fact that He chose based off our faith change the reality that God was in the beginning sovereignly deciding who would be saved? Did you catch that? Let’s say it another way. Even if God did indeed choose to save some based off of who would trust Him, and He foreknew who would believe Him, and from that decided, how does that negate the fact that He decided before we were even born? Even before we were even able to exercise that faith? We still didn’t have a say in the matter!

My intent here is not to rouse strife for shock and awe. I developed this in order to establish some peace in a conversation as well as some logical agreement. If you are a Christian, and you believe that God is omniscient, by default you implicitly ascribe to predestination and election, although unadmittedly. You may not believe that God elected and predestined some despite their faith, but you must logically deduce and concede to the fact that God’s omniscience alone makes election at least plausible. And by simply trying to soften the blow of election in saying that God chose some to be saved in accordance with our faith, one must admit that it doesn’t sweep away the problem at hand –  that man’s problem with God is His sovereignty and free will to do as He pleases way before we were even born! A problem that even most professing Christians today have contention with. But if we are honest, we have no choice but to affirm this if we believe God is omniscient.

I hear the marching drum pounding with an army of rebuttals. One rebuttal is that even though God is omniscient, that doesn’t mean men are not accountable for their sin. I agree. Often Calvinists are attacked because others believe that in the doctrine of election that man can’t be held responsible for their sin. This of course is not true, but once again outside the scope of this article. Another rebuttal is that God’s omniscience is not the same as God choosing some to be saved. I agree again. But His omniscience alone approves of His will to choose because it was already in His nature to know and do as He pleases. So while the act of knowing and choosing may be distinct, they are in harmony with each other. Because how does God know who will be saved, and yet, decide against it? And if He did change His mind, and like man wavered between choosing (which I don’t believe), it still leaves us with the same conclusion.

Let’s say you’re still not convinced. For argument sake, let’s say you’re not persuaded that God’s omniscience does not equal affirming predestination and election, and that election (where God chooses of His own will and pleasure without regard to who would choose Him) still presents an evil, unbenevolent God. Philosophically speaking, you cannot have mercy without judgment, can you? Can you have evil without good? Can you understand salvation without sin? At base level, if you didn’t believe in double predestination (the idea that God chooses some to heaven as well as hell), or even predestination (God elects some to be saved meanwhile passing over others), you still would have to conclude that God knew from the beginning who would go to hell and to heaven. Unless you believe in universalism where God saves everyone eventually, or affirm a pelagian/deistic god who purposefully limits His own knowledge of the future so as to not infringe upon the will of man (both are heresy by the way), you must believe, as a Christian, that some will inevitable go to heaven or hell in the end. And God knew it! This isn’t fun to talk about out loud. I know. But it is still reality. Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, you must, I repeat, you must submit to the idea that God knew from the beginning who would eventually go to heaven or hell. It’s not about whether or not God is evil or good, or making Him more or less benevolent. It’s about accurately representing God and His word without conceding to man’s ideas of how they feel God should act.

I don’t say any of this without grace. It took me a long time to come to these realizations, and I trust that many readers will find what I have said offensive. Meanwhile others are perhaps still trying to comprehend such a deep theological issue. Trust me, I sympathize. I only wish to make plain that in arguing for whether or not God chose in accordance with man’s will or His own, that we don’t cower from it simply because some have issues with it. And whatever the motive someone has to propagate that God chose because He knew who would have faith in Him, it doesn’t really change anything in light of God’s omniscience. Because if God is omniscient, He still knew, before we were born, who would be saved. And He still acted, prior to our birth, based upon His own will and good pleasure and consulted no one in process!

In essence, we will always end up back to square one regarding the most classic question ever asked by man: “If God knew man would fall, why did He create us in the first place.” The answer may vary depending on your theology, but it doesn’t do away from the inescapable truth that God, if He is truly that, has already determined who would be saved, based off of the good pleasure of His will, and the benevolence of His person. And that it will be through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – Son of God, 2nd person of the Trinity, fully God fully man – that this salvation is attainable. Because, if you think about it, God didn’t have to save anyone. None! We all deserve hell. Period. If God saved one person, it would be the most gracious and loving act that God could have bestowed upon a human being, and God would be perfectly justified in sending the rest to eternal torment. But since God is infinitely more gracious than we could imagine, He has chosen to save millions to date (by my puny estimation). If man wants to secure his free will and be a contributor to their salvation, they can have it. So as long as God gets to keep His free will and do as He pleases without obligation to any man’s volition.

-Until we go home

Bandwagon Fellowship

With the rise of social media, it is very easy to “friend” someone you are complete strangers with, or with someone who may be a friend of a friend. Within Western Christendom there is the opportunity to connect with your favorite pastor/teacher, or at least one of their close associates. And if you know one of their close associates, then you’ll probably get bombarded with friend requests. And if people are flooding to be your friend because you know X person, then that makes you pretty popular too and somewhat influential. But herein lies the problem.

Some people on social media are doing what I call “bandwagon fellowship.” They only care about who you are or what your ministry does only because of who is associated. It has been something that has turned my stomach for a few years now. And one of the dangers is that unless you are in the circle of the elite, it can easily become an “us vs. them” playing field. Also, what eventually happens is that people begin to gossip and slander on social media for all to read simply because their social media associate did not do, or did do, something they didn’t agree with. Because no real fellowship or Christ centered foundation was present, it is just as easy to divorce yourself from someone as it was to be their “friend.” It is sort of like dating, but for socialmediaphiles.

That’s not the worst part. The worst part is that this inevitably breeds the very worst, demonic mindset that it is not about what you know, but who you know. And sadly, this kind of thinking has been around for centuries. How that looks may change, but the reality of it does not. And this grieves me. Very much so. Instead of believers being known for their knowledge concerning the Gospel/Scripture, their character in accordance with God’s word, and whether or not they are truly a believer in Christ, we seem to only turn our heads and give notice to those that are most influential or are friends with those that are (or at least friends with friends who are friends with those that are). One day, you’re a nobody, and another day, get a famous person/preacher to mention your name or take a picture with you, then you get a thousand likes on Facebook. Or even better, friend requests and a following! Perhaps even start your own discernment blog, apologetics ministry, radio show, etc.

I’m not saying that we can’t appreciate the approval of godly men. I would be a hypocrite to say that I haven’t sought counsel or advice from prominent men I respect. Also, I’m not saying that it’s evil take selfies with respected members in the Christian community. But beware of vain-glory and self-seeking. Beware of bandwagon fellowship and false pretenses. I have had a great time with popular people in the faith, but often chose not to post selfies or friend them on Facebook just because I had few moments with them (sometimes I didn’t know they were popular). I seek genuine Christian fellowship. One that does not vainly recognize, or even ignore, someone because they are/are not popular. One that glorifies Christ and furthers the gospel in a way that would solidify the fellowship in time of trial rather than dissolve at the first drop of conflict.

If you build upon another foundation other than Christ, be sure that whatever you gain will crumble. If you base your friendships on the superficial surface of social media, don’t be surprised to have your phantom fellowship wiped away by something else just as superficial. If your hope of salvation is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, then you should have your hope of true Christian fellowship built upon the same pretense. Anything else leads to contentions, strife, bitterness, envy, vain-glory, and self-seeking. May God deliever us from bandwagon fellowship.

See James 3:13-18, 4:1-5; Philippians 2:3-4; 1 John 1:6-7

– Until we go home

 

 

 

Banning Non-essential Travel a Ruse

Post taken from the Christo Linguist facebook page.

I think it’s humorous that the headlines say that governors and mayors are banning “non-essential” travel to Mississippi. Does anyone know why? Because they can’t legally stop anyone from traveling there! That’s not within their jurisdiction. Saying that you’re banning non-essential travel is the same as demanding that someone not to do something even though, in reality, I can’t stop you. Don’t be fooled by media’s linguistic tricks. These “bannings” do not accomplish anything but to trick the linguistically and legally ignorant person into thinking that what these people are doing is significant.

If someone can do a better job at defining what they mean by “non-essential” then a conversation can be had. Here is a quick, but not authoritative, media clip that will help shed some light on the subject.

.http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php…

Pass this on!

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