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Where is the Discernment?

One of the things that troubles me about many Arminians is their utter lack of discernment.  This is true of course for all believers and not just Arminians but I want to speak to my camp here.  An upcoming event called “Together 2016” features many different people including Roman Catholics.  For the life of me,  I cannot understand how Protestants can join hands with Roman Catholics in any real sense until the Catholics renounce their Catholic beliefs.  The very gospel is at stake here.  This is not just about personal differences or traditions.  This is a gospel issue.

The Roman Catholic Church denies the gospel.  They deny justification by faith.  They deny the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They teach a form of works righteousness.  They deny even declared righteousness imputed to the believer by God.  They deny sola scriptura.  They deny sola fide.  They deny sola gratia.  Everything that our Protestant forefathers did for the sake of the gospel, the blood shed in defense of the Bible and in defense of the gospel cannot be lost.

When you read the list of speakers for the “Together 2016” one not included (because he will not there in person) is the Pope.  Yes the Roman Catholic pontiff (whom Arminius called the antichrist) will address evangelicals.  Alongside the Pope will be men such as Lecrae (whom I have lost respect for), Dr. Tony Evans (whom I lost respect for sometime ago), and Dr. George Wood (the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God).  Before you think that only non-Calvinists are there, Calvinists such as Trip Lee and Francis Chan (who studied at the Master’s Seminary) will speak alongside the likes of Hillsong (who has wandered far away into something), Christine Cane, Lou Engle, and Mark Batterson.

What is disappointing about this is the lack of discernment.  Can you imagine Arminius speaking where he knew the Catholic pontiff would be welcomed?  Can you imagine the likes of a John Buynan or Charles Spurgeon preaching at this event?  Would John Wesley join hands with known mystics to promote this “unity?”  Would Leonard Ravenhill promote such an event?

I think the answer is clear.

Arminius wrote about the Roman Pontiff:

Since, therefore, the Roman Pontiff either attributes these most honourable titles of Christ to himself, or willingly suffers them to be ascribed to him; and since he evinces no horror at the blasphemy contained in these titles, and gives no tokens of his displeasure at this ascription of them; it follows, that he puts himself in the place of Christ, and is supremely opposed to Him. There is no excuse in the explanation which is given, that “the head and foundation is ministerial, and that he attributes all these things to himself under Christ, as having been elevated by the grace or favour of God and Christ to that dignity.” For the protestation is directly contrary to the fact; and he is so much the more the bitter enemy of God and Christ, as he the more confidently boasts of being defended by the authority of God and Christ. Such conduct is, in fact, under the semblance of friendship to exercise the deepest enmity, and, under the disguised pretext of a minister of light and of righteousness, to promote the interests of the kingdom of darkness and of unrighteousness. On this very account, therefore, we assert that the disparaging epithets which we laid down in our first Thesis, most justly belong to him; and this we now proceed to show by descending to particulars.

Arminius called the Pope the “pimp of the harlot Church.”  He further wrote:

Although the Roman pontiff calls himself “the servant of the servants of God,” yet we further assert that he is by way of eminence, That Wicked And Perverse Servant, who, when he saw that his Lord delayed his coming, “began to smite his fellow-servants.” (Matt. 24:48.) For the Roman pontiff has usurped domination and tyranny, not only over his fellow- servants, the bishops of the church of God, but likewise over emperors and kings themselves, whose authority and dignity he had himself previously acknowledged. To acquire this domination for himself, and still further to augment and establish it, he has employed all kinds of satanic instruments — sophistical hypocrisy, lies, equivocations, perfidy, perjury, violence, poison, and armed forces — so that he may most justly be said to have succeeded that formidable beast which “was like unto a leopard, a bear and a lion,” and by which the Roman empire was prefigured — and to have “had power to give life unto the image of the beast, and to cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast, should be killed.”

I call on Arminians to follow in the footsteps of Arminius and denounce the Roman Catholic Church.  I am not calling for hatred of Catholics themselves for they need the gospel.  I am calling for a hatred of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.  I am calling for biblical discernment (Jude 3-4).

We need to heed 1 Timothy 4:1-2.  We need to heed 2 Timothy 4:3-4.  We need to stand agains the Roman Catholic Church and preach against her false doctrines.  We need to call Catholics to repent and believe the gospel.

I pray that men such as Dr. George Wood would not only decline speaking at the “Together 2016” event but denounce it.  I pray that men and women of God would rise up and denounce the event altogether.  In our troubled world we need the true gospel and not a mixing of errors.  Now is not the time to lay down our swords in the midst of a sinful world.  What is going to slay the evils we see of racism, sexual immorality, abortion, homosexuality, wicked killings, etc. is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).  We lose the gospel.  We lose the war.

Must Hear Debate

I highly recommend you listen to Dr. James White debating a Hebrew Israelite.  This is a subject I have never encountered.  I once heard these guys “preaching” on the streets of New York City and when I walked by one of them pointed at me and called me “white devil.”  That was my brief encounter with these guys.  Their theology is radically off from biblical Christianity as Dr. White clearly shows.

My prayer is that the Church will rise up and answer the Hebrew Israelite movement.  They are racist, anti-Christ, and false teachers.  They need to be shown their errors and I pray that they repent.  As I listened to the above debate, I prayed for God to open this man’s eyes to his sins and that he would be brought to repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

I greatly appreciated the end of the debate where Dr. White clearly preaches the gospel.  He preaches that Jesus is calling all sinners to repent (Acts 17:30-31) and He will save people from every nation as He has promised (Revelation 5:9-10).  The gospel is not just for Jews but for all people (Acts 13:44-52; Ephesians 2).

Theological Matters & Unity

When I was a boy, I was raised in the Assemblies of God.  My family attended an AG church that was miles from us and we would wake up on Sunday mornings and drive over an hour to church.  We did it twice on Sunday and then again on Wednesday evening.  Eventually they planted an AG church on our side of town and we ceased driving that far.

In those days, our AG churches were clearly AG.  Every AG church had the name “Assembly of God” somewhere in their name.  Whether it was Airport Assembly of God, Trinity Assembly of God, Calvary Assembly of God, Northeast Christian Assembly of God, etc., the name “Assembly of God” was incorporated into the church.  I remember the first AG church to not use “AG” in their name (Christian Outreach Center) and it was controversial to say the least.  I remember hearing people say that COC was compromising and they were moving away from being Pentecostal.

Fast forward to today.  In my city there are about 10 AG churches.  Only two have the AG name.  COC is gone but after COC, other churches begin to drop the AG name.  This moved started in the late 1990’s when Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church was making its rounds among AG pastors.  Soon they too were dropping the AG name in favor of “community church” names or just “Trinity Church.”

Now in fairness, I don’t think they all did this to be popular.  Some would still gladly claim to be AG while not using AG in their names.  Some were pragmatic and did see the “community church” movement and jumped in.  I see it a different way and I’ll explain in this post.

First, in the late 1990’s there were two “moves” among the AG churches I was familiar with.  There was the revival movement coming out from Brownsville Assembly in Pensacola, FL.  Many thought Brownsville would drop the AG name or even leave the Assemblies of God altogether but they never did and still remain to this day in the AG with the name “Brownsville Assembly of God.”  The Brownsville revival died out around 2002 and the other stream took over.  This was the Rick Warren stream.  Warren had even been invited to the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the first non-Pentecostal speaker ever to the Assemblies of God.  Warren did not know it but he became the chief of church growth to many in the AG churches.  I still remember pastors at AG ministers meetings I would attend in those days all boasting about reading and implementing Warren’s purpose driven styles.  Some AG pastors I knew were even following Warren’s preaching style to the point of wearing Hawaiian shirts like Warren did.  They dropped preaching out of the King James Version in favor of the New Living Translation because of Warren.

Secondly, this led to churches uniting around methodology and not theology.  When I was a boy, the Assemblies of God were clearly Pentecostal churches.  Our church was very Pentecostal in the worship and in the preaching.  I remember talking to my father about the Baptist or Presbyterian churches and he would tell me they were indeed Christians but they didn’t know much about the Holy Ghost.  Pentecostal theology was vital.  I still remember hearing a Pentecostal pastor preach, “I fear the day when we will be Pentecostal in theology but not experience.”  At every turn, Pentecostal theology was taught and emphasized.  When a person got saved at our church, they were baptized in water and they told to seek God for the Holy Ghost.  The wording might be wrong but they clearly knew their theology even if you don’t agree.

Fast forward to today.  Most AG churches I am familiar with no longer emphasize doctrine at all.  In fact, doctrine is often avoided at all costs.  I personally have had an AG pastor tell me that theology does not matter.  He felt doctrine was not livable and so he wanted to preach “life application sermons” rather than theology to his church.  Where does this come from?  Rick Warren!

I had another AG pastor friend who was going to plant an AG church.  What did he do?  In the old days, the AG’s would set up a tent and have the preacher hold tent meetings.  This would usually draw small crowds at first and the preacher would preach on the need of the people to be saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost.  Those who came and got saved or baptized in the Spirit were then included in the new church plant.  The preacher would work until the church could support him (most stayed bi-vocational their entire lives).  Now AG church planters usually get some money from the District and plant the church.  They will attend numerous church growth conferences to learn the latest gimmicks to church growth.  Gone are the days of fasting and prayer (though they say they still pray).  In my friends case, he traveled to all sorts of churches many of them non-AG to learn their gimmicks.  At one point I asked him (after he traveled to a large seeker church in the West) why he would want to learn from them since they are theological different than the AG’s?  He replied, “Because they are growing and we can learn from them.”  The bottom line is this: growth is desire and whoever is growing is who we look to.  Theology is not the issue.  Prayer and preaching is not the issue.  Pragmatism is.

Now my point here is not to boaster the Assemblies of God.  I have no dog in the fight.  I am simply observing the church world from the bleachers.  I understand the desire of pastors to be full-time.  I was there.  I am thankful I am not now.  The pressure to grow your church (and yes its viewed as “your” church) is immense.  Rather than learning how to preach, how to pray, how to fast, how to evangelize, etc. the emphasis is on the latest gimmicks to get people in the door.  My friend above who planted an AG church uses every gimmick you can imagine from dropping Easter eggs from helicopters (thanks to Steven Furtick for that gimmick) to offering free movie tickets to attendees to giving away a new car.  All gimmicks designed to get people in the door.  Once they are there, he preaches goofy sermon series’ designed to “get them hooked to church.”  Sin, repentance, holiness, even AG doctrines such as the baptism in the Spirit are not emphasized.  Their “worship”service is am emotional rollercoaster full of sappy love songs to Jesus and make you feel like your a 14 year old at a junior high school dance rather than church.  And my friend has one goal: numbers.  It’s all about the growth.  His mentors are all seeker sensitive pastors and he idolizes men such as Perry Noble and Andy Stanley.

Go back 50 years and not one AG pastor would have listened to a Perry Noble or Andy Stanley.  Why?  Because they were not Pentecostals!  Pentecostals only listened to Pentecostals in those days.  The attitude was that Pentecostals have the baptism in the Holy Ghost and Baptists do not.

Some see all of this “unity” as good.  I don’t.  Again, I’m not arguing for Pentecostal theology.  In many ways, my theology is more Wesleyan now than Pentecostal.   I still love Pentecostal people and while I do see theological errors among them (mainly among those who claim Pentecostal such as those in the Word-Faith camp), I would not classify myself as Pentecostal.  What I see taking place is not unity around the gospel.  I see unity around methods.  John MacArthur warned that churches today are uniting around methodology and not theology.  I agree.  The lines are not blurred between the distinctives of the Pentecostal movement and those in the Baptist churches.  Yet it is not theological unity that is taking place.  It is emotional experiences that are unifying them.

There is no doubt that Jesus prayed for unity of His body in John 17:22-23.  In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul the Apostle emphasized unity in theology.  The people of God are unified who have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:14-21).  Jesus is Head over His Church (Colossians 1:15-20).  Jesus also knows those who are His own (John 10:27; 2 Timothy 2:19).  Unity in the local church must be around theology.  We must know what we believe and speak the same beliefs.  Obviously, as sinful humans, we are not perfect in our understanding and we all need correction.  This is why we need the church.  The church helps us to know what we believe and maintain that belief through faithfulness and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).  The elders of the church help us to obtain this unity by teaching us the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Doctrine does matter (1 Timothy 4:16).

The balance of all this is to have both sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and sound experiences.  I don’t want to go to church to hear a theological lecture every time.  We need a balance of sound doctrine with practical living.  Notice this is how Paul taught in his epistles.  He would teach theology and how to put it into practice.  For example, Ephesians is six chapters.  The first three chapters of Ephesians are theological in nature.  The last three are application in nature.  Our theology transforms our lives for better or for worst.  This is why Paul would issue such a condemnation as in Galatians 1:6-9 over the issue of the gospel.  Without sound doctrine, the gospel is lost.  Salvation is gone.  The Lordship of Jesus is robbed.  Life is hopeless.

My friends, I urge you to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ.  Pray for God to show us the need for sound doctrine.  Pray for the Lord to us godly elders who are not leading for gain but for the love of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).  Peter the Apostle wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  I want all this for myself and the church of God.

May the Lord be glorified in and among His Church!

After Manasseh Came A Josiah

In 2 Kings 21:1-9 we read:

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. 6 And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. 8 And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.

In our wicked world it is easy to look around at our wicked, sinful leaders and see the judgment of God.  I look around at my own culture and I see evidence of Romans 1.  People are full of sin.

However, my hope is in the Lord God and in His Word.  I have hope in the gospel.  I know that Jesus will triumph and He alone is King of kings and He alone is Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15-16).  Jesus reigns even now from heaven (Acts 3:19-21).  His reign includes all His enemies coming under His feet (Psalm 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  I look around at the wicked world and I can easily be full of despair but my hope is that the gospel will go forth and the reign of Jesus will never be stopped.

In 2 Kings 21:1-9 we read of the wicked king of Judah, Manasseh.  I have yet to live under such a wicked king.  We have had wicked men and women in the past but few compare to the wickedness of Manasseh.  Manasseh went so far in his idolatry that he built altars in Jerusalem in the temple of Yahweh to his false gods.  He offered his own sons on the altars to his false gods.  2 Kings 21:16 says, “Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.”

After Manasseh, his son Amon reigned as king over Judah and he followed in the footsteps of Manasseh.  Amon was a wicked king.

After Amon, however, comes Josiah.  2 Kings 22:2 says, “And he what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or  to the left.”

The Lord raised up a Josiah after the wickedness of Manasseh and Amon.  This gives me hope.  This encourages me.

In my own wicked nation, I see our leaders full of sin.  They are full of idolatry, greed, corruption, they support the murdering of millions of babies at the altars of the gods of conveyance and sex.  Our leaders are just like Manasseh in many ways.  They even shed innocent blood not just in unjust wars and wicked attacks on citizens but they support the abortion mill industries which murder innocent babies each and every day.  In my own state and in my own city I see the wickedness of our leaders even on a local level.  They give in to the sexually perverted who want their “rights” and they support the wickedness of racism and abortion on demand.  Yes it is easy to be discouraged.

But I have hope that God can raise up a Josiah.  My hope is not in politicians.  They are corrupt.  My hope is not in men.  They are corrupt.  My hope is in the Lord God who can turn the tide through His gospel.  My hope is in the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  Josiah was a mighty man of God.  We need mighty men of God to turn not just my own nation but he nations of this fallen, sinful world to the Lord God.  This will not come through politicians or through political reform (though they will happen through the gospel) but will only come through a man of God being faithful to God.

My hope is that the wicked nations of this world (which is all of them) will turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The gospel transformed the Roman Empire and turned them away from idolatry to the truth of the gospel.  Over time, corrupt church leaders corrupted the gospel and turned the church in Rome away from the gospel to idolatry that we now see as the Roman Catholic Church but I have hope that Catholics will repent and be saved.  I have hope that the nations will be saved by the grace of God.

We read in many places that the nations will bow down to the Lord God (see Psalm 22:27; 86:8-9; Isaiah 2:3; Revelation 15:4).  Jesus has conquered the nations by His death and resurrection and He now commands us to make disciples in every nation until He reigns forevermore (Matthew 28:18-20).

May God send a revival of His truth!

Then The Gospel Came…

Imagine a world where few are Christians.  Most of the culture is full of idolatry.  The love of money.  The love of sports.  The love of sex.  The political leaders are corrupt.  Politicians in general are corrupt and not trustworthy.  The leaders of the nation are pagans and they despise the gospel.  At every turn the nation is against the gospel it seems.  They despise biblical authority, despise its truth, attack the truth of the gospel, attack those who follow Christ.  They seek to cast Christians off as strange, aliens, and out of touch with reality.  In fact, they believe Christians just want to destroy their fun!

Sounds just like the wicked nation I live in.  But this nation is the Roman Empire at the time of the book of Acts.  A wicked depraved time.  One biblical commentary stated that the Roman empire was much worse in terms of Christian persecution, rejection of biblical authority, etc. than any time in history.  We might could point to the communists nations that openly hated God but few compare to the Roman Empire.  It heavily persecuted Christians and killed many of them including most of the Apostles for their faith in the Lord Jesus.  While the Romans were busy worshiping idols and the emperor, the Christians were calling for them to repent and turn to Christ (Acts 17:30-31).

What gives me hope is that the gospel transformed the empire.  From its humble beginnings in Acts 2, by the time we finish with the book of Acts we find Paul the Apostle in Rome preaching the kingdom of God (Acts 28:30-31).  The very next book in our Bibles is the book of Romans with a church alive and well in Rome (Romans 1:7).  The book of Revelation (which I know some will take exception with me here because of my preterism) was written to encourage persecuted saints of God (Revelation 1:9) in the Roman Empire.  The book of Revelation promised them victory (Revelation 2:1-7 for example).  They are told that Jesus is “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).  Our victory is sure for Jesus is our King!  This was the hope for the saints of God!  It is our hope as well!

We look around at our wicked world.  Here in the United States we see violence, hatred, lack of respect for authority, pride, all types of wicked sins including idolatry and sexual immorality.  We see the wicked sin of abortion where millions of people are being slaughtered all in the name of conveyance and sexual sins.  We see lying politicians and corrupt leaders now openly attacking the gospel and questioning God’s absolute authority in all things.  We see Christians bowing their knees to the false gods of money, power, sex, sports, and all types of wickedness.  We no doubt live in an evil age.

Yet I have hope in the gospel.  The gospel promises the sure victory of Jesus (Psalm 110:1).  Jesus will win (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  The gospel will go forth and we have victory through Christ alone (Matthew 28:18-20).  The nations belong to our King (Psalm 2:8).  While the United States and other nations may be wicked, they will not last forever.  Only the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ will reign forever (Daniel 7:13-14).  I have hope that the gospel will win.  The nations will bow to the Lordship of the King.  Every knee in fact will bow to the glory of the Lord Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11).

I write this  because it is easy to be discouraged.  Islam is growing.  The cults are thriving.  The false gospels are being preached.  Jesus is being attacked at every turn.  The national media hates the gospel.  The President of the United States is a pagan.  The nations reject the Word of God.

Yet Jesus is still Lord and He will reign forever!  I pray that the nations repent.  I pray that our nations turn to faith in Christ.  I pray for the gospel to go forth and sinners turn from their sins and turn in saving faith to the Lord Jesus.  I pray that God Almighty would have mercy and send a revival to the nations.  He can turn the tide.  The Lord turned the tide in ancient Rome and He can turn the tide in our wicked nations.  I pray He does for His glory and for His name.

Mere Christianity?

Dr. James White often refers to what he calls the “mere Christianity” movement where people try to make Christianity as small as you can make it.  In the 2000 years of the Church, orthodoxy has been the standard for what is deemed as Christian.  I grant you that at times this has not always been clear and sometimes people made non-essentials as essentials of the gospel.  In our day, mere Christianity has come to simply believe that if you affirm Jesus, you are a Christian.

I have been following a blogger for some time who I have seen him drifting this way.  His view is that Jesus is what matters yet it seems to me that he does not care what people believe about Jesus so long as they say they love Jesus and desire to follow Him.  While this blogger seems to affirm that the Bible is the Word of God (though I’m not sure if he holds to inerrancy or infallibility), he often muddles the water by using the liberal “red letter Christian” mantras.  It is as if this blogger makes Jesus someone that we should merely copy (and by that I mean be a hippie and be focused on “peace and love man”).  This blogger even has been writing about how he has seen Jesus in a Muslim friend of his and how this Muslim has taught him more about Jesus than many Christians.

This is the mere Christianity movement.  There is no focus on the doctrine of Christ nor about His atonement.  There is little emphasis placed on His perfection for our salvation.  There is nothing said about His death, His resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father where He lives to make intercession for the saints.  There is nothing said about His coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  In fact, mere Christianity makes Jesus just someone that we should copy and imitate to have a better life.  Jesus becomes nothing more than a “great teacher” along with other “great teachers.”  Jesus’ own declarations are ignored.

I don’t assume that someone is a Christian simply because they name the name of Jesus.  Jesus Himself said that many would come in His name (Matthew 24:4-5).  John the Beloved wrote that many antichrists had come (1 John 2:18).  Antichrists are false christs.  Paul the Apostle issued curses on those who preach a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).  Thus we can see that there are false christs and false gospels.

Not everyone who says Jesus is truly His (Matthew 7:21-23).  Jesus said that those who are His are those who hear His words and put them into practice, who build their lives on His teachings (Matthew 7:24-27).  A disciple of Jesus is one who abides in His teachings (John 8:31-32).  This means that the disciple not only reads the Word of God (and not merely the “red letters”) but they study it as well.  I study God’s Word to know God, to love Him more and to obey Him better all by His Spirit and His grace.

So many claim Christ but they don’t even know the first thing about Him.  They don’t know His Word.  They don’t read His Word.  They don’t study His Word.  They don’t care to study His Word nor do they truly care to know Him because Jesus doesn’t fit our views when we read and study Him.  The perfect Son of God is not like us in that He is absolutely perfect, holy, blameless, and His ways are beyond our ways.  We seek to imitate Him (1 Peter 2:21-24; 1 John 2:6) but we recognize that He alone is perfect.  He is perfect for our salvation (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Because He remains forever perfect, He now stands before the Father in our defense (Hebrews 7:22-25).  As we abide in Jesus through faith (Romans 5:1; 1 John 2:24-25), we find that He is faithful to wash our sins away (1 John 1:7, 9).

The mere Christianity movement wants to place Jesus among others.  Jesus is far above all others (Colossians 1:15-20).  Every knee will bow to His glory alone (Philippians 2:5-11).  This includes all false teachers, all false prophets, all false religions.  Jesus is not equal among others.  Jesus is God (John 1:1, 18; Romans 9:5) and He is to be worshiped as God.

The mere Christianity movement has to dethrone Jesus to make Him equal among others.  For example, the Muslim view of Jesus is not at all equal with the biblical view.  The Quran teaches that Jesus is not God, that He is not even the Son of God.  Yes Islam says that Jesus is the Messiah but they deny His divinity and the Quran condemns to hell those who would say that God is a man or has a son.  The Quran falsely believes that the doctrine of the Trinity includes Mary.  The Quran denies that Jesus died for our sins.  Most Muslims believe that Jesus didn’t even die on the cross but rather Allah made someone else to appear as Jesus on the cross such as Judas.  While Islam teaches that Jesus will return, they believe that He will return and set up an Islamic kingdom on the earth.  The Islamic confession of faith is focused on Mohammad and not on Jesus.

And yet mere Christianity says that since a Muslim claims to love Jesus (the Jesus of the Quran and not the Jesus of the Bible), then they are “saved.”  If a Muslim denies the Quran’s teaching on Jesus and embraces the biblical view of Jesus then I would submit that they are not a Muslim but a Christian.  Of course, true salvation requires faith and repentance in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38-39; 3:19-20; 17:30-31).

One final point.  The mere Christianity movement especially detests evangelism.  After all, the evangelist is preaching that Jesus alone saves (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and He alone is our mediator before a holy God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  The evangelist preaches that faith and repentance are necessary for eternal life (Luke 13:5; John 5:24-25; 6:29; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 5:13).  This goes against the mere Christian view that all religions are essentially good so long as they love Jesus.  It also goes against the postmodern mindset that there is no absolute truth since Jesus Himself claims to be the truth of God (John 14:6).  When religious people are confronted with their sins and with the truth of Jesus, they always strike back with a vengeance.  I have witnessed this myself. People don’t mind if you preach a peace and love Jesus but the moment you preach that a person must repent, they quickly turn on you.  People love Jesus but the Jesus they create in their own images but not the biblical Jesus.

I am often confronted by the biblical Jesus as I read.  I am confronted with my sins.  I am confronted with my lack of being like Jesus in all I do.  I am confronted with how wonderful Jesus truly is and the more that I study Him and the more that I seek Him, the more I find that I am not like Him, that He is God and worthy to be praised, and I will never truly grasp Him in this life.  Jesus is simply too wonderful, too mighty, too holy for me to perfectly understand but what I do know is this: He died for my sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18) and He is coming again in glory (2 Timothy 4:1).  I long to see Him and worship Him forever.  I will continue to preach the biblical Jesus and preach against the false christs of this world.

The Seeker Church Lectionary

Its’ February so you know what that means from the seeker/relevant/postmodern churches don’t you?  It means that the lectionary points them to preach goofy sermon series’ on sex and marriage.  Don’t get me wrong, we should address these issues when the Bible does address them.  If you preach verse-by-verse through the Bible, you will no doubt have to deal with the issues of sex and marriage often.  The Bible is full of stories about these issues and much in the New Testament deals with this as disciples of Jesus.  Yet the seeker churches always will be found preaching on these subjects during this month because of Valentine’s day (and to draw a crowd which is the bottom line).

One need not think too hard to figure out the seeker church lectionary.  Typically the lectionary will point to the Christian calendar and will have the Bible teacher teach lessons around the season.  If we are nearing Resurrection Sunday, the lectionary would have you preach on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  If we are nearing Christmas, the lectionary would have you preach on the incarnation of God.  The lectionary was created to keep the focus on the Bible.  While I don’t use a lectionary, I appreciate seeking to keep the church focused on biblical truths throughout the year.  The seeker lectionary, however, doesn’t revolve around the Bible nor the Christian calendar.  It revolves around the culture and around the cultural calendar.  I will grant that the American culture calendar does revolve around many Christian holidays but the seeker lectionary revolves around the culture and especially the worldly-minded culture (notice the John Bunyan reference).  I’m not sure who sets the seeker lectionary anymore.  In the 1990’s it was Willow Creek and Bill Hybels.  In the early 2000’s it was Rick Warren and Purpose-driven Church.  In the mid 2000’s it turned toward the emergent movement but has seen swayed from them (thank the Lord as the emergents are now full-blown liberals and out of the “evangelical” camp).  I would say, if I had to guess, that Andy Stanley plays a big role in the lectionary but he is not the only one.

In our town I have noticed that the seeker churches are preaching on sex this month but using the wicked “Fifty shades of grey” movie to help.  Again, notice that the Bible does not take focus here.  The focus in not the text of Scripture.  The focus is always on the shock value of sex.  Sex sells in our wicked culture.  It’s one of the top reasons that I don’t own nor watch TV.  Sex fills our culture.  If you want to draw a worldly crowd preach on what they want most: sex, money, and pleasure.  The idols of sex and sports are the two biggest I know of among men.  The men at my work live and breathe for sex and sports.  Their lives revolve around those two issues.  Pleasure is in there as well with all their “toys” such as motorcycles and other things (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

What is the faithful disciple to do?  How do we react to the seeker lectionary or our culture?

First, be faithful to God.  Don’t bother trying to make friends with the world (James 4:4).  Don’t bother trying to appease the world.  It will never happen.  If you truly follow Jesus, if you truly preach repentance, if you truly love Jesus above all others and all things, the world will despise you (John 15:18-25; 1 Peter 4:12-19; 1 John 2:15-17).  The world will never love the disciple of Jesus nor the disciple of Jesus loving the world.  The two are at war with each other (Ephesians 6:12).

Secondly, be faithful to preach the Word of God.  Leonard Ravenhill use to tell the young men who came to him for advice on preaching to read 1 and 2 Timothy each month.  Ravenhill believed that we must heed the words of Paul the Apostle in 1 and 2 Timothy in this sinful world that we find ourselves preaching in and to.  I recommend expository teaching.  Expository preaching avoids goofy sermon series’ and is faithful to teach the text.  The focus in expository preaching is on the Word of God and its full authority.  Expository preaching takes very seriously the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28:20 and the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:2.  I recommend reading this book on expository preaching.

Thirdly, address the issues of sex, money, greed, power, etc. as the text dictates and not the culture.  Don’t allow the culture to determine your Bible teaching.  Remember our focus must be on exalting Christ and His kingdom.  We are here to preach Him (2 Corinthians 4:5).  We are to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and our focus is on that one issue.  We are called to be faithful to the One who saved us.  The culture should not drive our Bible teaching.  The text of Scripture should.  If the topics come up in your text, deal with them.  If they don’t, deal with what you have at hand.  Be text driven by the words given to us by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16) and not by the culture.

Lastly, the bottom line for me is faithfulness to the King.  Jesus said that He would judge us based on faithfulness or unfaithfulness (Matthew 25:29-30).  Paul told Timothy to appoint faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2).  Faithfulness is the key.  God is not looking for talented men.  He is not looking for culturally relevant men.  He is looking for faithful men to proclaim His Word.  I want to be found faithful.  I don’t care if the world finds me odd.  I don’t care if people make fun of me for preaching on the streets or for calling people to repent.  I don’t care if people bash me for standing in front of abortion clinics to call the women to repentance.  I don’t care if the world ignores me.  I want to be faithful the King.  He is the One who saves sinners in the first place (John 1:12-13; 6:44).  My job is to lift Him up (John 12:32)!

May the Lord help us to be found faithful.

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