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A Rant on Seeker Churches

I listen to a few seeker churches on my iPhone while I drive my truck (I drive an eighteen wheeler for a living).  During long hauls I can listen to two or three sermons depending on the drive.  My wife says that I’m mad for listening to the seeker churches because they often make me cranky and I start ranting (as I’m doing here) about them.  My problems with the seeker churches are too many to post here in a blog post.  I could never willingly be a part of a seeker church for many reasons.  Doctrine is the first and foremost.  The utter lack of doctrine in seeker churches is disturbing to say the least.

I have been listening to one of the seeker churches for the entire year.  Each week their sermons come to my iPhone.  You got to love technology!  I had a friend who started attending this church about 6 years ago.  He still goes there.  He once had a fire for the Lord, was a man of prayer and holiness, and loved to share the gospel with the lost.  Those days are gone.  He is a shell of his former self now that he attends this church.  I place the blame at the feet of my friend but also at this church as well.  They have convinced my friend that evangelism is easy as inviting “the unchurched” to his church.  The church does the rest.  The entire “weekend” is designed to attract the “unchurched” and they are specific that they want the “unchurched” to come and not feel like they are at church.  I have often said that seeker churches remind me of cults in that they get you in before springing the trap and letting you know what they are about.  In this case, get the “unchurched” coming to church and then wait for a few weeks before telling them they must “receive Christ into their hearts” if they want to go deeper.  It’s like an Amway seminar.  Only worst.

The rant here today is not about the seeker church I’ve been listening to this year but a new one I picked up just this week.  I use to be friends with a youth pastor (when I was a youth pastor) and he always seemed to lean this seeker way.  I remember once taking to him about how I wanted to build a youth ministry that revolved around prayer and the Word and he laughed and said that I would never have a large ministry if that was my formula.  I followed him via social media after he moved away and watched him head down this seeker trail.  He bought into the seeker pragmatism hook, line, and sinker.  He begin to tweet a lot of seeker posts and I noticed his preaching was more and more becoming like seeker pastors I knew of.  He ultimately started a church in the Charlotte, NC area and followed the likes of seeker gurus Perry Noble and Steven Furtick.  Despite obvious doctrinal disagreements, this seeker pastor ignored that because “they are growing” and that was the bottom line.

He started his church and now he rolls out “series” sermons like Noble and Furtick complete with the works.  The stage is focused on the series.  The series is pushed though social media and social media is used during the talk.  I sent a few of his talks to Fighting For The Faith and hope they will review them.

Here is my rant.  Theology.  The seeker churches ignore theology.  I have listened to all the sermons from the one church this year and a few from this newer podcast and theology is utterly lacking.  The twisting of Scripture is bad.  For example, one of the seeker pastors preached on “Shake It Off” based on the Taylor Swift song (yes you read that right) and preached from Acts 28 where Paul “shook of the snake” and he in turn turned the snake into problems and other things that we just need to shake off.  What a poor use of Scripture!

Numbers is the focus.  That is the bottom line.  I well remember emailing a seeker pastor back in the early 2000’s and he responded back with “I run 700 people on Sunday morning.  How many do you run?  E-mail me back when you get to that number and I might listen.”  I was emailing him over his poor doctrinal preaching.  His response: pragmatism.

I remember another preacher going to hear modalist T.D. Jakes.  When I questioned him about this he responded by saying that Jakes’ church was huge and he could just feel the anointing on Jakes when he preached.  Never mind that Jakes is a modalist (the Trinity doesn’t matter much).  Never mind that Jakes is a false prosperity preacher.  Never mind that doctrine seems to not matter at all to Jakes.  Jakes’ church is big and that is enough.  Pragmatism.

A crowd does not equal the blessing of God.

I pass the Kingdom Hall’s all the time while working and I can tell you that they are packed.  It seems they are growing and I have my suspicions as to why.  The Jehovah’s Witness are no doubt a cult.  They are doctrinally wrong.  Nothing more than modern day Arians.  Yet they are growing because of the seeker churches in my estimation.  Week after week the seeker churches are packed but doctrine is not to be found.  In fact, doctrine is avoided at all costs.  It amazes me that seeker preachers often will have to point out where a book in the Bible is.  For example, when the above seeker pastor preached from Acts 28, he felt he had to point out where Acts is.  Further, his “background” to Paul and Acts 28 was horrible.  He felt he had to use “cool” language and to be funny throughout his talk to get people focused.  But at the end of the day, he taught nothing.  Nothing.  He didn’t teach false doctrines.  He taught nothing.  And this is true of every seeker sermon I have heard.  Let me repeat that:  I have never heard a seeker sermon yet that has taught me anything.  They are masters at saying nothing.

And thus cults grow.  People do want doctrine.  Contrary to what the seeker churches believe.  Doctrine does matter to folks.  In Acts 2:42 the first thing Luke records that the new disciples of Jesus did was to devote themselves to the apostles’ doctrine.  First thing listed was not “worship” or “small groups” but doctrine.  Cults come and fill the void.  The reason seeker people leave to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses or other cults is because doctrine.

After the seeker churches go off, I turn on John MacArthur and a breath of fresh air comes in.  MacArthur is the opposite of these seeker churches.  He preaches doctrine.  He preaches holiness.  He preaches the Bible and seeks to exegete the text faithfully.  Sometimes, for fun, I will listen to a seeker church and then pull up MacArthur preaching from the same text and its night and day difference.

Over the years I have been out witnessing only to run into a group of people from seeker churches.  Sometimes they will ridicule me for preaching on the streets.  Sometimes they talk to me and I try to reason with them about their “conversion” as 100% of them believe that “saying the sinner’s prayer” is how you get saved.  They are often completely ignorant of church history or theology.  They will say “I just love Jesus” but when I try to find out which Jesus they love, they don’t know.  I can often point out that the Jesus they say they love is the Jesus of their own imaginations and not the Bible.  Paul the Apostle warned about this in 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:6-9.

Am I thankful for seeker churches?  No I am not.  I truly believe that persecution is soon coming to the Christians in the United States and this will probably end the seeker church as we know it.  Most of the seeker churches will either close up or they will complete their compromising by abandoning true faith altogether in favor of the praises (and most important, the money) of men.

Sadly, many godly churches I know of feel the need to imitate these seeker churches.  I remember when Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church led to the demise of denominational named churches.  Now we just have “Calvary Church” or “Christian Life Church” to avoid the obvious doctrinal distinctive that are there.  Now we have the cool fad among seeker churches to get the coolest name you can find for your church.  Either way, doctrine does not matter.  They would say only Jesus matters but they don’t even know if the Jesus they preach is the Jesus of the Bible.

I highly recommend you to read John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel for a truly biblical look at the seeker church.  I pray that many saints of God will love the gospel and love the truths of the Bible (Romans 1:16; 1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1).

Insights from the KJV Translators Themselves

Most KJV Bibles sold today no longer have the longer introduction to the translation originally penned by the KJV translators.  Most English Bibles today have an introduction to the translation that comes from the KJV itself.  The KJV translators penned their introduction to explain and defend their translation.

One must bear in mind the time period of the 1611 translation.  Imagine if President Obama told the church here in the United States that he wanted one Bible “to rule them all” (to quote from Lord of the Rings)?  How would Christians react to Obama?  Even if Obama had the top scholars appointed to translate the Bible, most would view the translation with intrepidation.  I would.  I would figure that Obama would want the translate to be one sided, to avoid truth, to delete core doctrines and to make it as far from teaching the truth as possible while still sounding like the Bible.  What is true today was true of the Christians living under King James.  They viewed the “Authorized Version” with much fear.  In fact, the KJV would not become the preferred English Bible for about 50 years after its publication.  The Geneva Bible and not the King James Bible was brought over to the new world by the first English settlers to America.

The KJV scholars added the long introduction then to both promote their translation and defend it against those who questioned it.  After all, when the KJV was published in 1611 there were already good English Bibles on the market.  The KJV was not the first nor the last (and the KJV translators recognized that fact).  Though the KJV Bible would become the greatest of the English translations for many years to come, in 1611 it was just another Bible translation being offered now by the King himself of the British Empire.

I recently read the longer introduction that you can find in modern English on Amazon.  I learned much from it.  I only want to highlight a few of the KJV translators words.  Their words are good to read in our day of KJV onlyism.  After reading the KJV introduction, I have no doubt in my mind that these Anglican men would not be KJV only if they were alive today.  In fact, they would laugh at the arguments used by KJV only “scholars” who claim that the KJV is the final Word of God, that (as some radical KJV only men teach) the KJV was inspired just as the Apostle’s were inspired, that the KJV is a perfect Bible translation without any errors, that the Anglicans involved were fundamentalist in secret who believed in the Received Text (the Greek text of the KJV) as the perfect Word of God, etc.

First, the KJV translators believed the originals were inspired but recognized variants in the copies.  They stated:

because the original thereof is from heaven, not from earth, the author is God, not man; the composer is the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the Apostles or Prophets; the penmen were such as were sanctified from the womb, and endued with a principle portion of God’s Spirit; the content is truth, piety, purity, and uprightness; the form is God’s word, God’s testimony, God’s oracles, the word of truth, the word of salvation, and so forth.

The translators did not teach anywhere in their writings that the Received Text is the “inerrant and infallible Word of God” (inerrant would not have been used for people simply said the Bible was true in those days and people understood what they meant without qualification).  In fact, they believed the originals alone to be the ones inspired by God Himself.  The copies are copies of the originals but we no longer have the originals (praise be to God lest someone would have worshiped them as the children of Israel worshiped the golden calf in Exodus 32).  The KJV translators could not have visioned that someday their own translation would become a golden calf to many.

They went on to write:

For nothing perfect has proceeded from the hands of men except what came from the hands of the Apostles or Apostolic men, that is, from men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility.

So what about the errors in the copies?  KJV onlyism teaches that no errors exist but what did the KJV translators write about this:

The Septuagint dissents from the Original in many places, and does not come near it in terms of clarity, gravity, and majesty.  Yet did any of the Apostles condemn it?  Condemn it?  Nay, they used it.

Notice that the KJV translators approved of the Septuagint as a translation while understanding that it was not the original.  The Apostles quoted extensively from the Septuagint in the Greek New Testament despite the fact that the Septuagint is just a translation from the Hebrew text.

Secondly, the KJV translators saw the value of having Bibles in our tongues.  They wrote:

Truly, without translation into the common language, the unlearned are like children at Jacob’s well, which was deep, without a bucket.  Or they are like the person mentioned by Isaiah who, when a sealed book was presented to him with the command, “Read this, I ask you,” he had to reply, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”

And yet the KJV translators acknowledged that even the lowest English translations were still good!  Modern KJV onlyism tells us that only the KJV is the truth of God and hates all other English Bibles but they would not be joined by the KJV translators.  They wrote:

Now we answer our adversaries.  We do not deny – nay, we affirm and avow – that the very lowest translation of the Bible into English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have not yet seen any of their translations of the entire Bible) contains the word of God, nay, is the word of God.  The King’s speech, which he utters in Parliament, when translated into French, German, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator with identical grace, nor altogether so appropriately phrased, nor so exactly expressing  the sense at every point.

And what of their own translation work?  They wrote yet again:

For nothing perfect has proceeded from the hands of men except what came from the hands of the Apostles or Apostolic men.

The intent of the KJV translator was such:

Our intent was to make a better translation out of a good one, or to make , from many good ones, one especially good one, not to be justly objected against.

And yes the KJV translators did do biblical criticism (lower criticism) contrary to the KJV onlyism view that textual criticism is evil altogether.  They wrote:

These languages therefore – that is, the Scriptures in those languages – we set before us to translate, being the languages in which God was pleased to speak to his Church by the Prophets and Apostles.

Without a second thought, we consulted the translators or commentators in Chaldean, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek and Latin, and the Spanish, French, Italian, and German.  We revised what we had done, and brought back to the anvil that which we had hammered.

Lastly, the KJV translators spoke about the variants in the biblical texts.  In fact, the first published 1611 Authorized Bible had marginal notes to show differences in the text as well as alternate translations of the text.  How can this be if the KJV is the inspired Word of God as KJV onlyism teaches?  Nearly all KJV Bibles today exclude the marginal notes so KJV only “scholars” often will attack modern Bibles such as the NKJV or the ESV for either including marginal notes, “deleting” verses such as Acts 8:37 or 1 John 5:7-8, or adding textual notes about the translation or variant readings.

The KJV translators wrote:

Some individuals, perhaps, would prefer to have no margin notes about alternative meanings, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding controversies might be somewhat shaken by that show of uncertainty.  But we consider their judgment unsound in this point.

The translators go on to speak of how difficult the work of translating is.  They speak of how there are often many words that can be used in English for one Hebrew or Greek word or the opposite where a Hebrew or Greek word only appears once in the text and is how to translate into English.  A case in point would be the KJV use of “Godhead” in Romans 1:20 and Colossians 2:9.  This is a poor translation here.  Another place would in the KJV where they erred would be Acts 19:2 or Titus 2:13 or 2 Peter 1:1.  The inclusion of 1 John 5:7-8 in the KJV is also a variant reading that should not be there.  Modern English Bibles (excluding the NKJV for tradition only) have changed 1 John 5:7-8 back to its original.

Conclusion

My point here is to show that the KJV translators were not infallible men.  They were godly Anglican men who loved the Word of God.  I am blessed by that fact.  I pray the Lord would move again on the Anglican Church to produce such godly men.  That said, the KJV translators recognized their work as the work of men.  A very good work but a translation nonetheless.  The KJV ranks as a work of art.  It truly is the Word of God.  But it is not perfect.  No Bible translation is.  The KJV served the Church in the English speaking world for many years.  It was published in 1611 and revised just two years later in 1613.  The final revision of the KJV was in 1769.  This is the KJV used today and not the 1611.  Of course, the men who did the work in 1604-11 were now dead.  Their work though stands as a testimony to their faithfulness to God.

Today we have probably too many English translations and they exist sadly for one reason: money.  Crossway doesn’t want to pay Zondervan for usage of the NIV so they translate the ESV.  All English translations today but the KJV are owned by a publishing house.  For example, Crossway owns the ESV.  Lockman owns the NASB.  Zondervan owns the NIV.  Thomas Nelson owns the NKJV.  Tyndale House owns the NLT.  Holman owns the HCSB.  This doesn’t prove that these English Bibles are corrupt but only that they are produced by publishers for avoiding royalties to other publishers.

I prefer the ESV but I am not ESV only by any means.  I recognize that no English Bible is perfect.  I also am grateful that God is sovereign in salvation and He often uses even the worst translations to draw sinners to salvation.  I read of a Jehovah’s Witness coming to faith in Christ through reading Philippians 3:9 in the New World Translation which is not good at all.  I was saved reading from the NIV and it was the first Bible I owned and read after coming to faith in Christ at age 17.  I honestly thought, when I came to faith in Christ, that there were two English Bibles in the world: the KJV and the NIV and I understood the NIV so I went with it.

God is able to save sinners through the gospel (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21).  People hear the gospel in many ways (Romans 10:17) but the gospel must flow from Scripture.  Some preachers use the KJV and others use the NLT but the Lord is the one who saves sinners (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).  Our job is to plant the seed of the gospel (Mark 4:14).  The Spirit of God brings the fruit.  The Spirit draws sinners to salvation by the grace of God (John 6:44; Acts 16:14-15).

So my advice is to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).  Perhaps this comes through a KJV or an NIV or a ESV but preach the Word of God!  Be faithful to study the Word and to live the Word (James 2:14-26).  The Word is able to save our souls (James 1:21).

May God be glorified through His holy Word.  Amen.

 

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!

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.

Why I Will Not Do The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS ice bucket challenge is making the rounds.  Celebrities, politicians, sports stars, even pastors are making videos of them having ice water poured on them to support funding for ALS.  While Christians certainly should support those who are suffering from ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and pray for the a cure from this disease, the ALS donations are also helping to fund stem-cell research from aborted babies.  A disciple of Christ should never support any cause that advocates, promotes, or even is involved with abortion.

So what is the disciple to do?

Ironically, the ALS ice bucket challenge has become the baptism of “good doers.”  Atheists have begun using the challenge to say that this is their baptism without Christ.  They are pledging to do good for others despite their lack of understanding where the idea of good can come from nor how they determine what is good or bad.

Liberals are using the ALS challenge to promote their social gospel.  When a church denies the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word, all that is left is to do good for other people rather than preaching the gospel to them.

I personally don’t  support any causes that don’t also preach the gospel.  Feeding the poor is good.  Helping people battle cancer is good.  Supporting those who are suffering in this life is good.  But unless you preach the gospel to the hurting, the suffering, the poor, the rich, etc., you are not giving them the cure for their greatest disease: sin.  Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death.  People with ALS can still be wicked sinners and still go to hell.  People with cancer die every single day and they don’t know Christ nor His gospel.  People living with HIV die each day but if they don’t know Christ, they will perish (John 3:18).  The gospel is the only solution to our fallen world.  The gospel prepares men and women for eternity unlike the temporary relief of suffering in this world.

I do think that it is good to do good (Matthew 5:13-18).  Galatians 6:10 tells us to do good toward all men and especially the household of faith.  Doing good is good.  But let us not make the mistake of thinking that doing good equals giving people the gospel.  Let us not make the mistake that doing good means that we earn God’s righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).  Disciples do good because of the Spirit at work in us (Ephesians 6:10) unlike the world who do good hoping that their good outweighs their bad.

My advice then is to take the money that would be used by the ALS and give it to true Christian charities who work with ALS victims or to missions.  The gospel going out is better by far.  Again, many with ALS (and other diseases) need to hear the gospel more than anything else.  The poor, the hurting, the suffering, the abused – all these need the gospel.  Do good but preach the gospel.

For more information on charities that support pro-life positions, see this page.

 

 

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/20/2014 at 12:13 PM

Ten Reasons To Do Expository Teaching

I remember hearing John MacArthur say that he wrote down over fifty reasons to be committed to expository preaching.  I possibly could write down that many myself but will stick with just ten.  Expository teaching is dear to my heart.  I believe it to be the best way to teach people the Scriptures.  But I am jumping ahead of myself so let me state my ten reasons.  These are not given in any order.

1.  Expository Teaching Exalts Christ As Head of His Church (Colossians 1:18).

Expository teaching is Christ-focused.  The Bible teacher is aware that his responsibility before God is to exalt Christ through the text.  Spurgeon said that he takes his text and then makes a bee-line to the cross.  The Bible was given to us by God to reveal His Son (John 20:31).  The entire purpose of the Bible is to show the coming of the Messiah and His eternal reign.  Our focus then in teaching must be to show Christ in the Scriptures (Luke 24:27).

2.  Expository Teaching Avoids Seeking To Please the Flesh.

Too often series preaching (that is topical in nature) is focused on pleasing the flesh and giving people what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  I know of some churches that ask the church to give them suggestions on what they would like to hear preach.  I also know of churches that go out into the world and ask sinners what they would like to hear preached (to draw them to church).  However, I don’t hear much these days about hearing from God in His Word.  Expository teaching is focused on the Word of God.  Certainly one can develop a series from the text but the focus is on Christ and the Word and not the flesh.  If anything, the faithful Bible teacher wants to kill the flesh by the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12; 1 John 2:15-17).  Expository teaching keeps the focus on the Word and not on the opinions of the flesh.

3.  Expository Teaching Teaches People How To Correctly Study the Bible.

People don’t know how to study the Bible correctly so they don’t.  In many churches, people don’t even read the Bible during the week but allow the Bible teacher to do that for them.  All of us, as disciples of Jesus, must be in the Word (John 8:31-32).  The Word keeps us from error (1 Timothy 4:16).  The Word protects us against the lies of Satan (Ephesians 6:17; James 1:21).  How few though know how to study the Bible.  Expository teaching shows the people of God how to study the Word of God by going verse-by-verse through the Scriptures comparing Scripture with Scripture.

4.  Expository Teaching Creates A Biblical-Worldview.

Topical teaching can provide Christian opinions about the world but expository teaching shows the people of God the biblical view by going deep into the Word.  When we preach verse-by-verse through the Bible, we are showing people the full council of God.  We are revealing God’s thoughts, God’s ways, God’s actions toward sin, toward humility, toward repentance.  People learn about how God feels above the points of the preacher.

5.  Expository Teaching Exalts the Bible as the Final Authority.

If we truly believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, this should be displayed in our teaching.  Verse-by-verse teaching is committed to the full authority of the Bible.  Every word counts.  Nothing is to be missed or skipped.  If God gave us His Word (2 Timothy 3:16) then every part of it is vital.  We must not avoid tough passages simply because we are lazy but we must go deep into God’s Word to allow it to have its full authority over the Church.

6.  Expository Teaching Doesn’t Avoid Difficult Texts.

I once heard a topical church going through the book of Romans.  They were skimming the book but claimed to be going verse-by-verse through it (they were done with the book in just about 6 weeks whereas it would probably take several years to go through the book).  They came to Romans 9-11 and avoided the text by just skimming through it.  The teacher didn’t teach the text at all nor did he deal with the Arminian-Calvinist debate over the text.  Being a seeker church, the people would not have known the theology behind the views on Romans 9-11 but the teacher didn’t even deal with any of the issues Romans 9-11 raises.  The faithful Bible teacher should be willing to tackle tough texts not for the sake of controversy but because verse-by-verse teaching demands it so.

7.  Expository Teaching Exposes People To Biblical Theology.

Unlike systematic theology, expository teaching shows how the Bible fits its theology together perfectly.  When we teach verse-by-verse, we are able to show how the doctrines of Scripture come together but instead of jumping around to prove our points, we take our text and allow the text to prove our point.

8.  Expository Teaching Heeds the Voice of God Above All Others.

I know of churches that have preaching calendars where the Bible teacher plans various sermon series’ around the holidays, vacations, etc.  I know of other churches that have preaching committees where people give input to the Bible teacher about what they would like to hear, what people are saying, where they feel he is lacking, etc.  Still yet, I know of many Bible teachers who search the Internet for the latest fads, latest cool sermon series, the latest sketch from “skit guys” or clips from popular shows.  All the while, the Word of God takes a backseat to all these voices.  Not so with expository teaching.  By making the Bible the focus in our teaching, we are listening to God and making His inerrant and infallible voice the one that we want to hear from (John 8:47).  Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice (John 10:27) and His voice is loud and clear when we lift up His Word.

9.  Expository Teaching Avoids Chasing the Latest Evangelical Fads.

Whether it be Purpose Driven Church, The Prayer of Jabez, Your Best Life Now, etc., the evangelical church seems to never lack fads.  Driven by pragmatism, the seeker church looks to the culture to help them plan what to preach and teach.  The evangelicals, longing for the pragmatic success of the seeker churches, looks to the seeker superstars to help them plan their teaching.  Yet the faithful expository teacher is looking to one place alone to help them: God’s Word.  Verse-by-verse teaching avoids the trap of fads that rob God of His glory and make the focus on the flesh.

10.  Expository Teaching Lifts Up the Means-Grace By Which Sinners Are Saved.

Romans 10:14-17 tells us that people must hear the gospel to be saved.  Jesus said that we must go and make disciples of all nations by teaching His Word (Matthew 28:19).  The means to regeneration is the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23).  Isaiah 55:11 promises that the Word of God will accomplish what God sent His Word out to accomplish.  People get saved by exposure to the Word.  The Word reveals our sinful hearts (Romans 7:7) and the Word shows our need for a Savior (Romans 3:19).  The Word reveals that Savior to us.  Faithful verse-by-verse teaching allows the means of regeneration to go forth and for the Word to bring true salvation to the lost.  I have heard countless testimonies of people who thought they were saved but when they begin to sit under a faithful Bible teacher going verse-by-verse through the Word, they begin to see their need for salvation and that they were not truly saved but only familiar with the things of God.  The Word produces true salvation (Matthew 7:24-27).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/03/2014 at 1:54 PM

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