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Why Pragmatism Reigns in the Modern Western Church

Pragmatism is the notion that meaning or worth are determined by practical consequences.  If a church has large numbers because of its programs, its rock band “worship” team, its shallow preaching, its non-doctrinal position, then it is deemed good.  If a church is the opposite with a focus on preaching, on prayer, on confrontational evangelism, on preaching against sin, on confronting sin in the camp, or singing songs that are doctrinally sound and God-exalting, then it is deemed bad (but only if the numbers are low).  In our day, success is viewed in size terms and behind the scenes with money.

In the Bible, faithfulness is placed above success.  After all, many in the Bible where not successful but they were faithful.  Even Jesus, who once had the crowds following Him until He began to preach the radical demands of discipleship (Luke 14:25-35; John 6:60-66), must be viewed as a “failure” according to modern church growth and seeker sensitive churches yet His disciples turned the world upside down with the gospel.  Paul died a lonely man in prison (2 Timothy 4:16-17) but he was faithful (2 Timothy 4:18).  Noah preached the judgment of God to his generation but he only saw his family repent and believe and were saved from God’s judgment (1 Peter 3:20) yet Noah was faithful.

The fact is that Jesus said He would welcome faithful disciples into His everlasting kingdom (Matthew 25:21).  Faithfulness is what God is after.  Faithfulness to His Word.  Faithfulness to the gospel.  Faithfulness to follow Christ no matter what.  Sadly, few want this today.

The modern church wants success.  Preachers (if you can call them this for they are not preaching the Bible but only proof-texting from it) are out for power and control.  The drive is to be bigger, to be bolder, to out-do the other guy.  The competition among pastors is gross.  The drive for more money and power seems to drive them.  Pastors today rally around methodology and not theology.  Theology is not even a serious issue.  This is why seeker churches have no trouble modeling this guy or that guy with no thought to their theology.  They are willing to embrace whoever because of pragmatism.  I remember having a conversation once with a pastor about the modalist, TD Jakes, in which he defended Jakes not by looking at his theology but his “anointing” and his numbers.  How could we reject Jakes when it is clear that God is using him?  This is pragmatism.

In the modern pragmatic church, numbers often equal success.  Larger numbers equals more money.  More money equals more programs and bigger buildings.  But what you win them with is what you win them to.  This is why seeker churches are doctrinally shallow.  This is why I consistently meet lost sinners who know nothing of the gospel but claim to be members of such and such seeker church.  This is why you can meet a “youth pastor” on the street and ask him to explain to you how to become a disciple of Jesus and he has no clue.  His entire outlook is pragmatic.

This is why pragmatic churches deplore churches that are Christ-centered and Christ-exalting.  While seeker churches give lip service to Jesus, Jesus is used as a means to an end.  They use Jesus to lure the people into their promise that He will give them a better life now, that He will give them hope.  They fail to mention that the “seeker” is a lost sinner who needs to repent.  They fail to mention that the “seeker” is an enemy of God apart from faith in Christ (Romans 5:10).  They fail to tell “seekers” that they must turn from their wicked ways and turn to Christ alone and completely for eternal salvation.  Instead, they preach a Jesus who is just this cool, hip, shallow guy who loved them so much He died for them.  But they ignore why He had to die.  They ignore the fact that Jesus died for our sins and that it was our sins that brought the wrath of God down upon His Son (John 3:36; Galatians 1:4).

Pragmatic churches are perfect for this “selfie” generation.  It’s all about me.  It’s not about the wrath of God.  It’s not about the holy law of God.  It’s not about the coming judgment of God.  It’s not about eternal damnation.  It’s about my best life now.  This is what counts and this is what matters.  And this preaching gets results.  This preaching gets numbers and power and money.  The preaching of the cross gets you one thing: a cross.

Yet Jesus warned us in Luke 6:26: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

My earnest prayer is that the Church would rise up and cast off the gimmicks of this world.  Cast off cheap “Christian” music that doesn’t exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and declare His glory.  Cast off shallow preaching for expository preaching that is biblically focused.  Cast off dead prayer meetings that don’t truly seek God while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6).  Cast off friendship evangelism that is the evangelical copout for not preaching the gospel to the lost but instead declare the gospel to the sinners.  Cast off churches that are focused on pragmatism and lack any doctrinal preaching, any doctrinal discernment.  Instead, love the truth and defend it (Jude 3-4).

I urge you to pray.  Pray for the Church.  Pray against pragmatism.  Pray for God to raise up godly leaders who will preach the gospel with no focus on being men-pleasers (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).  Pray for a revival of expository preaching in our age.  Pray for the Lord to glorify His name in His Church just as He has promised He would (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 3:21).  Pray for sinners to repent of their sins and turn to Christ in true repentance and faith (Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-6).  I urge you to pray (Luke 18:1)!

How Much Sin Can I Get Away With?

We have such a low view of God’s holiness and His glory that we have given in to the spirit of this world and this age and have adopted a view that teaches us that we want to get away with as much sin as we can get away with and still claim to be disciples of Christ.  We claim we want the world to like us and we want to be “relevant” to them so we seek to be like them, to love what the world loves, to desire what the world desires, to watch and do what the world does.  We want our motto to be, “Hey, I may be a Christian but I am still just like you!”

Even a cursory reading of the New Testament gives us a different picture.  We are to be a holy people (1 Peter 2:9-11).  We are to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  We are to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  We are to blameless in this world (Philippians 2:14-15; 3:14-16).  We are to not love this world not the things in the world (1 John 2:15-17).  We are to rather set our affections on things above and not the things here on the earth (Colossians 3:1-4).  Jesus didn’t promise that the world would love us if we are His disciples but He promised that the world would hate us (John 15:18-25).  The promise Jesus did give us is that in the world we would have trouble but He has overcome the world (John 16:33).

I have been praying that God would help me to be “that Christian” that others see and mock.  I want to be that Christian that others see and they despise me for my pursuit of holiness.  I am not meaning that I want people to despise me because of my attitude (some “holier than thou” approach) but because I am different, I am odd in comparison to the world.  I love Christ and I adore Him with all that is in me and I want others to see that and know that.  I want to be that Christian that speaks of Jesus in all things (Colossians 4:2-6).  I want to be that Christian that is passionate for prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  I want to be that Christian that is other world focused.  I want my mind to be filled with the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2).  I want my thoughts to be pure and pleasing to the Lord (Philippians 4:8).  I want my language to be full of God’s grace and mercy (Ephesians 4:29-30).  I want to be a man after God’s own heart.  I am so sick of this world, the things of the world.  I want to be desperate for the presence of God in my life on a daily basis.

I don’t want to be like those Christians that seek to love the things of the world in order to be like the world.  I know of people who claim Christ and they will sit on their computers for hours looking at Facebook, Pinterest, etc. but they don’t pray, don’t have a passion for Christ, don’t truly worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24), don’t share their faith ever.  They claim to be justified through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and to be His sheep (John 10:27-29) but they love this world more than they love Christ.  They will sit and fill their eyes with worldly programs and listen to worldly music but they claim all the while that they are bound for heaven despite not even loving the One who has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:1-3).  Oh how I long for the Lord to sanctify them!

It is my earnest prayer for a revival of holiness in our day.  I rejoice that the doctrine of salvation is being preached but oh for the people of God to preach and live holy lives.  I pray that we would be different (as God has called us to be) from this world.  Who cares if we have right standing with men if we have no standing with God!  This sinful world should not pull us down since we are dead to it (Romans 6:11-14).  People at our jobs should see the grace of God at work in us (Titus 2:12-14).  The world should see the power of God at work in us who believe, making us more like our Savior and our Lord (Ephesians 5:1-2).  Oh for the people of God to truly be the people of God!

Pray oh saints for holiness!  Pray for the worldly-minded people to be convicted of sin and to forsake this world (John 16:8-11).  Pray for the Lord to be exalted among His saints through holiness.  Rejoice in our salvation but pray also for our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Arminianism Didn’t Save Me!

I was saved in 1992.  If you had told me in 1992 that I was an Arminian, I would have asked what in the world was that.  If you had told me in 1992 that I was a follower of Arminius, I would have asked who in the world was he.  If you had asked me in 1992 about Calvinism or Arminianism or about even John Wesley, I would have looked at you curiously and asked what they were.  I had no clue about Arminianism when I was born again.  I had no clue about John Calvin or Martin Luther when the Lord was pleased to save me.  All I knew was that Jesus died for my sins, that He rose again, and that He was my Savior and Lord.  That was all I knew.  I didn’t know much theology and surely didn’t care about learning about Arminius in 1992.

In fact, I learned that I was an Arminian by reading a theology book that my youth pastor gave me in 1993.  As I read that book, I begin to read about the debate over doctrines such as eternal security, election, predestination, etc. and I came away believing in Arminianism though I still had no clue really what that was other than I didn’t believe in “once saved, always saved.”  My Arminianism took root while in college after debating with more students over eternal security.  I am no doubt an Arminian now but that took years to develop.

My point here is that Arminianism didn’t save me.  As my mama would say, “I ain’t saved by no man.”  Jesus alone is my salvation!  I was reading (and shouting a bit) this morning as I turned in my Bible from passage to passage regarding the precious blood of Jesus and His finished work.  I read Luke 19:10 and I know that is me, a sinner in need of a Savior.  I read 1 Timothy 1:15 and that is me, the foremost of sinners who needs His grace.  I read 1 Peter 1:18-19 and shouted at the wondrous thought that Jesus shed His blood for my forgiveness.  I read 1 John 1:9 and 1 John 2:1-2 and worshiped the Lord Jesus for obtaining the right (John 1:12-13) to be forgiven by His grace.  I read Titus 3:5-7 and rejoiced to know that I am saved not by my works but by His grace alone.  I read John 19:30 and blessed God for the truth that our salvation is finished in Christ.  I read Ephesians 1:7-10 and again shouted with joy at this truth, that Jesus’ blood brings me forgiveness.

And not one of those verses names Arminius or Calvin or Ravenhill or Washer as my salvation.  Jesus alone is my salvation.  Jesus alone prays for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).  The Father accepted the sacrifice of the Son and the Spirit drew me to salvation and He sealed me until the day of reception (Ephesians 1:13-14).  It wasn’t Arminianism that saved me.  It was Christ alone who saved me (Romans 1:16-17).  It wasn’t Arminianism that washed away my sins, it was the blood of the Lord Jesus (Romans 5:8-9).

Oh friends, don’t worship a theological system.  Worship the Son of God!  Make Jesus your passion.  Don’t exalt a man above the Lord Jesus.  Exalt the Lord Jesus and make His name great!  Jesus came to ransom us from our sins (Mark 10:45) and His blood can wash away all our sins.  Hebrews 9:14 is one of the greatest passages of Scripture.  It reads,

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The blood of Christ cleanses us completely.  Through the blood of Christ we are able to serve the living God.  Praise God the Father for this wonderful gift!

Let us look to Jesus alone for our salvation (Hebrews 12:1-2) and not to men.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/15/2013 at 11:25 AM

God is the Gospel

Romans 1:1 uses the term, “the gospel of God.”  This is a fitting term for the gospel.  The gospel is not about rules.  The gospel is not about morality.  The gospel is not about our efforts to obtain moral perfection or to overcome our sins.  The gospel is not about Jesus saving us in the past on the cross only to leave sanctification up to us.  The gospel, from the beginning to the end, is all about God.  The focus of the gospel is not on us at all but upon the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done in securing our salvation.

That said, I fear that some may learn to love the term “gospel” without really loving the Who (and not the band) of the gospel.  The gospel must not be reduced to mere knowledge about Jesus.  The gospel must be all about God.  When I say that I love the gospel, I want that to mean that I love God.  When I say that the gospel is what motivates me, I want that to mean that Jesus is my Lord in every area of my life.  When I say that I want to have a gospel driven approach to marriage, to raising my boys, to work, to evangelism, to theology, to how I read the Bible and apply it to my life, I want that to mean that Jesus is my passion and all that I say and do revolves around His Lordship over my life (Colossians 3:17).  I don’t want to say that I am gospel driven and mean that I love facts about Christ or that I love theology.  I want to be like Paul the Apostle and love Jesus (Philippians 3:7-11).  I want to show my love for the gospel by learning to allow the Spirit of God to move through me to obedience to the Lordship of Christ (1 John 2:3-6).

The gospel is not facts.  The gospel is not a plan.  The gospel cannot be reduced to steps.  The gospel is not something we use on the lost to bring them to repentance.  Rather the gospel is all about God.  The focus is on God.  After all, it is His laws that we have violated that caused us to need His grace for our salvation (1 John 3:4).  We humans deserve His just wrath against sin (Romans 1:18).  The gospel is focused on how God saved us in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  The gospel is all about Christ and His saving work (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  In short, the gospel is focused on a Person and not a plan.  I pray that I don’t view the gospel as about me, my life, my plans, or even a plan but I pray that I focus on the Lordship of Christ in all things.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/29/2013 at 11:23 AM

How Precious Is Our Savior’s Love

This truth has been in my mind all day from 1 John 4:10:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

How precious is the love of our God for us.  Let us lay aside differences over Arminianism and Calvinism and let us for a moment see how great is our Father’s love for us.  Who can fathom the depth of His grace and mercy?  Who can begin to swim in the ocean of His mercy?  Who can ponder the greatness of our sins that God would send His Son to redeem us from the curse of sin through His Son?

I wonder at our Savior.  I marvel at who He is and what He has done in saving me.  I do not deserve His grace.  I have not earned His forgiveness.  All of this blessing comes to me simply because of the sovereign choice of our God.  He chose to save.  He chose to release me from the bondage of sin.  He chose to send His Son.  I did not earn this.  I did not deserve this.  This is love is simply from the hand and plan of a mighty God.

Oh for others to experience this love!  Oh for others to know the blessing of repentance of sins and His great grace!  May we be examples of His grace toward those around us who do not know His love.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/05/2013 at 6:32 PM

Let Them See Jesus

And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. – Mark 5:6

The world needs to see Jesus.  They have seen our programs and they are not saved.  They have heard our music and they are not saved.  They have read our books and they are not saved.  They have debated our apologists and they are not saved.  They have seen our protests and they are not saved.  They have watched us and they are not saved.

The world needs to see Jesus.

You see no program at your church would deliver the demon possessed man here in Mark 5.  No music ministry was going to break his chains.  No strong man in the flesh was going to take him down.  This man needed Jesus.  Jesus alone was the One who could break his chains.  Isaiah had promised in Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV):

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Jesus came in the power of the Spirit and He could break this man’s chains.  And He did.  We read in Mark 5:15 (NIV):

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.

Jesus delivered this man.

Jesus can still save.  I am convinced that if we would be exalt Jesus, preach Jesus, live for Jesus, seek to be like Jesus in all that we say or do, if we would but show the world Jesus, Jesus would save sinners.  He proclaimed in John 12:32 (NIV):

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

Jesus was given to set the world free.  1 John 2:2 promises us that “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

I would urge you to preach Jesus.  I pray that my co-workers are drawn to the Lord Jesus who dwells in me.  My family, my friends, the world – they all need to see Jesus.  This will bring salvation.  This is what will bring repentance and this is what will truly transform our world for the glory of God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/15/2013 at 10:47 AM

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