Tuesday, December 22, 2009

HOW TO DESTROY A CHURCH

"The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it-admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism-all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
~ D.A. Carson ("The Cross and Christian Ministry")

This quote is a reminder to all of us that the local church is supposed to be a representation of Jesus Christ. The message of the Cross should be the primary function of every church which means, preaching the Gospel and discipling believers to share the Gospel outside of the church. When the church becomes known for its entertainment value, social programs, trendy "How To" messages or when people go there simply because everyone else does, that church has lost its purpose.

Church is about worshipping, glorifying and honoring God. It's a place for true followers of Christ to gather and praise Him; to learn more about Him. It's where the Word is taught and the Gospel comes alive through Holy-Spirit inspired preaching. The local church should be open to everyone and judgmental of none but never catering to or compromising for the world in order to make itself attractive to the so-called "seeker". Every church that claims to follow Christ ought to be focused on the Word and not what the latest marketing study determines is culturally relevant. When the church devotes its energy towards promoting itself in order to appeal to the unsaved person, something is wrong.

"If they don't hear the truth, cool music won't help. If they don't see the light, PowerPoint won't help. They're blind and dead. Our task is to go on preaching not ourselves, not our manipulated message, but repentance and submission to Christ Jesus as Lord." ~ John MacArthur ("Hard To Believe")

Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). That alone should be the core mission statement behind every church; in their teaching, preaching, outreach and programs. We don't need to soften the message to make it easier for the unsaved world. We don't need to make the Word exciting to get their attention. Church doesn't need to be entertaining in order to lead people to the life transforming power of the Gospel. If people see God and His word as boring, the problem is not with the church but the soul of that person. Every true follower of Christ will hunger for the Word. Church should be a place of reverence for God where His Word is treated as Holy. The Sunday message or experience should be about theology not psychology. If the Word is preached rightly, hearts will be softened, eyes will be opened and lives will be transformed.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." ~ Romans 1:16

We need not dress-up the Word or church to make it appealing to the unregenerate world. Who are we to think that we know how to reach people with our silly methods, programs and research-proven topical series forms of entertainment? Has the local church forgotten who draws people to God? Have they forgotten what it is that humbles a heart and leads people to their knees in repentance? God doesn't expect us to attract people; He simply expects us to be obedient in teaching His Word. He is quite capable of doing the rest.

“No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” ~John. 6:44

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." ~ Matthew 28: 19-20



~ktf~
John

Friday, November 20, 2009

Man-centered Religion -vs- The Gospel According to Jesus

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." ~ 1 John 2: 15-17

"YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND." ~ Matthew 22:37




According to Robert Schuller (Crystal Cathedral) who many prominent church leaders have modeled their church movements after (Purpose Driven, Seeker Sensitive, etc.)...

Man-centered theology:
(quotes from Schuller's book, "Self-Esteem: The New Reformation")

"This master plan of God is designed around the deepest needs of human beings- self dignity, self-respect, self-worth, self-esteem."

"Success is to be defined as the gift of self-esteem that God gives us as a reward for our sacrificial service in building self-esteem in others. Win or lose: If we follow God's plan as faithfully as we can, we will feel good about ourselves. This is success!"

"Once a person believes he is an "unworthy sinner", it is doubtful if he can really honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ."

This self-centered gospel goes completely against the Gospel according to Jesus which is really all about dying to self, taking up our cross and submitting fully to Him as our Lord and Savior. Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Life" starts out with reminding us it's not about us however, the underlying theme in the book and his later teachings are somewhat void of the real Gospel message of repentance, submission and obedience. Instead, there is a strong emphasis on moralism; do this and God will make your life better.

The Biblical Gospel is Christ-centered; not man-centered. It's about turning from our sinful, self-centered way of living and submitting fully to the life transforming power that comes from God's grace.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? ~ Matthew 16:24-26

This was not an optional request directed only to Christians. This was Christ presenting the Gospel to all who sought to follow Him and be saved. Definitely not an easy message then or today. Christianity does not make sense to the unregenerate world. "Dying to self" is a tough concept to swallow in this day and age of "me, me, me". Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that the Cross is foolishness to the lost. It simply doesn't make sense if not for the grace of God opening our eyes.

The problems we see today in the world can be traced directly back to a man-centered attitude. It started in the Garden and continues even in churches today that have watered-down the real Gospel in order to be attractive to men. It's about tolerance and being culturally relevant to the point that many churches look, sound and act just like the world.

None of this should come as a surprise...

"Dangerous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves."
~ 2 Timothy 3: 1-2

We need to recognize that our very nature is to focus on self. It's not an easy thing even for the most mature Christian to deny self but, when we spend time in the Word and understand the fullness of God's mercy, grace and love for us while we were yet sinners, then it starts to make sense. The Cross is more than someone dying for us; its everything. Christ is all we have! It's not enough to simply believe in Him. It's not enough to say we know Him. In the end, what really matters is that He knows us. The more we elevate Him in our lives, the less we will depend on self.

~ktf~
John

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Shack: Should You Go There?


"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son."
~ 2 John 1: 9




Let me start out by saying I have not read "The Shack" nor do I plan on it.

Sometimes, it's not necessary to read something to know that it's of no value. I don't need to read "Playboy" to know that it's pornography. I don't need to read the Koran or the Book of Mormon to know that what they teach is contradictory to God's Word. In the case of "The Shack", enough has been said and written about it to know that it's filled with heresy.

Some who've read it claim it has brought them closer to God. To that I say, "What God?" Certainly not the God of the Bible. Not with all the blatant heresy that this book delivers.

Some say it's just a fictional novel; don't take it so seriously. Ok. Fine. Then why have so many people read it to better understand God? I find it perplexing that Christians can read this book and claim it has broadened their understanding of God especially when there is so much in it that goes completely against what the Bible says about His character. Sadly, I think there are many who've read this book and don't even see the errors, heresy or mis-characterization of God, Jesus and The Trinity as a whole. Like many, they enjoyed this book because it made them feel good and it provided a (false) view of God that they want to hear & believe. The Shack is just another example of mankind creating God in his own image to suit his emotional desires.

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." ~ 2 Timothy 4: 3-4

There are several major issues with The Shack that every reader needs to be aware of; especially those Christians who see nothing wrong with it...

1) Unbiblical view of the nature of God, Christ & the Trinity

2) Unbiblical view of Sin and substitutionary attonement

3) Unbiblical view of Salvation

4) Rejection of traditional Christianity, Scripture and the role of the Church

5) Characterizing God through experience -vs- Scripture

6) False view of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ

7) Heretical view of the Father suffering

8) Promotion of Universalism

9) Wrong view of Faith and Reason

10) Eliminates Knowledge of God

Below, are a few links to some excellent reviews on "The Shack". Whether you've read it and liked it or, you're curious about it, I would highly recommend reading these reviews. To fully understand this book as well as the reviews, compare what it says against Scripture.


"The Shack"- Tim Challies book review

"The Shack"- Helpful or Heretical? A review by Geisler & Roach


"The Shack"- review by William Paul Young


Author of The Shack, Denies the Penal Substitutionary Atonement


In summary, this is not a book for those seeking to find out who the true God is nor, is it a book for the Christian hoping to deepen their relationship with God. If you want to know who God is; if you want to grow deeper in your relationship with Him or, if you're searching for answers, there is only one book that covers it all without confusion, distortion or sugar-coating: The Bible.


"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." ~ 2 Timothy 3: 16


~ktf~
John






Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Cost of an Abundant Life



"But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." ~ Romans 6:17-18


"The contemporary church has the idea that salvation is only the granting of eternal life, not necessarily the liberation of a sinner from the bondage of his iniquity. We tell people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives, but that is only half the truth. God also hates sin and will punish unrepentant sinners with eternal torment. No gospel presentation is complete if it avoids or conceals those facts. Any message that fails to define and confront the severity of personal sin is a deficient gospel. And any "salvation" that does not alter a lifestyle of sin and transform the heart of the sinner is not the salvation God's Word speaks of." ~ John MacArthur (The Gospel According to Jesus)

When Jesus spoke of the abundant life in John 10:10, He wasn't referring to having your best life now on earth in the physical or material sense:

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." ~ John 10:10

The word "life" used in this passage comes from the greek, "zoe" which refers to spirit and soul. Jesus was talking about eternal life in the context of His continued efforts to reach the Jewish people. They were under the bondage of sin and the law, controlled by the self-appointed, self-righteous religious leaders. Through Christ alone, we are free from this slavery to sin and the world system of good works. Only when we die to self and surrender to Him are we free to this "abundant life". No longer trusting in the law, religion or our own efforts to save ourselves, we are transformed to experience life on a completely different level.

Isn't it ironic that many pastors and teachers today are doing the exact same thing that Jesus warned of in John 10? In their efforts to attract people and build their churches, they promise a twisted form of the "abundant life". They talk of earthly gain, not spiritual freedom. They refer to things like being happy, whole, complete and purpose driven instead of the things Christ taught like humility and self denial. How tragic that some people are being deceived into thinking that if they simply "come to Jesus" then life will get better and they'll be happy. One need only read about the disciples and early church founders to see that despite their "coming to Jesus", they lived a life of persecution, suffering and poverty in many cases. This certainly wasn't their "best life now" in the way that Jesus is being "marketed" today.

No, the life Jesus was calling His disciples (and us) to is one that involves sacrificial, selfless living. The kind of living that produces faith and glorifies God. A life that points to Christ, not to self or earthly success.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." ~James 1:2-4

We are robbing God of His glory and keeping the truth from people when we fail to present a Gospel message that doesn't include sin and repentance. "Jesus loves you" means nothing to the person who has not been confronted with their sin. That's like offering a cure for a disease to a person who doesn't even know they're sick in the first place.

The abundant life is living with joy because of what Christ has done for us. It's living a life of contentment and peace, trusting fully in Him for all things. (Philippians 4: 6-13).


~ktf~
John

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Evidence of True Faith



"Faith is not something dreamed, a human illusion, although this is what many people understand by the term. Whenever they see that it is not followed either by an improvement in morals or by good works, while much is still being said about faith, they fall into the error of declaring that faith is not enough, that we must do "works" if we are to become upright and attain salvation. The reason is that, when they hear the gospel, they miss the point; in their hearts, and out of their own resources, they conjure up an idea which they call "belief", which they treat as genuine faith. All the same, it is but a human fabrication, an idea without corresponding experience in the depths of the heart. It is therefore ineffective and not followed by a better kind of life."

"Faith however, is something that God effects in us. It changes us and we are reborn from God (John 1). Faith puts the old Adam to death and makes us quite different men in heart, mind, and in all our powers; and it is accompanied by the Holy Spirit. O, when it comes to faith, what a living, creative, active, powerful thing it is. It cannot do other than good at all times. It never waits to ask whether there is some good work to do, rather before the question is raised, it has done the deed, and keeps on doing it. A man not active in this way is a man without faith. He is groping about for faith and searching for good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Nevertheless, he keeps on talking nonsense about faith and good works." ~ Martin Luther

"Faith without works is dead." ~ James 2:20

Our good works cannot save us however, they are the necessary validation in our lives that we have truly become born again. The one who claims to be a Christian and yet, their life consistently reflects that of the carnal world, has been deceived. Their belief rests only in a sinner's prayer they said as a child asking Jesus into their heart. This is why it is so important that preachers preach the word and that Christians present the gospel without watering it down or softening its message. God's grace is freely given to the humble yet, it is the Law that convicts us to the sorrow of our sin. Without a broken heart, a broken will, one cannot be saved. The intent of the gospel message is to bring us to repentance.

"Now, until a man confess his sin, and that with bitterness, it is a sign he loves it...A man will never leave sin till he find bitterness in it; and, if so, then he will be in bitterness for it." ~ Thomas Goodwin

"The gospel according to Jesus is the gospel according to His apostles. It is a small gate and a narrow road. It is free but it costs everything. And though it is appropriated by faith, it cannot fail to produce the fruit of true righteousness in the life and behavior of the believer." ~ John MacArthur

The Christian life should be one marked by spiritual growth where our faith is tested and strengthened by the struggles of life. Where we grow to become more sensitive to our sins, recognizing how offensive they are, being quick to repent and move on. The true follower of Jesus Christ strives for holiness and to live righteously not to prove how holy we are to ourselves, others or even God, but rather, out of our love for Him. True faith is demonstrated in obedience.

"What matters is not a momentary act of professing, but being persistently motivated by faith." ~ Ignatius, 1st Century Bishop of Antioch


~ktf~
John

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Are You a Church Worshipper?"

"In a recent Christian Post article, Hybels once again revealed the humanist nature of the infamous seeker-sensitive church growth movement by posing the question:

"Do we still believe the local church is the hope of the world?"

You see, many Christians might look at that and not realize they’ve been subjected to a dialectic question designed to alter their spiritual priorities and get them on-board an alternative agenda. This is what trained facilitators do under the radar in many churches today.

But I would ask: Is that where your hope lies – in the local church?

Do you believe your church can save the world?

Did it save you?"

read the entire article here...
"Are You A Church Worshipper?" by Paul Proctor


Every true follower of Jesus Christ should be involved in a local church however, that alone should not be where their hope rests. We are to be active members of the Body of Christ and not simply "sponges" who depend on the local church to feed them and keep them on the narrow path. The above article is a great reminder of what the Biblical model for church is and a wake-up to those who may have their hope focus out of order.


~ktf~
John

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Easy Street: The Broad Way

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." ~ Matthew 7:13-14

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" ~ Proverbs 16:25




"The broad way is certainly easier. There is no precipice. There is plenty of latitude for those who want to sample the moral smorgasbord offered by the crowd on this road. You can just stroll and roam. There are hardly any limitations, no curbs, no boundaries. There is tolerance of every conceivable sin- just as long as you say you love Jesus. Or as long as you are religious. Or whatever else you want to be."
~ John MacArthur ("The Gospel According to Jesus")

"Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on." ~ Led Zeppelin ("Stairway to Heaven")

The world wants to believe that all paths lead to heaven. They want options and they despise exclusivity because it goes against human nature; we want everything our own way. The narrow way to heaven is not about rules and legalism; it's about obedience to a new nature. The popular message today is tolerance & acceptance. Within this new attitude, there is no room (or tolerance) for the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. When someone calls themselves a Christian and yet, believes that there may be other ways to heaven besides Jesus, what does that say about their faith?

U2 has had a following of Christians for years because of the spiritual messages behind their songs. Bono has been elevated as a sort of spokesperson for Christianity because of his humanitarian efforts however, his position on the exclusivity of Jesus Christ says something completely different...While performing in concert with U2 back in 2005, Bono wearing a headband with the word "COEXIST" on it, stated the following:

"Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true."

Apparently, it's "cool" to be a Christian (like Bono) who accepts that there are other ways besides Jesus. This is the type of non-judgmental Christianity that the world likes unfortunately, it's not true.

How long before this verse is deemed hateful and intolerant?...

"I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me." ~ John 14:6


~ktf~
John

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Seeker-Friendly Gospel

(Q & A from John MacArthur at the "Shephereds' Conference- 2005")

IS THE SEEKER-SENSITIVE MOVEMENT A NEW FORM OF LIBERALISM?

"Absolutely. It is the new liberalism. It is the new liberalism! It’s no different than the old liberalism, which was a social gospel. That’s what this is, only it’s not a social gospel, because it doesn’t reach out to the poor. It’s not the down-and-outers; it’s the up-and-inners. It’s a psychological gospel. So, the psychological feel-good gospel is the new liberalism. Nobody’s going to say that they deny the Word of God; it’s just not “relevant.” It’s just not relevant.

I’ve said this many times: I can listen to a guy preach—put anybody in front of me—and I’ll tell you what his view of Scripture is by what he says. If he doesn’t preach out of the Bible, I know what his view of Scripture is, I don’t care what he says. I don’t care if he wants to die telling me he’s a believer in inerrancy, if he gets up and does not preach the Word of God, that’s his view of Scripture leaking all over the place. Look, every preacher preaches for impact, for effect, for result. You’re up there saying what you think is going to get you the best result. If you think it’s foolishness and fun n’ games and song n’ dance and sermonettes for Christianettes—if you think it’s that kind of stuff—that’s what you’re going to do; but if you know, as Al [Mohler] was saying, that the power is the truth, that God has, as we’ve heard all week, has invested his power, as R.C. [Sproul] said, in his Word, then that’s what you preach. I mean, it’s that simple! It comes down to this loss of preaching. And I’ll tell you, how do you know it’s the new liberalism? Because you can’t stop a seeker-friendly movement, because it’s going to be redefined, it’s going to be redefined, it’s going to be redefined… It’s relentlessly being redefined because the culture changes so fast in a media-driven society. It changes so fast!

You know, Schuller is the architect of this. Robert Schuller is the absolute father. The grandfather of the movement, who was a little bit below the radar, was Norman Vincent Peale. Norman Vincent Peale is a classic liberal. The primary impact that Norman Vincent Peale has had on the world is through his leading disciple, Robert Schuller, who said to me, “I can sign the confession of my denomination and make the words mean anything I want them to mean.” Well, that’s classic neo-orthodoxy—or liberalism (whichever).

So, you’ve got Norman Vincent Peale, who creates this kind of liberal, social gospel; his number one disciple, positive-thinker Robert Schuller; Robert Schuller develops this concept of the church many years ago, where he goes into Orange County and he goes door-to-door, passes out cards, and tells people to write down what they want a church to be, and then he gives them what they ask for. He said in a speech at N.R.B. many years ago, “If you want to know how to build a church, ask the community, and give them what they want.” His most famous disciple trained into that model is Bill Hybels, and the second is Rick Warren. Rick Warren says, himself, that when he left seminary, he drove right to the Crystal Cathedral and was mentored there.

So, there’s a flow going on here. And where is it going? It’s going toward the Emerging Church. That’s why you can have all those people—Rick Warren and Brian McLaren—way out on the edge of the Emergent Church, you can have all those people at the same conference in San Diego all speaking, and, in between, sessions on Yoga. If you just look at the roots of something—and look where it’s going: if you let the culture define the church, there’s no way to catch up. So, now you go to Schuller’s church, you wouldn’t find anybody whose hair wasn’t gray, because they had their little niche for that little cultural group, and they go to the grave with them. And the same is going to happen with the others and the others and the others… It’s not transcendent. It’s not trans-cultural. It’s not even beyond their tiny little chronological zone. And that’s the problem with it, because if it’s culturally defined, it is its own worst enemy; it’s planned obsolescence.

To me it’s a metaphor, like looking at Oral Roberts University—has anybody ever seen Oral Roberts University? It looks like a parking lot for old spaceships that came out of the sixties, doesn’t it? Because, in an effort to be really, really modern, you become immediately obsolete. I look at that and I think, “That’s what this is and it never can reach beyond its own limits, self-imposed.” So, the illusion of the seeker-friendly movement is that it has the potential to have the greatest impact. The truth of the matter is its impact is narrow and limited and, in many, many cases, superficial—but it gives the appearance of impact. But stripped of any depth and any real continuity in content and things that come out of the Word of God, it is it’s own worst enemy.

I will tell you this, there’s really only one thing that I want to do in my ministry. There’s only one obligation that I have and it is this: to show people that the Scripture is the Word of the Living God, to be adhered to. I don’t want them to think I’m the authority, I don’t want them to think the culture is the authority; I just want them to know this Word is the authority. Now, how do you convince people of that if you don’t ever teach it? People coming through those kinds of environments, have a superficial, once-over-lightly view of Scripture. The depth of it utterly escapes them. The simplest apparent paradox in theology knocks them for a loop. They can’t think deeply about things and they’re, therefore, sentenced to a life of battling the flesh without ever being armed with sound doctrine to deal with it. I’m not picking on anybody, I’m just saying, once you move away from the Word of God, in my definition that’s “liberalism,” if you like that word. “Compromise,” whatever."

((online source: John MacArthur- 2005 Shepherds' Conference))


Scripture references that refute the basic concepts behind the Seeker-Sensitive/Friendly Movement:

- "There is no one who seeks God" (Romans 3:10-12). On the contrary, it is God who seeks man (John 15:16)
- Unbelievers reject the truth and the one true God (Romans 1:18-23)
- The Gospel is supposed to offend the unbeliever in order to bring conviction of sin that leads to repentance (1 Cor. 14:24-25, John 6: 59-66).

For more on the seeker-friendly church model, check out this site:
"Current Trends in Evangelism: The Seeker Sensitive Movement"



"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." ~ Romans 1:16

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is being avoided, softened and twisted today more than ever in an attempt to draw people into church or to fill a "God shaped hole". Throughout America there are churches embracing new ideas about how to "do" church and reach the unchurched, disenfranchised, seeker with a new & improved Gospel that isn't so offensive. A Gospel that invites people to "ask Jesus into your heart" without first dealing with the uncomfortable issues such as sin, God's wrath and repentance. Easy believism is NOT the Gospel that leads to genuine salvation



~ktf~
John

Friday, July 24, 2009

Spiritual Footprints: The Test of True Faith

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." ~ 1 John 2:3-6

We do not segment our lives, giving some time to God, some to our business or schooling, while keeping parts to ourselves. The idea is to live all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God. That is what the Christian life is all about. ~
R. C. Sproul

Thanks to the latest "Save the Planet-Be Green" trend, we now have carbon footprints to measure our impact on the environment. Of greater importance however, are the spiritual footprints Christians leave upon the world. These are the impressions we make upon others and are also the true test of our faith in Jesus Christ.

The problem with footprints is that they lie behind us and we are not aware of what they look like until we take the time to stop and look back. When it comes to the mark we leave on the world with regard to our witness for Christ, we often fail to recognize the effect we are having. Are we representing Christ in a way that would draw others to Him or, are we presenting a false picture of the Gospel by a lifestyle that contradicts what true Christianity is? Our lives reflect not only the influence and impact we have on the lives of others, but also who we really are. Many claim to be Christians but their lives demonstrate something else. All that we think, do and say publicly and privately reveal not only who we are but who's we are. If someone were to ask those who know you what is most important to you, what you love or enjoy the most, what would they say? As a follower of Jesus Christ, we are called to be separated from the world; we shouldn't blend in so well that we look, act and talk just like them. Our heart's desire should be to please God, not be loved by the world (James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-17).

The world is full of superficial people. Those who claim to be someone they are not. This may be more evident amongst those who call themselves Christians than in any other group or religion. People who claim to know Christ but live like the world. Products of quick & easy conversions. They believe in God and accepted Jesus (or asked Him into their heart) without any brokenness of heart; without any understanding of the Gospel. Many claim they are saved without having any sense of being lost in the first place. Jesus addressed the issue of false converts and hypocrites to show us that being a Christian is not simply being religious. Perhaps the best illustration of this was during the Sermon on the Mount...

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' ~ Matthew 7:21-23

Our spiritual footprints reveal the pattern of our life and that which characterizes who we are. The true test of our faith is not how religious we are nor is it simply what we claim to believe. According to Jesus Christ, the evidence of true faith is found in our obedience...

"for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." ~ Ephesians 5:8-11

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it." ~ Luke 9:23-24

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." ~Ephesians 5:1

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." ~ Romans 12:2

Every aspect of the life of a Believer should be Christ-centered and God-honoring. Some mistakenly confuse this with legalism. Certainly, that has been a problem since the beginning of the church however, our lives should be a reflection of God's Word purely out of our love for Him, not simply to abide by a set of rules in order to appear religious or good. The ultimate deception of Satan is to convince people they are saved when they are not. It all started in the Garden with pride.

There is a huge difference between living in obedience to Christ and living to appear holy in an effort to impress others. Our lifestyle should be set apart from the world. God has given us clear guidelines for how we are to live. Those who live in the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom...(1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 21:8).

We should be regularly checking our spiritual footprints by examining the pattern of our life to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are we boldly sharing the Gospel or do we hide it? Do our activities outside of church align with our faith or do we live two separate lives? How is it that we can call ourselves Christians and yet, demonstrate a lifestyle at work, with friends or even on Facebook that contradicts the very principles that define a Christian? Sharing inappropriate jokes, using coarse language, boasting of how much beer we drank, watching movies and reading books that tickle our ears and feed the lust of the flesh, exploding in anger with those we love.. the list goes on. How can we call ourselves Christians and regularly be living like the world? It's one thing to stumble into sin, repent and move on but, when we live in it and see nothing wrong with it, something is clearly missing in our salvation experience.

A born-again, follower of Jesus Christ should be pursuing and striving for the things that leave God-honoring spiritual footprints. True, we will stumble and we will struggle but, we should be moving in the direction of the narrow way; not taking detours backwards. Some of the areas that demonstrate attributes of true faith are:

- Love for and submission to the Word of God. (Psalm 119)
- Love for the truth. (John 8:22-36)
- Love for the people of God. (1 John 4)
- Changed Life. (Matthew 7:15-20, James 4)
- Love of Holiness. (Galatians 4, Romans 7)
- Growth in sanctification. (1 John 2:3-6)
- Ever-growing sensitivity to sin. (1 John 1:8-10)
- A Right Attitude To This World. (Matthew 6:25-33, Phil. 1, 2 Cor. 5)

"Separation from the world has always been one of the evidences of God’s work of grace in the heart. Those who have really been born of God’s Spirit have always separated from the world, whereas those who are Christians only in name always refuse to come out and be separate. The subject is especially important today, because many are trying to make Christianity as easy as possible and to avoid the need for self-denial. "The world is a source of great danger to the soul. By "the world", I do not mean the physical world in which we live. When I speak of "the world" I mean those people who think only, or mainly, of the things of this world and neglect the world to come – those who think more about the body than the spirit, more about pleasing men than about pleasing God. By "the world" I mean these people, together with their way of life, their opinions, their tastes, their ambitions and their outlook. This is the world that is dangerous to the soul. This is the world from which we must come out and be separate." ~ J.C. Ryle (Practical Religion)

~ktf~

John

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lost and Found


"We love because He first loved us" ~ 1 John 4:19

"For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost" ~ Luke 19:10






The greatest truth about Christianity is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That a Holy God would love such wretched sinners to the point that He poured out His wrath on His Son rather than on those who rightly deserved it is beyond human understanding. When we speak of the love of God, the Cross is the perfect picture of love. What makes Christianity unique amongst all the world religions is the great exchange; Forgiveness of sins, imputed righteousness and eternal life all freely offered without any effort or good works required on our part. We come as we are.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

What makes the Gospel so incredible is that even in our sinful, fallen state, God loved us first. Contrary to what many feel-good churches teach today, it is not us who accepts Jesus Christ nor is it us who seeks Him. Both of those would essentially be acts of works that go against what grace truly is. No, it is Christ who does the seeking and the accepting. We simply receive it through repentance and faith. If it were not for the grace of God, we would not even see our need for a savior let alone recognize that we needed forgiveness. What some call a "God shaped hole" or a life long search for purpose is actually the work of the Holy Spirit drawing us to Him. Some respond while others continue (hopelessly) looking for fulfilment in the things of the world. Those who do respond come with broken hearts, humbled by the Gospel, wretched sinners in need of salvation. They come just as they are but they don't stay that way.

If for a moment we could see all of history in a glimpse, the thing that would stand out the most would be the greatest love story one could ever imagine. God the Creator pursuing mankind despite his rebellious, adulterous, self-centered ways. Never giving up on us. Never losing His patience with us. Always looking out for us. Jesus told several parables as a way to illustrate this love God has for us. The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) demonstrated a fathers love for a wayward son. In the below video, Paul Washer tells the story of a mothers love for her daughter and how far she went to find her. The message at the end describes what unconditional love is; similar to how God desires us to come to Him...


The Gospel invitation is to all people regardless of where you are or what you've done. The only requirement for Salvation is a contrite, humbled, repentant heart. Those who come as they are, repentant and trusting in Jesus Christ alone will be received with love by the Father.

Don't waste your life trying to be good enough (none of us are... Luke 18:19). Don't live burdened by the weight of religion that puts works as part of "The Way" to Jesus Christ. Eternal life is not found in what we do or how we live. It's not found in methods or quick prayers to ask Jesus into your heart.
When we reach the point of seeking Him, we can be sure that this too is a result of God first softening our hearts to His seeking of us through the Gospel. Likewise, Jesus should not be presented as a "quick fix" to life's problems nor should we offer Him up as a sort of "trial offer".

"Much of contemporary evangelism is woefully deficient when it comes to confronting people with the reality of their sin. Preachers offer people happiness, joy, fulfillment and everything positive. Present-day Christians are taught that all they have to do is find a person's psychological needs then offer Jesus as a panacea for whatever the problem is. It is very easy to get a response, because people are looking for quick solutions to their felt needs. But if that is all we do, it is not legitimate evangelism." ~ John MacArthur (The Gospel According to Jesus)


~ktf~
John

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LOVING THE CHURCH

I recently came across a new book for my summer reading list. It's from Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, the authors of "Why We're Not Emergent". Their new book is entitled, "Why We Love The Church". The title might throw some of you off. It's not another one of those feel-good, how to attract the seeker to your cool, hip mega-church books. Rather, it's a reminder of what The Body of Christ Church looks like and what we as members of it should be doing (as opposed to what we can get out of it).

Here's a great quote from Ted Kluck...

"Church isn't boring because we're not showing enough film clips, or because we play an organ instead of guitar. It's boring because we neuter it of its importance. Too often we treat our spiritual lives like the round of golf used to open George Barna's Revolution. At the end of my life, I want my friends and family to remember me as someone who battled for the Gospel, who tried to mortify sin in my life, who found hard for life, and who contended earnestly for the faith. Not just a nice guy who occasionally noticed the splendor of the mountains God created, while otherwise just trying to enjoy myself, manage my schedule, and work on my short game."

This book is targeted towards those who are either Committed, Disgruntled, Waffling or Disconnected with or from their local church. "Why We Love the Church" presents the case for loving the local church. It paints a picture of the local church in all its biblical and real life guts, gaffes, and glory in an effort to edify local congregations and entice the disaffected back to the fold. It also provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be part of the body of Christ and counteract the "leave church" books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs.

In this day and age of anything goes when it comes to "doing church", we (the Body) don't need another trend, program or market-proven formula for making church exciting or attractive to the world. What we need is a return to reverence and awe of the Church that God intended for us to build and be a part of on a local level, not just as an observer/member of the "universal church".

Everyone is familiar with Jesus referring to "the rock" on which He will build His church...

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." ~Matthew 16:18

NOTE: Contrary to what the Roman Catholic church teaches, Peter was not the founding father of the church. Jesus used a sort of play on words when he spoke these words to him. Scripture clearly shows that Christ is the architect, foundation (the "corner stone"), builder and head of the church. Every believer in the Body is one of the "living stones" that make up the church.

This of course is the universal church. However, in Matthew 18:17, the focus is clearly on the local church of which all believers should be a part of. Throughout the book of Acts, we see many references to the origins of local church and then again, in the epistles we see instructions for the local church. Finally, in the book of Revelation, there are specific churches mentioned prior to the consummation of the local church with the New Jerusalem. How we "do" church is not so much as important as what we do with it. There should be no question that the primary purpose of the local church is to preach the Gospel and disciple believers to grow spiritually while sharing the good news with a lost and dying world. Everything else is secondary. We don't make the church look like the world in order to reach the world.


For more on this book, check out Frank Turk's review at the Pyromanics Blog




~ktf~
John

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER..."

"Greener Grass..."
((from "REJOICE MARRIAGE MINISTRIES"))


"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me." ~Deuteronomy 5:21-22

Summer weather is finally in full swing in my part of the country. The daffodils and tulips have come and gone and now it's the iris' turn. I walk every day around my neighborhood and get a chance to see all the flowers come and go and the lawns throw off their winter brown to make way for their summer green. Up the street from me is a home with one of the greenest yards I have ever seen. I have often sat on my front porch and wondered what it was about this lawn that made it so much greener than the rest. This morning I took a different walking route so I could check it out. Know what I discovered? That grass was greener because it was a broadleaf grass; really what I considered to be rogue grass in my own yard. It wasn't greener grass; it was just different grass.

How many of our spouses, or maybe even us, have been tempted by greener grass on the other side? They looked at the thorns and thistles, the weeds and dry spots in their own yard and that was all they could see. Then they looked at the grass on the other side of the fence and thought, "That looks pretty good." Yep - the enemy stepped in with his masterful deceptions about a better life and greener grass. And another family fell prey to his lies.

"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." ~John 8:44

The grass always looks greener on the other side - until you get there. For some of those we pray for, this realization comes at a price. This is often the time they look back and find that the grass in their own yard was much greener than they thought it was. Rather than spend time watering and fertilizing their own yard, they decided that it was just easier to move on. But when they got there they realized that the grass wasn't greener on the other side - it was just different grass. Now they find themselves in a weed field of lies and deception, not the true grass of a covenant family. They find themselves in a yard full of thistles and thornbushes that prick at their conscience and poke them every time they turn around.

"Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'" ~Hosea 2:6-7

So why don't they just go back over the fence? Many are convinced that they can turn this yard full of weeds into a beautiful lawn. Some don't mind living among the thornbushes. Some don't even see the thornbushes. And for many of the greener grass escapees, the yard they left is still pockmarked with unforgiveness and anger. There is nothing different over here than when they left.

What does your yard look like? Is it a yard still full of the weeds of bitterness and the brown spots of neglect? Is it a yard in need of water and fertilizer and tender loving care? Have you been working on your yard just to find that every day it looks the same? We don't hesitate to call the lawn care guy when we have a problem in our yard that we can't handle. Why do we hesitate to call on the Master Gardener to make our spiritual yards green again?

"This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it-the LORD is his name: 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." ~Jeremiah 33:2-3

If bitterness or jealousy or anger still have a root hold in your heart, ask the Master Gardener for help. Offer these thoughts and emotions to Him every day if you have to. Water your yard faithfully with His Word and fertilize it with the Fruits of the Spirit. Take refuge under His wings when the storms come. Pray for the rain that washes everything clean. Before long you will see those brown spots turning green and the weeds disappearing. The hole in your heart has been filled with His love. Now it's your turn.

Those we love often cannot see the weeds they are living in. For these we pray for the opened eyes and unstopped ears. For those who think the weeds are good, we pray for that heart transplant that Charlyne so often writes about. And for those who are tangled in the weeds and can't see their way out, we pray that the Lord will open wide the way of escape. There is no yard so dead or weeds so copious that the Lord cannot find them and lead them home.

"The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." ~John 10:2-3


Been there; done that. If there is one thing I've learned in my stumbling through life it's this; "When the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it's time to start watering your own grass." Marriage is not simply trying to change your spouse, it's about unconditional love. It's about putting them before yourself, serving them and thinking of them, not just what you think they should be doing for you. When you live & love with this attitude, you'll be surprised how fulfilling your marriage can be.

~ktf~
John

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

By our very nature, we all want to feel good about ourselves and we desire to be praised. In general, it goes against our human nature to desire to hear criticism or to put someone else above us. For the most part, none of us like to be wrong, corrected or have our weakness revealed.

Deep inside, we think we're pretty good.

God's Word say's otherwise... "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) Jesus said "None are good but one" (Him). We're also reminded that our hearts are deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

When it comes to religion and spiritual things, I've noticed an interesting reaction on Facebook and Blogs from time to time that sort of fits into the above condition of human kind.

If you post something in a public forum that talks about "God is love", people really seem to like that. Whether it's a feel-good, Hallmark-card verse taken out of context like "I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) or a simple reminder that Jesus wants us to be happy (which verse is that?). People like to hear things that make them feel good inside (who doesn't?).

However, if you post anything that reveals other attributes of God besides "He is love", like, He is just or His wrath is upon those who reject Him or that the unsaved are children of satan, or unless we confess & repent of sin and trust in Jesus, we're going to hell, most people generally don't want to hear about that sorta' stuff. If you dare point out heretical teaching of popular preachers/teachers/authors, you are quickly hit with the "Don't judge" card.

"You're being judgmental!" "Legalist!" "Religious whacko!"

In order for God to be love, He must also be just. He cannot simply forgive all sins just because He's a loving God; those sins must be paid for. We are unable to pay the great price for them. Christ did this. Salvation must start with recognizing our sinful condition and our wretched state. Not pretty but true and necessary. Paul spends the first 3 chapters of Romans exposing how wretched, sinful and lost we are before He gets to the "God is love" part.

What we want and what we need are often two very different things. Doesn't matter if we're 3 or 30. In order to really "get" the God Is Love thing, we need to first "get" that we are NOT deserving of this love simply because we're a pretty good person. Ouch. Secondly, we need to see that as a believer, we must be willing to "Die to self" and submit to Christ alone as our Lord and Savior. Let Him run the show.

Christianity is not like Burger King... "Have it your way" is what got us into this sinful mess in the first place. Coming to Jesus is a release from the slavery of sin into the freedom of salvation & redemption. If we're really honest with ourselves, the truth hurts. We often can't handle it. However, I believe deep inside of every human being there is a desire to know the truth no matter what.

We can spend our lives trying all we want to find happiness or to be a good person. We might even get what we want now & then. When it comes to eternity, "trying" isn't good enough. The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ and He doesn't want our efforts. He wants our hearts.

You may not get what you want in this life but you CAN get more than you deserve in eternity but it will cost you. What are you willing to give now in order to really live forever and to avoid getting what you deserve later?

Trying doesn't work when it comes to getting the one thing in life that changes everything.

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." ~ John 6:35


~ktf~
John

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Time To Judge


There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. ~ Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Believe it or not, there is a time to judge. The question is, "when?" These days it seems that any criticism, correction or pointing out of error is labeled as judging. Christians have a reputation of judging others because we're not tolerant. We're called legalists for not accepting what society deems as "normal". If we dare disagree with something or someone according to biblical standards, we are considered hateful, dogmatic, hypocritical and holier-than-thou. Christians and atheists alike commonly mis-use Matthew 7:1 "Do not judge so that you will not be judged."

The below article from "A Time To Love" magazine explores this controversial topic of judging from a biblical perspective. Solomon had it right in Ecclesiastes; there is a time for everything. Jesus and his disciples gave clear instruction on the topic of judging. We would do well to better understand what it means in order to better live out the Christian life and discern false teaching rightly.


Judge or Judge Not: Which is Right?
by Angela Dion May 2009

Many news headlines and stories for the past two years focus on how judgmental Christians are. What does God’s Word offer for guidance in this area?

Christians seem to fall into two categories concerning judging others. Either we judge with an iron fist, condemning anyone who doesn’t conform to our standards, or we never judge others, thinking: "Nobody’s perfect; Who am I to judge?" Are there people whom Christians should judge? What does the Bible teach us about judging?

WHAT IS JUDGING?

“In Greek, the word ‘judge’ means to condemn or acquit someone after a thorough investigation. It means to make an informed decision about the guilt or innocence of someone, and have the authority to carry out that decision,” offers mental health therapist Sue McHenry. Book and Bible study author Mike Ratliff adds, “The biblical definition of judging is that which our Lord used in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7) when he talked of people wanting to remove the mote from their brother's eye when they should first remove the log from their own. In other words, improper judging is saying something to another to bring that person down below us.”

There is a difference between a wise judgment and a judgmental attitude. Dr. Peter Beck, assistant professor of Religion at Charleston Southern University, notes the distinction between wise judgment and a judgmental attitude. “The judgmental condemn others for the very sins they harbor themselves. Wise judgment, however, keeps us from being condemned because of the errors of others.”

In her book, “Therapy with God” (Xulon Press, 2008), McHenry introduces “Speck-and-Log Therapy” as it relates to a judgmental attitude. She suggests, “When you notice yourself being critical and judgmental of someone else, take a minute to pray about that and ask Jesus to reveal to you where that might be a problem in your own life. Use your judgmental attitude as a barometer to look inside yourself.”

PEOPLE TO JUDGE

Clear of a judgmental attitude, there are three categories of people Christians can judge.

1. Ourselves. The first person we should judge is ourselves. McHenry uses the biblical example of Isaiah 6:1 to demonstrate. “This Scripture gives a beautiful illustration of that as Isaiah goes from the prideful, ‘Woe is you, Israel’ to ‘Woe is me, I am undone,’ because he finally saw the Lord high and lifted up. Having thus seen himself in direct comparison with God, his pride was broken and he repented. Then God was able to use him.”

Self-examination will guard us from making hypocritical and condemning judgments against others. In addition to Matthew 7, Romans 2:1-5 points out that we frequently are hard on others for the very things that are problematic for us. If we find ourselves judging others before we look at ourselves, often it’s an indication of sin in our own lives. Once we remove our own plank, then we can consider others.

We frequently are hard on others for the very things that are problematic for us. Ratliff responds, “The way of life, which does not judge others based on one’s own value system, results from surrendering to the Bible’s teaching on judging ourselves against God’s standards. When we do that, we do not judge others. Instead, we forgive them.”

2. False prophets. Christians have to be familiar with the basic truths of the Christian faith in order to recognize and discourage the deception promoted by a false prophet or blasphemer. Jesus spoke of false prophets when he said in Matthew 7:16, “By their fruit you will recognize them."

Ratliff adds, “Our Lord commands us to make ‘judgments’ by discerning false teachings and teachers and then avoid and expose them. We are commanded to do this, but not hypocritically. Also, the goal of this judging should always be the other person's repentance and restoration, not their destruction.”

3. Christian brothers and sisters. Examples of biblical judging include Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers, Paul writing letters criticizing behavior in the churches and James accusing believers of showing favoritism to the rich. At times, we need to make a judgment on a fellow believer’s behavior.

Dr. Beck explains, "I am to call sin ‘sin.' I am to judge between right and wrong. I am to avoid sin on my part and prevent it on the part of others. If I don't, I am guilty by implication. Remember Peter's accusation on the day of Pentecost: ‘This Jesus whom you handed over to be crucified (my paraphrase).' Those people in the crowd didn't bind Jesus. They didn't beat Jesus. They didn't crucify Jesus. They stood by and did nothing to stop it. And they were found guilty by silent association."

We just have to make sure our motives are proper. Ratliff says, “The source of judging others incorrectly is pride. The humble righteous believer still has to judge, but it will always be in light of God’s values and will be his judgments.”

HOW TO JUDGE

The common thread throughout biblical judging is the motivation to glorify God. We must approach God in prayer before judging another, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal our motives and methods. Three conditions should exist before we judge sin in a fellow believer: love the other person, know the heart of the other person and desire to restore the other person.

1. Love. Love is the beginning point in any form of relationship that will bring glory to God. Also, you will be more likely to receive a positive response when you come to someone in love. McHenry cautions, “When you have a brother or sister mired in sin, first and foremost prepare your heart for humility through prayer. Ask Jesus to help you join him in his humble approach.” She continues, “Confronting our brothers and sisters about their sin is a responsibility we all share, but to do so in love, grace, encouragement and humility is the way of Christ and leaves you feeling uplifted and at peace.”

2. Know the heart. Before we judge other believers, we should know them. If we know the heart of the person, we’ll have insight into his situation. Develop a transparent relationship with the person first, then judge only if the situation warrants it. We don’t want to judge by what we perceive on the surface but by what we know to be true.

For example, if someone appears to have no self-control in finances, a discerning judge will know what his finances were like last year, if he’s signed up for the budgeting seminar, if someone else is helping him in this area, etc. An uninformed judge is a dangerous judge. Know the heart and meet the person where he is.

3. Restoration.
The goal of proper judging should be restoration of the person. “Your purpose isn’t to humiliate them or beat them into submission. Your purpose is to restore them to a state of cleanliness before God,” says McHenry.

Ask: am I trying to elevate myself or deflate the other person, or is restoration really my motive? If our desire is honestly to restore the other person, we won’t approach him or her with a holier-than-thou attitude. If we examine our motives carefully, love the person and know the heart, restoration should be possible.

Dr. Beck gives a final word, “Jesus teaches that we are to be discerning, able to judge between right and wrong, recognizing and acknowledging error when we see it in the beliefs and corresponding actions of others. (Matthew 7:5-6, 15-20). This kind of judgment preserves us, the church and others from the sin that so easily corrupts the truth and undermines the Gospel.”


Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." ~ John 7:24


~ktf~
John

Friday, May 1, 2009

BE THE MAN!!


Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. ~ 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

What does it take to be a man of God? The image of a man according to the world has been distorted, softened and feminized over the years to the point that men find it difficult to even know what their role is in society, marriage and the church.

Phil Johnson over at "Pyromaniacs" addresses this topic specifically with regard to the church. Here are a few excerpts from the article entitled:


"Most of the seminars, rallies, and books targeting evangelical men have actually made the situation worse. They are either dominated by feminine themes (personal relationships, dealing with your emotional hurts, learning the various "love languages," and other forms of sensitivity training)—or else they tend to paint a picture of masculinity that sounds like it is taken from The Brothers Grimm rather than Scripture."
"Until men themselves stop listening to those who define manhood in terms of beer, stogies, and cage fighting; until Christian leaders quit fooling around with various tokens of artificial manhood; and until Christian men en masse seriously begin to cultivate real courage, conviction, and commitment to Christ and the gospel, the problem will persist."
"...according to John Eldredge: "Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue."That's a fairy-tale perspective. It's an irresponsible little boy's notion of manhood. It lacks any biblical foundation whatsoever."
"In short, the problem is not that Christian women have overwhelmed the church with their feminine charms and seduced its focus away from where it ought to be. The problem is with Christian men who aren't manly enough to balance the equation."
"Real manliness is defined by Christlike character, and not just the Gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild-style character, but the full-orbed fruit of the Spirit rounded out with strength, courage, conviction, strong passions, manly love, and a stout-hearted willingness to oppose error and fight for the truth—even to the point of laying down your life for the truth if necessary."
The real model for manhood is Jesus Christ. You don't see any references in scripture about Jesus boasting of how much beer he drank or how tough he was. He didn't have impressive toys or make crude jokes about women. Never do we see him grunting, cage fighting or bumping chests with the guys. And yet, He was the picture of masculinity as God designed it to be. Throughout scripture, God gives us examples of what it means to be a real man...

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. ~ Matthew 16:24-25
How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it will be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. ~ Psalm 128:1-4
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. ~ 2 Peter 1:5-9

The man's role in marriage is defined in direct relationship to that of Christ and the Church:

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, ~ Ephesians 5:23-25

Men are responsible for leading their family in the ways of the Lord:

A righteous man who walks in his integrity--How blessed are his sons after him. ~ Proverbs 20:7
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ~ Ephesians 6:4
As David's time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, "I am going the way of all the earth Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. "Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn... ~ 1 Kings 2:1-3
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."~ Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Men are called to be the initiators. The leaders not the followers. The one who stands...

“Initiation is the distilled essence of masculinity. Men have a responsibility in all relationships to be the primary initiator. If a male will not initiate then he is not a man. If a man will not initiate then he will live with the regret and failure of his passivity."

"The world cries for men who are strong: strong in conviction, strong to lead, to stand, to suffer...glad to shoulder the burden of manliness." ~ Elisabeth Elliot (author of "The Mark of a Man". Elisabeth's husband Jim, was martyred for his faith while sharing the Gospel in Ecuador; subject of the movie: "End of the Spear")

Men should strive to be disciplined, self-controlled and servants as Christ demonstrated. A true leader is one who serves and thinks of others first. A Godly man is one who's life is marked with the fruits of the spirit...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-25). As men of God, our hope should be in Jesus Christ; not our wives, not the best-selling "How to be a Man" book, not in "Men Retreats" and especially not in the ways of the world. He alone is our hope and our model for masculinity.


~ktf~
John