Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why Man Rejects The Gospel

One common theme amongst every religion is conversion. Reach the lost. Save souls. Transform lives. Make people believers and followers. Within so many churches across America today, there is an increased effort to reach the "un-churched". There seems to be no limit to the methods used as a way to attract people into church. It would appear that many churches believe if they can just get them into church, these "seekers" will accept Jesus and become fully devoted followers.

If the Gospel is being preached (as all churches claim they are), why then are we not seeing people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ? I'm not just talking about people coming to church and "asking Jesus into their hearts". I'm not talking about numbers and how many people were Baptized or how many people raised their hands during an altar call. I'm talking about a transformed life as God's Word defines it. I'm not ripping on any particular church or method; I seriously want to know. If the Gospel is being preached (or taught), why is it becoming increasingly more difficult to distinguish the Christian from the unregenerate person of the world?

“Every proposed method of salvation that leaves the issue dependent on human volition is defective. It has always been found that men will not come to Christ for life. The Gospel is preached to every creature; but all, with one consent, ask to be excused. The will of man must be changed; and this change the will cannot itself effect. Divine grace must here interpose. Unless God works in the sinner to will and to do, salvation is impossible.” ~ John Dagg ("Manual of Theology)

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. ~ I Cor. 2:14

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. ~ 2 Cor. 4:4

Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. ~ John 10:26

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. ~ Eph.2: 1-3

The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. ~Rom. 8: 7-8


Monday, March 30, 2009

Christian Blogging Rules of Engagement

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters...~ Romans 14: 1-23

The great thing about blogging is the ability to share what's on your heart & mind with a large audience. Unfortunately, blogging is not nearly the same as having a face-to- face conversation. When it comes to spiritual matters, what may seem right to one person is not necessarily how someone else sees it. God made each of us unique. Some, He pursues for a lifetime before they "get it". Others receive the Gospel early on. Still others will leave this world lost without hope, having rebelled against Him in pursuit of self regardless of how much evidence, religion or grace is demonstrated to them.

Regardless of where you are, there is one common trait each of us has. Pride. Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest sins we all struggle with. Pride rears it's ugly head quite often in the Christian camp. The more we learn about Him, the better we tend to think we are. The great human condition. Our natural instinct is to expect that everyone around us sees things as we do and when we do. Justification may be an instant transformation but the process of sanctification lasts a lifetime.

If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, you will have a growing passion for the lost. This is how God intended the Gospel to be spread. A transformed heart sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world. Armed with a bible and this zeal, we can either be the light He commanded us to be or, a stumbling block to those around us. Blogging lends itself to be grounds for debating everything from the Gospel to how a Christian should worship God at church on Sunday. The amazing thing about His Word is the power it has to transform lives. One cannot help but be affected by it's supernatural ability to open eyes, soften hearts, convict souls and keep us on the narrow way.

Long before there were Blogs, Christians were debating spiritual issues. The early apostles dealt with this on a regular basis within their circle and amongst the early churches. Some issues were trivial (such as what type of food is ok to eat) while others were core doctrine principles of the faith.

Romans 14 covers the gray areas of the faith and reminds us of the importance of demonstrating grace towards our Christian brothers and sisters; especially the new believers. Throughout scripture, we are instructed to contend for the faith, sharing the truth in love to all. Never are we to compromise the truth to avoid offending a fellow believer or the unsaved. That much is clear. Why then do we see so much friction within the church today? I think pride is a factor but I also believe that compromise is another reason. In our quest to share the good news, we often soften the message to make it attractive to a lost world. "God is love" is much more appealing than "you're going to hell". While both are true, they are not the full picture of the Gospel by themselves. One must not attempt to "sell" the Gospel with one while ignoring the other. In Romans 1:18 - 2:16. Paul describes the sinful condition of mankind. Not until Romans 3:21 does he get into the grace of God through the works of Christ. There is a God-designed order to the Gospel and we would do well to follow this in how we share it with the unsaved.

When it comes to Blog-Debates, we should always consider our motive for what we write and how we respond. Is our objective to win the debate, proving that we are right or, is it to speak and defend the truth? The same applies when it comes to sharing any of God's Word. It should always be delivered in the correct context and without using it to make a personal attack on someone. If you're trying to make a biblical point, do your homework; Don't "cherry-pick" verses. Finally, our thoughts, inspirations, views and opinions should always be proceeded by prayer.

Mike Ratliff over at "Possessing the Treasure" recently covered this issue in true Christ-like character. Regardless of what it is we're passionately trying to convey through our Blogs or conversations, there are some terrific principles to keep in mind in his article...

"A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break"

On a personal level, I apologize to those I may have offended in my zeal for conveying the truth. While the purpose and theme may be biblically sound, the delivery may not always have been. As the song says, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me...", I am without a doubt that wretch. As such, my rough edges, pride and sinful nature make me a work in progress. I thank you for your patience, grace and tolerance while sorting through the rambling Blogs that I post.


Friday, March 27, 2009

The Effects of Cultural Christianity

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. ~ 1 John 1: 6

Susan Yenser was raised in a Christian home. She "said the prayer" at a young age and went through all the motions of a typical Christian. Watch this humbling video and listen to her explain what happens when the Gospel is watered-down...

Christianity is not about perfection. It's about the direction we're moving in life.
It's about transformation and sanctification..."And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." ~ Romans 12: 2

The walk on the narrow way (Matt.7:13-14) begins with a broken and contrite heart softened by the Holy Spirit through the hearing of the Gospel. The journey starts at repentance & faith in Christ. It's more than just asking God to forgive you of your sins. There must be a repentant heart; a turning from sin; dying to self and trusting alone in Christ to save you. There is a cost...(Luke 14: 27-33)

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.~ 2 Corinthians 7: 9-10

Is your hunger for the Word and righteousness or more of the world? Are you becoming more sensitive to your sin? Do you struggle with it or do you make excuses for it? (Romans 7: 7-25). Are you growing in holiness? Are you concerned for the lost and doing anything about it?

Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World
"Traditional methodology - most noticeably preaching - is being discarded or downplayed in favor of newer means, such as drama, dance, comedy, variety, side-show histrionics, pop-psychology, and other entertainment forms... In the past half-decade, some of America's largest evangelical churches have employed worldly gimmicks like slapstick, vaudeville, wrestling exhibitions and even mock striptease to spice up their Sunday meetings. No brand of horseplay, it seems, is too outrageous to be brought into the sanctuary. Burlesque is fast becoming the liturgy of the pragmatic church."
~ John MacArthur

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? ~ 2 Corinthians 13: 5

Only through the grace of God are we called to repentance and faith in Christ.

Salvation is not a choice we make; It's a response to the Gospel call.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Remember Your First Love

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. ~ Revelation 2: 2-5

In this passage, Christ is reminding the Ephesians' that their passion and zeal for Him has faded. Their heart no longer burned with that deep love for Christ. Yes, they were doing good things. Yes, they were serving Him and keeping true to their faith. Through false teaching, they persevered. They recognized and confronted evil, remaining faithful to the Word. All of this, Christ recognized however, more important than this was that their love for Him had grown cold. They had become so wrapped up in religion and moral purity that they had forgotten what it was that transformed them in the first place.

How often we all are guilty of this today. We can be on fire for the Word, proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel, sharing the good news and yet, lose sight of the reason behind it all. In our passion for the lost, we must remain focused on the main thing... Our love for Jesus Christ (Mark 12:30).

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."... Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." ~ John 14: 21, 23

I think it's interesting how marriage is used throughout the Bible to demonstrate the relationship between the Church and Christ (Ephesians 5: 22-33). The love of the groom (Christ) for the bride (the Church).

Remember that powerful, passionate love you first had when you were dating your spouse? When you couldn't get enough of each other and nothing else in the world seemed as important? You couldn't sleep, concentrate or get them out of your mind. So too it was when we first became a Christian. When the Holy Spirit opened our eyes and transformed our hearts. It truly was a "born again" experience. The never ending desire to know Him more. You couldn't get enough of His Word. You looked forward to being around other Believers and sharing this new found love with everyone you came in contact with. As we became more aware of His great love for us, our thoughts, actions and desires changed. Why? Because through Him, we were awakened to a love for Him. It was Him who pursued us and Him who loved us first (1 John 4:19). Remember that feeling when your spouse first told you they loved you? Multiply that by a zillion and you start to scratch the surface of Christ's love for us.

How do we keep our love for Christ from growing cold? In the same way we do in marriage. We demonstrate love by putting them first and showing how much we value them. We move beyond mere feelings to a deeper intimacy through surrender and submission. Surrendering our will and submitting to His. Living for Him and dying to self. In marriage, we can say "I love you" and we can do all sorts of nice things for one another but, if we don't spend time cultivating intimacy, the love fades and we simply go through the motions. This is especially true in our Christian life when it comes to doing good things. We can go to church, go on mission trips, help the poor and be very religious however, unless we maintain a growing, intimate relationship with Christ by spending quality time with Him (bible study & prayer), the love (on our part) begins to fade.

Fortunately for us, God never stops loving us nor does He grow weary or bored with us. His love is an all-consuming love. It's because of this love that His Spirit reminds us when we're drifting from Him. On the outside, we may appear to be quite religious and God-loving. Inside however, we may have wrong motives and selfish desires. The key is to remain in Him and not become consumed with what we do but why we do it. Not because we look good or even feel good but because we love Him. If we love Him, we'll keep His commandments and we'll feed His sheep (John 21:17).

If we love Him, we'll desire more of Him, less of the world and less of us. We'll be consumed for Him to the point where everything else seems meaningless and we can't help but share Him with the world.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Heart of the Gospel

A simple explanation of the Gospel by R. C. Sproul...

((text from above video))

"There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, 'you can have a purpose to your life', or that 'you can have meaning to your life', or that 'you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.' All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel.

The Gospel is called the 'good news' because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity." ~R.C. Sproul

To those who question whether we should be boldly proclaiming this sort of message to the world, I ask you... How much do you really love others and especially God if you are more concerned about offending people with the Gospel? There should be a consuming passion within every true Believer to share this good news with every lost person. If this is not the case, perhaps your relationship with God is not all you think it is.

Consider how Paul presented the Gospel in Romans 1:18 - 3: 28. First, he gave a lengthy explanation of sin; how every human being is affected by it, how it separates us from God and how we are under the wrath of God as a result of sin. Paul goes on for 64 verses before he transitions into salvation (which he spends only 7 verses on). In order to see that we need a Savior, we first need to see WHY we need a savior.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Getting The Gospel Right


"If you get the Gospel wrong and don't distinguish between what the Gospel is and what morality is, then what you've done at best is restrained the hearts of people but, you will not see their hearts transformed. If you don't get the Gospel right then what ends up happening is men & women become conformed to a pattern of religion but they are not transformed by the Holy Spirit of God. Without the Gospel you inoculate people to Jesus Christ. You give them just enough of Him to never know Him." ~ Matt Chandler ("Desiring God Conference").

So the question is, what is the Gospel?

Is it compassion, feeding the starving, helping the poor, saving the planet or working towards world peace? No. What about spreading the love of Jesus Christ? Not exactly. These are effects OF the Gospel; not the Gospel itself. These are things that Christians should be doing but should not be confused with being the Gospel. Topical teaching on "how to have this or that" is pointless without the Gospel. Giving tips on how to overcome sin is pointless to the unregenerate person unless they first hear the Gospel and are transformed by the Holy Spirit.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. ~ Hebrews 5: 11-14

The Gospel is the Cross. Why Jesus Christ came, why He suffered a physical death and especially why He suffered the full wrath of God. Substitutionary atonement. He took our place. He paid the price for our sins. The Cross is what it's all about. By repenting of our sins and trusting in Christ, we are imputed with the righteousness of Christ. Through our belief, repentance and trust, through faith, we experience this life-changing grace of God. This is the Gospel.

Is this not the most important thing we should be sharing with every single person?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ask Jesus Into Your Heart?

"Do you want to be a Christian?" "Do you want Him to come into your life?"

Just ask Jesus into your heart.

Simply raise your hand, say this short prayer and you're now a Christian.

With so many churches today neglecting the preaching of the Gospel, the closest they even get to it anymore is this simple invitation to "Ask Jesus Into Your Heart". If even mentioned at all, it's often squeezed in at the end of the sermon (oops, I mean 'experience'). Somewhere just before or just after the offering. Usually with the emotional music playing softly in the background.

"Just pray this prayer and He'll come into your heart and heal you."

Heal you from what? How can all of these so-called seekers possibly understand what grace, salvation and justification is if they don't even hear WHY they need to be saved and from what? The Gospel is much more than simply asking Jesus into your heart. It's more than asking God to forgive you of your mistakes (sin just seems too offensive). What about repentance? What about trust in Christ? Nope. Just ask Jesus into your heart and you're good to go.

Given this ignorance of the Gospel, we shouldn't be surprised by the shocking results of so many surveys today. So-called Christians who don't believe Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Who don't believe in hell. Who don't believe in the wrath of God. Who see nothing wrong with abortion or homosexuality. Why should this surprise us?

The problem is that so many churches have changed the Gospel into something that will appeal to the world instead of presenting it as Jesus Christ taught it. No one wants to hear about the wrath of God or repentance. They want to have their best life now. "What can Jesus do for me?"
Most contemporary churches today focus their Sunday 'experience' on entertaining the seeker and building everything around them instead of glorifying God by preaching the Gospel.

Paul Washer shares what's wrong with the typical church invitation...

Here are 10 reasons NOT to "Ask Jesus Into Your Heart"...
(from Soli Deo Gloria... click to read the full detailed list)

1. It is not in the Bible.
2. Asking Jesus into your heart is a saying that makes no sense.
3. In order to be saved, a man must repent. (Acts 2:38)
4. In order to be saved, a man must trust in Jesus Christ. (Acts 16:31)
5. The person who wrongly believes they are saved will have a false sense of security.
6. Those who ask Jesus into his heart often end up an inoculated, bitter backslider.
7. It presents God as a beggar just hoping you will let Him into your busy life.
8. The cause of Christ is ridiculed.
9. The cause of evangelism is hindered.
10. Here is the scary one.People who have asked Jesus into their hearts, but never repented and put their trust in Christ, will perish on the Day of Judgment.

Salvation is not about us accepting Jesus; It's about Him accepting us. Nothing we can do will save us or make us good enough to be saved. It starts with a repentant heart and trusting fully in Jesus Christ. The transformation follows and it's the fruit of our life that demonstrates our salvation; not a simple prayer we say.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Great Sex: God's Way (Church Marketing 101)

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 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. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. ~ 2 Timothy 4: 2-5

The marketing of church continues. Churches doing whatever it takes to draw the "seeker" in. What happens when these so-called seekers do come into the church, what are they hearing? Unfortunately, they're probably not hearing the Gospel or why they must be saved or even how (at least not biblically). What they are hearing is the social gospel. How to live a better life. How to be happy. How to be moral. How to be good. Apparently, the mega-church marketing experts think that simply coming to church will get a person saved. At least that's how it appears according to all the Barna & Pew Research polls. A great number of people claim to be Christians despite their positions on topics such as abortion, homosexuality, hell and a number of other issues rarely preached in churches today.

But sex sells.

'Great Sex: God's Way' sermons draw ire in rural Ala.
(another edgy promotion by a church to draw attention to itself)

What better way to draw people into church than to promote it with sex. Now, don't get me wrong. The bible has much to say about the topic of sex, especially when it comes to things like lust, fornication, adultery & homosexuality. Basically, the Word reminds us often to not live like the world. This includes sexual behavior. So the question is, should we be preaching on the topic of sex on a Sunday morning in Church?

I would say the real question is the motive behind the message. Is this simply another silly method of the seeker-friendly churches to look cool & relevant to the world or, is it a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed? There is no question that sexual immorality is a major issue in the world today. That's a no-brainer. What should be understood however is, if the church is so concerned about reaching the seeker and saving the lost, shouldn't we be preaching the Gospel? Doesn't it make sense to put salvation before the cleaning up of one's life? The problem is not that people need a more fulfilling sex life or that they need to do it "God's Way". No, the real problem is sin and that must be dealt with first otherwise, we're spinning our wheels trying to clean up the outside of someone when the inside is still wretched.

Save the sex series talks for the small group studies of genuine believers. Marriage enrichment groups. Men's Groups, etc. To broadcast to the world (with provocative methods & signs) that you're having a series on sex at church is nothing more than cheap marketing to make the church look appealing to the world. Didn't Jesus remind us to NOT be like the world or to desire to be loved by the world? (John 15: 18-19, 1 John 2: 15-16)

What should churches be teaching & preaching? Here's a simple response from the above article:

Evangelist Roland Belew, a self-described fundamentalist and former trucker who now preaches at a truck stop, said the whole idea goes against the teaching of New Testament apostles. "Paul said preach the Gospel," said Belew. "Talking about sex ain't gonna get nobody to heaven."

Communicating the gospel is the primary goal of the church. We can talk about having a better life, being good or doing good all we want to, but unless we address the heart of the unregenerate, we're simply making life more comfortable for them on their way to hell.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Vanishing Church in America

“Put your finger on any prosperous page in the church’s history, and I will find a little marginal note reading thus: ‘In this age men could readily see where the church began and where the world ended." ~ Charles Spurgeon

Ever since the release of the popular book, "Purpose Driven Church", there has been a flood of books written that are focused on "How to do church". Personally, I think we should spend more time teaching God's word the way it was intended instead of trying to repackage it to fit the constantly changing culture. There is a growing surge of seeker-sensitive megachurches attempting to reach the unchurched by turning God, the Bible and church into a product that appeals to those who are generally not interested in church. Their model is based upon surveys & marketing studies that reveal what people want. Funny, I don't recall reading anywhere in scripture where Jesus had his Disciples go out into the community and ask them what they wanted.

The Rev. Bob Pearle has recently written a book that sheds light on this growing trend. It's not another "how to" book to grow your church with trendy, cool, relevant methods. Rather, it's a wake up call to bring contemporary American churches back to a Biblical model for church.

(Interview & review of the book from the Ft. Worth "Star-Telegram")

Highlights from the book:

“The biblical New Testament church is vanishing from society today. Anything and everything is acceptable as long as it builds a crowd. Jesus wasn’t as interested in building a crowd as He was in telling the truth. Our responsibility as pastors and leaders is not to give people what they want necessarily but what they need.”

“Churches that have lost their doctrinal core are struggling with an identity crisis. . . . The effectiveness of a church’s ministry is largely dependent upon knowing her confessional identity and staying true to her original purpose.”

"Many churches follow "Wal-Mart" strategies of pleasing customers but often soft-soap hard biblical truths like hell, sin and salvation."

"The mysticism invading the early church then and the modern church today is much like Gnosticism…..Naturally this superior knowledge is advanced under the guise of humility."

"In vast auditoriums and smaller places people listen to preachers who roam the stage and tickle the ears with feel-good messages."

"Churches would be better served by pastors who believe and preach, without apology, the whole counsel of God." I translate his words to mean that we require fewer milquetoast pastors and more men of conviction in our church pulpits that are willing to preach the Word, and not worry about whom they might offend."

Pearle's book takes a deep look into what church has become and what it was intended to be. He breaks this down into three sections:

- Looking Inward:
A lost , confused world in desperate need of God's loving truth.

- Looking Backward:
Biblical & historical basis for ecclesiology; The study of the church.

- Looking Forward:
Challenges seeker-oriented methods, asserting that the key to tapping the power of the gospel lies in allowing the gospel appropriately to set the church apart from the culture rather than in churches’ sidling up to culture.

This book also covers topics that are often being overlooked or redefined in so many churches today such as...

The duties & responsibilities of the local church, observance of the Lord's Supper, church membership, the definition of marriage, the great commission, the danger of preaching that which is not doctrinally sound, believer's baptism, persecution that will come as a result of adherence to the teachings of Christ, spiritual discernment and testing teachings against scripture, social justice, the dangers of certain new interpretations of the Bible and how some churches are "selling out" in order to build membership.

Perhaps my favorite quote from this book is a simple yet profound reflection of the Gospel message and why it's so crucial for churches to be teaching it correctly:

"You have to hear the bad news that we are sinners, before your receive the good news of salvation"


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Seeking Purpose, God or Self?

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. ~ Psalm 14: 1-3

Our lack of desire to truly know God is an expression of our depravity and rebellious nature. It is not we who seek Him but rather, He who seeks us. What we do seek is self gratification. Happiness. Good times. Peel away all of the appearance of good things and deep down, what we really seek is a way to avoid God. I know what you're thinking, "But what about all of the seeker-sensitive churches?" "What about all of the religions in the world?" It would appear that there are a lot of people seeking God. Really? Or could it be that what we're really trying to do is make a god in OUR image to suit OUR desires? That's exactly why we have so many different religions. It wasn't enough that we had His Word; No, we had to re-shape God to fit us.

Enter the Purpose Driven, Seeker Sensitive, Emerging Church movement.

Where church is all about meeting the felt needs of those outside of the church. Where church is done to attract these 'seekers'. After years of surveying the unregenerate (sorry, I mean seekers), and doing extensive marketing research, it was determined that the reason people were not interested in God or church was because.... God is boring and church is well... too churchy. Now we have thousands of churches across America bringing in thousands of people and giving them a false sense of salvation simply because they go to church now. So what exactly are these seekers getting fed when they come to church? Everything they've asked for, that's what. They are entertained, taught "How to have a better (fill in the blank)" and made to feel right at home in a church that looks & sounds like the world. No more stuffy church. No more condemnation or talk of sin and hell to make them feel uncomfortable. the Gospel of old doesn't 'sell' anymore. The new social gospel with a twist of moralism sprinkled on for good measure is the theme today. Topical. Relevant. Cool. Trendy. Something to change your life.

So what's wrong with that you say?

For more on this topic...
check out "Worshipping The Seeker" at Tim Challies blog.

There's nothing wrong with being sensitive to those we call "seekers" but we shouldn't be compromising the Gospel in the process. I believe it is possible to 'do' church in a culturally relevant way AND still preach (yes, I said preach) the Word. Despite what many think today, the Bible still is relevant and very capable of teaching us everything we need. Church is about glorfying God. Leave the silliness of the world IN the world please.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Confessing "Safe Sins"

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. ~ James 5: 16

The following is from Prodigal Jon over at "Stuff Christians Like"

Have you ever been in a small group with people that confess safe sins? Someone will say, “I need to be honest with everyone tonight. I need to have full disclosure and submit myself in honesty. Like ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan, I need to give it to you raw!” So you brace yourself for this crazy moment of authenticity and the person takes a deep breath and says … “I haven’t been reading my Bible enough.”

Ugh, you, dirty, dirty sinner. I’m not even sure I can be in a small group with you any more. Not reading your Bible enough, that is disgusting. And then once he’s gone someone else will catch the safe sin bug too and will say, “I need to be real too. I haven’t been praying enough.”

Two of you in the same room? Wow, freak shows! I can barely stand it.

But what happens when people start confessing safe sins is that everyone else in the room starts concealing their real junk. I mean if I was surrounded by confessions like that in the eighth grade I would have instantly known I couldn’t follow the “not reading my Bible enough” guy with my own story:

“Soooo, this weekend when it was snowing I told my parents I was going to the dump to sled but instead I was really just digging through a 200 foot mountain of warm trash looking for pornography.” And the same principle would have applied to me in my late 20s. I wouldn’t have been honest sharing my struggles with Internet porn if everyone else confessed their “safe enough for small group” sins.

And that sucks. It sucks that as broken as we all are, as desperate as we all are for a Savior, we feel compelled to clean ourselves up when we get around each other.

But this blog has taught me something unbelievable. If I stop writing tomorrow, this will be the lesson I cling to the most.

When you go first, you give everyone in your church or your community or your small group or your blog, the gift of going second.

It’s so much harder to be first. No one knows what’s off limits yet and you’re setting the boundaries with your words. You’re throwing yourself on the honesty grenade and taking whatever fall out that comes with it. Going second is so much easier. And the ease only grows exponentially as people continue to share. But it has to be started somewhere. Someone has to go first and I think it has to be us.

We’re called to give the gift of second to the people in our lives. To live the truth, to share the truth, to be the truth.Let’s give the gift of going second. ~ Prodigal Jon

Great advice for all of us to remember in our small groups, life groups, bible studies and especially in our marriages. Opening ourselves up completely is not easy. No one particularly likes to be vulnerable, exposing our flaws and weaknesses. Being open, honest and genuine, even when it reveals our sinfulness is exactly what God desires from us as this shows the work of the Holy Spirit on our lives to humble our hearts and submit to Him. Doing so in marriage and close relationships w/other Brothers and Sisters in Christ draws us not only closer to one another but also, strengthens the Body (Church).

None of us should think that we have the market cornered on sin or that we've done something no one else has. Each and every one of us is wretched and sinful to the core. Confession is not only good for the soul, it's good for the person who confesses AFTER you :)

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. ~ 1 John 1: 8-10


Monday, March 2, 2009

Salvation: Consider The Cost

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
~ Luke 9: 23-25

What is salvation costing me?

This is a question I ask myself several times everyday. In America, we know plenty about freedom but very little about persecution. We think that by wearing a Christian t-shirt, we are boldly proclaiming Christ or if we are laughed at for talking about Him then we are persecuted. Seriously, are we really living out what our salvation means to us? If salvation is all about the work of God through Jesus Christ demonstrating the Glory of God, how serious are we about proclaiming this in our lives, teaching and preaching? Or, are we more concerned about being accepted by the world. More concerned about not being offensive?

As we become less like the world and more like Christ, we will also become more offensive to the world. So too, if we share the Gospel as He did, they will persecute you as well.

Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. ~ John 15: 20

The cost of salvation and why we should be preaching the Gospel carefully.
(Paul Washer)

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
~John 14: 23

Obedience to the Word of God is not the requirement for salvation but evidence of it. All that is required has been paid for on the Cross. The power to humble our hearts and lead us to repent and trust comes through the Holy Spirit when we hear the Gospel.

Salvation WILL cost you but the price you pay is far less than what it cost to be given freely to you.

Consider the cost...
(click here for more on this topic including a song by Steve Camp about the cost)