Here is an excellent and intriguing article about the resurgence of the teaching and preaching of the Doctrines of Grace in Christianity.
Here is an excellent and intriguing article about the resurgence of the teaching and preaching of the Doctrines of Grace in Christianity.
I had the pleasure today of sharing a few brief minutes with a local pastor. We didn’t get to spend much time talking- definitely not nearly enough about the things that I would love to talk about, namely the Gospel and any matter of the faith that is Christ-centred and cross-focused. Instead though, we discussed a post I had recently written where I essentially lambasted the TV show Family Guy, and made several sharp comments which expressed my incredulity and indignation that any pastor could have this as their favourite show. In talking to this pastor, a few things became evident to me. The first was that he was very gracious in responding to the critique that I had laid at his feet. The second- that he believes I could have been more diligent by discussing the matter with him first. I got the feeling that he was a bit upset and concerned that a mis-characterization had occurred. In the scant time we had, he revealed to me that Family Guy wasn’t really his favourite show, but that he has some fond familial memories associated with it, and that in retrospect “favourite” wasn’t the right word to describe his view of it. In fact, it wasn’t his favourite show at all.
And I am glad for that. I could not respect a man who actively enjoys this show, and so his clarification went a way in reconciling the situation in my mind. But that brings up another question; was my initial post appropriate? Not only that, but have I brought a man down to further my own ends? Should I have fired off an email to him before I remarked on it? Was it a cheap shot at the expense of a fellow saint? These are the questions I’ve been mulling over these past few hours, and I think I have some answers.
In regard to sermon reviews, as that is what I do most here, the first question is: should I talk to these people about their sermons before I post the reviews, or do I have the freedom to lay it out without prior consultation? Not only the freedom, but it is wise, or is it damaging and harmful to the unity of the body? After much thought, I remain firm in my conviction that if something is preached publicly, it should be able to be dissected and discussed publicly. If something is post publicly, likewise it should be able to be poked and prodded and tested and weighed publicly by anyone. When I do sermon reviews, I almost always try to give a pastor a heads up afterwards. Sometimes if he says something troubling, I’ll seek clarification, and other than that wolf at the tabernacle of praise, they have all been very gracious and kind in responding to me. Because I know that the pastors of the local churches are good men who love God, I try to be as gracious as I can be, and as often as I can I try to put the best construction on things, and assume the best.
But here’s the thing; the sheep listening to these sermons don’t have the benefit of seeking clarification like I do. They aren’t always able to speak to a pastor about how he is using the text, or when he introduces concepts that they’re not familiar with. In a very real way the sermon itself is self-contained, each a microcosm of sacred scriptures taught in 45 minutes one day a week, and they must be judged by those merits. If things are left vague or confusing for the flock, it’s not my job to smooth out the snags that other people may get caught on- that’s a homiletic issue that needs to be worked out. Rather, I am here to be a faithful berean, reading and hearing what others are reading and hearing, and going on that. Words heave meaning. If someone says that a certain thing is their favourite, why wouldn’t I take them at their word? Why wouldn’t I read that and take it at face value? I’m not trying to put the worst construction on things- I’m just trying to be faithful and accurate in sharing about things I read and hear. I suppose it goes back to my strong thoughts on what it means to be precise. God in his wisdom and graciousness has revealed much of himself, and because of that we must be precise in communicating what we know to others about his character. Not only that, but if it can pertain to theology or spirituality, we must likewise be precise.
Which brings me to that post specifically. It wasn’t just about a pastors view on Family Guy- that was just an afterthought almost, the spark that fuelled the fire. The post was not a potshot at the pastor, nor was it delivered for the sake of shaming or embarrassing in order to bring him low and debase him. Rather the post is about sanctification, and the cheap thrills and the wretched inanity that that we consume, to the detriment to our soul. It’s about the pleasure of conforming to Christ, trusting that conforming to his heart will offer more pleasure that that which is accrued through watching perverted TV shows featuring characters and desecrate the holy things of God for laughs. A pastor watching Family Guy is not the point- Christians filling their minds with the things of the world for the sake of entertainment, is. On that basis, I believe the post was successful. I mean what I said, and I passionately and fervently hold to it.
On the other hand, I think I would do well to receive a word of admonition from this Pastor, and that was that I really ought to get to know him better, and that I should exercise greater restraint when sharing certain things publicly about people I don’t. The first is easier than the second. I would love to get to know every pastor in this town better, but for the most part that isn’t always possible. They are busy men, and I’m just a guy blogging who doesn’t even attend their church. The second is also difficult, as because I have not sat down and had deep theological discussions with them, it is difficult for me to interpret things they say from the pulpit in light of that. All I have to go on is the Church’s statement of faith and the things they preach. Still. I know that I can be more cautious and gracious. I know that there are areas that I can tighten up, and give more benefit of the doubt. More often than not when I ask for a Pastors comment on something I don’t receive one, but surely I can find ways to measure and weigh their words with more care than I do now. I’ve said it a ton of times- I don’t want to be the guy who just sits back and complains and critiques and calls out. At the same time I don’t want to be the guy who doesn’t exercise discernment and care, and who lets things slide for the sake of peace or unity and at the expense of sound biblical doctrine and principles. I pray that in the future I’ll be able to marry both of them more successfully in my own life, Soli Deo Gloria.
Christians are commanded by Scripture to not love the world, or the things in the world [1 John 2:15], to be uncontaminated by the world around us [2 Peter 3:14],to live holy lives[1 Peter 1:15] to abstain from fleshly lusts [1 Peter 2:11], to abstain from even the appearance of evil [1 Thessalonians 5:22]. Believers are to jealously guard their thought life to ensure it is approved of God [Philippians 4:8], and bringing captive every thought into obedience to Christ [2 Corinthians 10:]
I’ve been thinking a lot about television and the movies lately. For a long while I cut out a lot of the shows that I used to watch, but now I find myself getting a bit more lax, and the realization has startled me. Thankfully, it also inclines me to return to that place I used to be, and with God’s help I will. For that reason, I thought I would write this out. I used to be an avid watcher myself, but I’ve come to the point where 90% of what I watch and what I see horrifies me and offends me. It seems so disgusting and degrading and such an…abrogation of holiness and purity, that I find myself ashamed at the things I used to watch, and at the realization that I’ve become so jaded and accustomed to certain things that they hardly phase me. What did that old prophet say? “Therefore the showers have been withheld, And there has been no spring rain. Yet you had a harlot’s forehead; You refused to be ashamed.” A harlot’s forehead.. refusing to blush with shame. Unable to bring forth redness and embarrassment at the things that my eyes look upon.
Truthfully, I tend to find the typical Christian’s view of television and movies abhorrent. It is so lax and it would appear no deep thought has gone into considering the things we are watching. Let us take a tv show like Friends, which I would imagine most everyone has seen. Does it not cause anyone alarm that everyone is having premarital sex with everyone else? That much of the show depicts sexual conquests and people sleeping with each other? That everyone has had one-night stands, and that there is a character whose persona is that he is very successful at bedding many women? That for at least a few seasons, two of the main characters who are shacking up together, or that oftentimes there are scenes where we see people going to bed, and then waking up topless and with sheets wrapped around them?
Or take a typical PG-13 movie, which has action and violence and killings and few token sex scenes, along with cursing and dripping with sensuality and sexuality. Why am I watching this? A man takes a gun and shoots another person in the head, and we see a blast of blood splashing across the wall; along with residue of brain and bone. Why am I watching this? Answer; because it’s entertaining. But then I ask myself; why am I as a Christian, as a child of God bound and determined to have the heart of Christ and to love expressly through the Holy Spirit, why do I find the murder of a human being, even if it is not real, entertaining? Or a villain takes a gun and shoots down several police officers. Why am I watching this? Why is it good for me to see this? Why is it when I see something brutal and violent, but it is done stylishly and in a way I have never seen before, that I sit transfixed? Or worse yet; I’m not even transfixed; because it doesn’t shock me or offend me or churn my stomach. Because I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, police officers killed on the TV, and I have seen hundreds of ethereal killers use various weapons to kill and cut of the heads and torture unsuspecting men and women who find themselves trapped with that man, and I see the blood and bone and brain and viscera washed across the screen, and that entertains me?
Or a sex scene comes one. They are never married to each other. Oftentimes it is not just fornicating, but adultery. Usually it happens within days or hours of meeting each other. And they give each other that look. And the man pulls off her shirt, exposing her bra and cleavage. And she takes off his, showing his bare chest. And they writhe against each other, entangled, as the woman has her arm strategically and cleverly placed at her side so as she wraps her arm around his head, she is partially concealed. And we watch this. If her breasts are fully exposed, then that is a bit worse, but not much. Many of us though would pale at seeing the nudity-their bodies wracking and rocking against each other under warm lights. And yet just because she is covered up a little bit more, we give the scene a pass. We dismiss it from our minds as a small blip in an otherwise great show. We give the movie a pass? We can watch all sorts of deviant acts in a movie, and tell our friends it was a great movie, and very tame and mild, even though major plotlines of the movie involved people committing sexual and dishonourable acts that break the very heart of God? Why is this?
Or I’ll be watching some tame and arguably neutral show or movie, and they’ll be a woman coming on screen in only her underwear on, or a skimpy bathing suit, and I’ll become so uncomfortable. And I’ve started being angry about this; because what right does some woman on TV have to come into my world, a world where I only want to have eyes for my wife and for my wife’s body, and flaunt herself in her lingerie, and put me in a position where I have to look at that? Only the right that I give her. And it’s wrong. I don’t want to see it. If she were in my house I would run away from her. I would flee. But because it’s not directly in front of me, but rather is being shown from where it is taking place a thousand kilometres away, it is suddenly ok? If I were watching her on a webcam, that would be wrong. But it’s not wrong to watch it on my TV?
I know many Christians who have no problem with seeing nudity in movies, where the woman’s breasts are not covered, or her pubic hair is showing, because they claim it is artistic, or beautifully captured. Or that the rest of the movie is so good that this one little negative thing shouldn’t ruin the entire film. Or they will claim it portrays real life, so it must be ok. I know one person who said that these shows and movies simply represent and portray these things that already exist in our society. Yeah. And these things already in our society are bad. They are immoral. They are perverted and straight out of hell. So why are we watching people portray them? Rape is bad. So why would I watch to watch two actors portray a rape? Murder is bad? So why would I want to watch people act out a murder? And I think to myself; why am I watching this? Why am I watching these things? If I were in the same room as two flesh-and-blood people enacting a sex scene, would I not look away? Would I not be revolted and embarrassed? If I went to the mall and saw two actors in bed, in underwear, rolling around and moaning and giggling, would I stay and watch? Of course not. I’d look away and go home and tell my wife that I’d just seen the most unbelievable thing at the mall. And yet do I run to her and tell her that on my computer screen, in my show, I saw the same thing for seven and a half seconds thirty eight minutes in?
It seems that television and movies as a whole advocate and legitimize and encourage deviant behaviour, such as drug use, premarital sex, drunkenness, homosexuality and glorifies violence, murder, revenge, promiscuity deceitfulness, greed, etc. They cast it in a positive light and make it culturally and morally acceptable. They show it as right and ok and what everyone is doing. But that’s not what we are seeing. Many shows now have the funny homosexual character. And we laugh and are amused at how effeminate they can be, or find ourselves impressed with how dignified and suave they can be. We watch people in movies all the time drinking and having a great time, or getting drunk and being hung-over. And we think it’s funny, and natural, and not showing to be grieved over. We have dozens of shows which have teens hooking up, with the message that if it feels right, do it. Have sex. Sleep around. A kid can spend his whole life with his parents telling him that sex is sacred and holy and that they ought to be chaste and pure until marriage. But what they are seeing on TV tells them diametrically opposite.
And again it comes back to the same thing; we are watching it. We are eating it up. And more importantly, it doesn’t phase us as believers. And there are people who I respect who say that this construct of the world, these unbelievers and heathens spoon-feeding billions of hours of sex and violence and ungodly behaviour to us, these things of the word, has not done humanity great harm; that it has not done our country and it’s people and our consciences great harm. Really? Is that why we can watch a show where a woman is raped and stabbed, and then we see her dismembered body and we are unmoved in our spirits and in our hearts? Where we are not shocked by it?
A few days ago I was perusing the Facebook profile of a local Pastor, and I just happened to catch a bit of information. On the right hand was a list of their favourite shows, and one of them was Family Guy. Family Guy!? Really!? I don’t understand how anyone can watch that show with a clear conscience, much less have it as their favourite. I don’t mean to knock on the Pastor specifically, because I know he’s probably in good company with hundreds of thousands of believers feeling the same way. But what a horrific, miserable excuse for a TV show! I realize that they are cartoons, and not flesh and blood people, but that’s only because these people would [hopefully] never watch it if they watched people do the show. Because what does the show consist of? You have the obscenely degenerate patriarch Peter, the effeminate baby bent on matricide, the mother, Lois, and the kids who are utterly useless and have no redeemable qualities. Then you have the paedophile next door, the hypersexual and perverted friend Quagmire, and a host of other characters who do outrageously offensive things for the sake of getting a laugh. And what sort of themes are expounded here?
Well a few common topics are rape, paedophilia, matricide, nudity, adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, drunkeness, drug use, incest, bestiality, racism, sexism, lust, and other deviant behaviour, with Peter, Stewie and the perverted Quagmire being the kings of every outlandish sexual mode. I’m hesitant to give specific examples, mainly because I would probably be just as bad to do so. But the people who watch this show know this is true. Or you could look at how the shows creators and characters regularly make blasphemous comments about our great God and Savior, mocking them and portraying them in a negative light. Or they sexualized aspects of their nature or using them as characters in whatever crude sketch they choose to display, and we are laughing at this? There are Christians who love this show? This castigates and violates everything God calls good and holy and pure, and there are pastors who have this as their favourite TV show? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?
Listen, I am to have the mind of God. I am to emulate Christ, my saviour and redeemer. It is my desire to rejoice at the things that Christ rejoices over, and mourn over the things that He mourns over. I hope we can all safely surmise that Jesus isn’t going to laugh when the extremely predatory Quagmire finds a cheerlessness bound and gagged in a bathroom and exclaims “jackpot!” God’s not going to chuckle when the infant Stewie who is depicted as a homosexual seeks out sexual encounters with men and other children. God’s not going to crack a smile when Lois cheats on her husband with a married man, and then after it shows that her husband slept with that same man. Even a cursory reading of the scriptures would suggest that that sort of thing doesn’t amuse him or sit well with him. And yet we watch that, and we laugh at it, and we laugh at thousands of scenarios like it, and even if we don’t find those parts especially funny, we continue to sit and watch when we know that over the course of the show there’s going to be many more moments like that. Why? Because we are being damnably entertained.
Look-I’m not against every show and program. There are a few good ones, and a few arguably neutral ones. I’m not against every movie, there are some good ones out there. I also understand that the medium as a whole is neutral. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. For every Family Guy television show, there are sports channels, documentaries, biographies, educational programming, 19 kids and Counting, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, whatever. But when we speak of the crux of the matter; there’s not a lot though, no. There are precious few. And I’m not perfect either. I’m not sitting here thinking that I have it made. I watch shows and movies I know I ought not to. I watch shows which portray things I shouldn’t be watching. I also know it’s because I think they won’t affect me. In fact; I know that right now where I am in my Christian walk; I can watch these shows and not think twice about what I see, and go on my merry way.
But that’s what I’m trying to change. I want to think twice about it. And three times. And Four. I don’t want to excuse the good because it contains a bunch of undeniable bad. I still have the ability to “override” my conscience and make excuses for a show or movie, but I’m working on having the Holy Spirit break down that override, and redeem my eyes and my mind and my outlook. The world made these things. The world is trying to sell sex and violence, because they are lost and don’t know better. In 1 John 2;15-17 we find the exhortation “Do not love the world or 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, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” It seems to me that a show like Family Guy, and others, exemplifies the things of the world. It’s all there. It’s chock full of it; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Family Guy through and through is a “thing of the world” and there is such an ominous…threat… associated with loving the world and the things of the world. I imagine it is spiritually damaging in the extreme, as we fill our hearts and minds with the darkness and the decrepitude of the bleak emptiness the world has to offer us, how can it not?
We are the believers. And we were bought at a price. And we ought to start knowing better.And if you are a Pastor who has Family Guy as his favourite show; you REALLY ought to know better.
“These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because ye have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and stedfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter. which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, “is the mother of us all. For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he hath fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that hath love is far from all sin”
We have all heard the exhortation “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.””, or some variation thereof. More often than not it is attributed to St Francis of Assisi, though it is extremely doubtful that he would have uttered such a pithy expression, as not only is there no evidence that he had done so, but it seems unlikely in light of his reputation as a forceful and ferocious preacher who preached often, up to five times a day.
In any case, the trouble with this quote is that it’s simply not true and has no functional possibility in a practical setting. Because first of all, what is the gospel? The term gospel is found almost a hundred times in the scriptures. In the Greek New Testament, gospel is the translation of the Greek noun euangelion- “good news,” and the verb euangelizo meaning “to bring or announce good news. In 1 Corinthian 15:1-8, Paul offers a deft summary of the gospel message- that is, the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of the resurrected Christ. “Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…”
This early Christian confession gives us the heart of the gospel and shows the that the resurrection is an integral part of the gospel. Note that Paul described this as “of first importance”—a phrase that stresses priority, not time. The stress is on the centrality of these truths to the gospel message. That is what the gospel is then- it is the message of the good news of salvation, the word of truth offered to mankind by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. It is a message not only of eternal life, but one that encompasses the total plan of God to redeem people from the ravages of sin, death, Satan, and the curse that now covers the earth. RC Sproul puts it this way “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.”
And that’s the problem with all this- such a wonderful truth will never be proclaimed and declared just because you are doing nice things for people. You can open doors, pull out chairs, let people go first in traffic, be a good friend, drop off hot meals for widows, work in a homeless shelter, constantly edify others, etc., ad infinitum. But if they don’t know that you do those things because the beauty of Christ is more desirable than serving yourself in those instances, nothing separates you from a self-conscious Mormon or Jehovah Witness, or a well meaning Hindu or Buddhist, or even just a “nice” atheist. Because everyone is capable of doing good deeds and being a decent human being. So how will the differentiation occur between you the Christian and a Muslim who is capable of being just as kind and considerate? Surely we would not suppose that a Muslim is preaching the gospel by his acts of kindness. For a man lost and fallen and oblivious to the need for Christ to die for his sins and forgive him, how is it even possible to read into your actions and his need for a Savior? Major disconnect.
Can we look at tribes of pagans and conclude that the sum of their good deeds towards each other is ultimately a testament to the Gospel of God? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. And so why do you think you are sharing the Gospel and proclaiming Christ on the cross when you buy a hungry man a meal, or toss 2 dollars into his hat? What are the chances they’ll see this act of kindness and demand to know Jehovah and his son Jesus? My friend Patrick Stafford unpacks it as such “A person will only respond to good works if they already understand the gospel. You can only preach the gospel to someone who hasn’t heard it THROUGH words. They will not see someone feeding the poor and automatically think “JESUS!” You need to explain the gospel to them first – plain and simple.”
He’s absolutely right. The truth of the gospel is very specific and precise. It must be explained, not used as a means of conjectured revelation when replaced by actions that do not easily or readily follow. In Romans 10:14-15, Paul says in the context of the salvation message “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” In this he uses a series of rhetorical questions to demonstrate the chain of events necessary for a person to be saved, and of utmost importance is hearing the gospel message preached. That’s why Paul was so insistent about spreading the gospel and doing all his missionary work; because he felt such a great sense of weight and urgency because he believed that the only way to be saved was to hear and believe in the gospel.
On the flip side though, no one is advocating that we can just preach the gospel without having to act right. A quick, cursory knowledge of Titus and James is enough to know that we must do more than just say the right things, but must genuinely be conformed to the image of Christ in word and in deed. In many instances, it is the witness of our actions that can make or break the perceived genuineness and sincerity of the gospel we proclaim. Just as faith without works is dead, so likewise is works without faith dead. As it were, acts of social justice do not proclaim the good news of the gospel. Doing nice things and living a nice life at all times does not constitute peaching the gospel at all times. Loving yourself and loving others and loving loving your neighbour does not constitute you preaching the gospel. Claiming Micah 6:8 as your life verse -“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” does not constitute the gospel. Talking to people about Jesus and his vicarious death for their sins, does. Telling them about the forgiveness of sins and the joy of redemption offered by Christ on the cross, does. No one’s ever going to persecute you — let alone crucify you — for raking leaves, serving in soup kitchens, holding food drives, letting people go first in traffic, not cursing around them, helping someone fix a flat tire, etc. But they will persecute you — maybe even kill you — when you preach the Gospel, because you testify that their deeds are evil and that they need forgiveness.
There’s a better and more precise way to understand this. Instead of the false adage “preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words , we might say “Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.” or perhaps “Preach the Word always, and don’t let your your life contradict the message you preach.” Anything but the former.
“The ultimate good of the gospel is seeing and savoring the beauty and value of God. God’s wrath and our sin obstruct that vision and that pleasure. You can’t see and savor God as supremely satisfying while you are full of rebellion against Him and He is full of wrath against you. The removal of this wrath and this rebellion is what the gospel is for. The ultimate aim of the gospel is the display of God’s glory and the removal of every obstacle to our seeing it and savoring it as our highest treasure. “Behold Your God!” is the most gracious command and the best gift of the gospel. If we do not see Him and savor Him as our greatest fortune, we have not obeyed or believed the gospel.”
— John Piper (God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself”
I spent some time working on a sermon review for the alliance church. It was dated February 28, 2010 and it was preached by Mike Sotski. At first I was hesitant to post it, as in the sermon Mike announces that he’s moving away to take the pastorate in another church in British Columbia. I didn’t especially feel like sifting through all of that, but I did anyway. Unfortunately it was accidentally deleted, and so instead of re-writing it, I’ll use this space to share a fond memory I have of him. In fact, this is an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote several years ago when I used to attend.
October 21. 2006
“We had our Saturday night service. The message was on “The Body of Christ” and who and what constitutes that body as believers. The point that was being made was that everyone is important and unique and, and that everyone brings something integral and needed to the church to bring completeness to people. There was a public reading of scripture. I was asked to read it, but I’m not that good when it comes to public speaking. If I get nervous or uncomfortable I either stutter, or I read through the thing clearly and concisely, but at about 500 words a minute. As it were, Danielle was gracious enough to take the helm, and she did a wonderful job. The verse was from 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. I know it’s kind of long, but I wanted to include it here because I believe that it’s worth reading.
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
After it was read, we unveiled a table that was off to the side. On it was four heads of clay, a wash basin, towels, and about forty little clay balls. As the evening congregation is smaller, we quickly passed them around these little balls and encouraged the members to mold their clay into a facial feature. While the worship played, and at their leisure, the people designed unique [and oftentimes amusingly grotesque in their maligned appearance] body parts. Eyes. Nose. Lips. Ears. Hair. Cheeks. Chins. Pretty much the basics. But then there were some clever personalized accessories, mostly compliments of the younger kids who attended with their parents for the first time. Glasses. Piercing. Dreadlocks. Earrings. Death Spikes. Moles. Moustaches. Hats. Dreadlocks.
My own contributions were a Mohawk, a eyebrow ring [like me ] and the biggest soul patch I could make. But I watched this from my seat next to it, taking everything that was happening at the same time. The candles were burning and casting warm shadows across the sanctuary. The worship team, composed of three guys with acoustic guitars and one guy on bongo’s played songs that pushed god to the forefront of my heart. Across to the side was the communion table, with loafs of bread and pitchers of juice, and to my immediate left people were sticking on appendages while smiling and washing their hands; grinning at these ridiculous creations. And I knew as I watched this, that it was good. Maybe they didn’t get it entirely, and I suppose I would be very surprised if they did; but they got it a little more. It went a bit deeper. They grasped it and held on to it a bit tighter. It was a good message and a great illustration. And that it all we had hoped and prayed for.”
Good times, Mike. You’ll be missed.
Today has been a weird day. Work was a bit rough, but moreso because I had the most intriguing conversation with a young man who attends a certain church in the city. The topic of his intellectual expertise came up, and for the next ten minutes I was regaled by some of the craziest religious ideas I have ever heard. I’d rather not say what they were about [identities are withheld to protect the innocent] though I will say that two…propositions… were that it didn’t make sense and in fact was foolish to try to memorize scripture, because then that would give people less motivation to read their bible. [?!] and the second was that the Lutheran Church is nothing but a corrupted wing of the Roman Catholic Church and should be avoided at all cost.
Needless to say it got me thinking- what is this kid being taught? What is he learning? The pastors of the Church are good men and I don’t believe for a second that they would ever condone some of the things that were brought to bear. So where is he picking them up? Who is correcting him? I don’t think a church should be held responsible for a few of their members having some odd ideas, but whatever happened to the study of Church history? Of Reformational history? These people think that Christianity began the moment they became converted! Who’s reading all the dead white guys? There’s thousands of years of backstory and brilliance that is wonderful and intricate and at times horrifying, and I wonder who at least knows the broad sketches, and whether any pastors believe it would be beneficial to do a 6-10 week sermon series on the history of the church and of the faith. Wouldn’t that be sort of nice to know? Wouldn’t that be beneficial to a congregation?
I wasn’t in a position to talk much to this individual- instead I asked a few questions and let him work off the craziness. I sort of wish I could crawl into his head and start assembling the puzzle pieces to get him on his way. I’ve been deep in prayer and thought tonight, mainly because the fire inside of me to teach and proclaim the mysteries and glories of Christ and him crucified has risen up and is burning bright. There are no smoldering coals tonight- only red-hot embers that are blasting beautifully inside my chest. It’s nights like tonight where I wish I could stand on a street corner and preach. Where I wish I could surround myself with strangers and proclaim the wonders of the cross and the history of God at work from past to present, giving him glory and honor and finding ways to praise his name in every word I speak. As the Holy Spirit and the Word stoke and bellow…
Starting the first week of April, I’ll be doing a weekly bible study on this site. Not sure if I’ll be posting audio or writing it out, but it’ll be about 10m minutes to listen to or about 10 minutes to read, and we’ll be going through the gospel of St. Luke, starting at Chapter 3. This will be an extremely indepth, exegetical, thought-provoking practical study. There are many people who have a cavernous thirst for the word, and I hope they will be able to drink deep from this. This is not novice stuff. This is not milk, but I intend it to be meat. It is my hope that this study of this one book with conclude in December, where we will finish up with the first two chapters around Christmas. In any case, I hope to see people here, so that we all might be strengthened by the Lord and come to a greater understanding of how wonderful the scriptures are, and how good our great God and Savior is.
It is no longer fashionable to label oneself a Christian in certain circles, and instead all the cool kids are calling themselves Christ-followers. I don’t believe this is a bad thing in and of itself, but when you mingle this with the typical purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, “your best life now” sort of thing, what you get is a whole new animal altogether. I’m talking about the effects of Saddleback, Willowcreek, Granger, Lakewood, NewSpring, Elevation, Fellowship Church, LCBC, South Hills, Fellowship of the Woodlands, Mosaic, The Orchard, and National Community. Suddenly being a Christ follower isn’t about being a man who’s been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb for all of his sins. A Christian isn’t someone who’s been born again and loves Christ and the Father, has been crucified with Christ so they might no longer be enslaved to sin, and who strives imperfectly to follow the commands of Christ, walk in sound doctrine, revel in God’s grace, and share the hope and love and the reality of their sanctification and justification to all men in the hopes that they too might get saved.
Nope. We have a new definition now. Taking a cue from Chris Rosebrough, If I were an unbeliever and I attended these churches and listened to all their sermons week after week, how would I define the term “Christ Follower”? I think it’s pretty obvious. It would be “Someone who has made the decision to be an emotionally well adjusted self-actualized risk taking leader who knows his purpose, lives a ‘no regrets’ life of significance, has overcome his fears, enjoys a healthy marriage with better than average sex, is an attentive parent, is celebrating recovery from all his hurts, habits and hang ups, practices Biblical stress relief techniques, is financially free from consumer debt, fosters emotionally healthy relationships with his peers, attends a weekly life group, volunteers regularly at church, tithes off the gross and has taken at least one humanitarian aid trip to a third world nation”.
Based upon this summarized definition,we can only conclude that the world is full of people who can fit this definition but who’ve never repented of their sins and trusted in Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins. This definition could easily apply to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, it could apply to Emergent Heretics, Unitarians, Muslims and practising Jews. Tragically, the “Jesus” that is presented in the sermons that promote this definition of being a Christ Follower isn’t the Savior of the world who died on the cross for the sins of the world and calls all nations to repentance of their sins and the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the Cross. Instead, the “Jesus” that is presented in these sermons is a “life coach”, a training buddy and the supreme example of an emotionally well adjusted risk taking leader who lived the ultimate life of significance and purpose. This purpose-driven “Jesus” is there to help you achieve what he achieved and invites you to follow his examples and methods so that you can be Christlike too.
This is poisonous. This seeker-driven / purpose-driven definition of what it means to be a Christ Follower is fatally flawed and I fear that there will be many people who appear before the judgement seat of Christ saying, “Lord, Lord, we were emotionally well adjusted self-actualized leaders who lived a life of significance and purpose, took risks, enjoyed healthy sex lives in our marriages, celebrated recovery, tithed, volunteered at church and helped dig fresh water wells in Africa” and Jesus will say to them “Depart from me, I never knew you!”