This sermon seems to be the first in a series which will be preached by Pastor Clay Bergen, the national director of Freedom in Chris Ministries, Canada. I know a bit about the ministry, being fairly familiar with the teaching and practices of Neil T Anderson and some of the books he has released [such as Bondage Breakers] and due to my thoughts on that book I have been eager to review these sermons.
As it were, he begins the sermon using a dental analogy, saying that over the course of the weekend, some people will see that need to have a check-up, and others will need to have a root canal. That is, some people will find the sessions useful to deal with a few small issues, while others will come to understand that they have much that they must deal with and work through. The thrust of the sermon is that after we become saved, we carry with us baggage that must be dealt with in order for us to thrive as believers.
Pastor Bergen tells the story of Nahum in 2 Kings 5, about how like Nahum we must be desperate to get cleaned and cleansed of our proverbial leprosy, and that it is a simple thing to do. He plays a video by The Skit Guys called God’s Chisel, Which is about 10 minutes of witty banter between God and Man, which states that we are God’s masterpiece, and seeks to show that God is serious about going after our hearts and healing us.
He then winds it down with an exhortation that we are important to God, and that God wants to say that he still loves us, its not our fault [sometimes] and there is still hope. God wants to give us promises, but Satan wants to keep them from us. We need to allow God to do a work in us through 7 simple steps, and that’s what the weekend will be about.
It is unfortunate that the MGA has not made the rest of the sermons/sessions available yet, as this one seems like a primer and introduction to the rest of them. If not sure if they were even recorded, but I think that they might have been really edifying for the community to have access to them in a more public way.
As for the sermon, there were a few things that stood out to me though, and which bear commenting on.
1. He spends a fair amount of time talking about the importance of sanctification [though I'm not sure he used or would use that word] He spends a small chunk of time saying that since we have salvation, we ought to grow and let the word of God be deeply rooted within us. That God needs to go after our heart and remove and cull our sinful thoughts and replace them with his righteousness. I liked that a lot, and I thought that salient point came across loud and clear in the message.
2. At one point he quotes Colossians 2:6 and says “Paul writes ‘You received Christ Jesus, You have salvation, you have him at work in your life. Praise God! But. Continue to live in him. Rooted in him. Built up in him. Strengthened in the faith you were taught, with overflowing with thanksgiveness. Thankfulness’.” That’s not really accurate. It seems to be a personalized paraphrase, when in reality it says “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” The point is that he attributes words to Paul that he does not say. Its not really a big deal, and not really wrong, as he conveyed the gist of it, but it was enough that it caught my attention and pulled me out of the sermon a bit because I was thinking that it did not sound like Paul. I think it was the word “Thanksgiveness”.
3. I think though that the chief thing he did that struck me as actually egregious is that he messed around with Colossians 2:8-10 in ways that he shouldn’t have. I don’t think he properly handled the biblical text in this case. What he did was he quoted the reference for the verse, then gave us the message paraphrase, and then he went on to exegete and speculate regarding the paraphrase that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual translations, thus lending his ideas a false credence and authority and granting them a biblical veneer. Its subtle or sneaky, and it’s endemic in modern evangelical preaching.
For example, he gives us the Message Bible paraphrase of Colossians 2:8-10 which says “Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.”
This is in contradistinction to the actual words of God which say “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power”
So he quotes from a paraphrase that has almost exactly double the words from the original scriptures [110 words vs 56] and says verbatim “You don’t need telescopes, microscopes, horoscopes. Many times in our lives we want to know what’s out there, what’s there for our future, and so we want to see the big picture, and we have that telescope picture of where we’re going or what we need to do, and we want all the answers before we make a decision, and so we’re waiting upon God and he’s not answering, and we’re struggling in our journey. Or sometimes as a microscope we want to see every little detail in place, have every thing in order so, have every decision made so as we take the next step we know what we’re doing. Or in some cases we want that supernatural power, and we’re looking to every source, and finding that through horoscopes and others that might speak into our lives, and trying to figure out what we need to do and where we need to go and how we need to deal with issues in our life. But folks the word of God says you do not need telescopes, microscopes or horoscopes to know the fullness of God. To know his fullness, what we need to do is to take the time to seek after him, to allow him to speak to us. That’s what tonight is all about.”
See, that is not a proper handling of the scriptures. That is not, as 2 Timothy 5 says, “rightly diving the word of truth” I hate to say it, but that’s just playing games. That’s some bizarre eisegesis that has no place being preached from the pulpit if the goal of the preaching is to unpack and make clear those verses that you gave us. The fact is that the Message paraphrase shouldn’t be preached from the pulpit as authoritative in any way, and its mangling abilities are on display as we try to discern some semblance of similarity between what Paul wrote, and what Eugene Peterson wrote. I can hardly find any, and I especially can’t see the connection between what Paul wrote and what Clay is preaching at this point. Very disappointing
4. I kinda liked the video clip. It was entertaining and witty, and it made several good points, such as control vs chiselling, about how we want to control which areas of our heart that Christ goes after, or about when we look in the mirror, we shouldn’t see us but instead see Christ. About the lie that says everything was going to be easy when you followed me. All those things and more are quite good. I think it was very successful and powerful in conveying the ferociousness that Christ will pursue our hearts.
And yet two things bothered me. The clip is about Ephesians 2:10, where in that section, the scriptures say that we are God’s workmanship. The Greek word is poiema, literally- that which has been made. And yet the whole time the video replaces workmanship with masterpiece. And so what I thought was conveyed was that we are God’s original masterpiece and not his workmanship. Again, that’s not what is being said. I could be overly paranoid, but when we replace workmanship and emphasize the masterpiece-ness of it, that elevates man instead of God. It does not point attention to the mastery of God’s power or his goodness or his benevolence in creating something, but rather it seems to give glory to that which has been made, honouring the creature instead of the creator. In my head I was like “nooooo, God is the Master, I’m just the piece.” You guys can judge if I’m being overly sensitive or not.
What did drive me to distraction, is the point in the clip where God is chipping away at the man, and the man says that “it hurts” and God replies “it hurts me more than it hurts you.” Aaaaaaah no. God is NOT hurt when he sanctifies us. That is patently false at best and blasphemous at worst. I think it was done to make God relateable, like a how a father will tell that to his son that he’s about to chastise, or something like that. But that really is a bad call and I can’t let that go without pointing it out. It absolutely in no way shape or form hurts God more than it hurts us. I did send off an email to Pastor Glen and asked him about that, and I will update this post when/if I hear back from him. I don’t know- call me crazy, but I am of the opinion that you can’t just say things like that and let them go uncorrected. In fact, I would urge the pastors and leadership team to offer a public correction on that point. Is it a huge, gigantic deal? Not really. But I think it would go far in showing the congregation that the church leadership is serious about the purity and the centrality of the Word of God, as well as guarding them from any errors, small and unassuming as they might be.
In any case, other than that Message Bible confusion and the jab about it hurting God, I thought it was pretty good, and would have liked to hear the rest of the messages.