30 April 2012

Joel Osteen Admits to the Prosperity Gospel?

In a recent interview with the Christian Post, Joel Osteen was asked if he considered himself to be “a preacher of the prosperity gospel.” This question was followed up with the inquiry, “Is it [the prosperity gospel] heresy?” While he did not directly address the second question, Osteen responded in part with the following:
You know, I don’t consider myself a … I don’t really know what the prosperity gospel is. The way I define it is that I believe God wants you to prosper in your health, in your family, in your relationships, in your business, and in your career. So I do … if that is the prosperity gospel, then I do believe that.
I don’t believe we are supposed to go through life defeated and not having enough money to pay our bills or send our kids to college. So you know, when I hear some of that, I think that is not who I am, he doesn’t know me or what I teach. Because he is saying God doesn’t believe that… there is no demand, I don’t think I’d put it like that but I always talk about God rewards obedience. When you follow His way, the Bible says that His blessings will chase you down and overtake you.
Well, at least he admits it!

Read more commentary here.

Is Appearance Everything?

At the Grace to You blog, John MacArthur tackles the sins of the heart. He writes:
The notion that morality is merely external underlies all forms of hypocrisy. It is the very error Jesus decried in His exposition of the moral law in the Sermon on the Mount. The central lesson He underscored was this: External appearance is not what matters most. The proper focus of the moral law is the heart, not merely external behavior. 
Jesus' exposition of the law is a devastating blow against the lie that image is everything. Our Lord taught repeatedly that sin bottled up on the inside, concealed from everyone else's view, carries the very same guilt as sin that manifests itself in the worst forms of ungodly behavior. Those who hate others are as guilty as those who act out their hatred; and those who indulge in private lusts are as culpable as wanton adulterers (Matt. 5:21-30). 
So Christians are not to think of secret sins as somehow less serious and more respectable than the sins everyone sees.
Continue reading here.

27 April 2012

This 'n' That

In the second volume of his commentary on Luke, in addressing Luke 12:49-53, J.C. Ryle writes:
Let us beware of unscriptural expectations. If we expect to see people of one heart and one mind, before they are converted, we shall continually be disappointed. Thousands of well-meaning persons now-a-days are continually crying out for more "unity" among Christians. To attain this they are ready to sacrifice almost anything, and to throw overboard even sound doctrine, if, by so doing, they can secure peace. Such people would do well to remember that even gold may be bought too dear, and that peace is useless if purchased at the expense of truth. Surely they have forgotten the words of Christ, "I came not to send peace, but division."

Similarly, in his commentary on Matthew 10:34-42, Ryle notes:
Many talk vaguely about "unity," and "harmony," and "peace" in the Church of Christ, as if they were things that we ought always to expect, and for the sake of which everything ought to be sacrificed! Such persons would do well to remember the words of our Lord. No doubt unity and peace are mighty blessings; we ought to seek them, pray for them, and give up everything in order to obtain them, excepting truth and a good conscience: but it is an idle dream to suppose that the Churches of Christ will enjoy much of unity and peace before the millennium comes (emphasis added).
Ryle's words could have been written yesterday, for they are just as timely and applicable today as when they were first penned. Indeed, some days it seems as though it won't be long until a "Christianized" version of the "COEXIST" bumper sticker is created and distributed among today's professing Christians. In a time of "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," and pachyderm-esque gatherings, we must be ever-vigilant that the truth of God's Word and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ are never compromised at the expense of fleeting unity. How many have been deceived all the way to Hell with the cry of "peace" and "unity" on their lips! Stand firm, then, on the only thing which we can know to be true: the Word of God.

Now that this sermon has concluded, please enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Reformation 21 offers a brief review of Steve Lawson's new Charles Spurgeon biography. Unfortunately, now I am really anxious to get and read this book!
  • Know someone who needs to hear the Gospel? Have them listen to this sermon by Pastor Rob Willmann.
  • Michael Kruger offers some insight into the claim that the earliest Christians were only concerned with oral tradition.
  • The president of Voice of the Martyrs has committed suicide.
  • Looking forward to the completion of this. No elephants allowed, I presume?
  • The video below is an edited version of Max McLean delivering a portion of Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Everyone needs to hear or read this sermon. Full audio of Mark Dever preaching this sermon in its entirety is available here and is highly recommended. A full transcript may be accessed here.

26 April 2012

Oprah is a "Christian" Who Believes in a "Force Energy Consciousness"

Oprah Winfrey's Lifeclass continues to travel the country. Following a recent appearance by T.D. Jakes, Oprah this week interviewed New Age guru Deepak Chopra. In the introduction to the episode, however, Winfrey made some interesting assertions.

The Christian Post reports:
Oprah Winfrey, appearing in New York City during the Monday broadcast of her "Lifeclass," professed to being a Christian twice during her introduction, which one publication took as evidence of her confession in Christ. The Black Christian News Network suggested that Winfrey was a "secret follower" of Jesus and those critical of Winfrey's confession were akin to Pharisees. (Source)
The opinion piece generated by Black Christian News Network (BCNN) reads as follows:
Well, she has made it clear to her millions of fans. Here is the profession of faith that Oprah made last night, April 23, 2012, at her lifeclass in New York City before the entire world for the glory of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is what she said:
"I am not talking about religion. I am a Christian. That is my faith. I'm not asking you to be a Christian. If you wanna be one, I can show you how. But it is not required. I have respect for all faiths..."
"...My favorite Bible verse, because I am a Christian, is Acts 17:28. It says, 'In God I live, and move, and have my being.'
Now we know that some people are going to doubt Oprah's profession of faith in Christ and some are going to say negative things about this because she has different people of different faiths on her show and so forth. But before you Pharisees say all of that, please understand that OWN is not a Christian network. It is a network for all people. OWN is Oprah's business, and we as Christians know what that is like when you're doing business in a secular world. So Oprah's business side is going to be different, but it does not take anything away from her faith in Christ. 
Unfortunately, BCNN is a bit confused. The issue is not regarding the fact that OWN is a secular business and that Winfrey keeps it separate from her supposed faith in Christ. The reason that many so-called "Pharisees" will "doubt Oprah's profession of faith in Christ" is because she has yet to give any indication that she actually believes in the Jesus of the Bible. Throughout her entire career, Oprah Winfrey has not merely interviewed leaders, authors and influential people with differing faiths or religions. No, she has actually promoted their aberrant teachings and has thus proven that her own version of "christianity" is a bizarre amalgamation of Eastern mysticism and New Age thought with a thin veneer of a few vague Christian-sounding terms tossed in for good measure.

The Christian Post article continues:
Winfrey, during "Oprah's Lifeclass: The Tour" broadcast from New York City's Radio City Music Hall, greeted the audience in the packed auditorium and informed them that the lifeclass theme would be "Spiritual Solutions" as taught by New Age figure Deepak Chopra.
She added, "My definition [of spirituality] is living your life with an open heart, through love... allowing yourself to align with the values of tolerance, acceptance, of harmony, of cooperation and reverence for life. "There is a force energy consciousness divine thread, I believe, that connects spiritually to all of us, to something greater than ourselves." 
(Source, emphasis added)
With the emboldened statement above, Winfrey already has invalidated her claim to being a Christian. There is no biblical grounds for the idea of a "force energy consciousness divine thread" that connects all of us to one another and ultimately connects us to God. This is New Age spirituality, and it is not compatible with biblical Christianity.

CP continues transcribing Oprah's comments:
She also commented on what has made her successful, and shared a favorite Bible passage. 
"My favorite Bible verse – because I am Christian – is Acts..something... it says [in Acts 17:28] 'in God I live and move and have my being.' And you want to know why I'm so successful? Because I knew that at four-years-old," Winfrey told her audience. 
There is a slight irony in the fact that, in this particular verse, Paul is actually quoting the Cretan poet Epimenides. In preaching about this passage, John MacArthur stated:
He's simply saying that natural revelation is so obvious that your own poets can see it though they attached it to the wrong god. 
That's a powerful point. That's powerful substantiation. Paul has been trying to say, "God is revealed in nature. You can see God in nature. You can know He's Creator, Giver, Sustainer, Controller. And look, your own poets recognize there must be a God Who does all of this. Even though they don't know who it is. And so they are living proof, Epimedides and Aradus. That much revelation is inherent in all men and that God is obvious even to the pagan. Boy, what a powerful point. And right from their own Greek poets. Paul was a master at making the most of the situation. And so it's a powerful illustration then of God's universal revelation that He is Creator, Sustainer and the God of providence, and even their poets can see it.
Now, he takes it a step further. Because, you see, some, like those poets, just stopped there. They said, "Hey, God is." There is. And they said, "God is Creator. God is Sustainer or Ruler. God is Giver." And all along the line ­"God is Providence." Oh, yes, God is. Sure, Epimenides knew that. They didn't know which god, but they knew there was a god, and they knew that god was this. But that's where they stopped. 
Paul says you've got to go further than that. You've got to go further than that. You've got to go past God is and Who God is and you've got to come up with What God is saying. And they never did. You know, there are a lot of people like that. They believe God is. And they believe God is Creator, God is Sustainer. Like those Greek poets. But they don't know God. And so they worship a non-God. It's sad to see somebody come that far, isn't it. You know, that's true of the pagans. You go to some countries and you see them worshipping false gods at totum poles. You know, they believe God is, they believe God is Creator, Sustainer and all that, but they just have the wrong God.
When this passage is read in its full context, then, one can see that one of the points that the Apostle Paul was trying to emphasize was that all men, by means of natural revelation, are aware of the existence of a God. What Paul definitively was not saying, was that acknowledging the existence of a god would bring earthly success. The Apostle is also not claiming that each man possesses a "divine thread" or god-consciousness, as Oprah Winfrey has implied in her statements.

It is very likely that Oprah Winfrey is deceived and sincerely believes herself to be a Christian. Unfortunately, it is impossible to be a true, repentant, redeemed believer and simultaneously espouse such New Age teachings as does Winfrey. With the evidence available, it seems safe to say that Oprah Winfrey has the wrong Jesus. And so we pray that she may one day come to know the true Jesus, for even one such as Oprah Winfrey, who has led countless of individuals down a road of damning deception, can be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ.


Why Oprah Winfrey Gets Coaching to Proclaim: "I am a Christian." (Stand Up for the Truth)
Oprah Winfrey Speaking as a "Christian" (Apprising Ministries)
Oprah Likes T.D. Jakes

25 April 2012

Joel Osteen Discusses His Broad Christianity

On 24 April 2012, Joel Osteen appeared on CNN's Situation Room to discuss religion and politics:

Osteen's words bring to mind a particular Scripture:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Once again, Joel Osteen has delivered a false and damning gospel to the world.

Are Mormons Christian? (TGC)
Now Joel Osteen Says Mormonism Itself is Christian (Apprising Ministries)
The "Jesus" of Mormonism a la Glenn Beck (Apprising Ministries)

24 April 2012

The Mixed Legacy of Charles Colson

With the passing of Charles Colson on 21 April 2012, obituaries and remembrances of him appear to fall into one of two categories. The mainstream media seems content to focus on Colson's involvement in the Watergate scandal and his subsequent conviction, while Christian reports and blogs have offered nothing but undiluted praise for Colson and his post-conversion life. Until Tim Challies offered this balanced post, it seemed as though the Christian community had altogether forgotten about Colson's detrimental contributions to the Body of Christ.

To be sure, we may be thankful for the conversion of Colson and his concerted efforts through his Prison Fellowship ministry. Yet, to simply ignore not only Colson's ecumenical perspective, but his ecumenical endeavors, is to stand silent in the face of an attack against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Tim Challies notes,
The fact is that as we remember this man, we remember someone who labored to strike a significant blow against the gospel, and who time and again called on the church to do the same. And this is what is absent in so many remembrances. He labored for good and positive causes, but he also labored for outright sinful causes. (Source)
Charles Colson was a leader and drafter of the 1994 document Evangelicals and Catholics Together. In essence, this document undermined the Reformation as it affirmed that there was little difference between the gospel of Roman Catholicism and the gospel of the Reformation (i.e., the Biblical Gospel). Sadly, as noted by Challies, the obituary for Colson found at The Gospel Coalition actually seems to celebrate his efforts with ECT. Both Dr. James White and Dr. John MacArthur offered extensive responses to ECT at the time of its appearance. White states:
The document also asserts "All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ." This is probably the key affirmation of the document, and everything else hinges upon this statement. We could wish to ask what the authors mean by "accept Christ as Lord and Savior," and if this would also include Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, or Bahais. Given the fact that the Apostle's Creed is included as a basic confession that all sides can accept, we would suspect that they would exclude these groups. But if a Mormon understands the Apostle's Creed in an LDS-fashion, would they then have to accept this confession, and embrace such a person as a brother or sister in Christ? Such problems are glossed over by the document. But most importantly, every other issue, including, as we shall see, the very nature of the gospel itself, is subjugated under the affirmation that "Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ." No amount of doctrinal difference can do away with the ultimate belief that Evangelicals and Catholics are both Christians, and are both members of the Body of Christ. (Source)
In 2009, Colson appeared at the helm of the drafting of another ecumenical document, The Manhattan Declaration. This document, though standing against social ills such as homosexual marriage and abortion, did so at the expense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his response to The Manhattan Declaration, John MacArthur explains:
Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like “we [and] our fellow believers”; “As Christians, we . . .”; and “we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.” That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions. 
The Declaration therefore constitutes a formal avowal of brotherhood between Evangelical signatories and purveyors of different gospels. That is the stated intention of some of the key signatories, and it’s hard to see how secular readers could possibly view it in any other light. Thus for the sake of issuing a manifesto decrying certain moral and political issues, the Declaration obscures both the importance of the gospel and the very substance of the gospel message. (Source)
As MacArthur would later state in a radio interview on Chris Fabry Live, "I just don't think you fight the spiritual war by conceding ground to the enemy and redefining him as your friend."

Christians ought not ignore the detrimental influence wrought by Charles Colson on American evangelicalism. To do so is akin to ignoring the call to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Colson's leadership and promotion of these ecumenical endeavors undermined the precious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. To acknowledge this is not to be unkind or unfair, but rather to be honest. We ought never to shirk from exposing those things which attack the Gospel of Christ.

May this be a reminder to each Christian to review what his own legacy might be upon passing away from this world, and may it ever encourage us to uphold the Truth above all else.

22 April 2012

Bring Your Dog to Church?

On 28 and 29 April, Ed Young, Jr. and Fellowship Church will host the "largest pet service in the history of Christianity." So, is that a difficult record to break?

Dog lovers, bring your pooches with you to church next weekend so that you can "worship together!" (Never mind the fact that dogs cannot actually worship). As for you cat lovers, you may want to stay home. There is no "cat service" in the foreseeable future, so you and your felines will have to worship from the comfort of your own home. Or just play with a piece of string, whatever you prefer.

Sunday Morning Praise

Great is Thy Faithfulness

21 April 2012

Gabe Lyons, Q and "Restoring Cultures"

In mid-April, while many Christians earnestly scanned the Twitter stream and their favorite blogs for soundbites and one-liners from the Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference, another gathering was taking place several cities away, in Washington, D.C. Running from 10–12 April, this gathering was known as the Q Conference, and it would do each eager T4G spotter well to pay perhaps even more attention to this particular event.

The Q Conference is a brainchild of Gabe Lyons, who also helped to co-found the Catalyst movement several years ago. Lyons is also the author of the popular books, UnChristian and The Next ChristiansAccording to the Q website,
Q was birthed out of Gabe Lyons’ vision to see Christians, especially leaders, recover a vision for their historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures. Inspired by Chuck Colson’s statement, “Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals,” Gabe set out to reintroduce Christians to what had seemed missing in recent decades from an American expression of Christian faithfulness; valuing both personal and cultural renewal, not one over the other. Re-educating Christians to this orthodox and unifying concept has become central to the vision of Q. 
We believe that inherent in Christian faithfulness is the responsibility to create a better world, one that reflects God’s original design and intention. 
The claim that Christians have a "historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures" is not supported by Scripture. The Q website also does not offer any Scripture in defense of the claim that "inherent in Christian faithfulness is the responsibility to create a better world, one that reflects God's original design and intention."

If the responsibility of the Christian was to "renew and restore cultures," one would expect that there would have been more such activity recorded in the New Testament. Yet, rather than reading of the apostles' endeavors to make the world a better place, we see them preaching repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone for individual salvation.

It is stated above that Lyons was initially inspired by Chuck Colson's statement that, "Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals." The grievous errors in this statement work together to create confusion. Christians are not called to redeem anybody. Rather, believers have been called by God to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When Christians are faithful to this mission, God works to draw someone, by the power of His Holy Spirit, into a saving relationship with Him, thus redeeming the individual from his lost state and sin. The faithful believer, however, is not responsible for such redemption. Indeed, if man cannot save and redeem himself from his own sin, how can he expect to do so for others? Only Christ saves. Only Christ can offer redemption. While it is clear that Christians are not called to redeem other individuals, it should also be noted that Scripture does not call Christians to "redeem entire cultures." True, eternal redemption happens at the level of the individual, and it is wrought by God alone. Thus, this statement, upon which the foundation of Gabe Lyons' Q Conference was built, is erroneous and therefore hopelessly unsupportive.

The Q event is not the typical Christian conference. Gathering leaders from various walks of life, Q seeks to share "ideas for the common good." Why, then, do Christians need to be aware of Q and what is taking place? After all, it sounds like a noble cause, seeking to make this world a better place, reaching out to young people to encourage them to engage with the culture in order to make a difference. Why should the Bible-believing Christian be wary of the endeavors set forth by Gabe Lyons? The following paragraphs, will seek to answer that question.

As mentioned above, Gabe Lyons is an author and co-founder of the Catalyst movement. He is also the founder of Q and the driving force behind the event. Perhaps the best way to learn more about Lyons will be to examine his worldview from his own words. In the opening paragraph of his book The Next Christians, Lyons writes:
Seven years ago, I was twenty-seven years old and embarrassed to call myself Christian. This was especially odd because I was raised in a Christian home, graduated from a Christian college, and then served as vice president of a prominent Christian organization. By all accounts, I should have been one of Christianity's biggest fans. 
Unfortunately, I began to notice that the perceptions my friends and neighbors had about Christians were incredibly negative. In fact, their past experiences with anything labeled Christian had sent them running in the opposite direction. Ironically, I came to empathize with their views. Having grown up in a Christian bubble myself, I witnessed countless instances when the lives of Christ followers were incongruent with Jesus's [sic] call to be loving, engaged, sacrificial, unselfish, and compassionate contributors to culture. The angst these experiences created would scare anyone from taking a second look at Jesus. 
The Next Christians, 3
On page 5 of the same book, Lyons writes:
Research shows that over 76 percent of Americans self-identify as Christian. Yet I wonder how many of us are proud to carry that label. Are we hiding our faith in our back pockets? My guess is that many feel much like I did at twenty-seven when they encounter non-Christians at work, in coffee shops, on campus, in their neighborhoods, at weekend parties, or working out at the gym. The Next Christians, 5
It's true, there are many people who tout the title of "Christian," yet behave in a rather abysmal manner. Yet, does this justify an attitude of embarrassment at being identified with Christ? Should the Christian bow to the world if the world perceives Christianity unfavorably?
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.Mark 8:34-38, ESV, emphasis added
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. John 15:18-21, ESV
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 desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17, ESV
The Christian should not expect to be celebrated or embraced by the world. If, then, a Christian is reluctant to claim and name the name of Jesus Christ, is the issue really with the true Christian faith, or does the problem lie elsewhere?

It is interesting to note that in 1 John 2:17 (cited above), the Apostle explains that "the world is passing away along with its desires..." Indeed, this simple fact alone seems to contradict the foundational tenet of Q, that "inherent in Christian faithfulness is the responsibility to create a better world, one that reflects God’s original design and intention." Yet, Gabe Lyons persists in the notion that there is "a new generation of Christians" whose mission it is to change —and even restore—this world. He writes:
I've observed a new generation of Christians who feel empowered. Restorers exhibit the mind-set, humility, and commitment that seem destined to rejuvenate the momentum of the faith. They have a peculiar way of thinking, being, and doing that is radically different from previous generations. Telling others about Jesus is important, but conversion isn't their only motive. Their mission is to infuse the world with beauty, grace, justice, and love. I call them restorers because they envision the world as it was meant to be and they work toward that vision. Restorers seek to mend earth's brokenness. They recognize that the world will not be completely healed until Christ's return, but they believe that the process begins now as we partner with God. Through sowing seeds of restoration, they believe others will see Christ through us and the Christian faith will reap a much larger harvest. The Next Christians, 43, emphasis added.
This "restorer" mindset permeates the efforts of Q. Writing on the Q website in a lengthy article entitled, "Influencing Culture," and quoting Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey's book, How Now Shall We Live, Lyons writes:
Ultimately, it was Colson's explanation of the cultural mandate that grabbed my mind and my heart: ... "Our job is not only to build up the church but also to build a society to the glory of God. As agents of God's common grace, we are called to help sustain and renew his creation, to uphold the created institutions of family and society, to puruse science and scholarship, to create works of art and beauty, and to heal and help those suffering from the results of the Fall." Source
Unfortunately, Lyons offers no Scripture to support this statement. As the article progresses, Gabe Lyons speaks about the great "conversion moments" in history, such as the First and Second Great Awakening in England and America, respectively. He seems to believe that the traveling evangelists offered only a "half-story" of the Gospel by not remaining in one place and "modeling the life of a Christian over the course of years."
It’s easy to see that when forced to convey the most dramatic parts of the Christian story in a short period of time, parts of the story are easily overlooked. In the process, Christianity was losing its profound and life-giving answers to central questions no longer representing an entire life-system and worldview. It had become relegated to a personal, spiritual decision about where you would spend the afterlife. As more evangelical Christians adopted this half-story explanation of the faith, their cultural influence began to fade. The emphasis on heavenly pursuits overshadowed the idea of living a life that offered common grace and promoted cultural influence. Source
As Lyons' essay continues, the reader will begin to realize that one of two things is happening: either Gabe Lyons does not believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is enough for salvation and redemption, or he has adopted a skewed understanding of the Gospel, believing that it extends beyond one's individual standing before God. From the quotes already examined, it seems obvious that the latter is true. Lyons continues:
The idea of culture shaping is widely debated. Most people, and until recently myself included, implicitly believe that cultures are changed from the bottom-up and that to “change our culture, we need more and more individuals possessing the right values and therefore making better choices.”The problem is that it is only part of the solution. In a widely distributed briefing that was presented to The Trinity Forum called To Change the World, James Davison Hunter asserts, “It is this view of culture that also leads some faith communities to evangelism as their primary means of changing the world. If people’s hearts and minds are converted, they will have the right values, they will make the right choices, and the culture will change in turn.” 
Hunter goes on to say, “…the renewal of our hearts and minds is not only important, it is essential, indeed a precondition for a truly just and humane society. But by itself, it will not accomplish the objectives and ideals we hope for.”18 This could explain why Christianity as it is practiced by many well meaning, admirable Christians in the past decades has failed to have significant traction. 
What is the solution to this problem? According to James Davison Hunter, as quoted by Gabe Lyons, "Cultures are shaped when networks of leaders, representing the different social institutions of a culture, work together towards a common goal." For Lyons, and for Q, these social institutions include:
business, government, media, church, arts & entertainment, education and the social sector. Their combined output of ideas, films, books, theology, websites, restaurants, investments, social work, laws, medical breakthroughs and technology drive an entire nation. Source
The astute reader will notice that these spheres of influence bear a striking similarity to the "seven mountains" of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). While Gabe Lyons is not (to this writer's knowledge) involved specifically with the NAR movement, it is nevertheless interesting to note that the NAR holds to similar goals in seeking to redeem the culture. This simply demonstrates how widespread this particular false gospel has become.

To illustrate the combined impact that these seven sectors can have upon society, Lyons turns to the homosexual movement as an example.
In thirty years, the idea of being gay had moved from being commonly viewed as abnormal and abhorrent in society, to being an acceptable and normal alternative life-style. This illustrates perfectly the potential for cultural influence to happen when leaders throughout the seven channels of culture work together towards a common goal. Source
The misunderstanding that Christians and the Church have been commissioned to redeem and renew this earth and its cultures may lead to a disparaging view of the true mission of the Church. As a reminder, Christians have been called by Christ Himself to share the Gospel, calling sinners to repentance and faith in Christ alone for salvation. When the focus is turned away from Christ and His atoning work, and fixed instead on this temporal, transient and dying world, then the Church loses its effectiveness. Unfortunately, Gabe Lyons through his movement of Q is seemingly fixing his gaze upon the wrong thing. He says,
Sadly, by focusing on just the “spiritual” and the afterlife, the Christian church has strayed away from its potential influence in the here and now, positioning itself instead as just another subculture. Source
In response to the great gift of salvation in Christ, the Christian will undoubtedly bear fruit that manifests itself in "good works," yet those good works are not the Gospel. To call the Church to put its energy into the "here and now" seems to contradict many exhortations within Scripture to "set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Col. 3:2). Indeed, the believer is told that this earth will one day pass away, and that God will create a New Heavens and a New Earth.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 
2 Peter 3:10-14, ESV
So, why the concern? Why write such a lengthy article discussing some of the dangers of Q and of its founder, Gabe Lyons? After all, not many Christians were even aware that the event was taking place! Yet, the mindset and the doctrines of Q, which denigrate and downplay the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are beginning to permeate evangelicalism. Among the speakers in years past at the Q conference have been men like Brian McLaren and Rick Warren. In his speech, Warren told the audience that, "You are the message. You are incarnating Jesus in the world" (video can be viewed here). Are we really the message? Or is the message of salvation found in Jesus Christ?

This year, Ed Stetzer, president and "missiologist in residence" at Lifeway Research, was among the speakers at the Q Conference. Lifeway has also invited Gabe Lyons to be a featured speaker at their upcoming Collegiate Summit. As collegiate leaders gather to learn new ways to influence the college students with whom they work, may it now be anticipated that the doctrine of "renewing the culture" will begin to disseminate among our youth?
Collegiate leaders invest a tremendous amount of time in the lives of college students, be it one-on-one coffee conversations, small group Bible studies, or conferences and events. But even the best leaders need some time to recharge. Collegiate Summit is an event just for leaders, and a perfect opportunity to fellowship with peers, worship, and renew their energy and focus. 
Collegiate Summit is an interactive event that allows attendees to share insights, get new ideas, and learn from each other. Large group sessions feature leading teachers like Jon Acuff, Gabe Lyons, and Pete Wilson, as well as music from Dove Award-winning songwriter and worship leader Michael Boggs. Breakout sessions focus on specific topics and allow leaders to network, make new friends, and encourage each other. 
The idea that Christians must strive to redeem and renew cultures and the belief that salvation of the individual is only "half" of the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, these are prominent and notable threats to the true Gospel. Yet the leaders who are influencing the churches of today are more and more gravitating to this type of false gospel. Be mindful, dear Christian. Learn God's Word and hold fast to what it says.

20 April 2012

This 'n' That

Photo: WikiMedia Commons
The University of Chicago has released what may be one of the most worthless "reports" ever. Okay, maybe not ever, but close. The Huffington Post reports:
A new report released by NORC at the University of Chicago, “Beliefs About God Across Time And Countries” measures belief in God in 30 countries around the world, and how those beliefs in God have changed over time. The survey asked three questions to determine whether the respondents were atheists, agnostics, deists, waivers, weak believers, strong believers, whether their beliefs about God had changed over time, and whether they believe in a personal God. (Source)
Okay, they asked questions about a generic belief in a generic god. Great. I can see this is going to be enlightening. The article closes by saying,
While belief in God has decreased in most countries, researchers find that the shift is modest. The researchers suggest that it is equally possible that belief in God will continue to decline, or that belief in God will become more widespread as it has in Russia, Latvia and Slovenia. (Source)
So, the conclusion to this report is that belief in "God" will either decline or increase. Uh huh. Got it. Is anyone else curious just how much money it cost to conduct this study?

Now that you have quite possibly grown just a bit dimmer simply from reading that story, here's your week in review (kind of):
  • Ken Silva beats me to the punch and asks, what's up with Liberty University? In 2010, they asked Mormon Glenn Beck to speak at commencement, and this year they will welcome Mormon Mitt Romney.
  • Matt Chandler has a tour bus for his new book, The Explicit Gospel. I'll refrain from making a snarky comment.
  • Here is a play-by-play look at Steven Furtick's sermon from the Presence Conference on 13 April 2012. In fact, C3 Church Watch has been offering many videos from Presence 2012, as well as helpful commentary. I suggest you visit this site for more information.
  • Fulfilled prophecy demonstrates the divine inspiration of Scripture.

19 April 2012

Perry Noble Misses the Point

In a post entitled, Four Problems the Church Has GOT to Deal With, Perry Noble writes:
#1 – We are answering questions that no one else is asking. 
I’m glad that we can debate theology and know terms that make us seem intelligent and cause other people to scratch their heads; however, at the end of the day people are not asking about the five points of Calvinism, the trichotomy or dichotomy of the Spirit or the peccability/impeccability of Christ! They are asking “why is my life falling apart?” Or, “how do I get past the fact that I was sexually molested when I was eight?” Or, “how do I, as a single mom, lead and provide for my family?” 
Too many people are so obsessed with their theological labels, I believe, so that they don’t actually have to do real ministry! (Source)
Note: Perry Noble's post continues, however, he chose to use some rather colorful language in a few places, so the reader is warned to be watchful of this if you choose to follow the link above. 
This goes back to the erroneous "Jesus didn't die for correct theology" argument. Yet, it seems as though Perry Noble is missing a key point. If a pastor is teaching the Bible, God's Word, then things like total depravity, justification, substitutionary atonement, the Trinity, the nature of God and Christ, etc. will come up. The church does not exist as a counseling center for people who are going through a rough time! Rather, the Church exists to preach the whole counsel of God, and to share with people the hopelessness of their lost, sinful state, and then to point them to Jesus Christ, who offers salvation from sin, death, and the righteous wrath of a holy God!

Noble says that people want to know "why is my life falling apart?" Or, "how do I get past the fact that I was sexually molested...?" The answer to these is to teach people about sin, and about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Newspring pastor notes that people are not asking about the impeccability of Christ. Perhaps not in those terms, however, a right understanding of the nature of Christ is necessary for salvation.

The seeker-driven model has always sought to address "felt needs," but has done so at the expense of the greatest need of all. What good have we done if we bolster the self-esteem of an abuse victim, but have failed to share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins? The root of every "felt need" is sin. Inevitably, if God's Word is rightly preached, sin will be addressed and "felt needs" will be dealt with in the process.

So, what is the #1 problem that the Church needs to address? In this writer's opinion, and to use the words of Phil Johnson, it may just be "worldly churches and hireling shepherds who trivialize Christianity."

18 April 2012

'The Voice' Bible Translation Causes a Stir

From Christian Research Network:

A perusal of the shelves of any bookstore, whether Christian or secular, will find one inundated with a multitude Bible translations. Amid these many available translations arrives a final edition of The Voice. According to the official website:
The Voice helps people connect with Scripture, so it can impact their lives. It's ideal for those who are interested in spirituality, and want their spirituality to be real in their lives and relationships. The Voice helps them to encounter "the glory of the Lord" and be "transformed by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). (Source)
This latest translation, however, makes some interesting omissions from the well-known Biblical text. USA Today reports:
The name Jesus Christ doesn't appear in The Voice, a new translation of the Bible. Nor do words such as angel or apostle. Instead, angel is rendered as messenger and apostle as emissary. Jesus Christ is Jesus the Anointed One or the liberating king. 
That's a more accurate translation for modern American readers, says David Capes, lead scholar for The Voice, a complete edition released this month by publishing company Thomas Nelson. Capes says that many people, even those who've gone to church for years, don't realize that the word "Christ" is a title. " 
They think that Jesus is his first name and Christ is his last name," says Capes, who teaches the New Testament at Houston Baptist University in Texas. 
Reporting on this same story, the Christian Post notes:
Frank Couch, Thomas Nelson's lead editor on the project, told The Christian Post that the purpose of The Voice was to make the Gospel message easier to understand for modern audiences. 
"The Voice has not claimed to be more accurate than any other translation, rather it is more easily understood than any other translation," said Couch. 
The Voice, published by Thomas Nelson, first appeared in 2008 as The Voice New Testament. Upon initial publication, the new translation was not without critics. Chris Rosebrough, Christian apologist and host of the radio show, Fighting for the Faith, expressed his concerns over this translation early on. A primary consideration for Rosebrough was the fact that the creative writing team for The Voice boasts several key leaders in the Emergent Church, including Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Leonard Sweet and Chris Seay.

Continue reading here.

16 April 2012

The Cross at the Heart of the Gospel

Two weeks ago on Palm Sunday, Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, preached from Matthew 27:15-26. Most are familiar with this passage, which describes how Jesus actually changed places with Barabbas. As Johnson notes, this is a very real and concrete example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So Barabbas is a significant person in the gospel account, chiefly because he is the living embodiment of a helpless, hopeless sinner who is spared from condemnation—even given an undeserved place of privilege—just because Christ took his place on the cross. Barabbas is a flesh-and-blood symbol of every redeemed sinner. In a true and literal sense, he could say "Christ died for [my] sins"—and he was no doubt the very first person to whom it might have occurred to make a confession like that. During those dark hours while the crucifixion drama was playing our, while the disciples were confused and scattered, while even those closest to Jesus wondered at the meaning of it all, Barabbas was already fully aware (in a unique and particular sense) that Jesus was dying in his place. I'm not suggesting he knew this with the full conviction of saving faith. But in a rudimentary sense, he must have had some crude understanding of the principle that lies at the heart of the atonement—because in a literal, physical sense, Christ had taken his place on the cross, borne the condemnation that was due Barabbas, and made it possible for Barabbas to go free—all without any work or merit on Barabbas's part. He did not deserve the favor he was shown. 

That is what the gospel is all about. The cross is the heart of the gospel message.
To listen to this sermon in its entirety, or to read the transcript, visit here.

13 April 2012

Perry Noble Wants Your Church To Be "Funded and Free"

Perry Noble's April 12 blog post was entitled "Top Ten Financial Mistakes a Church Makes - Part 1." (Part 2 can be read here). This was a guest post written by Joe Sangl, host of next week's upcoming Funded and Free conference. The number one mistake Sangl lists?
No Vision 
The Bible states in Proverbs 29:18 that “Where there is no vision, the people perish …” This is absolute truth. Churches that lack clear direction and vision are poorly funded because attenders have no clarity on how their sacrificial giving dollars will be used to accomplish the vision and build the Kingdom. Dr. John C. Maxwell has shared this incredible wisdom regarding this subject – “Where there is no vision, the people perish. And where there are no financial resources, the vision perishes. (Online Source)
Of course, this is a common misuse of Proverbs 29:18 among seeker-driven pastors. Setting that fact aside for a moment, it is interesting to note that, in his pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus (and in all of his letters, for that matter), the Apostle Paul never once instructed the young leaders to propagate some personal, yet "God-given" vision. Even less did Paul teach them that they must have a divine "vision" in order to maintain financial resources.

Noble has published these blog posts as a means of encouraging his church-leading readers to attend next week's Funded and Free conference. At this conference, attendees will gain the following insights:
(Online Source)
"How to increase operational giving in your church by 30% or more?" Whatever happened to faith and trust in God for the growth of one's ministry, both in size, scope and finances? This particular statement could also leave the average churchgoer wondering if this is merely a politically correct way of saying that these pastors will learn techniques that will aid in the manipulation of the flock.
(Online Source)
Note the irony in the language used above: "Are you frustrated that despite your efforts, you can't seem to increase your giving?" The Funded and Free conference wants to teach pastors how to fund their "God-given" vision. Yet, if God is truly giving them this "vision," would He not then provide the resources for it to be executed? Perhaps a better question would be: where in Scripture does God indicate that each pastor will be given a personal revelation from God? After all, that is the claim that seemingly is being made here. Rather, is not the "vision" and mission of the Church stated very clearly in passages such as Matthew 28:18-20? Is not the pastor's call outlined unambiguously throughout the pastoral epistles, and quite specifically in passages like 2 Timothy 4:1-5?

Pastor, Proverbs 29:18 read properly and in context is not about the grand dream and vision that you claim God has granted you for the expansion of your church. As such, a conference designed to teach you how to fund that alleged vision is, in a word, unnecessary. Please read the Word, pastor, for this alone is God's true "vision." Then, preach that Word faithfully, and God will no doubt ensure that His will is accomplished.

This 'n' That

All of us here at Escalator Church would like to thank all of you for making our first Easter Extravaganza such a success. We hope that you found the service to be fun, entertaining, and relevant. We expect that many people discovered, or rediscovered, the importance of their story. In short, we hope that Easter 2012 was your best Easter ever!

As we look ahead to our new sermon series, Life, Love and Lattes, we encourage each of you to continue to reflect on this year's Easter message. More specifically, we hope that all of you will remember to return this Sunday with the plastic egg that we handed out to each attendee. Don't forget that this egg is to be filled with your mandatory tithe, and that we will be collecting the eggs as we pass the offering baskets. Remember: the last one to tithe is a rotten egg!

Okay, now that the satire of Escalator Church has been sufficiently exhausted for awhile, let us move on and, please, enjoy your week in review (kind of):
  • Ben Stein warns that a second holocaust may be possible. Perhaps. All the more reason for us to hasten to bring the true Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ to the Jewish people.
  • "Now, I realize that most evangelicals who have bought into the Purpose-Driven® philosophy wouldn't dream of attacking the doctrines of justification by faith, or the deity of Christ, or the absolute authority of Scripture. But they ignore such doctrines rather than risk boring people with academic teaching. The long-term effect is the same as a full-scale assault against those doctrines." Phil Johnson takes a long-overdue look at Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Church.
  • Quit picking on Ed Young, Jr.! Sure, he traipsed a live lion and lamb in for Easter, but stop crying about the necessary permits! The church has to stand up for something, after all. Um ... yeah, too bad it seems that Ed Young wants us to stand up for his right to parade wild animals around the stage more than he wants us to stand up and defend the Word of God. Take heart, though, because Steven Furtick has jumped to Young's defense.
  • At Apprising Ministries, Ken Silva discusses how Henry Blackaby's mysticism negates the Reformation cry of "Sola Scriptura."
  • Phil Johnson has reposted an article from 2008 regarding Apostasy. Yes, it's still relevant and accurate four years later.
  • John MacArthur weighs in on the discussion between Pastor Jesse Johnson (at The Cripplegate) and Way of the Master/Living Waters.
  • There are no little texts, and there should be no little sermons:

11 April 2012

The Hopelessness of a Potato Chip Jesus

United Press International (UPI) reports:
Photo: WikiMedia Commons
NEWPORT, Minn., April 10 (UPI) -- A Minnesota woman who discovered what she believes to be an image of Jesus in a potato chip said she considers it to be an Easter-time sign of hope. 
Carol Isaak, 67, of Newport, said she was snacking on a bag of ripple-style Clancy's brand chips the night before Easter when she noticed a hole in the center of the chip had an unusual, but recognizable, shape, the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press reported Tuesday. 
Isaak said she showed the chip to her husband, Vern, and he immediately agreed the shape looked like Jesus Christ on the cross. 
Isaak, who said her husband has recently experienced health problems, said she sees the chip as a sign of hope from above. 
"I think it's just a comforting thing telling me things will be OK," she said. 
Lori Wing, administrator of the Potato Association of America, said she has heard similar stories from Maine and Canada this year. She said markings on potato chips are caused by disease and rotting, not supernatural forces. 
Continue Reading.
I realize this isn't exactly earth-shattering news, but the blog seemed a bit lonely. A good, old-fashioned Jesus-in-my-snack-food sighting seemed like an appropriate light-hearted filler. There are a couple of things to note in this story, though. The first is that I had no idea there was such a thing as the Potato Association of America.

More seriously of note, however, is the sad sense of hopelessness contained in this story. The lucky muncher says that "she sees the chip as a sign of hope from above," yet where does Scripture tell us our hope actually lies? Believe it or not, there is not one shred of Scriptural evidence that says that God will send miraculous signs in our snack food in order to give us hope. Rather, Scripture tells us that our hope lies in God Himself. The Psalms speak often of this.
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)  
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. (Psalm 71:5) 
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; (Psalm 146:5-7)
Indeed, our hope is Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 1:1), the God-man, the Savior. Our hope is not in an image of Him, let alone an image on a potato chip! Declarations such as this one above as made by Carol Isaak are indicative of just how pathetic the visible church has become. The article does not indicate what type of church the Isaak's attend (although I think I could venture a guess), but I can confidently assert that, whatever church it is, the Word of God is not being taught. If it were, such an ignorant and hopeless statement would never be made.

What if, in spite of this supposed "sign from above," things do not end up "OK" for Carol Isaak and her husband? Will their faith shatter as easily as the potato chip wherein they have placed their hope? Most likely, and such is the result when we place our hope in anything other than Christ Himself.

Ultimately, then, this is not just a story about another ridiculous Jesus sighting. It is a story that reminds us that people, even "church people" or "religious people" need the Gospel. It is a story that ought to remind pastors to preach the Word. Point people to the true hope, Jesus Christ.

08 April 2012

What if Jesus Were Still in the Grave?

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:16-19)
In the above verses, the Apostle Paul poses to his readers a hypothetical “what if” question. What if Jesus Christ had not been raised from the dead? Dr. John MacArthur offers an answer to that question, and in doing so reminds Christians why the resurrection of Christ is a truth to be celebrated. View article →

Resurrection Sunday Morning Praise

Happy Resurrection Day!

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

06 April 2012

This 'n' That: Good Friday Edition

We can never, we will never, comprehend the experience of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane just hours before His arrest, trial and death. We can never, and will never know the immensity of experiencing, in just a few brief hours, the eternal wrath of God for every sinner who would ever believe on Him. We can never, and will never know the true weight of our own sin, let alone the weight of the sins of a countless number. But Christ knows.

Indeed, it is precisely because Christ knew and experienced these things that those who believe upon Him never will know them. The suffering and the sacrifice of our Lord is incomprehensible. Perhaps one day, when we meet Him face to face and peer at His nail-pierced hands and feet, we will begin to fully understand. I suspect, however, that upon seeing those precious scars, we will all fall at His feet in humble and gracious adoration for the Lamb Who was slain on our behalf.

I pray you take the time today to reflect upon these truths, and upon the greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ. With that, here is your Good Friday themed week in review (kind of):
  • I highly recommend the book, The Darkness and the Glory, by Greg Harris, which offers an examination of the cross from Christ's perspective.
  • The Agony of the Cup:

British Historian Wonders if "God is a Girl"

The Christian Post reports:
In an attempt to support the ordination of women bishops in The Church of England, a British historian is emphasizing the importance of women in religion and posing the idea that God could be female. 
Bettany Hughes, a specialist in ancient history, asserted in the U.K. publication Radio Times that Christianity "was originally a faith where the female of the species held sway" and to deny this connection would be to deny the central role of women in the church. 
She also wrote, "Who knows whether God is a girl, but mankind has turned to the female of the species for good ideas. Our own monotheistic institutions might do well to take a leaf out of the book of human experience and build on this consensus when it comes to reaping the benefits of a close relationship between women and the divine." 
Continue Reading.
Of course, Scripture addresses both of these issues quite plainly. The Apostle Paul details the qualifications for an overseer or elder in the church in such places as 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. When Paul calls for an elder of the church to be "the husband of one wife," he seemingly disqualifies women from the role. Paul's instructions to women in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 further support the stipulation that the role of overseer in a church should only be held by a man.

As noted above, part of Bettany Hughes' argument in favor of ordaining female bishops is the alleged unanswered question, "Who knows whether God is a girl?" Again, the Bible offers a clear and unambiguous answer. While texts such as John 4:24 reveal that God the Father is spirit and does not actually possess a physical body, it is undeniable that Scripture uses much anthropomorphic language to describe God. In using such language, the writers of Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, always referred to God in male terms, the most notable of which may be the distinction of 'God the Father.' 

Finally, it is not difficult to note that God the Son, Jesus Christ, was distinctly male. Throughout the Gospel narratives it is made plain that God chose to reveal Himself to humanity in this manner. Jesus Christ, the God-man, humbled Himself to dwell among men. As a baby, He was circumcised according to Jewish law (Luke 2:22-23). As a man, He obediently and willingly bore the holy wrath of God the Father as a perfect substitute and sacrifice for all who would believe. To reject these clear truths as revealed by God in Scripture is to reject Jesus Christ Himself, without whom no one can be saved.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:22-24) 
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:36-39)

04 April 2012

You Cannot Take the Crowd With You

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)
At once we are reminded of some of the outstanding characteristics of this Christian life to which our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ calls us.

The first thing we notice is that it is a life which is narrow or strait at the very beginning. Immediately it is narrow. It is not a life which at first is fairly broad, and which as you go on becomes narrower and narrower. No! The gate itself, the very way of entering into this life, is a narrow one. It is important to stress and impress that point because, from the standpoint of evangelism, it is essential. When worldly wisdom and carnal motives enter into evangelism you will find that there is no 'strait gate.' Too often the impression is given that to be a Christian is after all very little different from being a non-Christian, that you must not think of Christianity as a narrow life, but as something most attractive and wonderful and exciting, and that you come in in crowds. It is not so according to our Lord. The gospel of Jesus Christ is too honest to invite anybody in that way. It does not try to persuade us that it is something very easy, and that it is only later on that we shall begin to discover it is hard. The gospel of Jesus Christ openly and uncompromisingly announces itself as being something which starts with a narrow entrance, a strait gate. At the very beginning it is absolutely essential that we should realize that. Let us look at this in a little more detail.

We are told at the very outset of this way of life, before we start on it, that if we would walk along it there are certain things which must be left outside, behind us. There is no room for them, because we have to start by passing through a strait and narrow gate. I like to think of it as a turnstile. It is just like a turnstile that admits one person at a time and no more. And it is so narrow that there are certain things which you simply cannot take through with you. It is exclusive from the very beginning, and it is important that we should look at this Sermon in order to see some of the things which must be left behind.

The first thing we leave behind is what is called worldliness. We leave behind the crowd, the way of the world. 'Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.' You must start by realizing that, by becoming a Christian, you become something exceptional and unusual. You are making a break with the world, and with the crowd, and with the vast majority of people. It is inevitable; and it is important that we should know it. The Christian way of life is not popular. It never has been popular, and it is not popular today. It is unusual, exceptional, strange, and it is different. On the other hand, crowding through the wide gate and traveling along the broad way is the thing that everybody else seems to be doing. You deliberately get out of that crowd and you start making your way towards this strait and narrow gate, alone. You cannot take the crowd with you into the Christian life: it inevitably involves a break.
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 479-480.