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Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

Have you ever accepted a dinner invitation that you knew would not be pleasant?  Jesus did.  He politely accepted an invitation to dinner from a Pharisee only to be accused of being unclean because he neglected to wash his hands before dinner (Luke 11:37-38)!  Jesus, however, handled this impolite Pharisee quite differently from what we might expect.  Instead of taking offense at the Pharisee or politely brushing off the Pharisees remark, Jesus launches full bore into a lesson on true spirituality.

Politeness is a prized virtue of our day.  We want people to be polite to us and we teach our children to be polite to others whether they see eye to eye with them or not.  I suppose there is something noble about being polite but Jesus often times was not very polite.  When this Pharisee took offense at Jesus’ neglect to wash his hands, Jesus’ response was to tell the Pharisee—“inside you are full of greed and wickedness” (Luke 11:39).  This is the sort of conversation that would end the dinner party in most American homes!

So was Jesus being a jerk?  Didn’t Jesus know that if he wanted to win this Pharisee to the Lord, that he needed to befriend him first and politely eat dinner with him without too much controversy?  Didn’t Jesus know that this conversation would go better if he got to know the Pharisee a little before pointing out his sin?

Jesus was no jerk.  He just sounds like one because of our own misplaced values.  You see Jesus responded to the Pharisee so pointedly because Jesus valued truth over manners.  If Jesus sounds like a jerk to us, then perhaps what we value needs to be examined.

The flesh is not our friend.  It does not have good intentions for us—sin and the devil have one hope in mind for us—to destroy us and deceive us (John 10:10; Heb. 3:13), to ignore this reality is not polite, to ignore this reality is foolishness.  Jesus valued truth over our human understanding of politeness.  He could have eaten with this Pharisee in relative peace—they could have talked about the weather, the economy, and their favorite hobbies and never broached any sensitive topics.  Jesus, however, loved people too much to merely talk about such safe things.  Jesus is interested in the heart.  Jesus always talked with people about heart issues, even if it was unpleasant.  Why?  Because he counted obedience to God more precious than the fleeting pleasures of sin.

This is clear in Jesus’ interaction with this Pharisee in Luke 11 as he says to the Pharisee and his house, “You fools!  Did not he who made the outside [of the cup] make the inside also?  But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.”  Jesus sees the foolishness of overlooking this Pharisee’s sad spiritual estate.  Jesus isn’t into the business of keeping up appearances and pretending like things are ok.  The Pharisees, however, were skilled at keeping up appearances.  That is why Jesus’ words here are so piercing—he is saying you are worried about the outside of the cup but God doesn’t care about the outside.  What needs to be changed is not behavior or appearance but the condition of your heart!

Jesus loved people too much to simply overlook their sin.  Jesus loved people so much that he spoke frankly and openly about sin.  Certainly there is a place for manners in gospel ministry (1 Peter 3:15), but do you love people enough to be honest with them about sin (Heb. 3:12-13)?  Certainly we need to be careful and take the log out of our eye, but do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ enough to lovingly help them take the speck out of theirs (Mat. 7:5)?  Do you work to keep up appearances or are you longing for spiritual transformation of the heart?  One way to test yourself is to honestly answer these questions—do I live so as to please men or to please God?  Do I love the truth enough to speak it even when it hurts?  Join me in praying that we would be men and women who value truth over appearance.

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I have never been much of a “rap” guy.  I went through a breif stage in high school when I was very lost where I listened to a lot of “gangsta rap” i.e. Masta P, Snoop Dog, DMX, Nas, and the like.  Recently, a friend of mine at church introduced me to Shai Linne–a very solid Christian hip hop artist who wrote an entire album on the atonement of Jesus Christ–very cool stuff–if you haven’t checked out Shai Linne, I highly recommend him, you can download his stuff on iTune and preview his music on Myspace.

Listening to Shai Linne connected me to other artists such as those of the 116 Clique which includes guys like Lecrae and Trip Lee.  So I wanted to share with you what I think is a very cool video that Trip Lee made with his song Real Vision which is about where we find truth and how to have real vision in this postmodern world.  I love the message and I think the video is very clever, I hope you enjoy it!

Before you blow me off and assume that this music is silly, give it a listen–these guys lyrics are incredibly solid.  Much of the music is theologically instructive, insightful, and even worshipful.  I also highly recommend the compliation cd put together by the 116 Clique called 13 Letters (you can get 13 Letters and other 116 Clique albums on iTunes).  The album includes overview songs of each of Paul’s letters by various biblically solid hip hop artists.  I really dig it–especially the songs on Romans and Philippians!  I have been so encouraged by the music of the 116 clique that I am actually considering taking some students from my church to the “Don’t Waste Your Life Tour” that they are hosting!

So here is the Trip Lee video:

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Blogging can be a difficult arena to proclaim the truth. Since there are so many bloggers, I believe every Christian blogger should thoughtfully consider why they should blog, whether they are adding anything profitable to what is being said, and whether what they say honors the gospel and brings glory to Christ.

When that happens, there are times that truth must be defended. If someone publicly defames Christ, there may come a time when they are publicly denounced. That is where every child of God must approach the confrontation with sincerity, humility, and a renewed mind. Anytime the flesh steps in, it is time to take a break, consider deleting a post, posting a contraction or apology, and then turning toward God out of a heart and desire for repentance. If there is no qualification to teach, then that blogger should reconsider the specific nature and purpose of their blog.

At times, Paul had to defend his ministry because of false teachers, and so did Timothy. So, where there are false accusations, stand firm for the truth. Where there is need for better communication, listen and speak diligently to the truth. Where there is need for repentance, confess your sin first to God, and then to those you have wronged so that you might be healed. Consider writing personal resolutions pertaining to your blogging and read over them weekly so that you do not stray from that which you have endeavored to do.

Blogging can be a helpful medium for the proclamation of the gospel, and we need shining lights among the dark and dreary landscape of blogging that too often screams against the truth and the gospel. Commit to pray before you blog. Commit to study before you blog, and if a time comes that you write something that stirs controversy because of truth, do not let anyone hijack your blog in order to snuff out that truth!

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Freedom of expression is the distinguishing mark of independent music, so long as one’s freedom doesn’t encroach on anyone else’s.  Independent music is in many ways, postmodernism embodied.  There are no absolutes.  There is no right or wrong way to make music.  Furthermore there is no right or wrong way to write lyrics. Everyone is free to flit about writing music full of happy grays.  Thus the only kind of music that is unacceptable to the postmodern generation is music that deals with absolutes, particularly absolutes about God and the human condition–those kinds of thoughts are rarely allowed to be freely expressed in the indie scene.  This is what makes guys like Sufjan Stevens a diamond in the rough of independent music.  Sufjan writes songs about the human sinful condition, God’s sovereignty over even evil events, spiritual new birth, and even Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

But before there was Sufjan Stevens, there was another diamond in the rough of independent music and this week you can watch a full length documentary about him for free!  His name is Daniel Smith, otherwise known as Brother Danielson, the lead man and song writer for the band the Danielson Famile which is now simply called Danielson.  The documentary is called Danielson: A Family Movie and for one week only, the indie music super-site, Pitchfork, is showing the documentary in 9 Parts.

Daniel Smith is responsible, in many ways for getting Sufjan Stevens his start.  In fact, Sufjan plays a very important part in the documentary.  Sufjan toured with Danielson Famile playing in their band as well as opening for Danielson.  Daniel Smith was one of the first openly Christian artists to break into the independent music scene in a significant way.  He and his family (which comprise his band) were touring all over the country, making headlines in independent music magazines and newspapers.  They played all the big indie music festivals and did so without sacrificing their commitment to Christ.  Danielson’s lyrics though eccentric at times, are filled with profound truths of the human condition and exhibit a deep love for Christ. The Danielson Famile even toured for a time in doctors and nurses uniforms to symbolize the healing power of Christ’s blood.

If you are like me, you may find Danielson’s music almost inaccessible.  The first time I heard Danielson, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it ever again!  Its odd, its eccentric, and even grating at times.  While living in Louisville, I heard they were coming into town, shortly after the release of their most recent album, Ships.  Being vaguely familiar with the story of Danielson and how Sufjan got his start playing in their band, I thought I should check them out.  After attending the concert, I immediately became a Danielson fan!  Danielson cannot be appreciated through one brief listening.  Its not like Coldplay or something where you can immediately pick it up and immediately find the melodies engaging.  Danielson’s lyrics are painstakingly thoughtful, provocative at times and other times irritatingly simple.  But the songs are clearly written from a Biblical worldview and many of their songs are beautifully original and refreshing.

Daniel Smith admits toward the end of the documentary that writing songs are a way for him to grow in his relationship with God–they are a way for him to connect with his creator through making music that reflects his relationship with God which is full of both praise and struggle.  His music serves to remind himself of the gospel–a reminder that each of us need every day as we struggle to praise our creator despite the sin still present in us. Growing to appreciate Danielson takes time, patience and the willingness to think about the lyrics and let them affect you–much like our relationship with Christ!  It will certainly take you time to grow to appreciate Danielson but, I think the best things in the world likewise take time and patience!

The story of Danielson, much like their music, is in many ways one of both praise and struggle–they are possibly the most unlikely band to make it big on the indie scene and yet that is what makes them so compelling.  They have recently been largely overshadowed by their good friend Sufjan Stevens, but that is ok with Daniel Smith, he just wants to make music that reflects his relationship with his creator and he simply hopes it encourages you as well!

Since I cannot upload the video of the documentary directly to the blog, I will leave you with the music video of one of my favorite Danielson songs, Did I Step On Your Trumpet? I think its about the futility of always living to try and please people and simply resting in God’s love for us.  The video is eccentric but tons of fun!

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What does it mean to be looking for God?  Or searching for truth?  And is it a vain pursuit?

I believe a lot of people are honest about looking for truth and wanting to encounter God, but I also believe that much of our God-talk today is stuck in a self-defeating pattern.  We start from our perspective and then work from there to see if God makes sense to us.  

When we see what the Bible says about things, we shy away from affirming what the Bible affirms because we’re afraid to come off sounding like we’re saying, “Thus saith the Lord!!”

We’re afraid of sounding cocky or narrow-minded, as if we have some monopoly on reality and truth.

So we couch our doubts, insecurities, and embarrassment under the abused guise of humility and revel in the questions without the ‘ickiness’ of the answers.

But this doesn’t make sense in and of itself.  If God is who the Bible says He is, then I think He gives us answers that we can understand and should trust.  I don’t think shying away from this protects us from pride.

To paraphrase Dorothy Emmet, pride is a human failure which neither philosophy nor theology are impervious to, since they are both human disciplines.  It’s kind of like saying, “Cars kill people.”  No, people kill people and they were disturbingly efficient at it long before they had cars.

If the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob really is there, and He is a personal being who desires a relationship with His children, then it only makes sense that we would focus on how He communicates with us.  This requires that we start from God’s perspective and work from there to see if we’re making any sense.

How has He communicated with us?  Through Scripture and His Son.  At least that’s the Bible’s take on it.

When we get bogged down with trying to reconcile some abstract theological hang-up with the latest wisdom of our world, God has to be shaking His head – if He’s there.  And if He is, then you won’t find Him with science.  You won’t find Him with experience and sense observation.  You won’t find Him through intuition – whether rational or super-rational.  No matter how many books you read, lectures you attend, papers you write, experiments you conduct, degrees you hold . . . you won’t find Him there.

A pastor friend of mine recently told me how he always wonders what Moses must’ve been thinking when God was telling him about the first few chapters of Genesis.  Moses was a smart guy, educated in Pharoah’s court – so he wasn’t just any state school chump like me.  God tells him, “So . . . then, two kinds of every animal boarded Noah’s boat.”  To which Moses might have said, “Wait up, seriously?”  God probably told Moses, “You’re talking too much again, be quiet.  I AM, remember?  Trust me, I have created you to believe what I tell you, not to understand it all.”

That’s what we have to do if we’re thinking about the Christian God at all.  It’s already a foregone conclusion that scientists, philosophers, and mystical gurus are going to come up empty.  Science, philosophy, and mysticism are not God’s appointed means of communicating Himself to us.

So stop looking for Him there and stop being disappointed that you can’t find enough evidence for Him there.  Stop doubting that He’s there and wondering if He loves you simply because some scientist can’t step out of his own bubble and admit that God is beyond his science.  Stop getting hung up on the fact that some of it sounds a bit other-worldly.  If God’s there, then it all makes sense.  God is, after all, a bit other-worldly.

You’ll only find Him through His appointed means:  His Word + faith.  God’s not making any apologies about the matter.  I wouldn’t hold my breath either.

Stop talking so much.  

Be quiet . . . listen.

Trust Him.

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I was recently asked to be a part of a group blogging project at Said at Southern on David Wells’ new book The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World. I volunteered to write a summary and analysis of chapter 2 of the book called “Christianity for Sale.”

The chapter is a critical assessment of the the market-driven direction of many evangelical churches today. Since some of our readers do not read Said at Southern, I thought I would post the article here as well. If you want to comment feel free to do so, but I would prefer that you comment over at S@S so that all the comments are in the same place! Let me know what you think.

Overview

Christianity for SaleI remember the first time I heard the word “evangelical.” I was in high school and had only been a Christian for about a month. I thought the word meant that a church preached the gospel–I was completely naïve to how loaded the term was.

Today the word “evangelical” carries with it a ton of baggage, much of which has very little to do with the gospel. I wish my naïvete had been correct because in today’s market-driven evangelical churches, it seems that the gospel has shifted from the foundation to the periphery. It may or may not be time to throw out the word “evangelical” but evangelical churches certainly cannot hope to bring glory to God if the methods of the market continue to trump those of Scripture.

David Wells calls attention in this chapter to this trajectory and rebukes such evangelical churches for letting the market take precedent over Scripture. What drives the marketers is the idea that “things are stagnating in the evangelical world and the ways of ‘doing’ church in the past won’t work with the newer generation.” Thus, evangelical churches, it is thought, must “change their way of doing business or face extinction.”

Many evangelical churches have turned to the marketing world for answers; it would seem that traditional or liturgical churches have ignored their customers as the way they “do church” has not changed over the years. Marketers, on the other hand, realize that in the business world, the customer is supreme. Indeed, as Wells says, “Customers, after all, are sovereign.” This is why today there are entire conferences for pastors on how to make one’s church more relevant that make almost no mention of doctrine, truth, Scripture, or expositional preaching. Apparently the market is not ripe for truth! Wells’ basic argument is that the “form” of these marketing churches “is actually affecting the content” and when the customer is sovereign, he determines the agenda over and against any other potential sovereign.

Several factors have added to the market-driven climate that much evangelicalism finds itself in. Modernization, the rearrangement of our societies around cities, has contributed along with the rise of the information age in which consumers are confronted with an over-abundance of information. Consumers are buying new products at ever increasing rates and the church has learned to speak the language of the market by offering consumers exactly what they want.

There are so many choices in the market place today that the customer must be treated very delicately–one false move and the customer will take his business elsewhere. This same mindset is taking place in many churches today who are struggling to keep up with the market in fear of losing those who they have marketed the church to. In pandering to the consumer, churches inevitably sacrifice the truth. When churches begin to sweep the hard truths of Scripture under the rug for the sake of getting people into the church doors, these hard truths run the risk of being lost altogether. What use is a seeker-sensitive church that never offers anything of substance for seekers to find?

Wells compares this delicate balance between consumer and customer to parents with disaffected children. These children feel their parents have been cruelly unjust towards them and the parents response is “to back off and take the path that inflicts the least pain.” What these parents fail to see, Wells notes, is that “they are about to be robbed . . . out of their good intentions, space is enlarged around the child, latitude allowed, rules are rescinded, rebukes are stifled except in rare cases, and expectations are lifted.” Despite the parent’s best efforts to give their children space to grow out of such onerous attitudes, the result of such abdication is children who are more onerous and intolerable than ever before.

This is a powerful metaphor because I think Wells is correct–this is exactly what is happening in many churches today. In garnering themselves to the market, churches have actually driven a wedge between the average church member and theology, between doctrine and practice. Wells cites a Barna poll which reports that “in America 45 percent say they are born again but only 9 percent, and maybe only 7 percent, give any evidence of Christian seriousness by way of minimal biblical knowledge for making life’s decisions.” The result of this delicate dance is church members who do not know their Bibles and do not live by them. This is because the world has set the agenda for church over and against the Bible.

Analysis

Although the emergent church movement represents a significant shift in the evangelical church today, I think that the influence of the market-driven churches are much more widely felt. This can be seen in the vast number of mega churches present today-in America in 2005, there were 1,210 mega churches (churches with more than 2,000 members) as opposed to 16 in 1960. This can be seen in Barnes and Noble and Borders when Your Best Life Now competes for position on the best-sellers shelf with the latest Oprah Book Club title.

This can be seen in the disturbing statistics on how many “Christians” in the evangelical world today actually read their Bibles and apply them to their day-to-day lives. This can be seen in churches that have the most up-to-date facilities, all the best technology, and multiple services based on every genre of music but are clueless about what it means to be a member of a local church.

Wells is absolutely correct when he points out that the needs consumers identify for themselves are not their true needs. The true needs of every man, woman, and child are the needs God identifies for them. Indeed, we suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) and “are incapable of being obedient to it (Rom. 8:7).” In other words we need the Lord to change us-we need a revival of Biblical Christianity because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

Furthermore, Wells cites a study by Thom Rainer on the unchurched in America that indicates that the people are leaving these market-driven churches because they came to church to hear preaching and to learn doctrine! The death knell of market driven churches is the ever-changing nature of the market.

What good are churches doing if they succeed in getting people into the church but fail to give them anything of substance to which they can commit to? I am all for getting seekers to come to church, but not at the expense of minimizing or eliminating doctrine and the commitment implied in Biblical church membership. If we continue to let the market drive our Christianity, it will inevitably cease to be distinctively and historically “Christian.” You know there is a problem in the evangelical church in America when the preacher of the largest church can tell Larry King that he believes Mormons are Christians and yet there is not a mass exodus of people leaving his church!

The stakes are high, if our churches continue to pander to the market they may for some time continue to draw a crowd, but if in doing so they are sacrificing the truth of the Bible then they have utterly failed at their primary objective. The church’s primary objective is to display the glory of God in Christ Jesus. When the preaching of the cross is no longer the church’s firm foundation, the church will inevitably fail-not by the world’s standards but by the Lord’s. I don’t mean to communicate that we cannot learn anything from the marketing world, but when the market drives our Christianity over and against the Word of God, our evangelical Christianity has ceased to be truly Christian or evangelical. I have not decided whether I am ready to search for a new term to replace evangelical, but I am determined more than ever, to join Wells in preaching Christ and him crucified and letting God’s perfect Word set the agenda for my church. Wells makes a compelling case:

It is time to reach back into the Word of God, as we have not done in a generation, and find again a serious faith for undoubtedly serious times. It is now time to close the door on this disastrous experiment in retailing faith, to do so politely but nevertheless firmly. It is time to move on. It is time to become Protestant once again.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How has the market-driven model affected Churches you have been a part of? (Please don’t name names, share stories but don’t slander anyone)
  2. Can we salvage the term evangelical and still distinguish ourselves from the marketers who have essentially made the gospel secondary?
  3. Am I being too critical? What can we learn from these marketers?
  4. Wells doesn’t lump all mega churches into the category of marketers, how does a mega church (or any growing church for that matter) avoid the inevitable temptation to pander themselves to the consumer?
  5. How ought we to seek to grow our churches biblically?

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“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No'; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matt. 5:33-37).

Oaths, Commitments, and Truth TellingThe greatest sermon ever preached, is certainly not devoid of controversial teaching! If there ever was a preacher who stirred up controversy with his preaching, it was the Son of God himself, Jesus Christ.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus equates remarriage with adultery, tells those who lust to cut off their hand or gouge out their eye, and to turn the other cheek to the one who slaps you on the right. Jesus’ words are difficult. And certainly the issue of oaths is no less so.

Did Jesus really mean that we should never make an oath? Is it wrong to swear on the Bible before giving testimony in court? Does Jesus mean that any and every oath is sin? This can hardly be the case given that God makes oaths (Gen. 22:16-17; Heb. 6:17; Gen. 9:8-11; Luke 1:68; Ps. 16:10, 132:11). Further, Jesus spoke under oath at his trial (Matt. 26:63-64) and Paul took vows where he called God “as [his] witness” (Rom. 1:9; 1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Thes. 2:10).

So what is Jesus’ point about oaths? I think the answer lies in Jesus’ response to false interpretations of the law which he summarizes in 5:37 when he says, “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” As he so often does in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus corrects false interpretations of the law. Jews, especially the Pharisees, in Jesus’ day had elaborate categories of oaths each of which were binding in varying degrees. For instance an oath sworn “by Jerusalem” was not binding but an oath sworn “toward Jerusalem” was, an oath sworn by the temple was not binding but an oath sworn by the temple’s gold was. It was not binding to swear by heaven or earth. There are many more examples, but the point Jesus is making here is that the Jews (the Pharisees in particular) had set up unnecessary categories in an attempt to avoid God’s punishment for speaking dishonestly. Thus Jesus’ teaching was not a contradiction of Mosaic law, but rather the perfect interpretation of the Law’s teaching on oaths and speaking truthfully.

D.A. Carson, in his commentary on Matthew in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary sums up the OT regulation of oaths by saying, “the Mosaic law forbade irreverent oaths, light use of the Lord’s name, [and] broken vows. Once Yahweh’s name was invoked, the vow to which it was attached became a debt that had to be paid to the Lord” (Ex. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2; Deut. 5:11, 6:3, 22:21-23). That is why one should not swear by heaven–it is God’s, nor by oath–it is God’s, nor by Jerusalem–it is God’s. Nor should one swear by their own head, again, it is God’s. God is the creator of anything and everything we could possibly swear by.

Therefore, it follows that every oath made is ultimately an oath to God himself! When we swear by any other entity, we are merely attempting to diminish the consequences for breaking our promises and not telling the truth. Thus what Jesus is criticizing was likely false categories of oaths rather than oaths altogether. Carson sums it up well when he says, “if oaths designed to encourage truthfulness become occasions for clever and [casual] deceit, Jesus will abolish oaths.”

We are all probably more guilty of making false oaths than we are willing to admit. We don’t swear by heaven, earth, or any city, but we do couch our promises with all kinds of exceptions (e.g. “I’ll be home at 5:30 so long as everything goes as planned”). It’s rare that everything goes as planned in this life, so instead of feeling obligated to be home when we say we will, we just diminish the consequences by phrasing it advantageously! We also embellish the truth to make ourselves look better. When we break promises, we are the first to list all the reasons why it’s not our fault that we broke them. When was the last time you said, “I am sorry I didn’t do what I said I was going to do, I don’t have a good excuse, I broke my word, please forgive me?” Jesus responds to the type of half truths we are so prone to by saying, “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” In other words, do what you say you will do and keep the promises you say you will keep. If you can’t seem to ever keep the big promises you make, maybe you should start by making smaller promises that you can keep. Maybe you need to work at learning to apologize to those you have wronged without making excuses for everything you might have done wrong.

If you are reading this please know that I am preaching to myself here as well! Jesus, as he so often does in the Sermon on the Mount, shows us how far short we fall of keeping the law. The good news is that there is one who has kept absolutely every promise he has ever made to us, who one makes every promise “yes” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:19-20). Jesus’ teaching on oaths is one that we continually fail to keep, in fact but by the power of the Holy Spirit, we cannot keep any of Jesus’ difficult commands in the Sermon on the Mount. Thankfully Jesus has come for sick rather than those who already see themselves as healthy, and for the sinner rather than the one who already sees himself as righteous (Matt 9:12-13). I am thankful that Jesus doesn’t expect us to be righteous in and of ourselves but only to mourn that we aren’t righteous and hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:4, 6). Further, if we believe, God promises to apply the very righteousness of Christ to our account (Rom. 10:4).

If Jesus’ teaching on oaths hits you like a ton of bricks and reminds you how desperately far you are from keeping his commands, then that is probably a good thing. Call out to the one who has kept every promise to us concerning our salvation. Ask for help. You can be true to your word, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus has promised to all who believe!

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ER released this new episode about a month ago. Surprisingly, their handling of pluralism, lethal injection, and even homosexuality was honestly equitable and mature, though they offered no answers for their hard questions.

Check it out:

Of course, there is an answer to Dr. Truman’s question.

God doesn’t look at a sinner’s heart and say, this man is 85% righteous but 15% sinner. And then to another, this man is 10% righteous but 90% sinner. Instead he says, there are none righteous, no not one. They are all 0% righteous and 100% sinner. Christ lived the perfect life that we should have lived and are condemned for not doing, and he died the sinless sacrifice on our behalf, our ransom, imputing his righteousness to us and taking our sins from us and taking them on himself on the cross. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:23-25a).

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).

“Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering soul to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above” (Robert Robinson, ‘Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing’).

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“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed . . . for am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-10).

Modern evangelicalism, or should I say, the modern gospel movement seen in America today has had a disastrous effect on many believers’ understanding of the truth. Many faces seen on Christian television broadcasts today as well as many top-selling Christian books are preaching a gospel different from that of Christ and the Scriptures. We have seen from personalities such as Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, and Joyce Meyer what has been called the “Word of Faith” movement (other names include: Positive Confession, Think Big Message, Name It and Claim It, or Health, Wealth, and Prosperity gospel).

This movement promises believers that if you have enough ‘faith’ then God will bless you financially or that you will have perfect health. This gospel teaches to pursue your dreams and goals and to believe in yourself and emphasizes the importance of a healthy self esteem. This gospel says that if you just believe enough, then you will have gold rings on your fingers, you will have a coat on your back, you will have a nice house, nice car, nice toys, your wife won’t miscarry, and your dreams will come true.

The question to ask the leaders of this movement is, “faith in what?” Paul warns us about these so-called teachers who would try to distort the gospel message by preaching something that is opposed to the message of Christ. There are two main issues within this belief that must be addressed.

First, they have a wrong understanding of biblical conversion. The prosperity gospel is actually no gospel because it offers people what they want as natural people. You don’t have to be born again to want to be healthy or wealthy; therefore, you don’t have to be converted to be saved by this message. All people want money, health, to pursue their dreams, to have a good self esteem and believe they can reach their goals. By appealing to people to come to Christ on the basis of what they already want, you undermine the message of the gospel. 1 Cor. 2:14 says, “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Therefore, if the message you offer isn’t considered foolishness to the natural man, then it isn’t the gospel. This gospel offers to people what they desperately want as fallen people, gives it to them, grows huge churches, and the message is lost behind the greed.

The true message of the gospel is a message that tells the sinner of his need for a new heart (Ps. 51) and is the message that Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and then in v. 6, “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit.” The change that must take place in the human heart is a change that can only be brought about by the regenerating work and effectual call of the Spirit of God. Unless the cross of Christ is the central message of the gospel that is preached, then it is an abomination to the gospel message and robs God of his glory. 1 Cor. 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (cf. Ez. 36:26,27; 1 Cor. 2:1-5, 10-13; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:14, 15).

The second aspect that must be addressed is God as central to the gospel. The prosperity gospel centers the gospel on man rather than on God. This so-called gospel isn’t the gospel because it is nothing more than idolatry. It focuses on the gift rather than the Giver. It focuses on man’s needs and wants rather than on taking up your cross and dying to yourself (Luke 9:23-25). In Matt. 5:11-13 Jesus says, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth.” Now, what does Jesus mean that we as followers of Christ are to be salt to the world? John Piper says, “The salt of the earth are people that are so satisfied with their reward in heaven, namely God, that they joyfully endure persecution and pain in the service of Jesus Christ.” The fact is that the Christian church should be marked by suffering for the sake of Christ. The world isn’t simply going to be impressed by a church that is motivated by what motivates them. A church that is motivated by money, and fame, and worldly pleasures is just like the world.

We need churches that will rise up and proclaim that we are to rejoice in hardships and trials and persecutions because our reward in heaven is God! God is the gospel! It isn’t health, or money, or fame or accomplished dreams; it is God! Where are the Christians who are just satisfied with God and God alone? By joyfully enduring persecution, we will taste so different to the lost and dying world—a flavor that can only be found in suffering for Christ. Paul says in Phil. 1:27-30, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come to see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (cf. Rom. 8:17; 1 Peter 3:14; 2 Tim. 1:8,9; 2 Cor. 1:5; 1 Tim. 4:2-5; Luke 12:33).

  • Joshua York is a guest contributer at Elect Exiles, a husband and a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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