Friday, January 18, 2019

The Sin that Became an Evangelistic Technique

"Never in its history has the evangelical church been more intentional and more systematic in its efforts to imitate the world than in our day. In fact, worldliness, which used to be a sin-to-be-avoided, has not only become an obsession for the church, today it has become the evangelistic technique of choice.

In the Old Testament, God told Israel, “You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you” (Lev 18:3). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul told the church, "Do not be conformed to this world" (Rom 12:2). Nonetheless, today’s self-appointed evangelical relevance experts tell us that the only way to reach the world is to be like the world: we must talk like them, dress like them, be entertained like them, sport tattoos like them, address human sexuality like them, and so on.

Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own” (John 15:18). Clearly Jesus expected His followers not to be mirrors of the world. However, today in a bizarre inversion of Jesus’ intention, the goal of many evangelicals is to be as much like the world as possible in order to be loved by the world, purportedly as a precursor to evangelism.

In the words of John MacArthur, we are being told that, “If we can convince them that our message poses no threat to their way of life and that they have nothing to fear from Christ, perhaps we can then...reach them.... [We must persuade] them that church is fun, Christians are just like everyone else, and they have nothing whatsoever to fear from God” (Ashamed of the Gospel, 3rd ed., 214).

Where did this notion come from? In our era, cosying up to the world as a sure-fire evangelistic technique first flourished in youth groups in the 1970s. Eventually, youth pastors like Bill Hybels spawned the church growth movement by packaging an adult version of that strategy. As a result, imitation of the world touched every facet of church life. The church buildings of the church growth movement were intentionally designed to look like shopping malls and corporate headquarters. On the inside they were laid out to remind “seekers” of rock concerts and coffeehouses. The messages were crafted with worldly desires in mind: light humor, self-help, plenty of sports references, and Hollywood movie clips employed as sermon illustrations.

The next generation—our generation—has gone a step further. Today we don’t design the church to look like a coffee house: cool churches meet in coffeehouses and bars (Grab a brew and share your view is one church’s catchy slogan). And to pull off this new, “We’re just like you” evangelistic technique, Christians have to sport tatts, studs, and drink their share of suds.

Unfortunately there have been two unintended consequences of adopting worldliness as an evangelistic technique. The first is worldly pastors. Kevin DeYoung observes, “To be cool means...pushing the boundaries with language, with entertainment, with alcohol, and with fashion” (The Hole in Our Holiness, 18). The charge toward cool has been led by a young generation of “bad-boy” preachers like Mark Driscoll, always eager to test the fences with their language, risqué comments, and leisure behaviour.

However, it’s becoming clear that preachers who push the boundaries in their sermons do so because they are living beyond those boundaries in their lives. When a preacher spends so much time admiring and courting the world, it has a way of evangelizing him more effectively than he evangelizes it. Ultimately, such preachers don’t sanctify the flock: immersed in an unholy culture, they have no ability to help others escape its clutches.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Luke 24 and the Christological Hermeneutic: Is Christ the Emphasis of Every Biblical Text?

Luke 24 and the Christological Hermeneutic: Is Christ in Every Biblical Text? How do be Christ-centered without violating authorial intent.

"In Luke 24, the resurrected Jesus engaged in a fascinating conversation with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. During this dialogue, “beginning with Moses, and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). Later, Jesus told the Eleven that “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).

For many today who believe that the Old Testament must be read in light of the New Testament, these verses in Luke 24 justify a “Christological Hermeneutic” for interpreting the Hebrew Bible. For some, this means a full-blown allegorical method of interpretation that sees pictures of Jesus and His work of redemption hidden throughout the Old Testament. To provide some examples: (a) I’ve heard preachers present the story of David and Goliath as a picture of the coming Savior who would slay the giant of sin and death. (b) A well-known reformed theologian insists that “the entire Scripture deals only with Christ everywhere, if it is looked at inwardly, even though on the face of it it may sound differently, by the use of shadows and figures.” (c) Another reformed theologian applies this very method to Exodus 25-30, insisting that the various details of the tabernacle of Moses prefigure New Testament truths about the person and work of Christ.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Biblical Discipleship and Counseling Requires Wisdom

"Not every person in every situation should be ministered to in the exact same fashion, and not every sermon preached in every place should emphasize the exact same truths. Take, for instance, Paul’s instruction in 1 Thessalonians 5:14: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” These instructions provide an invaluable manual for ministry in the Body of Christ. Paul provides three different categories of people that need the truth of God’s Word applied to their life in distinct ways.

First, Paul says to “admonish the idle.” The idle are those who know the truth but refuse to respond to it. Much like a car that is stuck in idle, these individuals remain unresponsive to the truth of God in their spiritual lives. How do we minister to such people? We admonish them. These individuals have spurned the comfort of gospel truth and now need the conviction of reproach in their life. In fact, to comfort such a person in their disobedience would be a detriment to their growth. To put it bluntly, they need a brotherly “kick in the pants” to get them started.

On the other hand, Paul says to “encourage the fainthearted.” The fainthearted is someone who knows the truth and is struggling to respond. They are discouraged by the battle for spiritual growth, but they are still engaged with God’s truth. Whether because of their weakness, immaturities, trials, persecution, or afflictions, they are deflated in their spiritual life. This person does not need admonishment, he needs encouragement. He does not need to be held accountable to God’s requirements; he is well aware of his obligation before God. What he needs is a reminder of the grace God has supplied for him as he seeks to move forward in imperfect obedience. He needs someone to walk with him as he pursues the means of grace and strives for obedience when he doesn’t feel like obeying. He is neither ignorant nor indifferent to God’s truth—he is struggling to live by God’s truth and needs a brotherly embrace.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What Did Jesus Teach about Money?

Tale of Two Kingdoms

"When it comes to kingdoms, there are really only two choices. With every choice, decision, or action, you live out of a deep heart allegiance to the kingdom of self or the kingdom of God. I’m not saying that you are always conscious of this or that your decisions are intentionally kingdom driven. What I am saying is that with everything you do, you are either serving the purposes of God or the desires of self.

This conflict of kingdoms is brilliantly laid out for us by Christ in Matthew 6:19–33, where Jesus argues that if you live for the right-here, right-now pleasures of the kingdom of self, you will tend to invest your time, energy, and money in the physical treasure of this present world. You will attempt to satisfy the longings of your heart with earthbound treasures, that is, with people, places, and possessions. The core lie of the kingdom of self is that by satisfying your self-oriented desires, you will find life. And the corollary lie is that physical things will be the delivery system.

Living for Ourselves

This whole delusional system is driven by the reality that as sinners we tend to live for ourselves, to make life all about us. We tend to be obsessed about what we want, why we want it, how we want it, when we want it, and who we want to deliver it. We invest so much of our time and energy acquiring things for the sole purpose of our comfort and pleasure. We keep telling ourselves that the next thing will be what satisfies us, but it never does, so we go out and buy something else.

The car that we told ourselves we’d always wanted doesn’t satisfy us for long. Soon we have our sights on another that we think we’d like better. The house we bought, vowing that it was the last house we’d ever live in, now no longer seems so special, and we begin to notice other houses in other neighborhoods. We rent storage rooms and fill them with the discarded delivery systems of promises that never delivered. Sadly, so much of our money is spent looking for life in all the wrong places.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Owing Nothing to Anyone

"Lately, I've been meditating quite a bit on Romans 13, both the first seven verses on the topic of submitting to government, and for the topic of this post, Romans 13:8, "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law."

On a horizontal level, precisely because of this verse, my desire is to owe nothing to anyone except love. This is something which the Scriptures command and exhort us to do. And thus it is—at least conceptually—something possible for us to do, to some extent. Now, when I say that my desire is to owe nothing to anyone, I don't say this in an arms-folded, "I got mine and everyone else can go pound sand" kind of way, but rather in an earnest way that makes the paying of debts and the fulfilling of commitments an affirmative burden on my conscience.

And so it is that the (increasingly rare) occasions I have an empty inbox and task list are a source of great satisfaction for me, as is my gradually dwindling list of financial obligations. Accordingly, it is at best disconcerting when certain people point their fingers at me, and others like me, and claim that we owe them something, when to the best of my knowledge and recollection, I owe nothing to these folks. In many cases, I've never even met them before!

How and when does this happen? Well, in the United States, we often see it in the context of discussions about "privilege" and social justice. The vastly simplified argument goes something like this: Some people were born into more privilege than others, and some of the folks with the least privilege (with ethnicity being the most common category cited by many "social justice" advocates here) even have the deck systemically stacked against them by society. This is fundamentally unfair, and so the ones with less privilege are owed something, with the payors being society, or the more privileged, or both.

My response to these arguments has been that they appear to be based (whether knowingly or unknowingly) on concepts borrowed from secular Critical Race Theory rather than drawn from the Bible. I think Kevin DeYoung said it well in a blog post last year:  I have my concerns with the term "social justice" and with all that it connotes. But what if we press for a less culturally controlled and more biblically defined understanding? Several years ago, I worked my way through the major justice passages in the Bible: Leviticus 19, Leviticus 25, Isaiah 1, Isaiah 58, Jeremiah 22, Amos 5, Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:31-46, and Luke 4. My less-than-exciting conclusion was that we should not oversell or undersell what the Bible says about justice. On the one hand, there is a lot in the Bible about God's care for the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. There are also plenty of warnings against treating the helpless with cruelty and disrespect. On the other hand, justice, as a biblical category, is not synonymous with anything and everything we feel would be good for the world. Doing justice means following the rule of law, showing impartiality, paying what you promised, not stealing, not swindling, not taking bribes, and not taking advantage of the weak because they are too uninformed or unconnected to stop you.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Problems with Illegal Immigration

Problems with Illegal Immigration

"According to a combined study conducted by three US government departments, immigrants entering the United States illegally are responsible for an extremely high number of crimes. The study was based on a sample of 55,322 illegal immigrants incarcerated in US prisons. Members of this group were arrested 459,614 times—an average of eight arrests per person. About 45 percent of the arrests were for drug or immigration offenses. Another 15 percent were property related—burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and propertydamage. About 12 percent were for violent crimes, including murder, robbery, assault, and sex offenses. The balance of the arrests were for fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, weapons violations, obstruction of justice, and traffic violations, including DUI.23

Another rising problem with illegal immigration is its effect on social and government services, which include medical care, education, welfare, policing, and incarceration. Hospital emergency rooms have become the primary care facility for those here illegally. By law, hospital ERs cannot turn away anyone in need. Yet the sheer number of immigrants often clog ER waiting rooms in metropolitan hospitals. When ER beds are filled, ambulance patients are often diverted to more distant hospitals, which can result in worsening conditions or death.

Dallas' Parkland Hospital offers the second-largest maternity service in the United States. In one recent year, sixteen thousand babies were born at Parkland, and 70 percent of them were to illegal immigrants at a cost of $70.7 million. Because few of these patients speak English, the hospital now offers premium pay to medical employees who speak Spanish. This need has forced the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School to add a Spanish language requirement to its curriculum."

The cost of educating the children of illegal immigrants in the United States was estimated at $52 billion in 2010, while the overall cost of all services combined was estimated at $113 billion. This says nothing about the cost in educational quality and efficiency when schools must make special accommodations for significant numbers of students who speak no English.25

Many US cities, counties, and states are facing severe financial shortfalls—even to the point of looming bankruptcy—brought on by the cost of providing free social services to illegal immigrants. This drain on resources may well reach the point that we no longer have the means to provide the blessings that immigrants come here to find. One of the most disturbing aspects of illegal immigration is simply that it is illegal. The apostle Paul was quite emphatic in commanding Christians to obey governmental laws (Romans 13:1-7). He explained that God ordained governments to keep order and protect citizens.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Dereliction of Duty: the Preacher Who Dodges Unpopular Biblical Texts

Dereliction of duty- Definition: "The shameful failure to fulfill one's obligations."

Many pastors today should step down from ministry altogether because they clearly love the applause of men (Gal. 1:10) more than they value the approval of Almighty God. No where is this seen more clearly today then in evangelical pulpits.

God's expectations could not be anymore clear on this matter: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.  But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

The goal of Christian ministry is to lead souls to Christ AND to then teach and preach in such a way as to present every believer "mature in Christ" (Colossians 1:28-29; Hebrews 5:12-14; Matthew 28:18-20).  Being a Word-driven preacher and a Christ-centered congregation is not rocket science.  Faithful Christian ministry requires demands hard work (Col. 1:29) and faith; (trust and obey).  

The state of Christian living in America today is what it is, in part, because far too many Church leaders are more interested in attracting large masses of people then they are in "building up the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Pastor Kevin DeYoung is spot on when he says, "The preacher who dodges or changes a text because he knows there are men and women out there who don't want to hear it.  That man ought not to be a preacher."