Each weekend, I will be posting a Weekend Roundup in addition to my regular weekly blog posts. The Weekend Roundup will be a summation of internet links to the weeks best articles and videos from other Christ centered ministries. It is my prayer that the Lord would use these posts to aid you further into your love, adoration, and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In the video below, Todd Friel of Wretched Radio gives an in-depth review of the new movie “Paul; Apostle of Christ.
Creeds, Confessions, Catechisms, and Covenants in Corporate Worship — “Why should Baptist churches use the historic, ecumenical, orthodox creeds in corporate worship? These creeds provide biblically faithful and understandable defenses and explanations of the Trinity, the hypostatic union of Christ, and other central tenets of the Christian faith.”
Hearts Set Aflame with Certainty of the Resurrection — “A Christian is not a skeptic. A Christian is a person with a burning heart, a heart set aflame with certainty of the resurrection.”
10 Most Significant Discoveries in the Field of Biblical Archeology — “Here are the ten most significant discoveries in the field of biblical archaeology.”
Six Things Every Christian Needs to Know About Sanctification — “Though oft-neglected, understanding sanctification is vital for a thriving Christian life.”
Change the Way you Think About Weakness — “Christian Hedonism changes the way you think about disability and weakness.”
A few weeks ago, my oldest son Andy and I ran a 5K. It was actually the first he had ever run. We didn’t train for the run in the weeks leading up to the race. I just thought that we would run it for fun. However, as we drove out to the run on Saturday morning, it became apparent that Andy was bound and determined to win the race.
I gently attempted to remind him that there were going to be people there who had trained for the run, and that we should probably just pace ourselves. But my words fell on deaf ears. As unprepared as Andy was to actually run this race competitively, he was blinded by his ambition and determined to win a medal.
We took our mark behind the starting line with all the other competitors, and as soon as the whistle was blown, we all took off. I was planning on keeping pace with Andy as I didn’t think he would be able to run very fast. But to my surprise, he bolted ahead of the pack. In fact, he was running in second place to a grown man who apparently had done many of these races.
Andy was running as fast as he could. From way behind I could see the excitement on his face as he realized how well he was doing. All the preparation and training that I had told him were necessary to win a race did not seem to be needed by my twelve year old future olympian.
However it was not long before I saw my son slow down to a brisk jog, followed by a very sluggish walk. I finally caught up to him and after he caught his breath, we finished the race together. Although neither of us won a medal.
Failure to properly prepare for anything will yield disappointing results. We can have extraordinary passion and excitement for the endeavor, but without preparation, passion alone cannot win the race.
Just as there are crucial necessities that are required in order to win a race such as having the right training, the proper running shoes, the correct attire, and so forth, there also are important elements that are needed, but often times neglected in our evangelistic efforts.
We can have an abundant amount of zeal and willingness to tell others about Christ, but without being properly equipped, our efforts will most assuredly fall flat. Here are five crucial elements that are needed in our evangelism.
It would be foolish to attempt to drive a car without having any gasoline in the tank. We have no power in and of ourselves to will or cause the car to move. And in the same way, if our evangelistic efforts are not fueled by prayer, then we are setting out to do what only God can do without God. Prayerless evangelism is not only foolish, it is the height of arrogance on our part. It is to say that we think we have the power and ability to save man by being convincing enough.
Jesus taught the disciples that they had the power to do nothing without Christ (John 15:5). As R.C. Sproul once rightly said, “That nothing that Christ spoke of is not a little something.” In Him we move and have our very being (Acts 17:28). If we are dependent on the power of Christ for the very breath we breathe, what makes us think we have the power to raise the spiritually dead with our words?
The Apostle Paul describes the lost man as one being in a state of spiritual deadness (Ephesian 2). The book of Romans in chapter 3 tells us that no man, in his fallen nature, seeks after God. He has a will, but that will is enslaved to the things of this world and completely dead to the things of God. Man’s fallen and spiritually dead will must be set free from the bondage of sin. And mere flesh and blood does not have the power to awaken what is dead. Only the Son of God can do this.
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Luke 10:22.
One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Ezekiel 37. It is a vibrant picture of how evangelism works. The prophet Ezekiel has a vision of a desolate valley of dead and dry bones. In the vision, the Lord speaks to Ezekiel who is standing in the midst of these bones. The Lord says, “Ezekiel, how is it that these bones shall live again?” Ezekiel responds, “Lord, only you know.”
In this we see Ezekiel’s utter dependance upon God. He knows that he has no power to bring the dead bones back to life. He acknowledges that it would take a supernatural act of God. When we neglect to pray for God to work in and through us in evangelizing to the lost, in essence we answer the question “How will these bones live” by saying to God, “No problem, I got this Lord.”
In Ezekiel 37, we find that Ezekiel merely has to speak the Word of God, and through his obedience in proclaiming the spoken Word, it is God who supernaturally brings what was once dead back to life. How can the spiritually dead be born alive again? Only the Lord knows. Therefore, we are utterly dependent upon Him and should precede our evangelistic efforts with desperate prayers.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6.
Far too often believers attempt to evangelize with their main concern being not to offend anyone. But when we preach the truth of the Gospel to unbelievers, the message will without question be seen as offensive.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18.
If the message we preach is not foolish or offensive in some sense to unbelievers, then we are not giving them truth. It is impossible to candy coat the Gospel, because in doing so it is rendered ineffective.
It is not enough to merely tell people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives. And it is not enough to describe to them a pitiful picture of Jesus knocking on the door of their heart, just begging to be let in. Not only is this a distortion of the Christ of scripture, but this type of evangelism actually elevates man above God.
In our evangelism, we must give them the bad news before they can appreciate the good news. No one in their fallen nature thinks that their sins are really that bad. And therefore, fallen man does not see his need for a savior. After all, if our message is that God loves everyone and just wants them to be happy, whats the big deal about a little sin?
Therefore, if we are to evangelize properly, we must point them to the the Biblical truth of God as well as the truth about themselves.
God is not a beggar, He is Holy (Isaiah 6:3). This is to say that God is so separate and pure, that He can have no fellowship with sin. Immediately a great dilemma is exposed. God is good, and we are not.
We are sinners and have broken each and every law that God has given. And according to the Apostle Paul, the curse of death is the apt punishment for not keeping each and every one of His laws (Galatians 3:15).
I’ve heard many lost people attempt to justify their sins and find comfort in their rebellion against God by quoting Romans 3:23, “For all have fallen short of the glory of God.”
But this verse was never meant to give the sinner comfort or find solace in the fact that everyone sins. Rather, the fact that all humanity has fallen short of the demands and standards of our Holy God should terrify sinful man. Because our shortcomings in sin have placed each person who is outside of Christ under the wrath of God.
It is not the love of God that presides upon the unbeliever. It is His unmitigated wrath.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36.
How do we point unbelievers to truth? By exposing them to the law of God, and showing them how in their rebellion, they are viewed as law breakers. There is no amount of penance, work, or begging that a criminal can do to escape his due penalty. The lost man has fallen short of the righteous standards of our Holy God and in doing so rightly deserves death.
This is why they need a savior. And this is why we point them to the finished work of Christ crucified. It is only in understanding the truth of our desperate depravity before God that we can rightly understand the person and work of Jesus Christ. That God the Father sent Jesus, His only Son, to live the perfect life that we couldn’t live, satisfying the demands of the law.
And through Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, He imputed His righteous record to all who would repent of their sins and believe the Gospel. Jesus took upon Himself the sins that should have buried us in the grave and in return gave us His righteous standing before God. Jesus Christ died in our place and for our sins. This is the Gospel truth.
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4.
It is true that we are to stand on the truth of the Gospel, no matter how offensive it may be to our hearers. However, our intention is never to hurt someone, but rather lovingly point out the danger of their soul in it’s fallen state. We are to speak the harsh truth of the Gospel in love.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15.
We do not preach the Gospel to others as we stand upon a high mountain top with our cape of self righteousness flapping in the wind. And we are not to consider ourselves better than anyone else, because we are not.
Rather our approach in pointing out the truth should be one of humility and love. It is a message that tells the lost man, “Sir, I am no better than you. In fact, I was the chief of sinners. I deserved nothing but God’s wrath. But Jesus gave grace to a wretched sinner like me. He saved me from the justice of God and took it upon Himself. If you will repent of your sins and put your faith in Him, He can do the same for you.”
Truth and love go hand in hand in our evangelism. One without the other cannot stand.
The Gospel message is no doubt jagged in its content, but it is out of love that we deliver it to our hearers without sanding away any of it’s cutting edges.
The Gospel message is the power of God unto salvation. But unless this message has personally pricked us first, our efforts will seem forced and insincere.
Imagine that a great new steak restaurant had opened up, and in order to get the word out, the owner hired a few men who had never tasted their food to pass out flyers on the street. Having never sampled their steaks, the men begrudging passed out the flyers with little care regarding if people actually came to the restaurant or not.
Now consider that the owner of the steak restaurant took a different approach. Instead of merely giving these men a stack of flyers, the men were each treated to one of the best cuts of steak on the menu, cooked just they way they liked it. After the meal, the consensus among the men was unanimous that it was the very best steak they had ever tasted.
They now had not just heard about the product that they were telling others about, they had experienced it’s rich flavor for themselves. And in telling others about it, they could now speak passionately about the experience.
It is one thing to tell people about the grace of God. It is quite another thing to have actually experienced that grace and then tell others. When we truly grasp the implications of the Gospel, the dire straights that our sin had placed us in, and the great exchange that Christ made with those who place their faith in Him, evangelism is not merely a duty, but it is the Christian’s delight. And joyful passion in our evangelism replaces viewing it as a dutiful procedure.
“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 43:3-5.
One of the biggest hinderances to evangelism is the believer’s lack of urgency. It is easy to become complacent in the comfort of our own salvation, and grow lazily satisfied at just gazing upon Christ in our own devotions, prayers, and church activities. The disciples experienced this problem after Christ had asended into Heaven before their very eyes.
After His resurrection and before His ascension into Heaven, Christ told the disciples to go and preach the Gospel to all of creation. This was the Great Commission. It was Jesus way of telling them that they were to be preaching the Gospel to the world until He returned. But in Acts 1, after His ascension, we see the disciples just staring up into the Heavens.
“And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11.
Basically, these angels were saying to the disciples, “What are you staring at?!? You were given a Great Commission to urgently pursue before the Master returns…so get going!” Jesus will return. And for all of those including our family and friends who are not presently known by the Lord Jesus Christ lies a dreadful day of judgement ahead in their future.
This reality should not cause use to rest easily in our own salvation, but to urgently plea with sinners to repent of their sins before the return of Christ. For He will not return as a gentle lamb, but vengeful Warrior King, bent on making war upon the wicked.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” Revelation 19:11-16.
If one of my children were about to touch a hot stove or run into the midst of on coming traffic, I would be urgent in yelling at them to stop and run in the other direction, away from the danger, regardless of if it hurt their feelings. I would much rather their feelings be hurt than their life be taken.
What a terrifying picture we see at the return of Christ in Revelation. When we plead with unbelievers to repent of their sins, we are in much the same way asking them to turn away from their current path that will lead them to eternal destruction.
Preaching the Gospel to people in your life is not something that can be put off until tomorrow. It is an urgent plight. Because there is no guarantee that tomorrow will ever come. The Great Day of the Lord could come upon us at anytime. When Christ returns, there will be no second chances, and swift destruction will come upon the wicked. Therefore, our evangelism cannot be delayed.
“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3.
No one ever said running the race that has been set before the saints would be easy. But it is worth it. Evangelism is not merely an option, but it is a command given to every believer in Christ. And it is one that we must take seriously. This great task set before us is impossible if done in our own power. But what is impossible with man is made possible through Christ Jesus. Let us run this race with preparedness, perseverance, and joy!
Charles Spurgeon once said, ““Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” As harsh as his words may be, the truth of this statement should cause us all to evaluate the faith that we profess. When we are passionate about something or someone, we have no problem telling the world about it.
When our team wins the championship, we proudly bring the game up to anyone that will listen. When we are in love, we look for opportunities to talk about our relationship. If we see a great movie, have a wonderful meal, or enjoy a particular hobby, we freely tell others about our experiences. It is human nature to tell people about the things that we love.
Strangely, this truth seems extremely disconnected when it comes to many professing believers in Christ. There are those that claim to love Jesus and they faithfully attend church most every Sundays. But when it comes to evangelism or proclaiming the Gospel to others in their lives, they are completely silent.
If it is true that we easily tell people about the things that we love, why is it that so many who claim to be Christians have no desire to proclaim the Gospel to others in their lives?This should cause us to think hard about the words of Spurgeon.
The great German theologian Martin Luther said of the Christian and evangelism, “If he have faith, the believer cannot be restrianed. He breaks out. He confesses and teaches this Gospel to the people at the risk of his life.”
Leonard Ravenhill once said, “America is not dying because of the strength of humanism but the weakness of evangelism.” If the marching orders of Christ given through the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 is for all believer to go and preach the Gospel to all creation, then why are so many satisfied to merely attend church once a week with no concern for telling others of Christ? Is this not the apex of disobedience?
If we have no evangelistic heart to be about the mission of Christ and to tell others about the God who saved us, are we truly Christians? Do we have the same zeal for evangelism as did the examples of Godly men we see in the scriptures as well as historically? Or have some molded a form of Christianity carries no weightiness to it?
“My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long” Psalm 71:15.
Is it possible to be saved without posessing a deep desire to tell the world about Christ? Or does a person’s lack of evangelism expose them as imposters to the faith? As with anything pertaining to life and Godliness, we must let scripture be our authority in answering these questions.
“I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of My mouth!” Revelation 3:15-16.
In college all of my friends would gather to watch the Alabama football games together. I had a friend named Josh who claimed to be an Alabama fan like the rest of us. However, Josh was always indifferent to how the team did that season. If they won, his emotions never got past merely saying, “That’s great.” And if Alabama lost, he was not despondent like the rest of us. It was really no big deal.
Truth be told, Josh claimed to be an Alabama fan, but he could have cared less about football, much less how the team actually played. Josh wasn’t hot with passion when they won. And he wasn’t so cold as to say he wasn’t a fan. He was merely lukewarm. And in being lukewarm, he really wasn’t a fan at all. It was an empty profession.
In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus is speaking to the church in Laodicea. It was a church with a profession very similar to Josh. They claimed to love Christ, but were lukewarm when it came to their passion. They were enamored with worldly pursuits such as wealth and material possessions. They claimed to love Jesus with their mouth, but proved that they were indifferent to Him with their lives.
The term ‘lukewarm Christian’ has been greatly misused as a way to describe someone who professes to love Christ but does not live for Him. Preachers have coined this term ‘lukewarm Christian’ in an attempt not to scare anyone, but instead gently prompt them to take their faith more seriously. But this is not the Biblical picture we see in Revelation at all.
Jesus says of this lukewarm church that He would rather spit them out of his mouth. When we spit something out of our mouths, it is because it is extremely displeasing. When my wife and I have attempted to give liquid medicine to our two year old daughter Haven, she will immediately spit it out of her mouth. She hates the taste and wants no part of it.
Jesus uses this same picture describing someone who is lukewarm in their faith. If we are not on fire for the Gospel, then we must see ourselves as lukewarm. It is impossible to love Christ and not have a burning desire to tell people about Him. There is no such thing as a lukewarm Christian. Consider the words of the prophet Jeremiah;
“But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9.
Sadly evangelism is a scary word to some within the church. The thought of sharing Christ or telling someone about the reason for the faith that lies within is the last thing they would ever want to do. But this was not the case with Jeremiah. He could no more cease to speak of God than he could prevent the sun from rising.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15.
To be sure, fear of talking to unbelievers about Jesus is very common. The disciples were closer to Jesus than anyone, yet after He was crucified, they didn’t run out to tell everyone that Jesus was the Messiah. Rather, they hid inside an upper room. They professed love for Christ, but didn’t want to be associated with Him for fear of rejection and persecution.
However, after Christ appeared to them in the upper room in His glorified state, their fear was replaced with a passion to evangelize. What was it that transformed these cowardly men who were afraid into fearless evangelist who were not only willing to openly preach the Gospel, but even to die for it?
It was that they finally saw Jesus for who He is. Savior, redeemer, and sovereign Lord of all. The crux of our problem regarding the lack of evangelism within the church centers around the knowledge of God. The more a person begins to delve into a study of the attributes of God such as His sovereignty, His omniscience, His immutability, and more, fear is replaced with passion. Indifference to evangelism is replaced by an urgency to proclaim the Gospel.
This is not to say that every Christian is called to be able to preach an eloquent sermon from the pulpit. Not all are preachers, not all are teachers. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, the body is made up of believers with differing gifts (1 Corinthians 12)
But evangelism comes in many forms. If we are truly passionate about the Gospel, then the topic will be a natural overflow into our conversations. Furthermore, all Christians are called to be priests in a sense. And a priest is one that proclaims the message of the Gospel to others in their lives (1 Peter 2:9).
It is absurd for a Christian to believe that he or she can merely live a life worthy of the Gospel without speaking of it. Good news is not something we live out, but rather something we tell others about. Only through our evangelism will the lost be saved.
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14.
Hear the passion for evangelism within the words of Paul;
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24.
How startling is this statement? Paul considered all other pursuits in his life to be worthless when placed up against his passion for evangelism.
All things when compared to His passion for Christ were seen as worthless. No doubt Paul had things that he loved. He had very dear friends and like every man, even hobbies that he enjoyed. It is quite possible Paul had a love for working with his hands, as he was a tent maker by trade.
But Paul did not live for these things. His earthly passions couldn’t compare with his desire to preach the Gospel and tell others about Christ. His only goal in life was to testify the good news of God’s grace.
The question is, can we say the same today?
What would your family say was the overriding passion in your life? Would it be your hobbies? Your favorite sports team? Your family and friends? Or would they say that the love that predominantly shined brightest in your life was your love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ? It is no sin to have things in this world that we love and enjoy. The question is, do these other things surpass our love of Christ.
A great preacher once said that the thing which a person speaks the most of is their God. Are there things in your life that you are more passionate about than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If so, repent of your lukewarm profession. When we truly grasp our hopeless state before God, that we were deserving of Hell due to the smallest of sins, yet Christ took our place, indifference becomes impossible.
When we rightly understand what Christ has done for us and we begin to grasp His grace, evangelism is not viewed as a duty, but a delight. We speak boldly of the things that we love. Does your profession of Christ reflect the passion within your heart? Or as Spurgeon said, does your lack of desire to speak of Christ expose you to be an impostor?
In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus speaks of a people who will stand before the Lord professing their love and allegiance to Him. Yet Jesus says to these religiously lukewarm people who had no true heart for Him, “Depart from me, I never knew you (Matt. 7:21-23).” The term ‘Lukewarm Christian‘ is an oxymoron. The two words themselves are a complete contradiction. Because a true Christian has only one temperature; passionately hot.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, and strength (Matt 22:36). The implications of this are staggering. This is to say that the love of God is the preeminent passion of our lives. It is a love that surpasses hobbies, sports team allegiances, friends, and even family. And I say again, the things that we are the most passionate about in life are the things that we love with all of our heart, mind and strength.
It is only possible to be hot or cold for Christ. There is no such thing as a lukewarm Christian. And our desire to proclaim the Gospel and be that royal priesthood to others in our lives can be a perverbal thermometer in measuring our spiritual temperature. A Christian that keeps quiet and speaks not of His Savior is a contradiction.
Evangelism is one of the greatest gifts given to followers of Christ. It is an opportunity to speak freely of the great desire which resides in our hearts. But in order to do this, we must let our love for God press us deeply into attaining the knowledge of God. And the more we know of Him, the greater our fire for evangelism will burn. As Paul wrote, let us not be ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God to save (Romans 1:16).
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4.
**Passing out evangelistic tracs is also a great way to evangelize. One of the best I’ve seen is one called “Don’t Stub Your Toe.” You can preview this trac for yourself and also order if interested. Ive placed links below.
Last week I was driving along the interstate when all the sudden, I saw police and ambulance lights flashing up ahead on the side of the road. It was apparent that there had been a horrible car accident. Immediately a sense of sorrow for those involved washed over me. As I drew closer to the accident, my knee jerk reaction was to slow down and at least try to assess what had happened, and what was going on.
I knew I probably should have just kept driving. I knew I shouldn’t have slowed down to look at the tragedy. But I just couldn’t help myself. Have you ever felt like this? You see something horrible as you drive along the highway and know that you should keep your gaze in front of you. But something in you just cannot resist to slow down and check it out.
Something similar to this happened to me this morning . I woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning. I got out of bed, grabbed my coffee, and clicked on the television. As I flipped through the channels, I came across a televangelist preaching to a crowd of hundreds, if not thousands of people.
I knew better. I knew that there was nothing profitable to be seen here. I knew that this program was nothing short of a tragedy. But that car wreck syndrome took over. I couldn’t help myself. So I slowed down, in order to get a look at what I knew would be a complete train wreck.
The program was a show called The Camp Meeting. And the preacher was a man named David Martin. It was immediately apparent that David Martin was an excellent speaker with a natural gift for captivating an audience and holding their attention. His voice was strong and commanding, and he was very comfortable in front of this large crowd.
He then began to tell a story. He said that he and his wife were sitting in a church service and the tithe was about to be collected. He went on to say that he felt God telling him to give one hundred and eleven dollars to the tithe. Reluctantly he stated that he began to make the check out when God supposedly spoke again, telling him to write another check for the same amount for a blessing to cover his family. And then a to write a third check for the same amount so that God’s favor would be on his business.
Three separate checks, each for one hundred and eleven dollars. He then “felt” God tell him to look down to the first scripture he saw in his Bible. As the story goes, David Martin looked down and saw the verse Deuteronomy 1:11.
“May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you!” Deuteronomy 1:11.
“Wouldn’t you like to have God bless your life a thousand times over in your family life and your business?” this pastor said. And so he went on to mangle this verse and rip it completely from its original context, stating that God was waiting to bless everyone in the congregation a thousand times over.
All they had to do was write a check in faith. Only the check couldn’t be for just any amount. David Martin asked his congregation to write three separate checks of one hundred and eleven dollars. One for themselves, one for their family, and one for their business. A sum total of three hundred and thirty three dollars from each family of which there were hundreds in attendance.
But the car wreck wasn’t over yet. This pastor then went on to look directly into the camera and present the same offer to everyone watching at home. He said that even I could receive God’s favor upon myself, my family, and my business for three separate checks of one hundred and eleven dollars written in faith to receive the favor of God upon my life.
As I watched this man preach I felt angry at how he was using God’s Word in order to fatten his bank account. I was greatly saddened at the sight of the hundreds of people in the congregation that were raising their hands and shaking their heads in agreement to his heretical request. And I was horrified that he had used Deuteronomy 1:11 in order to mislead so many people.
As he gave the closing prayer, this charlatan David Martin stood before hundreds and said, “The greatest thing that God could ever give you is his favor in blessing your life.” Seriously? What about salvation? What about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What about the Lord opening our minds and hearts to know Him more deeply?
David Martin is a false teacher. He preaches a perverted, false Gospel know as the Prosperity Gospel. And countless people are deceived as a result of this movement. This travesty could have been avoided had this quasi preached utilized expositional preaching in order to expound Deuteronomy 1:11. Instead of going to this text in search of its original meaning, David Martin went to the verse with his own agenda and made the verse say what he wanted it to say.
I’ve used this example many times. Imagine that you had never seen the movie Rocky before. Rocky is a classic movie about an amateur boxer who lives in the city of Philadelphia and is training to fight the heavyweight champ of the world. But again, for the sake of our example, you don’t know this going into the movie.
We are late to the movie, and actually make our way into the theater midway through the film. As we sit down, we see the main character Rocky walking through the streets of Philly, tossing a little ball into the air, dressed like thug. Immediately after seeing this scene where Rocky just walks around the streets of Philadelphia, we exit the theater not waiting to see the rest of the movie.
As we exit the theater, I then use that short scene to craft my own interpretation of the movie by telling you that the movie was about a street thug who lived in Philadelphia and he had a passion to play hand ball. If you have never seen the beginning or the end of the movie, then its very easy to believe the lie that I have told you.
In the same way, when we approach the Bible with our own preconceived notions in mind without knowing the proper context of which they were written, we end up missing the true meaning of the scriptures we read. This false teacher David Martin did not expound on the background of the book of Deuteronomy. He didn’t tell his hearers of its historical context. And he didn’t shed light on the beginning verses of the book. He merely went straight to a verse where Moses spoke of God blessing His people, and made the verse mean what he wanted it to in order to attain his desired reaction from the crowd.
The book of Deuteronomy was written approximately forty years after the exodus of Israel took place. The Lord had used Moses to free His people from their enslavement to Pharaoh of Egypt, and now they were making the long journey to the land that God had promised them. They had received the Ten Commandments in Exodus and are almost ready to enter into the promised land after forty years of wandering in the desert. The book of Deuteronomy is the final words of Moses to the nation of Israel before the enter into the promise land.
In chapters 1-11 of Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to Israel in a harsh tone as he chastises them for their former rebellion against God. But there is also a charge given to the nation of Israel in these chapters. Moses tells the new generation of Israelites who are about to enter the land to be different from their ancestors who had ignored the commands of God, and to respond to the Lord’s grace with love and obedience. Moses reminds the nation of the Ten Commandments, because he knows that when Israel enters into the promised land there will be many in the new land who worshipped false Gods.
However, Moses was prohibited by God to enter into the promised land with Israel due to disobeying the Lord (Numbers 20:12). In the opening chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the nation of God’s original promise made to Abraham concerning Israel. He does this in the verse right before Deuteronomy 1:11.
“The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven.” Deuteronomy 1:10.
Moses is referring back to the original promise that God had made to Abraham in Genesis.
“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,” Genesis 22:17.
Abraham and his wife Sarah were older in age and past child bearing years. Not to mention Sarah was barren and unable to have children. But the Lord gave this promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17, that from the seed of Abraham would come a nation that outnumbered the sands of the sea and stars in the sky. The Lord opened the womb of Sarah she gave birth to Isaac, from who the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, came from.
Back to Deuteronomy. After Moses had reminded the nation of God’s original promise to Abraham, he then says this is Deuteronomy 1:11.
” May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you!” Deuteronomy 1:11.
Is this thousand time over blessing referring to wealth and material possessions as the charlatan David Martin preached on television? Absolutely not. This favor of God refers to the continuation of the line of Israel, that they would continue to multiply. The blessing is that God had shown any favor at all to Israel and had called this rebellious people His chosen people. Not for anything they had done or given to earn this favor, but simply because God had chosen to set His love upon them.
“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,” Deuteronomy 7:7.
As I watched the closing of David Martin’s sermon where he wrongly used the promise of Deuteronomy 1:11 in order to get people to write him checks for one hundred and eleven dollars, they closed out the program with the worship team leading the congregation in a song with lyrics that emphasized the Holiness of God. As the credits began to roll, hundreds stood to their feet singing, “God, you are HOLY!” This made my stomach turn.
The whole program was an infomercial prompting people to believe that God was just like us. That the Lord is materialistic and His greatest desire is that we would have more wealth. And then they close out the service by singing of the Holiness, which is the separateness of God. So which is it? Is God materialistic like us or is He Holy?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8.
“When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you.” Psalm 50:21.
I pray that David Martin is brought under great conviction. I pray that the Lord would open his eyes to the truth of the Gospel. If not, then he along with many that have bought into his perversion of Deuteronomy will hear the words of Psalm 50:21 ringing in their ears as they stand before the Lord. “You thought that I was like you, concerned with worldly treasures. But now I set my accusations before you.”
This morning I witnessed hundreds of people who worshipped God in hopes of receiving worldly possessions from Him. They did not love Him for the Gospel truth that. They did not worship Him because they saw themselves as guilty, desperate sinners who deserved eternal separation from God. And they did not worship Him because of the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that the Lord extended through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. They did not worship Jesus as Lord, for dying in our place and for our sins.
They worshipped an imaginary genie in a bottle. As Paul Washer once said, “Isn’t salvation enough?” If God had taken away all of our earthly treasures such as family, health, and wealth, would we as Job be able to say that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD? God owes us nothing. His desire is not to make us wealthy, it is to make us Holy. And when we hear messages that promote worshipping the stuff He gives over the salvation He offers, it is a completely different Gospel.
For the life of me I cannot understand why television stations that profess to be Christians continue to allow false ministries like David Martin International to be broadcast. He is a false teacher, a charlatan, and a thief. The greatest blessing is not the stuff God gives, but the salvation He has given.
The lie of the prosperity Gospel is that is promotes worshipping the gifts and common graces God gives over worshipping the Lord Himself simply for who He is and what He has already done in and through the cross of Christ. Deuteronomy 1:11 reminds us today of the promise of God given to Abraham to multiply His people in spite of their unworthy state before Him. And it is a reminder of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and His amazing grace towards sinners like us.
The greatest threat to Christianity is not the atheists who despises God’s Word, but rather it is professing believers who use it wrongly in their evangelism. It seems that we have become a culture that thrives more on quaint little antidotes and sayings about God more than the scriptures themselves. Far too often man tends to falsely comfort himself with such quasi religous sayings instead of seeking to ask, “Did God really say that?”
In 2010, Pastor David Platt came under fire for preaching against one of these popular Christian sayings. A Birmingham Alabama newspaper columnist wrote, “We’ve all heard the truth that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. However, Pastor Platt preaches that God hates the sin as well as the sinner.”
Pastor David stood before his congregation the following Sunday when referencing the article and said, “This is one of those times where a preacher can come under fire for preaching the Bible.”
The late R.C. Sproul was asked this question at a conference. “Dr. Sproul, what do you say when people use the saying, ‘God loves the sinner but hates the sin?” Dr. Sproul replied, “The Kingdom of God is not Mr. Rogers neighborhood.”
Does God really hate the sinner as well as the sin? Have we become so zealous in our hope for sinners to be brought to Christ that we have given Jesus a makeover in order to hide His wrath and make Him more appealing to the lost world?
We must be cautious in our evangelistic passion to reach lost souls that we not preach to them a different Gospel. If the Christ we preach is changed in even the slightest way, then it is no longer the Lord of scripture that we promote, but an anathema.
In order to answer the question of God’s love or hate for sinners, we must set aside our personal emotions or feelings about the matter and resort to God’s Word as the final authority on the issue. What does the Bible say about how God feels about sinners.
To be sure, there is a sense in which God’s love has been shed abroad on sinners. For we all fall short and sin daily, despite our best efforts. However, this salvific love God has for sinners is for those that have been called of God. God’s love is for the true Christian, who’s sins have been covered by the blood of Christ.
It is crucial that we distinguish between how a Christian relates to sin as opposed to a lost person. Someone who has been regenerated by Christ and has been given a new heart cannot tolerate sin in their lives.
Although they most assuredly will sin, it is not something that they seek after. When the true believer in Christ sins, it is mournful to them. They do not seek to entertain sin in their lives, but rather to put it to death.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5.
The apostle Paul addressed his great hatred for the sins in his life. He looked at his own sin as something foreign to his new nature in Christ. Paul hated his sin, and longed for the righteousness of God in his life.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15.
For the true believer, it is impossible for them to make a mockery of the grace of God, falsely thinking that because of their profession of faith that they are free to continue in rebellion against God, and that He is bound to just overlook their trespasses.
If there is a person who claims to be a Christian yet they can willingly and deliberately chase after what they know to be sin, then they prove themselves to be a liar and their faith to be a sham.
“Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.” Hebrews 10:26.
So there is a sense in which God’s love is shown to the sinner in that Christ atoned for the sins of His people on the cross. The danger we get into is when Christians revert to telling unbelievers or false converts that God loves them but hates their sin.
Pertaining to those outside of Christ, those who have not truly repented of their sins and been born again, this is not true. No where in scripture is it written that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. In fact, scripture states the exact opposite.
“The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.” Psalm 11:5.
Notice it is not only the sin that God hates with a passion. The Psalmist did not write that God merely hates the acts of the wicked. Rather, the word “wicked” in this verse is used to describe a group of people. And God’s hatred is directed at them, not just their sin.
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19.
Again we see in Proverbs that God’s hatred is directed at the one who commits these sins, not just at the actions themselves. All men sin, but the true Christians runs from evil practices of sin. The unconverted man runs towards sin with a great willingness to embrace it. These seven things that God hates are not just sinful actions, but the one who commits them.
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” 1 John 3:9.
When speaking of the wicked, Job wrote, “Utter darkness is laid up for his treasures; a fire not fanned will devour him; what is left in his tent will be consumed.” Job 20:26.
Again, we see that it is not only acts of wickedness that God abhors, but the wicked perpetrators themselves. Those who may claim to be Christians, but persist in adultery, in hatred, in lies, in fornication and other acts of sin. They know that what they do is an abomination to God. But with their actions, they prove that their sin is more precious to them than their desire to repent.
These people do not hate their sin, but find ways to justify it, all the while claiming to be followers of Christ. They may attend church services, they may have been baptized, and they may be well respected in the community. But none of these things merit the grace of God upon their lives.
Jonathan Edwards said in his infamous sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, “Some have imagined and pretended that God’s promises are effectual for a man in his natural state, if that man is truly earnest in his seeking and knocking. But it is visibly clear that God is under no obligation to keep such a person from eternal destruction, not even for one moment. It doesn’t matter how religious the man is or how many prayers he makes. Until he believes in Christ, God is not obligated in any way to protect him.”
Not everyone who thinks themselves to be a Christian is truly saved. Sadly, there will be many people who vehemently professed Jesus Christ as Lord while they had breath who will spend their eternity in Hell.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23.
As R.C.Sproul once said, “It is not the sin that God will cast into Hell, but the sinner.”
Jesus said in Mark 1:15 that in order to be saved, a person must do two things; believe and repent. Professing believers have no problem with the belief portion of this verse. However, when it comes to repenting of our sins, not one time but as a daily practice, we conveniently forget this.
As Paul Washer once said, “Repentance is not a flu shot or something we do one time. Repentance is an ongoing and daily thing.”
If we are truly believer sin Christ, it is our mission to seek out and destroy any remnants of sin that remain in our lives. And we do this be examining ourselves daily. It is to look at our lives through the lens of God’s Word, and ask of ourselves if there is any sin that has not been put away.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5.
It is the wayward sinner that abides under the wrath of God. Contrary to what some would say, the love of God does not abide on all people regardless of their spiritual condition. The stark reality is that those outside of Christ are heaping upon themselves the fearce anger and wrath of God.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36.
It is not the love of God that remains upon the wicked, but the wrath of God. Unfortunately, there are many who will not preach this to their hearers. There are those who conduct their evangelism with sayings such as, “God loves you just as you are, He just wishes you would stop running from Him.”
When we tell sinners that God loves them just the way they are, what is being heard is that because God is so loving, there is no fear in sin. So why would anyone adhere to the Biblical mandate to repent? It is often said that because God is love He must forgive, therefore the more we sin, the greater His grace is upon our lives. But the Apostle Paul greatly opposed this false notion.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? “Romans 6:1-2.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when God saves a man, he literally becomes as a new creation. The implications of this are staggering. Salvation is not merely a decision man decides to make. It is a miraculous supernatural miracle of God in which God forgoes to make a person totally new. Their desires are different. The sins that they once loved, they now despise. And the righteousness of God that they once ran from, they now run to.
Does a Christian sin? Sadly, the do. But can a Christ persist in a practice and deliberate pursuit of sin. As the Apostle said, by no means. It is in a person’s practice of repentance that it becomes obvious as to if they are saved or not.
It is often said that as Christians, we are not to judge the salvation of others. It is true that only God can judge a person regarding the condemnation of their sins. However, it is false that Christians are not to judge. In fact, we can weed out false believers from true by inspecting the fruit of their lives.
Are they striving after Christ, or striving after sin? Is there a genuine desire for repentance in their lives? Do they hate their sin and long for Christlikeness? These are all fruits that Christians are called to discern in others.
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16-20.
If your child were standing in the middle a busy street in the midst of oncoming traffic, you wouldn’t scream at him how much you love him in order to get him to realize his danger. Rather you would make the child aware of the danger by saying something like, “Get out of the road, or you will get hit by a car!”
We are to preach the wrath of God to sinners. We don’t sugar coat their grave condition or entreat them with false politically correct statements about God. We are to call them to flee from the wrath that abides upon them.
Because although it is a wonderful truth that God is love, the lost man does not reside under His grace. In his spiritually dead state, he is in great danger, and it is the fear of the Lord that leads people to see His great love. It is the fear of the Lord that leads to knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” 2 Corinthians 5:11.
Dr. John MacArthur once said, “Grace means nothing to a person who does not know he is sinful and that such sinfulness means he is separated from God and damned. It is therefore pointless to preach grace until the impossible demands of the law and the reality of guilt before God are preached.”
Truth be told, the God never said “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” Rather Ghandi said this. When we mix our Christian beliefs with man’s opinions, it becomes a powerless and false Gospel.
In our evangelism and desire to see others be saved, let us not be ashamed of the truth of man’s spiritual state. Unless sinful man understands the bad news of his own depravity, it is impossible to marvel in the good news of the grace of God. Preach the full council of the Gospel. Tell lost men that they preside under the fearful wrath of God, so that they may come to know His amazing grace.
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most celebrated truth in the history of the church. Yet it is also the most misunderstood doctrine in modern day Christianity. Simply put, the Gospel means ‘good news.’ But what is this good news that we Christians call Gospel? Many believers would waste no time in saying that the good news of the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins. And although this answer is correct, it is an inadequate response. To say that the Gospel is good news because of Christ dying for the sins of man and then leave it at that is like dipping the tip of your toe into a vastly deep sea. The depths have still yet to be explored.
The real question we must ask is “Why is it good news that Christ died for sinners?”
When pressed, this inquiry would cause many to be left without an answer. To understand the Gospel, we must start with a look at God. Because without an understanding of the character and nature of God, it is impossible for man to know his plight. It is impossible to understand why the Gospel is such great news. And it is impossible to understand grace.
Of all the attributes of God, the one that all other attributes must be evaluated through is His Holiness. God is Holy. I’ve found that there are many faithful believers who have been in church all of their lives, yet that have no understanding of the Holiness of God. And if we fail to grasp this great, all encompassing attribute of God, our understanding of the Gospel will be greatly distorted.
To say God is Holy is to infer that He is set apart. It is to say that God is separate, and unlike anything that is in His creation. The late R.C. Sproul once asked, “Which is more like God, an angel or a worm?” His answer was neither. An angel is no more close to being like God than a mere earth worm. God is in a category unto Himself, and there is nothing that He may be compared to. The writers of scripture understood this truth.
“To whom can you compare God? What image can you find to resemble him?” Isaiah 40:18.
“There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might.” Jeremiah 10:6.
“For this reason You are great, O Lord GOD; for there is none like You.” 2 Samuel 7:22.
“There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:2.
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” Isaiah 46:9.
There is no one like God. And there is nothing we can come close to comparing Him to. When Moses asked what God was like, God did not point to anything under creation to say “I am like this…or that.” God could not, because there was nothing like Him. God simply said “I AM.” And then one day God the Father sent His only Son Jesus to walk among men, in essence to say, “I am like Him.”
Again, most professing Christians would agree to this truth. But what is so surprising is that a great many misunderstand the Gospel because they fail to see that God is not like them. It is a great fallacy to mold an image of the Lord that dismisses His Holiness and makes Him like us.
The great dilemma of man centers around the Holiness of God. In Isaiah 6, we see a picture of the seraphim proclaiming that God is thrice Holy. This image is magnified in that these seraphim covered their face, because the Holiness of God was to great to look upon. And with two wings they covered their feet to hide the shame of their creatureliness from God. Yet we do not see this great fear and reverence for God in many modern day churches. Man tries to bring God down to our level and make Him to be seen as more of a buddy rather than standing in awe of His Holiness.
Isaiah, one of God’s prophets and one who would be considered a righteous man saw the Lord in a vision, and cried out that he was an undeserving man of unclean lips. The most righteous of men trembled before the Lord in seeing His Holy nature. In looking at the great majority of modern day evangelicals, I have to ask, “Why don’t we?”
The obvious question is, “What makes God Holy?” Among many of His attributes, one of the things that makes God different from us is that He has nothing to do with sin. All of the many purifying rituals mandated in the Old Testament were mere pointers to the Holiness of God. God cannot have anything to do with sin. God cannot have anything to do with impurity. He is set apart from all that is unrighteous.
“You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong,” Habakkuk 1:13.
If man truly understood the Holiness of God, then He would stand in great fear. Because if this is true, that God cannot co mingle with sinners, then where does that leave us? Most professing Christians say that the good news of Christianity is that God forgives sinners. And because God is a loving God He must forgive all of our trespasses as long as we try to do our best.
But there are two problems with this ideology. For starters, this way of thinking would make God a debtor to us. That is to say, since we are trying to do good, God now owes forgiveness to us. God is not in our debt and He owes us nothing.
And secondly, if God is Holy, He is a Just and righteous God. And if He is a God of justice, then God cannot forgive sin. This would make Him unrighteous. Imagine that someone committed a horrible crime against someone in your family. This person is arrested and tried in.a court of law.
The judge stands to give his judgement. And he says, “Although the crime committed was great, Ive examined the life of this criminal and he has done many good things, so Ive decided to forgive all the charges and set him free.” This judge would not be seen as righteous, but crooked.
By our earthly laws, when a crime is committed, there must be justice. When we have been wronged, we want justice. Our society celebrates justice. There are more CSI and Law and Order television shows than anything else on tv. We as a people love the idea of justice. Except when it comes to our view of God. And much of this confusion comes from a misunderstanding of ourselves.
Man does not consider his sin to as heinous as it truly is. We compare ourselves by ourselves. We know that we are sinners, but we can always think of someone that we consider to be a worse sinner than we are, and therefore feel as if God must be more pleased with our attempts at morality. When we compare ourselves to others that we consider to be far worse sinners, then prove ourselves to be ignorant and without understanding.
“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12.
For us to properly understand ourselves and how great our transgresses are, we must examine God’s law. Revelation 21:8 states that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. This does not dismiss little white lies or false truths told with good intentions. The scripture says “All liars.”
Most people that I have shared this with consider the fact that God would send someone to Hell just for lying to be an example of the punishment not fitting the crime. But again, we only have a problem with this when it pertains to God judging us.
Consider again our worldly court system. If someone lies to their spouse, they may have marital problems. If someone lies to the police, they may spend the night in jail. And if someone lies to the government, that is called treason. And the punishment for treason is death. Do you see the commonality here?
As the authority of the one trespassed against increases, so does the punishment. The sin stayed the same. It was a lie. The only thing that changed was the authority of the one who was sinned against. So if we agree to this in our system of worldly laws, how much greater should the punishment be when we sin against the God of all creation?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3:10).
Paul didn’t say cursed is the person who does more bad than good. Paul said cursed is the person who does not uphold all of the commands of God’s law. We are criminals who stand guilty and fully deserving of spending an eternity in Hell due to the very smallest of our sins. One white lie was enough for God to sentence us to that eternal prison.
Jesus Himself said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48).
Our morality earns us no merits before God. The prophet said that our best works are like filthy rags before God.(Isaiah 64:6). We see the example of lepers in the Bible often. Leprosy was a terrible disease. The skin of a person would literally begin to rot away while they were still alive. Puss and terrible bloody sores were extremely common in leprosy.
Imagine for a moment that someone took a leper and decided to try and make him presentable by cleaning him up. The leper was bathed, perfumed, his sores were bandaged, and he was then dressed in the most beautiful white linen robes. He would look presentable only for a short time. Because in a matter of moments, the rot of his flesh would begin to overpower the perfume, and his sore would begin to bleed through the white linen, soiling it.
In the same manner, man cannot make Himself presentable to God by the greatest acts of morality. Because it is only a matter of time before our infectious sin nature will Marr our best works.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:20 “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and the Pharisees were the most moral and righteous of men, and they paid careful attention to uphold the laws of God. Yet Christ has just said that there is no level of human righteousness that can entitle us to a right standing before God.
These statements were meant to be shocking. They were meant to drive us to despair. These statements were meant to drive us to take a serious look at our critical state before God. And cause even the most self righteous of us to look unto the Heavens and cry out, “What must I do to be saved?”
The good news of the Gospel not just that Christ died for our sins, but that God did not give us what we deserved. A price had to be paid for our trespasses. Our sins could not go unpunished. So God sent His only Son, Himself incarnate, to the earth. He was born of a virgin birth, He lived the perfect life that we could not live and died the death that we should have died. And three days later Christ rose victorious over death. On the cross, a great exchange took place. Christ took upon Himself the curse that was due us, and gave to the Christian His righteousness.
All of the wrath and fury of God that we desired was poured out upon the perfect Lamb of God. Jesus drank our Hell. The cup of God’s wrath was swallowed by Christ, every last drop. Therefore when God the Father now looks upon the sinner who has believed upon Christ and begun to repent of His sins, He no longer sees our transgresses, but rather He sees the perfect blood of His Son.And henceforth God can declare us righteous and still be Just and Holy. It is only through the shed blood of Jesus that God can have fellowship with sinners like us.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
This is the Gospel.
We are guilty sinners. And the God of the universe died in our place and for our sins. We strive to obey the law of God not because we are under the law, but because we are under Christ. Believers find the law of God as beautiful because we know the price that we paid for our sins. Unless we are first humbled and brought to our knees by a right view of the law of God, we can never truly be brought to faith.
This short excerpt that I have written on the Gospel is merely a glancing overview of this great truth that we shall spend an eternity of eternities exploring its rich depths and still never reach the bottom of the sea floor. As one great puritan theologian said, “The more I know, I realize the less I understand.”
We have been freed from the curse of the law which rightly condemned us by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Man is not saved due to his works, but only through the atoning and sacrificial work of Christ. The Gospel calls fallen man to do two thing; to repent of his sins, and believe the Gospel. And because of His grace towards us, this great Gospel should become the magnificent obsession of all professing believers.
“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Galatians 3:10-14.
I grew up as a huge fan of professional wresting. This was long before the product had become vulgar with swearing and vulgarity. Wrestling in the 80’s was basically a comic book that had come to life. There was nothing better than to wake up on Saturday mornings, turn on the television, and seeing Hulk Hogan preaching the importance of hard works and taking your vitamins. Or Rowdy Roddy Piper being put in his place by the charismatic Macho Man Randy Savage. To a twelve year old boy this was entertainment at its finest. These larger than life characters with their amazing athletic abilities and feats of strength constantly amazed me. And I was pro wrestlings biggest fan.
So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that the middle school I was attending holding wrestling practice for anyone who wanted to attend after school. I remember bursting through the door when I got home from school in a rush to tell my parents about wrestling practice. They were fully supportive. However, they asked if I would do a little research on exactly what middle school wrestling would entail. “Attend a collegiate wrestling match” my father said.
But being asked to study up on the sport that I loved was almost an insult to me. I saw no need to learn about collegiate wrestling, because I knew what to expect! The school would most likely have a wrestling ring like the ones on television, the coaches would give us cool character names, and we’d be taught the art of the body slam as well as how to fly off of the top rope like Super Fly Jimmy Snuka. I didn’t need to study any more about wrestling. I loved wrestling. And I knew all I needed to know about it, or so I thought.
When I finally attended my very first wrestling practice at the middle school, I was extremely perplexed. There were no wrestling rings with turnbuckles to jump off of. There were no announcers sitting in the corner with microphones ready to call the action. And there were no theatrics and cool costumes for us to put on. Instead, we were all gathered into a room with foam mats on the floor.
These dingy, blue wrestling mats had many circles strewn about in which served as our wrestling ring. We were not taught how to do pile drivers or power bombs, but rather how to take your opponent to the floor and pin him to the mat for a count of one.
I knew wrestling. I loved wrestling. But I soon realized I knew nothing about real wrestling. I only knew the popular commercialized version that was so popular among my friends at school.
As I begin to really study the sport, I saw that it had been around for hundreds of years. That the ancient Roman and Greek cultures would hold Olympic type games where wrestling was highlight of the event. The more I learned and participated in the real version of wrestling, the more I grew to love it even more than I did professional wrestling.
Claiming to possess any knowledge without a desire to study its truths is ignorance.
One of the most pervasive statements that I hear from many evangelicals when it comes to the topic of theology and doctrine is, “We don’t need all that theology, all that matters is that we love Jesus.”
Theology is the study of God’s Word. And doctrine is orthodox, Biblical teachings found all throughout scripture. To neglect the need for a deeper study of the attributes of God and claim that all we need is to love Jesus is a grievous error. It is a wonderful thing to love Jesus. But without knowing Him through a more intensive study of the Word can leave us worshipping a very popular and commercialized Jesus, but not the Jesus of scripture.
Sadly there are many professing believers that are enamored with the idea of loving Jesus, but they have no desire to know Him through a study of Biblical doctrine.
Without being grounded in Biblical theology, the Jesus we claim to love can easily become a God of our own creation. There are even churches that refuse to have a definitive statement of faith on their websites and instead state their beliefs as, “We love Jesus, We love People.”
Although these are fine statements, they tell me nothing regarding what they believe about God. It tells me nothing about what they believe about the perseverance of the saints. It tells me nothing about their view of the trinity. It says nothing of their view of the atonement of our sins through the cross of Christ. It tells me nothing of their view of the infallibility of the Word of God. Nothing about the depravity of man and the sovereignty of God. Nothing about their view of Grace.
It is not enough to know that a church or a person loves Jesus. We must know what they believe about Him through the scriptures in order to discern properly.
Without knowing the theology and grasp of doctrine that a church or person has, we are left to ask the question, “What Jesus are you referring to?” It is quite possible to profess a love for a Jesus that is loosely based on the teachings of the Bible, and to be so passionate about this Jesus that we neglect to see that we have in fact believe in a false Gospel.
All throughout the scriptures, the apostles were adamant that our faith be grounded not some untethered idea of love, but in truth. They were never proponents of basing our affections of God on what we feel, but rather what we know. When the Apostle Paul was training up Titus to be a pastor on the island of Crete, one of the first things he impressed him was the need for knowing sound doctrine.
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1.
Notice Paul didn’t tell Titus to just rely on his love for Jesus. Paul knew that it is impossible to truly love Jesus unless we know Him through a proper study of biblical theology. Furthermore we are to teach our families doctrine. It is impossible for men to lead our families or even disciple our children properly unless we are teaching them theology and not just fluffy stories about the cute animals in Noah’s ark.
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:9.
On this side note of discipling our children, it boils down to asking what we want them to know about God. Do we want them to know the commercialized Jesus of the world that is all butterflies and love? Or do we desire that our children know the Christ of the Bible. Sadly, parents that neglect the study of theology do so because having a generic love of Jesus is not offensive to them. The belief in a Jesus void of theology makes us feel better about ourselves and makes for a cute bedtime story for the kids.
However, when study and teach Biblical theology, there will be blood. There will be God’s wrath. And we will begin to see ourselves as not only sinners, but heinous transgressors who rightly deserve the fires of Hell.
These are not popular views of God nor man. Many people avoid the study of theology because they prefer a version of Jesus that is all love but no wrath and a Christ that is begging sinners to repent instead of sovereignly demanding and brining to pass their conversion.
There is no doubt, a study of theology strips us of fluffy, man centered views of God. But when we begin to see God rightly through the Bible, our understanding of grace abounds. And our love for Christ is now anchored to solid truth and extreme gratitude.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13.
Again, it is impossible to stand firm in our faith if we are not students of the Word ourselves. If we profess a love for God, to have a disdain for the study of theology is a contradiction. It stands to reason that if we love something, we want to know all there is to know about it. This holds true in relationships, hobbies, and everything that sparks a passion in our hearts.
It is very troubling that in the world, the things that we love we pursue in knowledge. However for some reason some believe it should not apply to our love for Christ. To claim we love Jesus yet have no desire for theology is to prove ourselves to be liars. Because that line of reasoning does not apply to any other passions in our lives.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean you have no ideas about God, rather it will mean you have a lot of wrong ones.” When it comes to your daily study of God’s Word, is it attained from reading uplifting devotions that stimulate positive feelings? Or is it grounded in the scriptures and in Biblical theology? When you are choosing a church to attend, is the deciding factor made based how relevant and funny the sermons are or how hip the worship band appears to be? Or is your decision based on the theological truths that are sung and preached?
It is a fine thing to love Jesus. But as Christians, we need to be able to tell the world which Jesus we love. If we claim to love Jesus yet believe things that are not found in scripture, then our version of Him is a modern-day golden calf.
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15.
An untethered, etherial, love of some generic Christ was never outlined in Bible. Rather, Peter writes that we are to have a doctrinal knowledge of the scriptures so that we are able to give a defense to those who oppose it and a reason for our love for those that are curious.
The late R.C. Sproul once said, “Everyone is a theologian. Some people just aren’t very good ones.” All people have ideas about Jesus. But the only ones that will point us to the real Jesus are those ideas that are reamed from the scriptures. If you truly love Jesus, be sure that you are able to give reasoning that goes deeper than merely saying “He forgave me.”
Begin to emerge your study of God into topics such as propitiation and regeneration. Find a book on the attributes of God that will drive you to the scriptures. Contemplate the Biblical meaning of Holiness. Pick up a resource on typology. These may sound like scary academic words, but once you begin to study these doctrines, the scriptures will come to life in a whole new way.
True love for Christ begins with a knowledge of what He has done. I pray your love for Him is rooted in your study of theology, so that you may be equipped to give a reason for the hope that is within you.
Below I have placed links to some wonderful and easy to digest resources for anyone seeking to go deeper in their knowledge and love of Christ. As with any resource, these are never to take the place of your study of scripture, but instead be used to drive you to the Word and expand your understanding of it’s truths.
The love of a parent is a fierce love. It is a selfless love and a protective love. When it comes to the protection and well being of our children, there is nothing that a good parent will not do in order to safeguard the family. From a young age we begin to take preventative measures in preparing our young ones against the dangers of the world.
We teach our children to be kind to others, but never to talk to strangers. We teach them to always put on their seat belt, and to never cross the street without looking both ways. And when it comes to things like swimming, we take every precaution to teach them the proper swimming techniques before allowing them to remove those annoying arm floatees.
As a parent, much time is spent in teaching and training our children so that they may be well prepared to navigate the many pitfalls of life. We do this because we love them, and want them to have an abundant life.
What is so surprising is that so many Christian parents will spend countless hours in the day instructing their children in how to stay safe from the physical dangers of the world, but almost completely neglect their eternal and spiritual well being.
It has become common place for believers to rely fully on the church in regards to the discipleship of their children. But this mindset is not only wrong, it is sinful. Here are five reasons why parents need to practice family worship daily with their children at home.
1. Family Worship is Important Because God Has Commanded It
In Deuteronomy 11 Moses speaks the words of the Lord to the Israelites, relaying to them commandments from the Lord in how they are to conduct themselves and how God is to be worshipped. Moses also addresses the importance of family worship. Speaking of God’s commandments, Moses says;
“You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” Deuteronomy 11:19-21.
Notice that worship within the home is not a suggestion, but a command. Also take note of the many different ways that this discipline takes shape. Family worship was never meant to be just programmatic. We teach our children about God consistently throughout the day. When we rise in the morning and before we lie down at the end of the day.
When Moses writes that we are to write the commands of God on our doorposts, he was not instructing us to drive down to the local Lifeway and purchase a Bible verse plaque to hang on our door. Rather, it means that the worship love of God should be so prevalent in our families, that it is a known fact to everyone who may enter the doorposts of our family.
2. Family Worship is Important Because Your Child’s Eternity is at Stake
Statistically a great majority of children who are raised in church and have grown up participating in youth group end up leaving the church by the time they’ve reached adulthood. Part of this tragedy can be attributed to the pragmatism of many churches who placed more of an emphasis on entertainment rather than teaching. But as parents and particularly fathers, God will first hold you responsible for the discipleship of your family, not the church that you attended.
The prophet Isaiah writes,
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:13.
Far too often we read verses like this too casually without considering the dangerous implications that are in plan sight. The prophet writes that children that are brought up and taught in the Lord will receive great peace upon them.
But what about the children that are not brought up in the knowledge of the Lord? All humanity is born into sin. And in such a state, all people who have reached an age of being capable to possess the knowledge of the God and yet do not call Him Lord do not have the peace of God upon them, but the wrath of God. Even our children.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36.
Notice John does not write that if a person does not obey God, the wrath of God will come upon him. Instead John writes that if a person remains in unbelief, the wrath of God “remains on him.” Again, the implication is clear. We are enemies of God from birth. And His wrath abides on all who live in rebellion to Christ.
“Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, And on the families that do not call Your name;” Jeremiah 10:25.
Just as a parent would waste not a second in running to the rescue of their child who is standing in the road before an oncoming truck, so should we act with urgency in discipling our children. Knowing that God’s wrath resides on all who do not profess Him as Lord, family worship should be our utmost priority.
The Apostle Paul said this of his protegé Timothy’s upbringing.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:14-15.
In 1 Timothy, Paul more light is shed on Timothy’s childhood when he praises God for the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother. Timothy’s family did not just take him to church and sign him up for the local youth group. Timothy was discipled by his family. Family worship was the focal point of his upbringing where he was taught the scriptures and which led to his salvation.
When speaking of the Godly influence of his own mother, the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “Fathers and mothers are the most natural agents for God to use in the salvation of their children. I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother.”
3. Family Worship Teaches Them the Purpose of Church
The church was created by God first and foremost for the glorification and worship of God. In our current day and age church has become akin to shopping for a new car, especially for youth. They want a church that is fun, entertaining, and cool enough to attract their friends. Basically the purpose of a good church is to meet their desires and expectations. And worshipping God only takes place if and when those expectations are satisfied.
Sadly, there are many parents who will actually allow their children to choose the church that they want the family to attend. Pastor Josh Buice has written a great article on the dangers of this that can be accessed at this LINK.
Within the context of family worship we can teach our children to hold a high view of God and the scriptures. From an early age, Lacy and I have tried our best to instilled in our children that the marks of a good church are grounded not in our preferences but in their reliance on the scriptures and their proclamation of the Gospel.
Recently our family visited a church where the worship music was very showy and entertaining and the preacher was more of a comedian than an expositor. After the experience, our nine year old son Lincoln said that he didn’t want to go back to that church. When I asked why, he said, “Because they seemed more concerned with pleasing men than pleasing and glorifying God.”
When we teach our children the importance and the beauty of seeking God and holding high His Word, they learn to discern the difference between Biblical churches and more worldly churches from an early age. And this will safeguard against them leaving the church when the are grown. Because they will properly know that church is not about our entertainment, but about God’s glorification. And corporate worship will become a desire rather than a weekly duty.
4. Family Worship Will Lead to Their Greatest Joys
When we first introduced broccoli to our son Luke, he despised it. But as his parents who knew what was best for him, we didn’t give in. We didn’t compromise and let Luke follow his own desires. We insisted that Luke eat his broccoli. We didn’t load his plate up with tons of it. Lacy only put a few bites so that he could develop a taste for it.
One night we looked over at Luke’s plate and he had finished his broccoli without us having to beg and plead with him. What was even more surprising was that Luke asked for a second helping. Currently, Broccoli is Luke’s favorite vegetable. He can’t get enough of the stuff! If we would have given in to his initial distaste for it, he would have never realized the joy he found it eating it today.
From day one, we never made family worship an option. And with young children, there have been many times where it was apparent that eating broccoli would have been more to their liking than gathering for family worship. But the more we expose our families to the Word of God, the more it begins to take root. And it’s not long before what was once a forced discipline is now the highlight of their day.
Matthew wrote of the Lord as being like a precious treasure hidden in a field (Matt 12:44). We live in a world where the preciousness of the Gospel has been buried in a field of television, toys, fun, and self-gratification. And removing these blinders which our children hold so dear can be a fight at times. But when they begin to be taught of their own depravity and the grace of God, the knowledge of God will not just be tolerated, but desired.
5. Family Worship Teaches Our Children to Make God Top Priority
The old saying “Monkey see, monkey do” holds very true within the family. Many parents who raise their children in church only to have their children walk away from the church when they reach adulthood scratch their head and wonder why. Yet they have failed to examine the example they set in making God a priority.
Parents, do you exemplify that knowing God is precious to you? Or is God just a weekly staple like going to school or the grocery store? Fathers, do your children see you gathering the family with joy to read the scriptures? Do they see delight in your eyes when you speak of the things of God? Do they see you and their mother on their knees regularly praying to the Lord? Or do they see God as being a burden?
Monkey see, monkey do.
The passions of the father will in most cases be passed down to the son. We do not have the ability nor the power to save our children. Only God can do that. It is our job as parents to surround our children with the kindling of the Holy Spirit and pray that the Lord would ignite it.
If family worship is not a priority or current discipline in your home, it is never too late to begin. The reasons family worship is not a more common practice in Christian homes is because of laziness, selfishness, and out right disobedience to what God has commanded us to do as leaders of our homes.
There is no doubt that family worship will require self sacrifice and work. But as fathers and mothers, we have been charged with the responsibility of plowing the fields of the knowledge of our Lord within our homes. It will require us to turn off the television. It will require us to set aside hobbies. It will require us to wake up earlier or go to bed later.
Family Worship will require you to die to yourself. But isnt that what the Christian life is all about? And when we die to ourselves, we become more like the savior that we worship. Therefore, family worship is commanded by God not just for the salvation of your home, but because it conforms you more into the image of Christ. Ask yourself, is there anything more important than our families being households that are firmly planted in the Lord?
Make family worship a staple in your home. If we truly love our children, there can be no greater priority. Below I have listed a few resources to aid in beginning to implement the practice of family worship in your home.
Our two year old little girl has a problem. Her name is Haven, and she is a certified chocoholic. M & M’s, Hershey Kisses, and Kit Kat’s are her drugs of choice. And I’m her dealer. My wife Lacy is very good at telling Haven “no” when it comes to sweets and giving her healthier choices instead of the sugar that she desires. But I just can’t resist when she points to the candy and says, “Daddy please?” When I give her sweets to eat I am daddy of the year in her little mind. But recently, as hard as it is, I have been cutting Haven off from her chocolate fix.
Last night before bed, she came to me with a sweet smile on her little face and said “chocolate daddy.” And I said to her, “No ma’am, let’s get some fruit instead.” This is about the time the fit pitching began. Haven stomped her foot and instead of asking for chocolate nicely, she now repeated her request in a very demanding tone. And again, I refused to give her what she wanted. Tears, confusion, and anger followed. Haven just couldn’t understand why her father, who is supposed to love her, would deprive her of what she thought she needed, that being the sweet taste of processed sugar.
No matter how much I told her that I had her best interests in mind, all Haven heard was that her daddy wasn’t giving her what she wanted. Furthermore, she knew that other children ate chocolate because when we take her to story time at the library each week, the librarian always gives out candy to all of the toddlers in attendance.
Haven is only two years old and she doesn’t have the life experience that her mother and I possess. She doesn’t realize the health dangers that could stem from a steady diet of sugar and the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables. She doesn’t have the ability to look past her own selfish desires and actually see that even though mommy and daddy are depriving her of what she wants, we actually are looking out for what is best for her.
It is in these types of situations with my children that God shows me how similar we are to toddlers. We praise God and have no problem quoting scriptures about Christian suffering and perseverance in hard times, except when those hard times actually hit us. We have no problem remembering the account of the disciples caught in the storm in Matthew 8, and correlating that to the storms in our lives when times are good. But what about when we are caught in the midst of a storm?
We make plans for our lives. It is human nature to set a path for where we want our lives to go. And then tragedy hits, and those plans often become derailed. The loss of a career, a death in the family, or a financial set back are among a few of these derailments that are most common. And when our plans and desires are unexpectedly taken away, the immediate reaction is not to trust God, but rather to question Him.
Why would God allow this tragedy if He truly loved me?
Have you been here before? Have you said these words? If you haven’t, chances are you will. And for believers in these times of trial, we tend to look at our track record of faithfulness as well as the unbelievers who are seemingly prospering and we begin to contemplate, “Is the Christian life really worth it?”
In Psalm 73, we see that Asaph was at this place.
“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:1-3.
Right away at the beginning of his Psalm, Asaph recalls what he knew to be true in his heart; that God is good to His people regardless of the immediate circumstances. However, Asaph then testifies that he almost forgot that in the midst of a trial. He almost lost his foothold on what he knew to be true about God in His heart. And in his confusion, Asaph gazed upon the wicked who were prospering and doubted the goodness of God towards His own people.
I ask again, have you been here? Are you here now? Has there been a time in your life where your desires and or plans had been unexpected shattered. And as you scramble to pick up the broken pieces, you begin to doubt the goodness of God in full sight of wicked people who are getting the best out of life. Asaph knew this slippery slope all too well. Lets continue to explore his account as Asaph begins to describe why he envied the wicked.
“They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity, their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.” Psalm 73:4-10.
Put yourself in Asaph’s place. Asaph, who was a man of God, was looking at his own life with the trials and hardships he was facing. And then also comparatively looking at the lives of the un-Godly.
Asaph said that the wicked seem to have no struggles. They seem to live longer, healthier lives than the children of God. With their evil mouths they blaspheme God yet their lives seem to be on a continual prosperous climb while the saints of God seem to be riddled with hardships. Asaph knew that God was good to His people, but was judging the goodness of God by the fulfillment of his own desires. Asaph continues his assessment of the wicked.
“They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” Psalm 73:11-12.
Where as the believer abstains from reveling in the evil desires of his flesh and is obedience to Christ, the wicked not only prosper in health and wealth, but they divulge themselves in activities of carnality without a care in the world. The wicked say to themselves that God has no reign over their lives. Asaph now goes from observing the wicked straight into doubting God and even calling into question his own faithfulness to this God who seems to not care.
“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.” Psalm 73:13-14.
Asaph is doubting his faith. He is doubting that following Christ is even worth it if all that comes from his obedience is heartache. Asaph begins to believe that his pursuit of the Lord and adherence to living a life of holiness was in vain. Affliction seems to come at him all day, and each new morning seems to be worse than the former.
In short, just when Asaph thought that he had hit the very bottom of life’s barrel, the floor gave way and he continued to fall deeper and deeper into despair.
How often do we find ourselves in the foible of Asaph, asking the same questions and wrestling with the same doubts? But Asaph did not let this doubt consume him. He didn’t allow this deception to lead him away from God.
“If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” Psalm 73:15-17.
All of his doubts deeply troubled Asaph. He wrestled with trying to reconcile the goodness of God in light of the suffering of His children. Confusion, anger, and doubt had consumed Asaph until he began to dwell on the truth that was buried deep in His heart.
“Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.” Psalm 73:18-20.
Asaph concludes that although the wicked seem to be prospering, the Lord has placed them on very slippery ground. For in an instance, their lives will be over and they will stand in judgement before the Lord of all creation. Romans chapter one is a great depiction of the passive wrath of God which Asaph is describing.
“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Romans 1:28.
The wicked live by the creed “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” They pay no mind to God and live for the sinful desires of their flesh. Why is it then that the wicked prosper? The Apostle Paul tells us in the first chapter of Romans. God looks upon these evil people and sees that they desire the garbage of the world over the glory found in knowing Christ. And the Lord in essence says, “You want your sins instead of fellowship with me…take them.”
God gives them over to their debased mind to do whatever pleases them. But there will be a day, as Asaph pointed out, where the wicked will awaken from their sinful fantasy and stand before God with no defense, and eternal suffering in His wrath to come.
“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” Psalm 73:21-22.
What a beautiful confession from Asaph. Even in the midst of his doubt, Asaph knew that he was being ignorant and part of the grief he felt during that time was due to his own embittered spirit. Asaph had the sense to know the truth of God’s goodness all along, even when he was questioning God.
I am ashamed to say that there have been many times in my own life where unforeseen tragic circumstances have caused me to doubt the goodness of our Lord. But I can relate to Asaph in saying that even in these times of doubt, I knew deep in my heart that I was the fool, and that God was working for my good despite the proverbial chocolate being taken away from me.
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:23-26.
The truth of God’s goodness begins to replace the doubt that had once subsided within the heart of Asaph. There is a saying that says “God will never give you more than you can handle.” That is a lie. Most of the time God will purposely give us more than we can handle, so that in our weakness we will put our trust in Christ. Life’s burden’s may be more than we can handle, but never more than the Christ in us can bear.
“Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” Psalm 73:27-28.
Although the wicked may prosper, they are far from God. And in their unfaithfulness, they will be destroyed in judgement. The wrath of God will be the only reward when their last breath has been drawn.
And the absence of the blood of Christ will leave them without excuse. But as for the believer, though we face trials and tribulations that at times seem to be down right crippling, we can rest in the knowledge that even in our hardships, God has already poured His goodness out upon us.
In the book of Malachi, God’s people cried out against the Lord in the midst of their troubles and asked the Lord “How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2). And through pointing them back to the account of Jacob and Esau, God essentially says to His people, “My love is seen in that I saved you.” To quote the words of evangelist Paul Washer, Isn’t salvation enough? What more proof do we need of God’s goodness?
Though our lives may not always turn out as we had hoped, and our dreams and plans may come to a crushing halt, we have reason to rejoice! Because we who were once enemies of God have been called sons and daughters. We who were once outside the family of God have been adopted by the King. We have been washed and redeemed. God owes us nothing in return.
Our reward is not found in this earthly life, as if God owed us a reward in the first place. Just the fact that He has taken our guilt sentence away through the death of His own Son, dying in our place and for our sins, is proof of His grace. And like Asaph in remembrance of this great truth, we can praise His great name, even in the hardest of times.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.
I recently visited a church that was going Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” study on Wednesday evenings. The book by Blackaby has been a very popular mainstay in many evangelical churches for the past few decades. Although I was familiar with Henry Blackaby and his Experiencing God study through its reputation, I had never actually read the book. So I looked forward to learning more about it on this particular Wednesday night.
The pastor leading the study is a very Godly man, and it was a joy to sit under his teachings. His consistent focus on the scriptures and apparent desire to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ was so refreshing to see. And this pastor’s love for his congregation was made evident in his taking time to speak to each and every person that was in attendance. A true man of God.
After we had opened the study in prayer, a video of Henry Blackaby personally introducing his study was played for all to see. In Blackaby’s introduction, he expressed his deep desire for those participating in the study to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Blackaby’s burden to see men saved was apparent, and his love for the Lord unquestionable.
However, when Blackaby gave his reasoning for why he chose to name his book ‘Experiencing God’, his answer was a bit unsettling. Blackaby said that the reason he did not name his book ‘Knowing God’ and instead chose to call it ‘Experiencing God’ is because God wants us to experience Him.
Blackaby went on to say that to know God merely implies a dry book knowledge of our Lord, and what people really needed was an experience with the Divine. “God doesn’t just want His children to know Him, He wants them to experience Him”, said Blackaby.
While I have no doubt that Blackaby desired to see people come to Christ, his statement of placing an experience with God over knowing God is not only unbiblical, but it actual diminishes the relationship to which God has called His elect to have with Him.
This is not my opinion, but rather what the scriptures plainly teach. Not once in the Bible does the Lord request that His people experience Him. What God does consistently say is that He desires His people to know Him. This plea from the Lord is repeated over and over throughout the scriptures.
The original Greek words for “to know” are “oida” and “ginosko.” Both words imply a much deeper definition than simply book knowledge. When God uses the word “know”, He is implying an intimate relationship with Him. In the garden of Eden, the scriptures say of the relationship between Adam and Eve;
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” Genesis 4:1.
When Moses wrote that Adam “KNEW” his wife, he did not mean that Adam had a mere knowledge of her existence. The word “know” meant that they had an intimate relationship. Now it goes without saying that the Lord is not implying that His children have a romantic relationship with Him (as the New Apostolic Reformation movement often implies), but rather that our knowledge of Him leads us to know and trust Him more than our closest family member.
Jesus used the same word “know” when speaking to His disciples about eternal life. Jesus did not say that eternal life was found in experiencing Him.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3.
Experiencing God is impossible unless we KNOW Him through His Word. Furthermore, salvation is only found through knowing our Lord in a personal relationship. Salvation is not grounded in our feelings or emotions about God. Again, there are false sects of Christianity like the NAR that promote having an emotive experience with God over knowing Him as He has presented Himself in scripture.
Basing our perception of God on feelings or our experience of Him makes God subservient to what pleases us. But when our perception of God is strictly based on knowing Him through His Word, we are at His mercy. And the knowledge of our depravity in light of His grace drives us deep into repentance, thankfulness, and adoration.
“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24.
Again, the prophet Jeremiah did not write that God demands an experience of Himself. Rather, the same word for intimacy, to KNOW, is used. To say that knowing God implies a dry book knowledge is due to a misunderstanding of the depth of meaning behind the Lord’s command for us to know Him.
“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” Philippians 3:10.
The greatest longing of the Apostle Paul wasn’t to experience God. Paul desired more than anything to know Him through His Word. Even when Paul experienced seeing Christ on the road to Damascus, it was not the blinding light that changed Paul. It was Christ speaking the Word of the Lord to Him. It was the power of the spoken Word of God that brought Paul to saving faith.
It is impossible to have a relationship with God apart from head knowledge of Him.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2.
Christ desires that our minds be renewed through the knowledge of God. Peter did not wish for his followers to experience God, but rather to have knowledge of Him that would press them into an intimate relationship with Him.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18.
When John wrote His epistle of 1 John, he distinguished how he could tell that a person had been regenerated and born again. He did not say that whoever has experienced God listens to them. Instead, he said whoever knows God. And those without the knowledge of God have no love for His Word. If we desire an experience of God over truly knowing the Lord, it is not Christ we seek, but our own preferences.
“We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” 1 John 4:6.
Remember, the golden calf that the Israelites built to worship in the book of Exodus was a cumulation of what they wanted to experience in their worship of God. As the worshipped, they indulged in drunkeness and sexual immorality. Had they possessed true knowledge of God, they would have been broken over their sins and have never acted in that manner. An experience of God that is not grounded in knowledge is very dangerous.
Jesus told a parable of a rich man and a poor man who both died. The poor man Lazarus went to be by Abraham’s side in Heaven, while the rich man went to Hell. As the rich man was in anguish, he recalled that he had five unbelieving brothers. And he knew that when they died, they would likewise join him in Hell. So the rich man made this plea with Abraham;
“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’” Luke 16:27-28.
The rich man wanted the spirit of the poor man Lazarus to be sent to his brothers to warn them of the consequences of unbelief. The rich man wanted his unbelieving brothers to have an experience that was from God. Like many today, the rich man wrongly assumed that an experience from God would lead to salvation. But Abraham said this in response to the rich man’s request;
“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”Luke 16:29-31.”
The rich man argued that if only his brothers could have an experience sent from God, then they would be saved. But Abraham refused, saying that if the written Word, which is written by Moses and the Prophets, did not regenerate them, then no experience would be stronger than the Word of God. Abraham placed knowing God through His Word over having a Divine experience.
In Matthew 7, Jesus gives us the picture of many church going and religious people standing before Him on judgement day. The Lord goes on to say that these people listed all of their good works and piety as the reason that they should be allowed into His Kingdom. But although these people would claim Christ as Lord, they had no true love for Him in their heart. The Lord tells these hypocrites to depart from Him into Hell. Notice that the Lord does not say “Depart from me, for you never experienced me.” Rather He says;
“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:23.
Once again, I have no doubt that Henry Blackaby loved the Lord with all of His heart and had the best of intentions in His ministry. In fact, many of the things that Blackaby says in his book are spot on and very useful in leading us into this knowledge of the Lord. But our experience of God can only come through a reverent knowledge of Him. And that knowledge can only be found in His Word. Sola Scriptura.
There are many iconic staples that come to mind when we think of our American culture. Baseball, apple pie, and rock rock and roll, just to name a few. But no cornerstone has embedded itself into mainstream Americana like the fast food restaurant McDonald’s. Whenever we take a family road trip, it is inevitable that one of our kids will make their requests for chicken nugget or cheeseburger Happy Meals.
Founded in 1940, the fast food chain has become known for its hamburgers and golden French fries. McDonald’s even branded itself with child friendly characters such as the burger loving bandit “Hambuglar” and of course, the french fry loving clown, Ronald McDonald.
There is no doubt that the purpose of the McDonald’s franchise is to sell burgers. For goodness sake, they even boast of how many billions of burgers that have been sold under their Golden Arches. It is certain that when you hear someone say McDonald’s, a nice greasy burger is the first thing that comes to mind.
In the late 1980’s, Mcdonald’s decided to alter it’s successful and proven image of being known for hamburgers and started to offer a new item, the McPizza. The McPizza was their version of a fast food pizza and it closely resembled a mini calzone.
McDonald’s marketing team began to push the McPizza in its advertising just as much as it did their burgers. No expense was spared in their attempt to add to their image. Of course this was done in hopes of reaching a new batch of consumers.
However, the result was very disappointing for McDonald’s. The McPizza failed miserably. With top pizza chains like Dominos and Pizza Hut already dominating the market, competition was extremely intense. But more than anything, the addition of the McPizza just was not consistent with the purpose that McDonald’s had always been known for. And that was great tasting burgers. As one person said, “People went to MacDonalds for burgers and fries, not pizza.”
Ironically in the mid 80’s, Coca Cola did the same thing as McDonald’s. They tried to alter their formula from the original, calling it “New Coke” in an attempt to reach a wider audience. And much like McDonald’s, their attempts to add to the original formula concluded with disastrous results.
When something is altered or changed, for better or worse, the original purpose becomes lost. The idea is no longer what it had originally set out to be, because even the slightest deviation from the origin causes a transformation.
To want to improve upon something is human. When results appear seemingly stagnant, the immediate knee jerk reaction is to change the status quo, even if it means altering the original purpose. In the corporate world, sometimes altering the purpose works. And sometimes, as seen in the examples above, it does not. Ultimately, the decision to change must be given approval by the man who is in charge of that particular organization.
In my previous two blogs, I touched on an ever growing deception that is infiltrating the modern day church. That being the man centered trend to attempt to improve upon God’s mandates for the church. We see this in the increasing emphasis of many churches to try and look, sound, and appear more hip than holy in an attempt to attract people with more worldly affinities. In doing this, we basically are saying that the glorious Gospel of Christ is not attractive enough, and God needs us to give it a modern day makeover. Without saying it, we doubt the power of the Gospel with our actions.
My great fear is that this mindset of improvement has infiltrated the church to our detrament. R.C. Sproul once said that he believed less than five percent of pastors truly believed in the power of the spoken word of God to save men. This was the Lord’s original game plan for church growth.
To coincide with the analogy of the corporation, if the CEO is the only one who can change the purpose statement, then as Christians and church leaders, God is our CEO. And God has mandated that the only means to church growth and salvation is the preaching of the Gospel, and calling people to repentance. There are no other means.
Sadly as Dr. Sproul had commented, a great many ministries and their leaders have lost sight of the original purpose of the church. The preaching of the Gospel has not yielded the results (or numbers of members) that they had hoped for. And so, they begin to add to the Gospel. Sometimes they will even change it all together.
The Gospel is not enough, we need lights and smoke during worship.
The Gospel is not enough, we need comedians and story tellers instead of preachers.
The Gospel is not enough, we need more acceptance and less repentance.
The Gospel is not enough, we need an image that is less holy and more culturally relevant.
No church leader would ever say these things verbally, but by their methods of operating the church, actions speak louder than words. To be sure, it is very easy to rationalize their reasons for doing this. Plenty of church pastors have boasted of how many people are being brought to the Lord as a result of their pragmatic methods.
But are we really seeing people coming to the Lord as a result of our changes or additions to the Gospel? Or are we merely seeing more warm bodies that are seeking a worldly experience with God’s name stamped on it? To answer this question, just ask the congregation why it is that they attend their church.
Many have answered this question by saying they attend their church because it makes them feel loved. And to feel loved is a good thing. But the Gospel is not about what we feel, it is grounded in what we know. The reality of God’s grace in light of our depravity is what leads men to repentance. So knowledge, not emotions, leads men to salvation.
Many have said that the music style of worship or the relaxed atmosphere is why they attend a certain church. And while these things are well and good, they are not reasons for attending a church. Any reason other than the proclamation of the Word of God are faulty primary reasons for church attendance. Justin Peters rightly said, “We are letting the goats in and calling them sheep.”
This begs the obvious question, “What is the purpose of the church?”
A brief study of the church in Corinth will be of great benefit to us in answering this question. The church in Corinth was founded by the Apostle Paul while on his second missionary journey. Corinth was a large trade city, so it had great wealth and was the location of many Olympic type games. The city of Corinth also was extremely immersed in the world, worshipping such Gods as Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.
Paul preached the Gospel in Corinth for almost two years before departing. The church was no doubt on solid ground while Paul was there. But very soon after he left, the church at Corinth began to depart from the Gospel of faith alone through Christ alone that was preached to them. They began to become enamored with different personalities in the pulpit, as some claimed they were followers of Paul and others Apollos.
But the most serious problem of the Corinthian church was worldliness, and an unwillingness to divorce the culture around them. Paul received word of many sins that the church was now accepting, and he addressed them in his epistles to the Corinthians.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality” 1 Corinthians 6:9.
Again, Paul did not write these words to pagans. He wrote to the church.
Obviously the message of repentance and sternly crying out against sin was not being preached. The church began to hold an attitude of acceptance of sin, not rejection of it. And with most of the society putting a great emphasis on love, as seen by its affinity for the goddess Aphrodite, apparently the church was influenced by the culture. The church was allowing itself to look more and more like the world in the hopes of being accepted.
The state of the church at Corinth is very similar to many churches today. In an attempt to win the culture, they begin to dress, speak, and act more worldly. And with the growing number of evangelical preachers that only desire to preach love and acceptance while shying away from preaching repentance, its as if our culture has begun to worship the false goddess Aphrodite. Just like the Corinthians.
Therefore what happens is that these churches end up drawing the world to a similar version of itself, but not to Christ. Just because a church calls itself a church, doesn’t mean it is truly the bride of Christ. Because if the Gospel that is preached is not what is used to attract men, then its not the true Gospel.
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!” 1 Corinthians 1:8.
So the questions remains, “What is the purpose of the church?” Paul gives us the answers through his example.
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-16.
Too many churches believe the power of God unto salvation lies in the charismatic ability of the preacher. These churches tend to want the preacher to tell more entertaining stories rather than exposition of scripture. The mentally is that if the preacher is just the right mix of relevant and funny, then maybe people will be saved.
However, Paul didn’t believe this. And Paul for sure didn’t exemplify this. According to what Paul wrote, he was not an eloquent or gifted communicator (2 Corinthians 11:6). He was not worried about if people would like him or his message. Paul was concerned with proclaiming truth.
Paul came proclaiming the testimony of Jesus Christ only. He was not there to entertain or to promote himself. The proclamation of the Gospel was the only trick he had in his bag. Paul went on to talk about the church participating in the Lord’s supper in 1 Corinthians 11. The supper itself is a proclamation of the atoning death of Christ and the redemption of sinful man.
And in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul emphasized the baptism of all men, Jew and Gentile. Once again, baptism being a mirror image and proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Also baptism represents the shedding of man’s sins and new life in holiness.
There are many more verses that beautifully expound on the purpose of the church. But they all center on one God given and defined purpose. The purpose of the church was never to try and fit in with the world. And our goal given by Christ was never to seek acceptance from the world by attempting to act and look more like them. This is conformity, not separation. We are called to stand firm in our separateness.
“Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,” 2 Corinthians 6:17.
The purpose of the church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to edify & equip the saints through the sacraments and the preaching of the Word of the Lord.
As Christians as well as church leaders, our job is not to be the coolest church on the block. Our job is not to create an atmosphere where sinners can feel comfortable in their sins. And our job is not make sure congregants feel amused and entertained with their Sunday morning experience. Our purpose is to proclaim all of the scriptures, both the popular verses and the hard to swallow text. Our purpose is to proclaim the Gospel.
Are we hospitable and loving in our purpose? Absolutely we are. But not at the cost of altering or shifting the emphasis off of the purpose to which God called His bride. And not in an attempt to help God out by adding to the Gospel.
The lost cannot and will never be reached with worldly means. Both John the Baptist and Christ began their ministry by calling sinners to repent. They were not ashamed of the offense it might cause, because they knew that the Gospel was the only means to salvation.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16.
Do we believe this today? Or are we allowing the church to become a modern day version of Corinth? Is the modern day church influencing culture with its separateness from the world? Or is it being influenced more by its apparent conformity to the world? Remember, the definition of Holy is to be separate or set apart. Therefore a church that strives to look more like the world is not Holy.
“…without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14.
If what the writer of Hebrews wrote in the verse above is true, then conformity to the world should absolutely terrify us as believers. I fear that there are many modern day churches, much like Corinth, who should heed the warning that Christ gave the church in Ephesus.
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:4.
For those churches that have strayed, Jesus gives words of conviction and comfort…
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” Revelation 2:5.
If your purpose is to serve hamburgers, then you cannot reach your customers by serving them pizza. Sure, you can add pizza to the menu. But you are no longer a hamburger joint. And if the preaching of the Word is not primary within the church, then it is not a church.
It was John Calvin who said, “The preacher has nothing to say outside of the Word of God.”
What is the purpose of your church? Is it image driven or Gospel grounded? Is your church more concerned with being relevant to everyone with its conformity to the world or glorifying Christ with it’s Holy separateness?
In Isaiah chapter 6, when Isaiah was brought to a state of repentance as a result of getting a glimpse of God, it was not that Isaiah saw the Lord to be so much like him that caused him to be in awe of God. Rather, it was the Holiness and separateness of God that led Isaiah to repentance. In the same manner, the church will be used by God to lead people to repentance not because of how similar we are to the world, but because of how separate we are from it.
The seraphim in chapter 6 of Isaiah were not declaring that God was “Relevant, relevant, relevant.” Rather, they cried out “Holy, Holy, Holy,” as they covered their eyes from His blinding glory. If the Holiness of God and His non conformity to the world is what leads men to repentance, shouldn’t we as the church embrace the same example?
If God has ordained that our purpose as the church is to reach the lost by means of His Gospel, then all other alterations and additions to it will be in vain. Never be ashamed of the Gospel. For it is our only hope, and the power unto salvation.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. ”Matthew 28:19-20.
We live in a very consumerist culture. Most everything that we do is guided by our personal preferences. We want to find satisfaction with the decisions that we make. From the clothes we buy, to the televisions shows we watch, our personal desires mold the choices we make each day. This mentality even affects our preferences in worship.
The most common question Christians will ask one another has to do with their preferences in style of worship. Contemporary or traditional? I’ve met traditionalists who think contemporary Christian music is of the devil quite literally. And I’ve known contemporary loving believers who consider the traditionalist to be legalistic in their choice of music.
The truth is that both contemporary and traditional worship can become idols within church. Both forms of worship can be glorifying to the Lord. And both can become stumbling blocks that rob God of His glory. Anytime we filter our worship preferences and judge them by our own personal opinion, it creates an environment where the worship of God is in crisis.
Far too often, people will base their preferences of worship style on their feelings. Some feel that the traditional sound of an organ puts them in a spiritual mood. And others feel that the upbeat twang of an electric guitar makes them want to raise their hands in praise. And the problem lies not in the musicians choice of instrument, but in the motives behind those singing praises.
David Garland wrote, “The danger for us is that we will want to keep up with our entertainment culture and its focus on the eyes by turning our worship into a religious stage show. We must walk a fine line between offering worship that is appealing and engaging without becoming simply a splashy performance, and worship that has depth without becoming tedious and flat.”
When we allow our feelings to play a determining factor in our preferences of worship, we unintentionally enter into worship with praising ourselves and not God. We are basically saying that we gravitate towards a certain worship style because it makes us feel a certain way and not because it glorifies God.
Also, music should never be used to coerce feelings of spirituality. Our feelings in worship should spring forth from the words that we are singing. And our words of praise must be grounded in the truth of God’s Word. True Christ centered worship cannot be fabricated.
The words that we are singing should be the focus of our worship, not the tempo of the song or the instruments that are being used. We should always ask, “Who is being glorified in this song?”
There are traditional songs that are very Christ honoring and totally focused on God’s glory. One of my personal favorite traditional songs of praise is ‘Behold Our God.” I also love to sing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” written by the reformer Martin Luther.
I love these two traditional hymns not because of their beat, how they make me feel, or the instruments that are used, but because of the words. They are totally void of praising man and solely focused on glorifying God.
However, there are songs in the traditional genre are very popular but void of praising the Lord. My general rule of thumb when listening to the words in worship is to ask who is being sung about, God or me? For example, there is a widely renowned traditional hymn called “I Am a Friend of God.” The lyrics are very repetitive with the congregation repeating that they are a friend of God, and that He calls them friends.
Is the song heretical? No.
Who is the focus of this song? Me.
Also there are some very Christ honoring contemporary worship songs. Some of my personal favorites from the contemporary genre are “All I have is Christ” and “Show us Christ.” There are other contemporary forms of urban Christian music by artist such as Tripp Lee or Lecrae that are saturated with Gospel truth. Many are quick to dismiss these forms of music based on their fast tempo, but their lyrics are more Christ centered than many traditional hymns.
And there are also contemporary songs that make the hearers want to raise their hands, but give no praise to the Lord. On of the biggest pitfalls of modern contemporary Christian music is vain repetition. Saying the same thing over and over, and what is being said is based more on how we feel about God rather than speaking the truth of who He is.
Some contemporary songs unfortunately speak of God as if He was their spouse and not the sovereign Lord. One contemporary song that is very popular with younger believers describes the love of God as being like, “…a sloppy wet kiss.” Jesus is not our romantic interest. And to sing songs that portray Him as such is very disturbing, not to mention extremely man centered.
If the words that we sing could just as easily be sung as a love song to our significant other, then it’s not praise to God. Again, praise should be centered around leading our minds to dwell on truth. The purpose of praise is not to promote warm and fuzzy feelings within us. Worship should not be void of emotions, but it should not be led by emotion either. Singing Gospel truth leads us to experience emotions of thankfulness and gratitude towards God.
Genuine Worship is driven by what we KNOW to be true about God, not by what we feel. And it is the knowledge of His truth that should drive us into the emotional state of thankfulness and praise. Knowledge leads to emotion, not the other way around.
Also we should ask “Who does the worship draw attention to?” Some of the most God glorifying, humble worship that I’ve attended has been contemporary praise. But I have also seen contemporary worship being sung by bands that jumped all around the stage and gave the impression that you were attending a rock concert. The attention was primarily on the musicians and the excitement they created, and glorifying God was secondary to their performance.
Kent Hughes wrote, “Congregational worship has taken the form of something done for an audience as opposed to something done by a congregation. Stages, theater-seating, programs, “special music,” and the adoption of the posture and gestures of secular performers by worship leaders all suggest that the priority of the contemporary church is entertaining congregations, not worshiping God.”
So the issue at hand is not musical style. Both traditional and contemporary can be glorifying to God. The crux of this issue is in the content that is being sung. The question we must ask centers around if the lyrics are grounded in the character of God and in Biblical truth. Or are they aimed more towards generating an emotional reaction from a crowd.
When planning the Sunday morning songs, far too many worship leaders ask the question, “What do the people want to hear and experience?” Rather than asking, “What songs would speak the greatest truth and bring the most glory to God?” Sadly, there are far too many churches that are more concerned with their “image” rather than the glory of the Lord.
Praise is not performed for our preferences, but for God’s glory.