This is a follow-up to Sunday morning’s sermon concerning pride. If you were there you may remember that pride is our largest problem. It is the sin that God hates above all others.
Proverbs 6:16-17 16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look…
Proverbs 8:13 13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.
Alarmingly, pride is intuitive to our fallen souls. We don’t plan to think proud thoughts or to speak proud words or behave in arrogant ways, but we do all these things unless we prayerfully watch against them. Pride is natural. Humility is not.
In this blog I want to speak to one particular manifestation of pride that is particularly harmful to Christ’s church and to the fellowship of the saints. It is the pride of treating our own thoughts or those of some other human beings in a way that should be reserved only for the Scriptures. The Bible is breathed out by God (2Tim. 3:16). The Bible alone is breathed out by God! That is fact and not simply a point of Protestant orthodoxy. That fact must govern us. It must decide how we read literature, how we listen to sermons, how we converse with people, how we read blogs, and how we think about our personal, private musings.
Moreover, the Bible is self-interpreting. We can understand the Bible by studying it carefully and by comparing Scripture with Scripture. It is not necessary to study extra-biblical documents in order to understand the Bible correctly. Such study may be helpful; but it cannot be necessary because the Bible alone is inspired by God. No human author or source informed God’s mind concerning what He inspired. No man, no counsel of men taught God or dictated to God what He would say. What God caused to be written is His mind. It is His interpretation of history and of human culture. It is His revelation of ultimate reality. The Bible is its own interpreter, which is to say that God is His own interpreter.
Any argument that the Bible cannot be correctly interpreted or applied apart from reading uninspired literature is false. More than that, it is a very dangerous falsehood. It is, in fact, a manifestation of human pride. It is an endeavor to make God’s Word subject to human thinking. Also, it is an attempt by those few who have access to this necessary literature (the literature thought to be necessary to understand the Bible) to claim special understanding of God’s Truth that is not available to ordinary people. Consequently ordinary folk become dependent upon the few to gain understanding of the Word of God. This is clericalism. It is a serious error which ought to be rejected in the strongest possible terms. It is a not very subtle attempt to usurp lordship over faith.
But I am most concerned with a similar, though usually less intentional, error. This error occurs when serious thinking takes people beyond what is actually written in God’s Word. Often it commences with a biblical principle or precept. From this principle or precept a person or persons extrapolate in ways which they may consider “necessary”. Then conclusions are reached which are considered “necessary”. These “necessary” conclusions are treated as true and binding as the principles or precepts which launched the thinking. The thinking and acting of others is in turn judged by these “necessary” conclusions.
The huge problem, however, is that the conclusions are human whereas the original principles or precepts are Divine. No matter how logical and necessary the conclusions may seem to the person or persons who have reached them, the fact is that God Himself did not declare those conclusions in His Word. Furthermore, there are other possible conclusions. God could have caused those conclusions to have been written in His Word; but He did not. However, the persons who hold them too often count them so “necessary” that these logical deductions are handled like the Scriptures themselves and everyone who disagrees with them is “necessarily” condemned.
An example would be the meat offered to idols in the first century world. Some concluded that such meat was morally defiled by reason of association with idols; therefore it was a moral evil to purchase and eat it– even though it could be purchased at bargain prices. Others said, in effect, that such thinking was silly and good stewardship dictated purchasing meat at the best price possible. Idols were nothing and could not defile meat.
Of course this occasioned serious problems within the church resulting in Paul laying down directives for those with strong consciences and for those with weak consciences. Love had to rule over reason. However, those with strong consciences were not forbidden to eat meat that had been offered to idols if they could do so in faith and without causing weaker consciences to stumble. In other words, the logic that led to the conclusion that such meat was morally evil was just that, human logic. It was not the Word of God. Thus while this thinking could bind weaker consciences, it could not be treated as a moral absolute. It was not a moral precept inspired of God. Rather it was a “necessary” deduction reached by human reasoning.
This is a poor illustration of my point in this respect: the issue of food offered to idols involved the conclusions of those whose consciences were weak, whereas the matter that I have in mind usually (though not always) involves people who are spiritually mature. The point of similarity is that of going beyond Scripture and reaching conclusions that are considered binding, like Scripture.
Humility requires that we not do that. Humility requires that we never regard our conclusions as the standard of truth and righteousness to which others must be held accountable. More importantly, humility requires that we limit our dogmatism to “thus saith the Lord”. No matter how “necessary” we consider our conclusions, if God did not provide a clear and solid and defensible foundation for those conclusions in His Word we must humbly admit that our conclusions are not really “necessary” at all. And by “a clear and solid and defensible foundation” I mean an exegetical basis that any fair minded Christian would see upon close consideration. It is beyond reasonable dispute.
Humility must acknowledge that God has not been as clear and dogmatic on certain matters as we are. God has not been as clear and dogmatic as some Christians think He should have been. Therefore they will presume to be dogmatic for Him. That is pride. Humility will not permit us to be dogmatic beyond what is actually written. Just to give some concreteness to this matter, I will name three areas in which some have become dogmatic beyond what is actually written: the use of alcohol; the use of vaccinations; the practice of birth control. I mention these for illustrative purposes only. Each individual believer must reach private conclusions about these matters. The Bible provides principles that guide us in reaching these conclusions; but the Bible does not mandate these conclusions. Thus we must reach them and hold them with humility.
Humility is much more fundamental and far reaching than we tend to think. So is pride.
Last evening’s prayer meeting was mighty. It was simple and straightforward. We divided into men’s and women’s groups and prayed. The prayers were to the point, brief and explicit. (Of course I can speak only about the men’s group). Brothers prayed as they deemed important. The prayers were varied including matters near and far–spiritual, physical and material. There were all sorts of requests. But, by far the burden was for the expansion of Christ’ s kingdom through the salvation of human lives. In this regard the praying was almost as big as the world itself.
Brethren, I suggest that Christ loves being sought in this way. This is one of the primary ways that we express love for Him, for His church and for our fellow man. We must keep praying like this.
If God helps us to continue in this way, we will see remarkable fruit. This is spiritual warfare at the most elementary level.
It was a joy to be present last evening. My soul was refreshed. If you were there, you will probably say the same.
More and more, the times in which we are living as Christians in America resemble the “perilous times” Paul said would come in the last days (2 Tim. 3:1). What is so troubling and perplexing about these times for us is not that something altogether new has entered the world. Great sins and great opposition to Christ have characterized many societies and cultures through the centuries. But the increase of wickedness and the open opposition to Christ and the Bible are somewhat new experiences for us. I find it especially challenging to know how the church of Christ should respond to the rapid moral decline of our culture happening right before our eyes. The moral shifts are happening so fast and we are moving so far, it would be easy for the church to respond poorly. It is imperative that we think biblically and clearly about our identity as Christ’s church and our calling as His ambassadors in a world that was never supposed to love us or our Savior in the first place.
A week ago, Pastor Hendrix offered some important counsel in his blog, “What can we do?” This week, Mark Dever, the pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. has written a helpful article on the Gospel Coalition blog suggesting 7 principles for surviving the cultural shifts we are presently enduring. I encourage you to read and pray over it. You can access that article here:
Pastor Dever is not trying to say everything that could be said about a very complex subject. One could make a case, for example, that there is an important difference between being “alarmed” by what is happening and being an “alarmist” in response. What thinking and feeling Christian cannot help but be alarmed by the seismic shifts away from truth in our day?
But he does give us a solid place to start as we think about the times in which we live, as well as some timely encouragements and important reminders about who we are and who our God is. How sad it would be if our response to these difficult times would betray that we really were concerned about all the wrong things. May God help us to respond to whatever comes our way in a manner that is worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27) and consistent with a people whose God is the Lord (Psa. 144:15), whose times are in His hand (Psa. 31:15) and whose hope is heaven (Rom. 8:18).
Tonight’s prayer meeting was very sobering. We endeavored to enter into the needs of our own nation, especially the evils associated with our declining morals. Then we considered suffering brethren in Mali and Iran. The largeness of suffering in these places is overwhelming. There are all sorts of sufferings due to poverty and oppressive governments; but we were peculiarly focused on the persecuted church. Islam’s hatred for Christianity is breath-taking. O that God would vindicate His Name by exposing and crushing Islam while showing mercy to millions of Muslim people!
It is a bit staggering to consider such things. What can a small group of Christians possibly do to address evils of this magnitude? Then there is also a sense of “guilt” that we have so many blessings and liberties. The whole thing can become rather depressing.
What can we do?
Let me rephrase that a bit. Here is what we must do.
We must be faithful stewards of the blessings that we have received. That’s first. We must love Christ and love His Word and we must boldly advance the reputation of both. Only God can demolish the bastions of evil thinking and evil behavior. When He is pleased to tear down the walls that Satan has built, God does so by His Truth. In His incredible grace, we have His Truth and we have the freedom to declare it. That is what we must do! The window of our freedom to speak God’s truth without obstruction is closing. We must be more about advancing Bible doctrine than ever. God help us to trash any thought that doctrine is unnecessary to the good of souls! Our own nation is in a state of rapid moral decay in large measure because the Church stopped “indoctrinating” people in the whole counsel of God. Of course we must love people and we must try to help them in their various needs; but love and benevolence will not furnish the mind with the objective realities necessary to refute the lies of the kingdom of darkness. Love enforces the validity of truth but it is not a substitute for truth. We must seriously work at teaching people who God is and what He demands. We must demonstrate the exclusiveness of Christ as their hope with the God Whose commands they have so brazenly violated. There are no short-cuts. We must do the work of instruction, indoctrination and evangelization.
In conjunction with this work of teaching, we must pray. God requires that He be sought for the blessings of His power and grace. We honor Him by humbling ourselves before Him and by pleading for His intervention. God does not need our prayers; but He requires them! It is to His glory that He be sought with fervor and faith and perseverance.
Frankly it is deeply discouraging to see dwindling attendance and fervor at prayer meetings. Prayer is the test of our reality. What kind of faith is it that professes to believe in the sovereignty and omnipotence and graciousness of God, while declining to engage in the truly hard work of calling upon His Name? What kind of faith does that…artificial faith does that! Formalism does that! People with head knowledge only refuse to pray while continuing to boast of their orthodoxy. The decline of public prayer is the decline of true, saving religion. How did a nation possessing the privileges of the Great Awakening and the continuing legacy of the Gospel become so confused about right and wrong? It happened when those who knew who God is stopped calling on Him. When people ceased believing in their hearts and contented themselves with outward forms apart from a felt and expressed need for God, they lost the very essence of true religion. Then their children lost even the form of religion.
What can we do and what must we do in the presence of so much spiritual neediness? We must teach the Bible and we must plead with God.
Do we have the spiritual fiber that is needed for this hard hard work? I am less certain of a positive answer than ever. The unwillingness to pray is a frightening sign. May God revive in His people a desperate sense of need for God’s blessing? And with that revived sense of neediness, may He also revive our expectation of good when we seek Him with all our hearts.
The church has the weapons to win this dreadful war in our generation. But do we have hearts sufficiently large to use the weapons? God help us.
Is anyone else looking at our present culture with a measure of despair, especially in terms of any significant change that we might bring to it as individuals or even as a church? Theologically we sense the obligation to say that nothing is impossible if God so chooses to work; however, in terms of actually seeing change happen there is serious skepticism. I must confess to entertaining periods of despairing skepticism.
Reading the chapter on William Wilberforce in 7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness by Eric Metaxas has seriously challenged my skepticism. I confess that I have not read the full biography of Wilberforce by Metaxas; therefore, the chapter took me by surprise. Reading the book is now a necessity for me.
The condition of England in the late 18th century was arguably worse than 21st century America. If you know anything about Wilberforce, you know that he led the movement to abolish the slave trade and ultimately slavery itself. Given the prevailing attitudes toward slavery and toward black people in that day, the relative speed in which those things occurred was miraculous. Yet, I was not as aware of the change in larger culture which resulted from Wilberforce and his influence. For one thing, charitable giving to the poor was largely non-existent. There was a fatalistic notion that if people were poor and suffering, that was Karma punishing them for their badness. One dare not intrude to interrupt or alter that punishment. Metaxas writes concerning Wilberforce:
Dramatic as it sounds, Wilberforce’s tremendous efforts to change this mind-set over the course of many decades can rightly be seen as one of the most significant accomplishments in history. It was a radical idea (that the wealthy should alleviate the suffering of the poor), taken by one man from the Gospels into mainstream British culture at a time when the British Empire was huge and tremendously influential. Consequently, these biblical ideas were spread throughout the world, especially throughout Western Europe and the new United States of America.
There were other pronounced evils controlling that culture. Alcohol was king. Drunkenness was common among all classes. Sexual promiscuity prevailed. The Prince of Wales was “celebrated” for 7,000 sexual conquests. It is reported that 25% of the single women in London were prostitutes; their average age was 16. Brutality was a form of entertainment. Public hangings of the poor for relatively minor crimes was an occasion of mirth. The slaying and mutilation of animals for “sport” was common. All of these evils are present in American culture now, but not as pronounced or as accepted as then.
How did Wilberforce bring change in the face of such huge and pervasive social depravity? For one thing, he depended on God. That was not merely a point of his theology. Rather, it was the principle by which he tackled each problem and lived each day. In addition, he was doggedly tenacious about the evils which needed to be abolished, especially slavery. There could be no compromise. Change must happen, but how did he win over so many stubborn and evil opponents? How did he convince unthinking people who were not necessarily evil in a more intense sense but were accepting of evil customs and unmoved to alter the status quo? Wilberforce had to change many minds. Of course, God did the changing ultimately; nonetheless, Wilberforce was God’s agent to bring about much of the change. So what was his approach? What was the approach which God used?
Consider the observations of Metaxas on this point:
First of all, Wilberforce was willing to share the credit for all that he did with others, and he knew that he was just one of many working for reform in all these areas…But second–and even more dramatic–was Wilberforce’s ability to work with people with whom he disagreed…he would show others grace as he had been shown grace…Taking this idea one step further, Wilberforce loved his enemies. He didn’t grandstand and fulminate at those who were wrong, even if the subject was the evil of the slave trade. He included himself in the group of those who were guilty.
Wilberforces’s graciousness in the midst of the battle against the slave trade did a lot to persuade those who were on the fence instead of putting them off and pushing them away. He knew God had commanded him to love his enemies. It wasn’t an option. So he would fight his opponents and try to win, but he would do it God’s way, showing love and grace even as he fought with tremendous passion.
Brethren, we have so much to learn from Wilberforce and others like him. We need to learn courage and boldness and tenacity. But we also need to learn how to deal with people who oppose us with graciousness and love. That can be done while making strong points for truth and righteousness.
How few Christians are courageous, tenacious, and loving in warring against abortion! Some are courageous and tenacious; but they view the justness of their cause as granting them the liberty of saying hateful, malicious things. They are unChristian in a Christian cause.
Abby Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood director who has professed Christ and has become a strong pro-life advocate. She is a powerful voice for truth. In wake of the Gosnell trial, Ms. Johnson wrote a searching blog titled: “Tell me…what do I deserve”. Here is a portion of what she wrote:
I have also done my fair share of sinning. And I have also been forgiven much more than I deserve. I abused and betrayed women in the worst possible way. I convinced them to kill their children. Did I slit the necks of children after they were born? No. But, I was an accomplice to murder. Thousands of times…women I knew, women I didn’t, my friends, even my family. I lied to people. I lied to women when they came to me for accurate information. I was among the worst sinners…those that help to take and destroy life. I am no better than Kermit Gosnell.
I took my own children’s lives…twice. Not because I was coerced. Not because I didn’t know better. But because I thought children would be an inconvenience to my lifestyle. I am responsible for their deaths…no one else.
So when someone talks about Gosnell and says things like, “murderers and people like him don’t deserve to breathe the same air as I do,” or “I hope he burns in hell,” it hurts a little. Because that was me. But I am still here…breathing that same air…and trying to spend my life righting my wrongs. And it’s not just me. I know they hurt others like me, as well. People who have left the abortion industry and will work every day to recover from their sins. People who are still in the industry and think they will be shunned by the pro-life movement…maybe they would reach out to us if they knew we would accept them. I am always terrified that clinic workers will see some of the words from prolifers. I have been told by several former workers that they will NEVER come forward with their stories because they are so scared of how they will be treated by us…by US…the supposed “Christian” movement. Their fears are real AND legitimate.
I am ashamed. I am ashamed of the vitriolic speech flowing so eloquently from mouths claiming to represent Christ. It is a serious thing to profess to speak for Christ. If our Lord was here in the flesh, I have no doubt whatsoever but that He would speak boldly and frankly against abortion. Yet I also have no doubt but that His words would be full of grace.
Change is possible. Even this culture can be changed through the power of Christ working through His truth and church. This is not hype. It has happened in more dire times.
We must be truly Godly people. Our lives must exemplify the change we advocate. We must pray. Nothing but the power and blessing of God will suffice. We must be bold and articulate. We must be cunning and clever in a sanctified way, like serpents. But we must also be harmless like doves. Opponents should feel threatened by the truth we speak, but not by us and the way we speak. An abortionist should be convinced that if he repented, we would accept him and do our part in forgiving him.
Beloved, let us pray for ourselves before we pray for our culture. Let us plead with our reigning Lord that He would teach us how to love as He loved. Whatever else we do, we must learn to be gracious and loving, especially toward our enemies!
First, please remember that this is a blog. A blog is something of a stream of consciousness, as opposed to a research paper or even a sermon. This is what makes a blog dangerous to write and perhaps more dangerous to read. As the followers of Christ we are committed to love and follow the truth. Christ Himself is the truth, the very Word of God. All truth has its origin in Christ. Truth is sacred. Opinions or reports that we do not know to be true should be kept in a separate folder and not allowed to enter the folder marked “truth”. No one can really keep the folders distinct for us. That is our responsibility. But it is also the responsibility of those who speak and write to help their audience distinguish between what they write as opinion and what they know to be true. Even when a speaker or writer asserts something as truth the audience is responsible to test it before accepting it as such. Still the speaker has an obligation to assist in this crucial distinction.
Some blogs are more exegetical than others. These are more reliable as truth. Other blogs are more opinion and must be received carefully with that in mind. This blog is the latter of the two.
All of us live in a non-Christian culture. More than we realize, however, the Bible has influenced American culture throughout its history. This is something that many of us have failed to acknowledge sufficiently to the praise of God’s grace. Perhaps we have been so determined to spy out all the unbiblical elements that we have not given thanks for the common grace that has sweetened the culture in which we have grown-up? At any rate, the influence of Divine Truth upon culture is being diminished at an alarming rate. This is not merely the result of fewer Americans being exposed to Divine Truth from their youth, it is also the result of purposeful efforts to “deliver” America from the knowledge of the God of Scripture. This is sinister. It is evil. It is dangerous. It is sad, especially for our children and for their children.
At the same time, this loss may help us to be more attentive to those elements of broader culture that still have a whiff of God’s Word and grace. Maybe.
All this talk about culture has grown out of my musings regarding the death of George Jones. I am tempted to assume that everyone knows who George Jones was. Yet, as unthinkable as it might be to me, that is probably not true. Just briefly, George Jones represented was is called the “traditional element” of country music. Over the past 20 years or so he was popularly referenced as the greatest voice in country music. As a teen and young adult, I loathed country music; however, it was part of the culture of my parents. Saturday nights were often spent watching country music programs on our old black and white television. For that reason, country music had a draw upon me as I became older. And being a music lover I found a simplicity and power in country music that did not exist in other genres. So, even though I was not a George Jones fan growing up, he was part of my culture. And I developed a greater appreciation as I matured.
I have felt sadness over the death of George Jones. Is that wrong? Should I have cared so much? After all, I had no access to him as an individual. My association with him was entirely through his music and a certain lore that grew up around him. Should I have been that connected? Those are the questions which have brought about this writing. Perhaps others have similar questions about their emotional connection to aspects of non-Christian culture.
George Jones probably always professed to be a Christian, almost everyone in country music does. It is part of the culture. The fact is that his life resembled one of those really sad songs that he sang. Like many country music stars, Jones grew up in a modest environment down south, Texas to be specific. He began singing at about 9 on the streets of Beaumont, seeking money. His career ascended after his honorable discharge from the Marine corp in the early 1950′s. First married when he was 19, Jones was divorced a year later. That was the first of four marriages. To his credit, however, he was married about 30 years to his last wife. Alcohol and drugs dominated much of his life. The Wikipedia account of his life has a section titled “the wild years”. So George Jones was a tragic figure in many respects. You could describe him as the role model for all those who might wish to ruin their lives by an undisciplined abuse of God’s good gifts.
Why would a Christian give any time to such a man? That is a legitimate question.
My answer would be that I was drawn to the unvarnished honesty of his music. In my personal estimation good music exerts a strong influence upon the emotions. That is what makes music both enjoyable and dangerous. We are never free to allow anything or person to control our emotions. We are responsible for our emotional lives, just as we are responsible for our behavior. We may choose to allow music to influence our emotions but we are accountable for how that influence impacts us. The music of George Jones, at least that portion that I know, produces a felt recognition of the disastrous impact of life in this world apart from the grace of Christ. Jones lived a wicked life in his younger days; but he was honest about it. He did not try to gloss over either the sin or the pain that the sin caused. He had several near death experiences by reason of his sin. It was remarkable that he lived to be 81. After his death, I listened to his song titled “Choices”. In it he says that throughout his life he had people telling him the difference between right and wrong and that if he had listened he would not be in the condition he was in, the refrain goes “living and dying with the choices I’ve made”. There is stark honesty in the words and that is underscored by the wedding of simple but powerful melody and sound to the words. “Choices” is not a Gospel song. It is a song of remorse. Young people, in particular, need to hear the remorse of adults who are living and dying with the bad choices they have made. George Jones’ most memorable song is “He stopped loving her today”. It recounts the impact of idolizing romantic love. Making an idol out of romance is destructive…always. In the case of the song, that was due to having that love rebuffed. The bottom line of the song is that everything in this world has an end.
In his later years I understand that Mr. Jones abandoned alcohol and drugs and professed faith in Christ. It would be wonderful to find that that was real.
Here are some of the conclusions that I have come to regarding my limited fascination with the music of George Jones:
1) I must be honest about the impact of that music upon my soul and my relationship with Christ and my relationship with sin.
2) Non-Christian culture can be appreciated for its beauty and honesty.
3) The seduction of non-Christian culture in its most innocent forms must be recognized and guarded against constantly. If exposure to such culture results in a lessening of conviction about the supremacy of Christ or about the sinfulness of sin, that particular expression of culture must be renounced and avoided by me.
4) That part of non-Christian culture which is overtly wicked and cannot be indulged apart from committing actual sin must be rejected by all who follow Christ .
5) Nostalgia or attachment to our personal ethnic roots can blind us to the danger of our favorite forms of non-Christian culture.
6) We must not endeavor to persuade others to accept those forms of non-Christian culture which we enjoy with a good conscience. They may not be able to do the same. Which leads me to say that my purpose in writing this is not to introduce anyone to George Jones’ music. My purpose is to expose you to my personal struggles with my own enjoyment of portions of that music, as well as my sadness of his death.
Use this blog as you see fit. But be candid enough to admit that some forms of non-Christian culture exert an impact upon you and that you must deal with that impact so as to be faithful to Christ.
God willing this Tuesday at 7:30 in our auditorium, the men’s group called ACTION (Advancing Christ’s Teaching In Our Neighborhood) will hold a memorial service. Everyone is invited, men, women and children.
What are we memorializing? The purpose is to acknowledge the deaths (murders) of over 56,000,000 babies since the legalization of abortion in America. These babies became medical waste. No one memorialized their deaths. They were not even given names, just killed and discarded. On a deeper level our purpose is to mourn this horrible practice. Perhaps we have become far too comfortable or accepting of this barbarism. ACTION is praying that through this service we as a church will become more aware of the wholesale slaughter taking place under the cover of law. More than that we are praying that we will become wise and bold for condemning this evil openly, publicly.
I have been reminded that this is tokenism. A memorial service for fetuses, what’s the point? People don’t have memorial services for babies who miscarry so why do so for aborted infants? There is a difference, however. Miscarriages occur in the Providence of God and reveal an unsustainable pregnancy. Abortion is the deliberate murder of babies who are viable.
Admittedly this is a symbolic gesture in some respects. But symbolism can be very significant. Standing and removing one’s hat while the National Anthem is being played is purely symbolic, but it has importance. Yet, this service goes beyond mere symbolism. There will be worship and prayer and the proclamation of God’s Word and the imparting of information. The design is to honor God through the consideration of His Truth and through repentance. As Daniel prayed in the first person confessing the sins of Israel (Dan. 9), so we will confess the national sin of abortion. Beyond that we hope to sharpen our consciences and resolves respecting this horrible work of darkness.
Above all else, we as a church are about the Gospel. We want to be vocal and aggressive in proclaiming the salvation that is in Christ. Our prayer is that God will use us in the conversions of many in our community. Yet, the Gospel appears as Good News only against the backdrop of human sin. The proper setting forth of the Gospel requires the denunciation of actual sin. Furthermore, the church of Christ is set forth as light in the midst of darkness. That requires helping people to recognize the darkness and how evil the darkness is. Calling for the condemnation of abortion, at least within individual consciences, might be used by God to awaken some to the sinful way in which they think about the dignity of human beings and human life. After all, accepting or approving of abortion in one’s mind renders one guilty of abortion on a certain level:
Romans 1:32 2 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Perhaps we should take our cue from John the Baptist in this sense: John was the forerunner of Messiah and he fulfilled that role not only by identifying the Lamb of God but also by preaching explicitly against sin, calling people to repent. The church is designed in part to prepare the world for the 2nd coming of Messiah. That requires identifying Him. It also requires explicitly calling people to repent of their sins.
In the outworking of Providence this has become a very opportune time to draw attention to abortion.
I trust that you will give serious, prayerful consideration to joining us on Tuesday evening.
Below is a video regarding the Gosnell case. It is shocking and troubling both in what it says and in the images displayed. It is not suitable for children and it may not be suitable for some adults. However, in my opinion it helps us to realize what evil the legalization of abortion has unleashed in our nation.
NKJ James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
The great work of the church is the glory of God in the world. The primary vehicle for displaying God’s glory by the church is the Gospel. The church is God’s institution for bringing Good News into the world. That does not mean the good news that men want to hear; rather, God has mercifully created and commissioned the Good News that humans most need to hear. This is the message of deliverance from the ravaging, soul destroying power of sin along with its condemning guilt. Sadly, most people do not consider that message to be good news. That is due to the absence of a felt need for it.
In order, therefore, to gain a hearing for the Gospel the church must also declare God’s Law. All humans naturally relate to God in terms of His Law: “obey and live or disobey and perish”. These are the terms of human existence. The human conscience intuitively knows that. However, such is the blindness of the human heart that people feel perfectly comfortable with standing before God on the basis of their own merits. The church must mercifully help as many as possible understand what God actually requires and how it is between them and God according to their actual merit (demerit).
That is not just the church’s responsibility to individuals; it is our responsibility to the larger culture when culture embraces egregious evils which threaten both individual souls and nations. The church pursues the salvation of the world by the Law and the Gospel.
The national church of pre-Nazi Germany, the Lutheran church, failed to speak God’s Law into the mounting pressure to accept unrighteous public action against the Jewish people. It not only failed to speak but it acquiesced to that pressure. Six million Jews were slaughtered in Europe as part of the “Final Solution”. The silence of the church contributed to that outrageous evil.
Last evening the leaders of ACTION (our men’s fellowship, Advancing Christ’s Teaching In Our Neighborhood) introduced a modest plan for addressing the Law and Gospel to the “holocaust” of our day: legalized abortion. Since the ratification of Roe versus Wade over 56,000,000 infants have been murdered in the United States. This is a national evil. It is a legislated right, notwithstanding the clear injunctions of God’s Law forbidding murder.
Romans 1:32 indicates that every supporter of abortion shares in the guilt and condemnation of this horrific evil. Surely the church has a responsibility to inform our neighborhood of that and to call for repentance and faith in Christ in order that all who have in any way participated in this evil might be forgiven.
Next month we propose, in conjunction with the next ACTION meeting, to hold a memorial service. This service will memorialize the millions of babies who were never given names, much less funerals. This human tragedy warrants public grief and repentance.
We do not anticipate joining other anti-abortion efforts. We do not propose demonstrations at abortion clinics or the such. We anticipate making public efforts at communicating Divine truth to the community in which Providence has set us. Paul placed the idol-making industry in Ephesus in serious jeopardy by preaching Divine Truth, Law and Gospel. It is our prayer that God will so bless our efforts at communicating Law and Gospel that multitudes in Mebane will repent of supporting abortion. We are praying that abortion will be rejected in our town, county, state and nation. But, more than that we are praying that supporters of abortion will be converted. That is especially our concern.
Of course, opposing abortion is nothing new for us. What is new is the effort to take our message beyond the walls of our building and into our community.
Pray that God will provide courage and wisdom and compassion and a hearing and most of all fruit to the glory of Christ. Pray also that, if God’s wills it, we will be able to provide alternatives to abortion for those so tempted, perhaps through counseling or by providing a home for unwed mothers-to-be or even a home for unwanted children. May God make us willing and able to do all that we ought to do to show His mercy to weak and helpless children who cannot speak for or protect themselves.
In this past Sunday morning’s sermon, Pastor Hendrix gave us four pieces of counsel for a new year. To encourage your reflection on that counsel, I thought it might be helpful to provide a summary outline of the sermon. Below you will find the four headings as given along with some of the relevant Scripture references and points from the sermon. May God help us to draw closer to Christ in 2013.
1) Endeavor to maintain an active and expanding mind
- Even in his last days, Paul endeavored to keep his mind active and expanding through ongoing reading and study. (2 Timothy 4:6-9, 13; Acts 17:28)
- “The redeemed mind is a sinful thing to waste.”
- God made Solomon wise through reading and study. (Ecclesiastes 12:9-12)
- Develop your minds through a disciplined program of reading:
- Read your Bible first, preeminently, carefully (humbly and prayerfully). Don’t try to master the Bible. Rather, pray that God will use the Bible to master you.
- Read old writers.
- Read writers who expound truth faithfully in a way that educates and edifies.
- Read modern writers as well. The Holy Spirit is still teaching people and gifting people to write.
- Read writers who don’t pretend to have discovered any new truth.
- Read books that summarize the Bible. (Recommendation: The God Who is There by D.A. Carson)
- Read books that get to you and challenge you but also give you Christ as the remedy for your failings and faults.
- Read books that magnify the works of God in creation and providence (science and history).
- Don’t waste your time reading evil men expounding the supposed virtues of evil.
- Challenge: Read one book every two months in 2013.
2) Do all you can do to establish love and peace in your closest and most important relationships.
- Serious minded Christians have to be concerned about so many statements in the Bible about love and peace (Matthew 22:37-40; Matthew 5:43-44; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 4:1-3; Hebrews 12:14)
3) Don’t permit the decisions of others to determine your joy
- Learn to love people without allowing your joy and peace to depend on those people.
2 Corinthians 12:15 “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.”
- We must learn to love people for Jesus’ sake and for His pleasure and honor.
- Attach your joy and pleasure to Christ and His pleasure.
4) Practice the presence of Christ
- Make your emotional health to depend on Christ and nothing else.
- We must seek our soul’s happiness not in what Christ gives, but in Christ Himself.
John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
- Find your supreme happiness in the felt presence of Christ in 2013.
- Two things required to practice the presence of Christ:
- You must love Him, seek Him and desire Him.
- You must love Him enough to reverence His will.
In Sunday morning’s sermon I expressed a personal disappointment and distress over what I perceived as a fairly accepted evangelical approach to the presidential election. My purpose in saying that was to give some explanation for the depressed state of heart which gave rise to the sermon. It was important for me to say that my distress was not the result of the election outcome primarily. Long before election day, I had experienced this distress. Admittedly the outcome of the election did not help; but I would have been plagued by this burden regardless of the results.
In speaking about “evangelical counsel” or the “evangelical approach” to the election I am referring to the public comments of acknowledged evangelical spokesmen, men who are deservedly esteemed as leaders in the evangelical church in America. I am referring to men who are my superiors in every sense of the word. These men have been used in my life and in the lives of thousands of God’s people. My purpose is not to discredit them or cause anyone to think less of them. Therefore I will not name them. My concern is derived from public statements of which I am aware. There is a very real possibility that statements were made that would have greatly alleviated my burden, but I am just not aware of them. That would be a relief to me.
With this introduction, I will attempt to explain my concern.
I am assuming that most evangelicals supported Mitt Romney in the recent election. That is not my problem. In the interest of candor, I voted for Mr. Romney. So, the sheer fact of supporting him is not my problem.
Mr. Romney is a confessed Mormon, a leader (pastor) in his local church. Mr. Romney is not ashamed of his Mormonism. He has never, to my knowledge, indicated any embarrassment over being a Mormon or any substantial disagreement with the doctrine of the Mormon church. These are, I believe, well-known facts.
Now, as Christians our most distinctive and discriminating doctrine is our doctrine of Jesus Christ: Who He is and what He accomplished. There are other doctrines that must be considered essential to Christianity; but none more so than our doctrine of Jesus Christ. This is our purpose or calling in the world as His church, namely, to be witnesses unto Him throughout all the nations and until the end of the age.
The Mormon doctrine of Jesus Christ is utterly non-Christian and blasphemous. Mormonism claims to be the “church of Jesus Christ” but its established doctrine of Christ is a denial of virtually everything that is essential to Who Jesus Christ actually is and to what must be believed concerning Him. If you would like to read a synopsis of Mormon doctrine regarding Christ, I recommend the following article:
I will not reproduce the blasphemy documented in this article. If you are not familiar with Mormon Christology, however, you need to consider carefully the content of this brief survey.
Here is my burden: how can we who have been called to proclaim and represent Jesus Christ to the world, openly endorse a man who unashamedly represents a blasphemous doctrine of Christ without openly declaring our abomination of that doctrine? Again, I may have missed it but I am not aware of any primary leader of evangelicalism stating publicly our deep opposition to the teaching regarding Christ that Mormonism holds.
One highly respected evangelical scholar wrote an article briefly analyzing Mormonism, declaring it a non-Christian religion and then explaining how it is that Christians could support a Mormon presidential candidate. While that article did not emphasize the heretical doctrine of Christ advocated in Mormonism, it was an excellent article–worthy of wide consideration. However that article was written in October of 2011. (And, again, it did not explicitly address the crucial issue of Christology.)
The matter that I find so troubling is that after the nominee was selected prominent evangelical spokesmen who supported Mr. Romney somewhat openly did not do two things:
1)they did not articulate the non-Christian view of Christ adhered to by the religion which Mr. Romney unashamedly follows and with which he was publicly identified before our nation;
2) They did not present a cogent explanation as to how serious-minded Christians could support Mr. Romney without compromising the most essential aspect of the Gospel. Obviously I do believe that explanation exists. It consists essentially in terms of Mr. Romney being, in our judgment, the superior political candidate. The argument could be made that he was superior by reason of qualifications and by reason of the positions that he endorsed. The explanation could be made that his political and moral principles are more consistent with the long term well-being of America (again, in our judgment). Thus we could have said to the nation and to the church that while we do most strongly condemn the doctrine of Christ which his religion teaches and that while we are constrained by the cause of Truth to say that publicly, we do nonetheless commend him as the superior candidate for the highest office in our government.
Instead of making such statements, evangelical leaders presented rationalizations for supporting Mr. Romney that seemed to lessen the very serious errors of Mormonism. The substantial differences between evangelical Christianity and Mormonism were, in my opinion, down-played in a way that compromised our supreme responsibility as representatives of Christ and the Gospel.
Consequently, it is my judgment that the evangelical church in America made at least three major mistakes:
1)We missed an opportunity to declare the Gospel and how crucial the Gospel is by articulating clearly how far from the Biblical Gospel the Mormonism of Mr. Romney is.
2)We left people both within the church and without the church (including people in Mormonism) open to the thought that perhaps Mormonism is not such an evil belief-system after all. I very much suspect that people have a more positive view of Mormonism because so many evangelical Christians supported Mr. Romney strongly without repudiating his religious doctrine.
3)We have given the impression that gaining political power and influence is more important to us than the Gospel. Now, I can see the eyes rolling and heads shaking in strong disagreement with that statement. No one would admit to such an opinion. However, why were these plain statements of condemnation for the Christology of Mormonism not made? Was it not out of the fear that doing so would discourage some Christians from voting of Mr. Romney? Was it not considered more important to have him elected than to raise distracting issues like his view of Christ? (Even though the doctrine of Christ should be more precious to us than life itself.) Is that not pragmatism? Does it not leave us vulnerable to the suspicion that we were willing to sacrifice Gospel clarity in order to win a political victory?
This is my greatest concern. If indeed we softened our public statements concerning essential truth and error in order to gain political victory, where will that leave us when much more severe temptations to compromise come…and they are coming, perhaps very soon?
Well, please understand that these are MY concerns. I have not sought to know the opinions of my fellow pastors on this matter. Please do not blame them if you take exception to my remarks. These are my concerns and my opinions. But they are my burdens and they are primarily responsible for the internal distress of soul that I continue to experience. Someone sent an email asking me to explain what I meant on Sunday, so this is it. I suspect that many, perhaps most, will disagree. I respect that.
May Jesus Christ have glory in His church and may we serve Him together in love till the end!
November 13th, 2012 by