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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Discipleship 101


What does it mean to make a disciple? You can almost hear the exasperation in the tone of Paul's admonition to the assembly at Corinth:

I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able (1 Corinthians 3:2).

About 40% of pastors leave the pulpit after five years. The reasons are varied. Depression and discouragement take a heavy toll, and the congregation is partly to blame. Over the years I have referenced the surveys on religion and Christianity as compiled by Barna Group Research. For example, 59% of young adults (18-29) have a Christian background, but what does that mean in practice? Are they "born again" followers of Jesus Christ? Barna asked a similar group: Who are Sodom and Gomorrah?

Answer: They were a married couple.

This is what pastors are facing as confirmed by research. The median profile of the average church-goer is someone who warms a pew, does not read their Bible and believes whatever the pastor says is true.

Barna's assessment: Two-thirds of the nation’s adult population firmly embraces the idea that their most important purpose is to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30). However, a deeper look at people’s full array of spiritual beliefs and behavior calls into question the sincerity of their commitment. [Source]

In practice, then, people's social lives are more important than their spiritual lives. Simply examine how tethered (or in bondage) people are to their gadgets. I see them swaying down the street, eyes fixed on their phone, and thumbs going a mile a minute as they furiously send out their 200th text of the day -- and it's not even 11 a.m. Okay, so I exaggerate, but only slightly.

How many hours a day are you connected to your cell phone, television, music and social media? Do you give at least 10% (90 minutes) of your day to the One who gives you breath? For most people the answer is no. Let's break it down. People spend more time on Facebook than with God's book.

Now you may be thinking, "That doesn't describe me." Let me ask you, what percent of "Christians" do you think are true disciples of Christ? As was noted in the comment board of  I am Elijah only 9% of Christians have a Biblical worldview. If there are 100 members in your congregation only 9 have a true Biblical perspective. That's astounding.

How many in your "church" are still drinking milk? Someone might say, "Well, the Methodist church I attend is really on fire for the Lord." Ask yourself: 'What does my "church" believe?' Presbyterians and Lutherans are split into conservative and liberal camps with regards to Bible truths. This is the fruit of Reformation. But getting back to the Methodists (since I spent my childhood in that congregation) the hot topic of the day -- gay marriage -- will cause a permanent break in the assembly.

As of this writing, the United Methodist Church upholds the Biblical definition of marriage as opposed to these churches: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). However, liberalism is making inroads and it is only a matter of time before the assembly breaks apart.

I recently engaged in a terse discussion with a UMC pastor who celebrated the redefinition of marriage. He posted this at his website:

According to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, clergy are not allowed to conduct same-sex weddings or bless same-sex unions. Since I am not allowed to publicly pray for blessing, I wrote this lament many months ago. I offer it here, because I know some of my UMC clergy colleagues are going to be asked to officiate. Perhaps they will choose to officiate and risk retribution, or perhaps they will make referrals. Or perhaps they will find other creative ways to resist injustice.

My response:

Forgive me, but I am not clear. Is the injustice that your colleagues ‘are not allowed to conduct same -sex weddings’, or is the injustice that they must perform a ceremony that violates their conscience? It seems, to me, the latter would be the greater offense.

His reply:

I agree it would be an offense to be forced to perform a ceremony. But since we have the power to decline officiating for any reason, or no reason, I don’t see the relevance. I have declined to officiate weddings because couples couldn’t be bothered with premarital counseling, or had no affiliation with a faith community, or because I had a schedule conflict. Imaginary scenarios set in dystopian futures are interesting philosophical questions, but a lament deals with a real situation.

Dystopian? Clever. That suggests I foresee an apocalyptic degradation of society because gays are allowed to marry. Well, yes. Liberalism has perfected the art of immersing controversial issues in a pot of cold water then turning up the heat. Society awakens one day and exclaims, "What happened!?" Except in the proverbial scenario the frog never wakes up. It is only a matter of time before a minister is sued -- like the wedding florist -- for not participating in a gay ceremony. (The pastor would not allow me to post this because he closed the comment board.)

This man should not be a minister of Jesus Christ, but the governing board has no power to remove him; and his congregants love him as reflected in this reply:

I lament with you that you are not allowed to officiate at the weddings of all who would ask. I rejoice that all who choose to marry their loved ones may now do so. Your reflections are heartwarming and hope-filled. We are blessed beyond measure to have you as our pastor.

Has the great falling away begun ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3)?

It really is a war of attrition. For every 7,000 churches that close, only 4,000 open. Responding to an altar call and reciting a simple prayer does not a disciple make. To whatever you devote your time and resources becomes your god.

Be a true disciple of Christ. Open your Bible and discover His truth. It will make the pastor's job easier -- he might even stay -- or you might discover that it's time to find another "church".

Matthew 16:24

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I am Elijah

1 Kings 19:13
Are you Elijah? The underlying theme of Scripture is that God will keep for Himself an elect remnant. Elijah, when he feared that all had forsaken the LORD, fled to the shelter of a cave to escape the enemies who sought to kill him. 

Jehovah told Elijah that there were 7,000 faithful who had not bowed down to the false god. And so it will be on the last day when the winnowing fork of the Lord separates the chaff from the wheat. He has allowed the weeds to grow with the grain until the harvest is gathered (Matthew 13:24-30).

Weeds can choke a healthy plant, and absorb the nutrients needed to produce good fruit. The church of Jesus Christ is like a field of wheat. Apostasy and false teaching are tares that were sown even before the death of the last apostle.

There are two schools of thought as to how this unfolds. Either things will get better due to the influence of the church, or conditions will deteriorate as the body of Christ becomes marginalized by an increasing secularization.

If we don't understand that Revelation is unfolding in this age then it will only embolden the Satanic assault that seeks to take advantage of a church that is not fully dressed in the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

I am utterly stunned at the outpouring of support within the church for social changes that are inconsistent with a Christian worldview. I am told that I must be reeducated or rehabilitated -- that my thinking is wrong and I don't possess the love of Christ. I will restate once more: Christian love is corrective -- not permissive. Yes, Jesus loved sinners. But He exposed their sin with the admonition to go and sin no more (John 8:11).

After 2,000 years liberalism has become deeply rooted in the church. People don't like to be admonished. So the church -- in a vain effort to stay relevant -- has conformed to the world. No one wants to sit and listen to a fiery condemnation and then be hustled for a donation. That's why upwards of 7,000 churches close their doors every year.

A prominent Midwest pastor who was defrocked for moral failings was asked if he ever went to church. "No," he said. "I don't need to go and be told that I'm a sinner. I already know that." He added that he watched Robert H. Schuller because his sermons made him feel good. Schuller authored the Ten Commandments of Possibility Thinking which was a hodgepodge of motivational, humanistic, metaphysical, New Age concepts that entranced the laity and pulpit. Think Fulton Sheen and Norman Vincent Peale. Where is the Crystal Cathedral today? So we simply anoint new faces who will tickle our ears and make us feel good (2 Timothy 4:3).

Of course, the genesis of our devolution began in the Garden of Eden. The serpent was the first liberal, but evil suffered a monumental defeat at the Cross; and Satan knows his time is measured. This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ for those who have ears to understand. The papacy has given ground in the midst of ongoing spiritual warfare, but the church in Rome remains a steadfast defender of the sacrament of marriage and the sanctity of life.

The fruit of Reformation has been pornography, divorce, drugs, abortion and gay marriage. At the heart of the Reform movement was a liberal rejection of Rome's conservative tenets. Granted, some of these were extra-Biblical (or based on tradition), but they were the cohesive glue that maintained unity. Understand that only the Spirit of God can keep the church together, and even then only a remnant will be saved. Some Catholic, some Protestant, but not all. It has always been about a remnant, or the elect few.

In his article, Why the Gay Marriage Debate was Over in 1950, Joel Miller suggests that psychotherapy supplanted religion. The 50's generation that grew up with Freud and Spock (not the Vulcan) were essentially taught that they could obtain joy and peace without the Bible. This may offend you but until 1974 the American Psychiatric Association (as codified in DSM-11 -- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. At the APA convention in San Francisco (1974) gay advocates were able to overthrow the classification. Homosexuality was deemed "normal" behavior by politics -- not medicine.

And the church has bought into this "new religion" that love overrides all else. This is the crux of the matter. If love is the greatest commandment then the church must be tolerant of abortion and gay marriage. My friends, God does not tolerate sin. Indeed, unrepentant sin will be judged.

Indeed, Calvin and Luther were branded heretics because they both denied that marriage was a holy sacrament as defined by the Council of Trent. Okay, so the Catholic Church does translate the Greek word mystērion (μυστήριον) -- as used by Paul in Ephesians 5:32 -- to mean sacrament rather than mystery; but this doesn't alter the doctrine that God, not men, invented marriage as a typology of the sacramental relationship between Christ and His church.

Calvin went so far as to equate marriage with agriculture, architecture, shoemaking and hair-cutting. [1]

Luther could have written the Court's majority opinion:

No one can deny that marriage is an external, worldly, matter, like clothing and food, house and property, subject to temporal authority, as the many imperial laws enacted on the subject prove. [2] 

Marriage is a civic matter. It is really not, together with all its circumstances, the business of the church. [3]

 ... marriage is outside the church, is a civil matter, and therefore should belong to the government ... [4]

I feel that judgments about marriages belong to the jurists. Since they make judgments concerning fathers, mothers, children, and servants, why shouldn’t they also make decisions about the life of married people? [5]

God is the ultimate judge -- isn't He. Where are the 7,000, as Elijah, who will stand with me in defense of God's truth?

Editor: The tone of this article is in no way a blanket defense of Catholicism, but an indictment of the Protestant church for its liberal interpretation of essential Christian doctrine which has sown division, and deviancy from the true Word of God. The seed of the Reformation has produced the fruit of so much of the false teaching that is preached today. Prosperity gospel?

Notes:

1. Institutions, John Calvin, IV, xix, 34.

2. What Luther Says, CPH 1959, Vol. 46, page 265.

3. Ibid, Vol. II, page 885.

4. Ibid, Vol. 54, page 363.

5. Ibid, Vol. 54, page 66. 

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