If you or someone you know is reading material from Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Moody Institute, Saddleback programs, Erwin McManus, Francis Chan, John Piper, Tony Campolo or anyone from the Emergent Church, you owe it to yourself to listen to this sermon on how off-base these people are. I go into more detail below. If nothing else, listen to the last few minutes.
This is probably one of those posts where my angry side is overshadowing my patient side – although this has been on my mind since Sunday, so I’m surprised I waited this long.
To be blunt, the lack of discernment by today’s Christian is disheartening and infuriating.
Each day, there are new articles, podcasts and videos about people who are supposedly God’s children being suckered into believing all manner of falsehoods and teaching that is clearly against what the Bible proclaims.
I spoke Sunday at a local campground, for their morning worship. It was refreshing to see new faces, but not knowing their background, I worried that the sermon I had prepared was a little strong. It went beyond teaching to exhorting, and more (learn the difference in teaching and preaching).
This gist of my introduction was this:
People don’t need motivational speeches, they need to hear the word of God. They need to hear the Good the Bad and the Ugly of what the Bible says. You see, the more you read the Bible, the more you study it, the more you try to learn it, the more you realize how miserable you are compared to how great God is. You realize how unloving your life must be to a Holy and Perfect God. Yet, He still loves us. He loves us enough that He experienced not just death, but the punishment for every sin ever committed. Jesus took that punishment on Himself when He died on that cross.
He took the punishment for that little bite of fruit that Eve and Adam took in Genesis. He took the punishment for David sleeping with another man’s wife, then getting the man killed, then lying about it. He took the punishment for Jonah going the opposite way from the way God commanded him to go. He took the punishment for Ananias and Sapphira who deceived their fellow brothers and sisters in the book of Acts. He took the punishment for the worldly people described in Revelation, who will shake their fists at God, even when the whole universe is collapsing around them.
And he took the punishment for every misspoken word, every evil thought, every tiny little thing you and I have ever done that was, is or will be contrary to what God expects of us.
That’s how much God loves us. He gave us Christ, as an escape from the evil we do every single day of our lives. And that’s a message the world needs to hear. The person caught in an addiction needs to know that they are loved. A person walking through an endless cycle of bad marriages needs to know they can find a truly loving relationship through Christ. The women caught up in pornography or prostitution, or the men and women who make use of their services needs to know they are not damaged goods. They are redeemable, not because of what they have or have not done, but because God loves them, and because He loves them, we love them, too.
Later, I heard two wonderful pastors speaking on similar topics – speaking the truth of the Bible.
Pastor Jim Murphy, at First Baptist Church of Johnson City, NY, talked about how some very heretical teaching has crept into the churches. He said we celebrate things that are so against the Bible, yet we do not see the warning signs. Pastors stand in pulpits and echo the words of these false teachers, and hold them up as heroes.
More importantly, he asked for the congregation’s forgiveness for him not standing up when these teachings first became mainstream. I’m proud of this pastor for standing up now, when so many shrug their shoulders or refuse to call it heretical.
He said, “We are going to root it out of our ministry, because it is unacceptable, and it is not Biblical Christianity.”
I love that a seemingly regular pastor (not one of the big giants like John MacArthur or R.C. Sproul) is finally standing up saying these things.
“It is a big deal. It is a big deal to me, and it is a big deal to God. It is in opposition of the truth we believe,” Pastor Murphy said.
It comes down to a choice between feel-good Christianity or God’s way, he added.
Pastor Murphy also said that developing that sense of discernment is something each of us is called to do, and it is hard work. We have to actually read the Bible, and study it, instead of reading it off a screen on Sunday mornings.
The whole sermon is worth listening to, because he goes back to the root causes of all this – as far back as 1947. You could probably take it even further to the days of Charles Finney.
The second pastor I heard, Matt Brown, of Gaston Baptist Church in Booneville, Mississippi also laid some hard Biblical truth on the line. He preached on holiness, from a series on 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:17-2:3).
I was struck by how simple some of this stuff is to understand, when we take time to read it, or when we have someone truly knowledgeable about the text explain it to us. I’ve heard teachers older and more experienced than Pastor Brown try to explain passages like this, and they blow it big time.
They try to say its all about how God wants a personal relationship with us – like we’re so loveably cuddly that he can’t help but love us. Ugh.
Instead Pastor Brown said this passage is a great explanation of how we should live a holy life. Our relationship with God and Christ should cause us to want that holy life. He gives us the power to live a holy life, but we have to take advantage of that power, as given through the Word of God. We also have to set aside the “sins of attitude” and speech, as described in 1 Peter 2:1.
What I really loved, was his explanation of holiness, love and fear of God. Especially mindful for me, was the description of brotherly love. I know I’m not good at that, but he said “love is not based on a feeling, it is based on will.”
Wow, how many people today go around looking for the feeling, or holding back because they don’t have “a feeling.” We don’t do Christianity based on a feeling, but because it is what is expected of us.
What is truly heartbreaking is what links these two sermons together.
1) We have a duty and an expectation to be reading and studying the Word of God, so we know God, Christ and the Holy Spirit better. We don’t.
2) Because we don’t know what God’s word says, we are open to all manner of false teaching, heretical teaching, and beyond. Churches today, even those that seem strong, vibrant and Biblical don’t fight it.
3) Many Christians are hooked on a feeling so they miss out on so much Biblical truth, and being able to genuinely help people restore their relationship with God. They’d rather feel their faith, than try to work it out. (as an aside, that link above is for the David Hasselhoff version of the Blue Swede song, yikes, disturbing).
Sadly, like Pastor Murphy said, those who are aggrieved about what is going on in churches today are in the minority. This attitude of feel-good Christianity, of getting along at the expense of Biblical truth, and more, is so pervasive that we must constantly be on our guard. It is in the music we sing on Sundays, and in the books we study in small groups. Even worse, it is coming out of the mouths of people many have long respected.
It’s time Christian rise up and kick this junk out the door of the church, and get back to learning from the Bible so we can know the truth – and be set free indeed.