Friday, November 9, 2018

The United Methodist Church Plan to Accept Homosexuality and Divide the Denomination


This week, a friend of mine e-mailed me the United Methodist Church's "Plan of Salvation." Okay, so they're not calling it that. It's called The One Church Plan (OCP) concerning how the church will save itself from division over the hotly contested issue of homosexuality. They will do this by accepting homosexuality and dividing the church. Really.

The intention is to split into two different denominations -- the Connectional Conference consisting of Methodist churches that approve homosexual clergy and conduct same-sex "marriages"; and the Traditional Conference consisting of churches that still teach what the Bible says about human sexuality. Supposedly this division will save the UMC from division.

The United Methodist denomination has leaned liberal for quite some time. It was over 60 years ago that they accepted the appointment of women into the clergy, contrary to biblical instruction and what the denomination's founder, John Wesley, taught on the subject. Yet when it came to joining the sexual revolution, the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the mainline Presbyterians of the PCUSA have all preceded the UMC in appointing gay clergy and conducting gay "marriage." It's surprising really that the UMC has been slow to join.

There are two reasons for this. First, the UMC General Conference is held every four years. There are smaller, more local conferences annually, but the General Conference is where official doctrine and practices are determined for the whole denomination. Any progression on any issue would be extremely slow-moving when the assemblies are four years apart. Second, the General Conference includes every Methodist church from all over the globe, not just the U.S. Methodism is big in Africa, where churches are much more conservative and much more resistant to the gay agenda.

As it stands, the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline reads, "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." This is the part of the church's doctrine liberals want to upend. They know that they're not going to win at the General Conference, which doesn't meet again until 2020 in Minneapolis. So the gay agenda is being pressed in the smaller, more local, more regularly occurring conferences.

The One Church Plan was proposed in May of this year in Chicago. A special session to receive the plan will be held this February in St. Louis. The four day special session will "take up proposals related to church unity and homosexuality." Specifically, they're trying to figure out how they can approve of homosexuality in the church without dividing the church.

The Connectional Conference Plan, which is the part of the plan that means to ordain gay clergy and conduct gay marriages, is two-and-a-half pages. The Traditional Plan, the part that remains opposed to the acceptance of sexually immoral behavior, is two paragraphs. Here's the gist of their plan.

The One Church Plan

The One Church Plan refers to the gospel as a social mission, not the good-news message of salvation for all who believe in Jesus Christ. "The evangelistic mission of the church," it says, is "inviting them to the spiritual life. It's at the margin that we offer our ministries of mercy, service, and justice to relieve suffering, seek peace, and reconcile people. The role of leadership in the church is to direct the attention of the church toward those contexts, and therefore toward the mission."

As an example, the plan refers to the Apostle Paul, who became "all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings" (1 Corinthians 9:22-23, NRSV). They use this passage to make "space" for part of the church to connect with people who identify as LGBTQ, and part of the church to remain "traditional" for those who don't agree with that agenda. That way, they can be "all things to all people."

Here's what becoming "all things to all people" actually means: Paul became as a Jew unto the Jews and a Gentile unto the Gentiles. Even though Jesus fulfilled and nullified the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic law (commands pertaining to diet, cleanliness, the Sabbath, etc.), Paul maintained those practices when he was with the Jews so not to cause anyone to stumble. To the Gentiles, Paul did not keep such practices so they would not feel burdened to keep them. All of this was for "the sake of the gospel," to open a door to preach Christ and Him crucified.

In no way does "I became all things to all people" mean we must tolerate and encourage sinful behavior that will keep a person from the kingdom of God. Just three chapters earlier, Paul said, "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, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

How does the OCP deal with language like this? Well, they don't. The UMC is going to push forward with this agenda regardless of what's in the Bible or their own Book of Discipline. They state:
"The One Church Plan is built on the belief that it is possible to live with more space while we focus on our common mission. The One Church Plan has no impact on conferences outside the U.S. that are located in countries where same-sex marriage is illegal or whose members desire for the current language of The Book of Discipline to remain applicable in their context."
Consider what's being said here: the UMC is driven by culture, not the Bible, nor their own statement of faith. The reason why other churches in other areas are not on board with LGBTQ inclusion is because their cultures are different than ours.

Hilariously, the document goes on to say that "our current impasse over marriage and ordination of homosexual persons does not rise to the level of a church dividing issue." Clearly it does -- for the purpose of the OCP is actually to divide to church into contradicting factions, and this is solely on the issue of homosexuality.

By accepting of the practices of "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) persons," the document states, the framers of the OCP believe the church will be able to continue its mission to alleviate suffering. How do LGBTQ persons suffer? "Currently they suffer as they are unable to live into God's calling on their lives to ordination or lay leadership."

No, God's calling on their lives is to repent of their sin. If they don't repent, the suffering they will face at the judgment seat of Christ will be far, far worse than whatever self-inflicted angst is currently causing them to gnash their teeth. What the United Methodist Church is doing is not a mission of love. It's a death-sentence. It's encouraging sin God has promised He will judge.

The Connectional Conference Plan

So now we get to the two factions of The One Church Plan -- the Connectional Conference and the Traditional Conference. But again, this is to maintain unity and not divide the church (tongue firmly implanted in cheek).

The Connectional Conference Plan begins by arguing that John Wesley would be in favor of ordaining gay clergy and marrying men to other men. Yes, I'm not kidding. To the best of my knowledge, Wesley never dealt directly with the issue of homosexuality. Nonetheless, he affirmed the primacy of Scriptural authority, followed by a secondary but lesser authority of tradition, reason, and experience.

Wesley's convictions have been expressly rejected by the framers of the OCP. Again, by their own admission, appeasing the culture is the driving force here. Throughout the document, Bible references are piece-mealed out of context to argue for the acceptance of the LGTBQ agenda. Likewise, fragmented quotes from Wesley's sermons, all having to do with "love," are given to present a false image of an otherwise God-fearing man who would not have tolerated such sin in his church.

Yet the framers of the OCP recognize that "Faithful Christians have come to different and contradictory understandings of God's will in relationship to the affirmation of sexual relationships between people of the same-gender." They go on to say, "The challenge before us is how to structure the United Methodist Church so that it embodies and spreads [what Wesley called] 'the fire of heavenly love over all the earth' given this diversity and contradiction in conviction and context." See, contradictions don't mean someone's right and someone's wrong. It's a diversity of ideas!

What follows is a series of Scriptural abuses, taking more verses out of context to justify the ordination of gay clergy and acceptance of gay "marriage." In attempting to justify themselves, they actually condemn themselves.
  • "So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • "Look! I'm doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don't you recognize it?" Isaiah 43:19
The OCP framers think this means, "Hurray! We're celebrating a new thing now! Gay marriage!" But these passages mean that if you truly follow Jesus, you will stop behaving in your old, sinful ways and walk in the new life God has given you. Paul told the church that you are to "put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Here's another passage taken out of context in the OCP:
  • "No one sews a piece of new, unshrunk cloth on old clothes because the patch tears away the cloth and makes a worse tear. No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If they did, the wineskin would burst, the wine would spill, and the wineskins would be ruined. Instead, people pour new wine into new wineskins so that both are kept safe." Matthew 9:16-17
The OCP framers explain, "New structures and relationships are needed for a new time in our Church. Keeping the old structures in place could result in a fracturing of our church." You mean like fracturing it into the Connectional and Traditional conferences?

In Matthew 9:16-17, Jesus was responding to John the Baptist's disciples who asked Him, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus was saying that He didn't come to patch up the old religious practices that the Pharisees had torn up with their legalism. Instead, He came to bring real growth in the kingdom of God and His righteousness, which was like pouring new wine into new wineskins.

The framers of the OCP are worse than the Pharisees. They're not merely tearing up tradition. They're leaving Christianity altogether and behaving as the heathens and pagans. Again, encouraging homosexuality will send a person to hell, not bring them into the kingdom. Romans 1:32 says, "Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."

Another passage the framers of the OCP take out of context is this fragment:
  • "I am the vine, you are the branches." John 15:5
The framers acknowledge Jesus is the vine, but the branches are the Connectional conference and the Traditional conference. Oh, brother. When you read the fuller context of this passage, it's rather alarming: "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned" (John 15:5-6).

In verse 10, Jesus said, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love." Among His commandments, God said that a man shall not lie with another man as one lays with a woman, for it is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22).

Here's another passage:
  • "Christ is just like the human body -- a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many... You are the body of Christ and parts of each other." (1 Corinthians 12:12, 27)
The framers of the OCP state that "we are gifted differently" and their plan "creates space for those different gifts to be expressed in ways that honor conscience, while still maintaining connection to the body." Are they really arguing that homosexuality is a gift?

The Apostle Paul warned against false teaching, "for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene" (2 Timothy 2:16;17). The picture here is that false teaching causes parts of the body to rot and fall off. That's what the framers of the OCP are encouraging -- not love of God, but love of the world.

Oh, but the framers believe that ordaining gay clergy will increase the reach of their church body to the world:
  • "Then He said to His disciples, 'The size of the harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for His harvest.'" (Matthew 9:37-38)
The implication here is that if we tell gay clergy that they're unqualified, there won't be enough workers for the mission field. Yet by ordaining gay clergy, the United Methodist Church is recruiting wolves to devour the flock of God. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits... Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 7:15-16, 19).

"In conclusion," the framers state, "The Connectional Conference Plan attempts to find a way of structuring the life of The United Methodist Church so that it can embody the divine love in the midst of our diversity and disagreement."

Embracing and encouraging homosexuality, they say, is divine love. Blasphemy. Malachi 2:17 says, "You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, 'How have we wearied Him?' By saying, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them.'"

The Traditional Plan

While The Connectional Conference Plan was full of Scriptural references and quotes from founder John Wesley, the Traditional Plan doesn't contain any of that. It's relegated to Appendix 3 of The One Church Plan and is exactly six sentences long, a total of 142 words. The closing sentence is this: "We should see the formation of a new Wesleyan denomination as an opportunity for a different type of unity created for the sake of mission." In other words: we must divide to stay united.

In Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, the next General Conference of the United Methodist Church will be held in Minneapolis in 2020. The location of the conference is the Minneapolis Convention Center. In 2009, in exactly that same building, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America changed their policy to accept persons who practice homosexuality into the clergy. (At the same time they were considering such a move, a tornado hit the convention center -- in Minnesota!)

It seems history is repeating itself. Who didn't think the United Methodist Church was going to follow the ELCA and the PCUSA into the LGBTQ agenda? It was a less a question of "will they" and more a question of "when will they." Sin always divides. Prior to coming to Christ, we were "hated by others and hating one another" (Titus 3:3). The decision to divide the denomination and call it unity is a farce. They need repentance. Then there will be unity.

Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, "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 lamp stand from its place, unless you repent. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:5).

For those persons who do not repent, which will include liars, the idolatrous, and the sexually immoral, "Their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Vice President Pence Isn't Pharaoh


I'll be Frank, you be Surely (Shirley?). I did not care for Vice President Mike Pence's speech at the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas yesterday. When he came to the platform, I stood to applaud, and likewise when he stepped down. It's proper etiquette -- he's the Vice President of the United States. But his speech didn't belong at the SBC annual meeting.

Oh, the speech had its high points. He quoted from the Bible a few times and shared his faith in Christ. He thanked the convention for their prayers and hard work. He spoke about the massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX last November and referenced their pastor who was in attendance. We stood and applauded Pastor Pomeroy. That was a touching moment.

Otherwise, Vice President Pence's address was a Stump-for-Trump speech: President Trump is the greatest this and no other president in history has ever done that. Yes, we even heard that he wants to "Make America Great Again." Thousands in the convention hall stood and applauded with each political point as though we were attending a rally. The speech was as political as they get and, quite frankly (I said I'd be Frank), it was embarrassing for the convention.

Welcoming Vice President Pence to address the convention was poor judgment. As I understand it, the Vice President was the one who reached out to the convention, but whoever accepted the invitation should have politely turned him down. Instead, it looks like we got played.

There's nothing inherently wrong with a politician addressing a gathering of Christians. As Thomas Kidd pointed out, the SBC has a long history of politicians speaking at the convention, some good and some bad. Texas Governor Greg Abbott spoke to the convention on Monday. Senator Ben Sasse addressed the Gospel Coalition's biennial meeting last year. But the SBC should have been more discerning before they let a representative of Trump's administration speak to the convention.

"There will always be questions of wisdom at play in decisions like these," said Dr. Jonathan Leeman in an article for TGC (that has since been published in the Washington Post). However, he went on to say, "But the criteria I'm offering are, how does it comport with the biblical pattern of prophetic speech; and how will it affect the mission, witness, and unity of the church?"

Though Dr. Leeman believes matters such as welcoming a politician to address the saints of Christ requires discernment, he also argued that the biblical criteria is clear-cut. This is how he started his article:
"Here's a question for my fellow Southern Baptists and evangelicals more broadly: can you name a place in the Bible where God sends a ruler of a (non-Israelite) nation to speak to God's people?"
It's a rhetorical question, as though there isn't such an instance. Actually, there is. In fact, there are a few.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to know the fear of God and wrote the fourth chapter of the book of Daniel. Neco, Pharaoh of Egypt, addressed Josiah, king of Judah, with words "from the mouth of God" (2 Chronicles 35:22). Cyrus, King of Persia, told the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it (Ezra 1:3). And let's not forget that in the midst of Israel's spiritual darkness, it was magi from the east following a star who came to worship the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2).

Now, I agree with Dr. Leeman that the pattern of address in the Bible is typically the opposite: the man of God addressed the pagan king rather than the pagan king giving a message to God's people. Continuing his example, he said, "Moses challenges Pharaoh. Daniel confronts Nebuchadnezzar. John the Baptist Calls out Herod. And Paul appeals to Caesar."

But here's the problem. In using this analogy, Dr. Leeman is making it appear as if the Southern Baptist Convention is Moses, Daniel, John the Baptist, and Paul, while Vice President Pence is Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, or Caesar. A thousand times no. As I've been wont to say to my own congregation, "You're not David, and your problems aren't Goliath."

Vice President Pence is a brother in the Lord. He is a Christian. I've been told he's even attended Dr. Leeman's church in Washington D.C. It is ungracious to compare him to a murderous oppressor like Pharaoh or Herod. We are not under the President's captivity. We are set free in Christ. By the Vice President's own confession, we have every reason to believe he is set free in Christ as well.

Within Christianity, both sides of the political aisle practice this kind of eisegesis -- imposing one's own will onto the text of Scripture. The people who love President Trump compare him to David, Solomon, or Samson, while the people who hate him think he's, well, Pharaoh, Herod, or Nero. President Trump is an unrepentant sinner by his own admission. I believe he's a judgment on this depraved land, and I pray he repents. But he's not Nero.

Dr. Leeman cautioned against the temptation to desire political access. That's good advice. He agrees it's a matter of wisdom as to whether or not a politician should, say, speak to the Southern Baptist Convention. I believe then that it would have been more proper for Dr. Leeman to appeal to the wisdom books of Scripture rather than making a comparison to oppression under pagan kings.

Proverbs 23:1-3 says, "When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food." Proverbs 29:4-5 says, "By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down. A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet."

Or how about the always popular Proverbs 29:18 which says, "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." We would have done well to pay more attention to the Bible during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. We are blessed to have God's word. We don't need the blessing of a politician.

Edit: Immediately after the Vice President was the convention sermon (which was originally supposed to be given by Paige Patterson who dropped out due to the recent scandal). The morning ran long and it was already lunch time. Thousands got up and left the meeting hall after the Vice President spoke. Maybe they were hungry, and maybe they were protesting something related to Patterson. But it made it look like the SBC was more interested in a politician's speech than biblical preaching.

Yes, we were played at the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention. But not just by the Trump administration. Dave Ramsey was given the stage twice, boasted in himself, favorably quoted a heretic, gave a horrible illustration which he claimed was biblical, took Scripture out of context, and stumped for his business. Our lack of biblical vitality was taken advantage of in a lot of ways.

Let us be wise to the ways of the world and the ways of the Word. Be convicted and follow the wisdom of our great King, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has shared His mind with us. It's in the Bible. Quite frankly, the SBC should pay more attention to it.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Light, Momentary Afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)


"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Since returning from vacation a month ago, I have a suitcase sitting on the floor at the foot of our bed that hasn't been put away yet. There's only a pair of jeans inside, which I don't care to wear because it's been so hot. It would be easy to put the jeans in a drawer and store the suitcase back in my closet, but I never think about putting it away -- until I stub my toe on the suitcase in the middle of the night.

I don't know what it is about stubbing your toes that elicits such a unique sensation of pain. Maybe it's just me but there's a split second, that very moment my toes scream upon finding an object in the dark, where pain shoots through my foot and the thought bursting in my head is, "Lord Jesus, come quickly! Deliver me from this body of death!" It's like I've just stepped on a land mine and blew my toes off. The feeling lasts only a moment and then it's gone, but what pain when it happens!

The afflictions that we suffer through in this life are going to be like that. They're like stubbing your toe: painful in the moment they happen, but not all that big a deal in the overall scheme of things. It may seem horrible for the moment that you endure such trials and tribulations. But when viewed in light of eternity for all who believe in Christ Jesus, they are but light and momentary.

As Paul says elsewhere, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" if we endure to the end (Romans 8:18).

As we look at this passage here in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, I want to section this out into three points that you may know all the more the God who is "our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). First, we are being renewed; second, we are being prepared; and third, we are being promised -- the promise of deliverance in Christ.

We are Being Renewed

Paul says, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day" (v.16). The "we" here is the Apostle Paul and his missionary brethren and the persecutions they have endured for the sake of the gospel. But Paul sets himself before the Corinthians as an example of suffering and perseverance.

Knowing the promise of the eternal kingdom of God in Christ Jesus, Paul says, "We do not lose heart." No matter what happens in this life, there's no reason to despair because Christ has conquered death. "He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us into His presence," Paul said (v.14). We endure suffering in this life for a moment, but we will dwell in His kingdom forever -- perfect, imperishable, incorruptible -- forever.

For the moment, we are imperfect, perishable, and corruptible. Your body is breaking down even where you sit reading this. You probably felt it when you got up this morning. You're falling apart. You're wasting away. You get sick. You get hurt. You get depressed. You feel anxious. You feel pain. Spiritually, emotionally, physically -- there is not an aspect of us that cannot be afflicted in some way. "Our outer self is wasting away." But, the Bible says, "Our inner self is being renewed day by day."

The Lord is using even these moments to sanctify you. "Sanctification" means to make holy. When you came to faith in Christ, you were immediately justified: forgiven your sins and made innocent before your Father in heaven. But you had not yet been fully sanctified. Moment by moment, you are being renewed from the old, sinful man or woman that you were, and you are being shaped into the image of Christ. As we resist temptation, and as we rejoice in God even in our most trying moments, as we put off this world and long all the more for heaven -- we are being made like Christ.

Romans 8:28-29 says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers."

Colossians 3:10 says that in Christ, we "have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." By reading His word, the Bible, seeing in its pages the person of Christ, imitating Him, obeying Him, you are being made more and more to be like Him. That's what it means to be sanctified. So even though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

We are Being Prepared

Paul goes on to say, "For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (v.17). I want you to understand the full measure of what Paul is referring to when he talks about a "light, momentary affliction."

At the start of 2 Corinthians, we read, "For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Understand that the struggles you endure in this life are to make you rely all the more on the God who raises the dead. Have you been through what Paul went through? Have you felt so burdened beyond your strength that you despaired of life itself? Have you felt as though you've received a sentence of death? And yet, in light of eternity, Paul refers to these trials a few chapters later as light and momentary afflictions!

I would like to further expound on what Paul refers to as light and momentary afflictions. Later in chapter 11, expounding on the trials of the ministry, Paul says:
"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches."
Have you been through anything remotely as trying as what Paul endured for your sake to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations? And these things, as well as whatever you may be going through, are to make you rely more on God who raises the dead!

Now, I don't mean to belittle whatever you might be struggling with. You may be going through a trial in this moment that feels like the world is weighted on your shoulders. I'm not trying to slap you on the back and say, "Oh, buck up! It's all in your head. Rub some dirt on it. You'll be fine." Rather, I'm trying to lift your head that you may look to the one who will deliver you. Look to the one who has promised He will never leave you, nor will He forsake you.

Whether you are dealing with sickness or illness in your body; or a betrayal at the hand of someone close to you; or you are watching someone fall further and further into darkness and sin and it seems like they're never turn back. Maybe you're just struggling through the mundane, the daily grind, when one day looks just like the next and it's difficult to see any purpose or meaning or end to any of this.

Whatever your struggle, lift your head. Look upon Christ. Place your trust in Him who raises the dead. Everything that you go through in this life is preparing you for glory with Him. So honor God in all that you do. With thanksgiving, know that you work first for the Lord and not for men. Be grateful that He has given you life and redeemed that life. He will transform your lowly body to be like His glorious body by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21).

God has supplied your every need through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Your hope is not in the things that are seen. Hope that is seen is not hope (Romans 8:24). Rather, your hope is in Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. Rejoice, for these are but light, momentary afflictions, preparing us for glory that is beyond comparison.

We are Being Promised

Finally, Paul says, "We look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient," that is, they are lasting only a short while, "but the things that are unseen are eternal." This is further assurance that our current struggles are but light and momentary. They are transient, just like everything else in this world.

Nothing in this world can bring us any lasting happiness. Happiness is cheap and fleeting. It's here for only a moment and can be taken from us in an instant. All it takes is one comment, and no matter how determined you were to be happy today, that emotion has been replaced with rage or hurt or sorrow.

Likewise, the things in this world are also fleeting. You know the new technology you just bought isn't going to last. Next year, they're going to replace it with an updated version, and then the model that once brought you happiness will be the object of your disgust until you can get the upgrade! The stuff of this world is perishing, and so are the feelings this stuff makes us feel.

We can certainly have pleasure in this life. There's nothing wrong with getting excited when your team wins, feeling a sense of pride over a job well done, or experiencing the joy of a good meal with friends and family. But even these enjoyments won't last.

Yet if we have placed our hope and our faith in the eternal God, these wonderful pleasures, which roll up into praise to God, are but a taste of the greater pleasures we will have in the eternal kingdom of God! Christ is ultimately going to win and destroy His enemies. To those who have served to the end, they will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Then we will all sit down at the wedding feast of the Lamb, promised at the end of Revelation!

We don't place our hope in the moments of this life. We place our hope in the eternity of the next life. But with eternity in mind, the pleasurable moments of this life become glimpses into the next.

Now, that's only for the believer. For the unbeliever, these pleasures are not a glimpse into the life that is to come. Rather, the afflictions of this world are the glimpse for the unbeliever. Whatever suffering you go through in this life does not even compare to the eternal suffering you will be thrown into if you do not believe in Jesus and you have not repented of your sins. Even a Nazi concentration camp would seem like heaven by comparison.

Jesus said that hell is a place "where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:48). The worm that eats the rotting flesh never stops, and the fire that consumes never goes out. I plead with you not to spend another moment in rebellion against God. Turn from your sin and follow Jesus Christ. It is only those who believed on His name in this life that will know these present afflictions as but light and momentary.

At the end of all things, we are told, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:3-4).

Conclusion

I cannot promise you that the trial you are going through will turn out the way you want it to. The situation that you are in may not have the result you desire. Perhaps it will get worse. That's the way of the world. All things have been subjected to futility because of man's sinful rebellion against God. Not only is this world rotting, it will be judged by fire when Christ returns in His glory to judge the living and the dead.

While I cannot promise your struggle will have the fairy tale ending you'd like, what I can promise you is that it won't destroy you. Our promise is not this world -- our promise is the next one. Like the saints of old, we look not to an earthly kingdom, but to a heavenly one, prepared for us in Christ Jesus. God will bring you into that kingdom to be with Him forever, as He has promised.

So do not lose heart, believer. If you have placed your faith in Christ, your sins are forgiven. Though your outer self is wasting away, your inner self is being renewed into the image of its Creator. We will see Him as He is for we will be made to be like Him. These light, momentary afflictions are preparing you for an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison. Look not to the things of this world. Look to Christ.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Aftermath: Andy Stanley Unhitched


Last week, Andy Stanley said something controversial about the Bible that would drop him into the category of a theological liberal. This week, he's doing interviews to clarify his statement, tell pastors why they need to listen to him, and throw academics under the bus for taking him out of context and not giving him a call. This has been Stanley's pattern for over a decade.

Less than two years ago, Stanley taught that in order to reach today's Millennials with the Bible, we shouldn't use much Bible. His argument was so rough, he had to write 7,500 words to clarify it (almost the length of two sermons) and reminded everyone whose son he was in order to distill the accusation that he had eschewed the inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture.

In the next refrain of his ongoing movement to diminish the importance of Scripture, Stanley has told Christians that they need to "unhitch" the Old Testament from their faith. Owen Strachen at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary responded, "There's only one hitching you should contemplate: The unhitching of Stanley's unbiblical teaching from your ministry."

Stanley's "unhitched" comment is receiving most of the criticism, and justifiably so. But there were other troubling statements in Stanley's sermon, and in fact the whole series, that are contrary to sound teaching. The Apostle Paul wrote, "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing" (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

The truth produces godliness (Titus 1:1). Teaching anything other than the truth produces godlessness. This isn't just a difference of opinion. This is serious. I offer this critique in love and with deep affection for you, the church of Jesus Christ, His body.

Theological Decay

Stanley taught through a three-part series in April entitled Aftermath. The purpose of the series was to confront the "Achilles heel of our modern version of faith" which Stanley claimed "is a misapplication of a very important reformation concept." There's a weak spot in the church today that will cost us future generations of Christians, and Stanley believes that weak spot is the doctrine of sola Scriptura.

"In the 16th century, there was a reformation," Stanley said, in which the reformation leaders "rescued Christianity from a tradition-driven, word-of-the-church version of Christianity." (For a more accurate summation of the protestant reformation and how it relates to today, click here.) The reformers, according to Stanley, said, "No, the Pope isn't the final authority, tradition isn't the final authority, Scripture is the final authority. Scripture alone will be the final authority for the church."

Stanley continued, "But over time, the idea of sola Scriptura, which is Scripture alone is the authority, has been taken to mean that the Scripture -- or in our case we would say the Bible -- is actually the foundation of our faith." The problem with that, Stanley said, is it turns Christianity into a house of cards: "As the Bible goes, so goes our faith."

He's preached on this before.

If you are convinced that any part of the Bible is not true, none of it can be trusted, and your faith will come crashing down, Stanley warned. To prevent this from happening, we need to help the next generation "step back on a more solid foundation as it relates to faith."

Yes, according to Andy Stanley, the Bible is not a solid foundation.

That is a foundational argument (ironically) for theological liberalism. Stanley exposed himself as a theological liberal a long time ago. I don't think he's descending into theological liberalism -- he already is a theological liberal.

Theological liberalism is a movement that started out of 19th century German enlightenment, influenced by the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and fathered by the religious views of Friedrich Schleiermacher (one doesn't have to know this to be a theological liberal). It incorporates modern thinking and developments into the Christian faith while also being critical of the Bible.

After saying the Bible is not a solid enough foundation, Stanley went on to praise the intelligence of the four leading atheists of the new atheism movement and said they "have attacked persuasively and effectively the credibility and the morality of our Bibles." In the opening 10 minutes of this series, Stanley confessed that a bunch of disgruntled atheists changed his mind regarding how the church is supposed to consider and teach the Bible. He wants everyone to follow his lead, or it will cost us future generations.

But lest someone think Stanley is about to take his cues from a bunch of atheists and not the Bible, Stanley said, "We should take our cues about the foundation of faith [and our] approach to the Old Testament from the men and the women who were closest to the action: the first century first followers of Jesus."

This is the same conflicting error Stanley made with his "The Bible Tells Me So is Not Enough" series. The Bible is not a solid foundation for our faith. So what is a solid foundation for our faith? It's in the Bible. Head, meet desk.

The Apostle Peter -- who, by the way, was one of those figures "closest to the action" -- said that the foundation for our faith is the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ, and the written prophetic revelation of God in Scripture (see 2 Peter 1:16-21). In other words, the foundation of our faith is the Bible. How do we even know God's Son, Jesus Christ, or His gospel without it? The Bible tells us the good news that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and rose bodily from the grave so that all who believe in Him will not perish under the wrath of God but will have everlasting life.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Yet Stanley's teaching ministry seems to want to unhitch Christians from the Bible which is our source for the gospel. Following Andy Stanley's liberal and reckless teaching will lead a person away from biblical fidelity and toward more and more ungodliness.

Theological Decay Leads to Moral Decay

Aftermath: Part 3 was the sermon that got the most attention -- the one where Stanley suggested that you need to "unhitch" your faith from the Old Testament as he insisted the New Testament writers did. To make his point, Stanley taught from Acts 15 and the story of the Jerusalem council.

Some Judaizers were telling Gentile Christians that they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved according to the law of Moses. A conference was held at the church in Jerusalem to discuss conditions for Gentile membership and how to respond to the disruption being caused. This council included Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James, the half-brother of Jesus, among others.

Peter stood up and confessed that with his own eyes, he witnessed the giving of the Holy Spirit to uncircumcised Gentiles. They have heard the word of the gospel and believed. He pleaded with the council, "Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" referring to the Mosaic Law. "But we believed that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will" (Acts 15:10-11).

Likewise, Paul and Barnabas shared with the council what they had witnessed -- the gospel has been preached to the Gentiles, "and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). Then James, leader of the Jerusalem church, stood up and referred back to the prophets and the Old Testament texts to defend the inclusion of Gentiles into the church by the grace of God.

With these arguments made, James said, "Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues" (Acts 15:19-21). The church agreed that's what should be done, and a letter was sent with Paul and his missionary brethren to Antioch.

How do I know the apostles were baptists? They knew how to have meetings.

When Stanley explained this conclusion, he said the four Old Testament-sounding commands -- abstain from the things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from what has been strangled, and from blood -- were derived from the dietary laws of Moses, and they were given by the council to keep the peace in the church between Jews and Gentiles. But that clearly can't be the reason. What does sexual immorality have to do with dietary laws?

This was not about keeping the peace. It was about being holy. These four commands had to do with idolatry, expressly forbidden by the law of God read every Sabbath in the synagogues. What is the first commandment? "I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me." What is the second commandment? "You shall not make for yourself graven images and bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God." The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians that to even flirt with anything having to do with idols was to provoke God to jealousy (1 Corinthians 10:22). This was all in keeping with God's moral law.

Idol worship was a cultural norm in these first century Greco-Roman cities. It was everywhere. Food sold in the market had previously been offered to false gods. Temples to such gods were often filled with rampant sex and orgies as part of their rituals. People drank the blood of animals believing they could absorb the creature's life force. All of these things were idolatrous.

The Jerusalem council assured the Gentile Christians that by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, they were forgiven their sins and received membership in the church of God. In view of God's mercy given through the gospel (Romans 12:1), in order to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:12), they were to keep themselves from idols (1 John 5:21). This was the moral law the Gentiles needed to follow in their current context as their spiritual act of worshiping the one true and living God.

But Stanley taught that the conclusion of the Jerusalem council was this: "The Old Testament, or the Law and the Prophets as they called it, was not going to be the go-to source for any behavior in the church." Here is how Stanley summarized it:
"To make this point, because this is so important, originally in my notes, I was going to put a screen up here that said, 'In other words, that means, "Thou shalt not obey the Ten Commandments."' But I knew someone would take a picture of that, and it would define me for the rest of my life. So I'm not going to put it up there, but I want you to hear me say it. Here's what the Jerusalem council was saying to the Gentiles: You are not accountable to the Ten Commandments."
Astonishing. In Andy Stanley's paradigm, you don't need to obey the Ten Commandments, even though Jesus said you do. Those who are in Christ will keep His commands. It is our delight to obey God and keep His commandments! But Stanley recommends you unhitch from the Old Testament and even God's moral law. As he said at the beginning of the series, he believes the authority of Scripture is not a solid foundation for faith.

I say to you, my brothers and sisters in the faith -- in reverence for Christ and His word by which the church is justified and sanctified -- Andy Stanley is opposed to the truth and disqualified regarding the faith (2 Timothy 3:8). I am not saying the man isn't a believer, but I am saying he's not a qualified teacher.

I want to give you an alternative to Stanley's method for reaching future generations. But before I do that, I want to make one more point. This has to do with how bad theology leads to bad behavior. If Stanley said the conclusion of the Jerusalem council pertained to Mosaic dietary laws, how did he explain the command to abstain from sexual immorality? Not well.

Moral Decay

Stanley said, "If I were to hand everybody a 3x5 card, and I were to say, 'Tell me what you think this [sexual immorality] means or what this means to you, how many different answers would I get? About as many answers as there are cards, right?"

I hope not. There's only one answer to that question. Sexual immorality is any kind of sex or eroticism outside of the covenant of marriage between a man and his wife. (Here's a :90 video with Scripture references.) God intended this intimate gift to be enjoyed in marriage only. Stanley left the understanding of a biblical sexual ethic much more open. You could conclude that any kind of sex is acceptable as long as you "love" the other person.

"To send a bunch of Gentiles this, to abstain from sexual immorality, what does this even mean?" Stanley said, "This was a general call to avoid immoral behavior but not immoral behavior as defined by the Old Testament." By what standard is sexuality defined for the church? Stanley went on to explain that it is, "defined by the Apostle Paul who had been teaching in Antioch for two or more years."

Okay, so given that the Apostle Paul spoke the words of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:17), you might suppose Stanley would tell his audience that sex is meant exclusively for marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2), that sex between two men is damnable (1 Corinthians 6:9), and Paul taught from the Old Testament that sexual immorality will result in judgment (1 Corinthians 10:8). Surely that's where Stanley went next, right? No, his explanation was much more ambiguous.

"Do you know what the Apostle Paul consistently tied sexual behavior to?" Stanley asked. "Not the Old Covenant. Not the Ten Commandments. The one commandment that Jesus gave us: that you are to treat others as God through Christ has treated you." That's certainly not wrong, but neither was it given any clarity. What does "treat others as God through Christ has treated you" have to do with a godly sexual ethic?

Are the specifics not important? Not in the church that Andy Stanley built. At North Point Community Church in Atlanta, they allow men in a homosexual romantic relationship to serve in the ministry. Stanley confessed this years ago in a sermon entitled When Gracie Met Truthy, which received criticism from Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In this illustration of a family at North Point, the men on the left are a couple.

Stanley's solution is, "Love one another." Considering he wants to detach from Scripture, he's taken a very specific command and made it generic and subjective, whether or not that's his intention. Without an objective, moral standard, "love" is whatever you want it to be, not how God has defined it. Stanley's message was basically this: "You don't need God's word. You have a better one: love!"

This is the same theological liberalism that Rev. Michael Curry espoused in his sermon at the royal wedding this past weekend, and it has the same immoral outcome. "All you need is love," Curry said, but his idea of love is contrary to Scripture. Rather than trusting in God's word, the way of theological liberalism is to trust your feelings. Yet Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

Conclusion: An Alternative Method

I agree that we need to consider how we teach the Bible with our children and future posterity. I don't agree with Stanley that the Bible is an insufficient foundation. We need more Bible, not less. Specifically, we need more Bible rightly taught and applied. How can you lead your family in a right understanding of Scripture? Through catechism.

Catechism is a summary of biblical principles in the form of questions and answers to help Christians understand why God's truth is so important and how it is rightly applied. If you teach catechism, you and your children will be less likely to be duped by an "unhitched" sermon or snookered by atheist arguments as Stanley was.

Being a Baptist preacher, of course I'm going to recommend Baptist catechism. Keach's catechism is great and easy to find. I would also recommend going to Founders.org and picking up one of their Truth and Grace memory books. Not only filled with catechism, there are Bible passages for kids to memorize and work sheets for them to fill out.

Encourage one another to love the word of God, not be ashamed of it. Jesus said, "For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:26). Ultimately, that is the day we are being prepared for -- the day of the Lord -- and only the word of the Lord can make you ready to stand before God.

A few edits have been made for grammar and for clarity. Parts of this blog were taken from the teaching I did on the podcast this week. Listen here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Royal Wedding: How Bishop Michael Curry's Sermon Was Not Royal Enough


So there was a royal wedding this weekend. Did you know that? You've probably had little contact with the outside world in the last several weeks if you hadn't at least heard about it. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, an American actress, were proclaimed husband and wife yesterday during a fairy-tale wedding at Windsor Castle in the English county of Berkshire.

As you might expect, it was quite lavish: the bride wore a 16-foot veil, the couple rode in a 1968 Jaguar E-Type Concept Zero converted to electric, and they had a wedding cake worth more than I've ever made in a year. An estimated 1.9 billion people tuned in to watch worldwide. Yet I was not one of them.

I've always been fascinated by royalty, and Britain's is one of the oldest monarchies in the world (after Japan as the oldest, followed by Cambodia, Oman, and Morocco for your trivia pleasure). I've even watched the show Suits a few times (it was on right after Psych) and knew who Meghan Markle was. But I had other things to do on a Saturday. Hey, it's an internet age, and I can always catch it later.

Though I didn't watch the whole wedding, a brother told me that Bishop Michael Curry's sermon was great and I should listen -- it would only take me 10 minutes, he said. Actually, according to the YouTube video, the whole message was exactly 13 minutes and 37 seconds long, but who's counting (that was still considered long-winded to Piers Morgan).

No offense to my brother, but I was not impressed with the sermon. It was the kind of sermon a 60s era hippie would love. George Clooney and David Beckham had no problem being all-smiles during Bishop Curry's repeated refrain, "Love is the way!" Anyone can say that. Elton John says that (yes, he was among the 600 guests at the chapel). As Saturday Night Live joked last night, the Bishop's message could have been a Subaru commercial.

What is Love?

The Scripture that Bishop Curry opened with was Song of Solomon 8:6-7: "Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it." (I'm not sure what translation he read from, but his version didn't include "the very flame of the Lord," and not every translation does.)

Bishop Curry went on to say that we were made for love. "Ultimately, the source of love is God himself," he said, "the source of all of our lives. There's an old medieval poem that says, 'Where true love is found, God himself is there.'" Is that correct? Surely it is! The Bible says, "God is love." The Bishop went on to quote that passage as well, saying those who do not love do not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:7-8).

But again, anyone can believe that and not have to give up much to believe it. Without clarifying what godly love is, a person will believe that whatever they love must be of God. You can sleep with your boyfriend or girlfriend outside of marriage, and God is alright with that as long as you love each other. Hey, a man can sleep with another man as long as they love each other.

Lest you think I'm being hyper-critical of Bishop Curry's sermon, that's exactly what he believes. Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, an Episcopal priest, is a gay-rights activist. Why else would Vanity Fair be so praising of him? Or the leftist Vox.com, who pointed out Curry's liberation theology? Or the gay publication Pink News, who also loved that Bishop Curry quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

Do not be led astray, my beloved: friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Not everything the world calls love is truly loving. Many pair the words "love" and "God" yet do not know the love of God, for it is not loving to encourage people to engage in sinful behavior that God has promised He will judge with fire!

Bishop Curry says that Jesus "sacrificed His life for the good of others" and that His love was "redemptive." But Bishop Curry's idea of sacrificial love is the kind that sets aside the sound teaching of the word of Christ and encourages a man and another man to sodomize each other or pretend to get married. His idea of redemption is gaining possession of something you previously weren't allowed to have, like gay marriage.

Indeed the Bishop talked about Jesus sacrificing His life for others, before the royals and all the celebrities in that room and 1.9 billion people watching at home. But the Bishop does not understand the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, nor would anyone learn by listening to the Bishop's sermon what His death on the cross means for us.

An Atoning Sacrifice

Christ's sacrifice was an atoning sacrifice. When Jesus died, laying down His own life on our behalf, He took the wrath of God upon Himself that we deserved for our sins, and He clothed us in His righteousness. Whoever believes in Jesus, God sees not a man or woman deserving of His wrath, but a righteous son or daughter deserving of His love. No longer children of wrath, we become children of the promise! The promise of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Therefore, you must live as a recipient of that promise. Do you not want to please the one who paid such a price for you, giving up His own life so that you might live? Then love Him, and to love Him is to obey Him. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). If you have been clothed in the purified garments of Jesus Christ, you must not return to a soiled life of sin and debauchery.

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus talked about another wedding, the wedding of a king's son. Guests were invited from everywhere to attend, but they had to wear a wedding garment. When the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there was a man who had no garment. "How did you get in here without a wedding garment?" the king asked. He ordered that the man be bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In the book of Revelation, we read about the wedding feast of the Lamb at the consummation of Jesus Christ and His church. Those who will enter His kingdom forever will be those who have been clothed by Christ in righteousness. "For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints" the Scripture says (Revelation 19:8). They displayed that they were recipients of His grace by turning from sin and obeying His commands. Those who did not obey and went their own way will be tread with "the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty" (Revelation 19:15).

Be sure of this, my brothers and sisters: God's love covers over a multitude of sin. His grace is greater than our worst sins. There is not a sin God will not forgive. There is no sin that will not be covered by the atoning blood of Christ. Whether you've lied, cheated, coveted, stolen, hated others, committed adultery, engaged in homosexuality, or blasphemed the name of God, you show that He has forgiven you if you have repented and asked God for mercy.

But then you must do as Jesus commanded: "Go, and sin no more" (John 5:14, 8:11). If you continue in the sins you were in before you asked for mercy, you show that you are still enslaved to your sin and you have not actually been set free from bondage to your flesh. No matter how loving you think you are in the eyes of the world, if you do not have the love of Christ, you're worthless (Romans 3:12). You're still whoring after the world rather than loving God.

A Wedding More Royal

Christ is even now sanctifying His church and preparing her for the day of glory. He is cleansing her, the Bible says, "by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:26-27). If you love Jesus, you will love His word, the Bible, and be as a bride prepared for a royal wedding -- the most royal of weddings.

So while Rev. Michael Curry did talk about loving God and loving your neighbor, the most worldly people in that room would have agreed with everything he said. It was a gospel of the world, not the gospel of God. The Bishop even pulled a Joel Osteen and said, "Love yourself," when explaining how the first and second greatest commands summarize all the Law and the prophets. Wherever Oprah was sitting among the 600 guests, she was surely smiling.

It took an exclusive invite to get into that royal wedding, and it takes an exclusive invite to get into the Royal Wedding -- the one between Christ and His church at the end of all things. According to the Bible, those who will enter into God's kingdom, forever in His love, will be those who believed in Jesus, repented of their sins, and were clothed in His righteousness. And they will sit with Him on His throne forever. Amen.