Thursday, October 18, 2018

Matt Chandler's Vice Interview

I originally wrote this piece on September 12 but never published it. The discussion has resurfaced, and I've decided to share. I'll explain more at the very end.


On Sunday, September 9, Vice News (think Dateline for millennials on HBO) interviewed Matt Chandler about the changes that are happening in evangelicalism. Nothing of the interview was informative to me, mostly because the intended audience was unchurched millennials. I already know what's going on in the church. They don't.

Another reason this interview wasn't very informative was because Chandler's answers did more to muddy the waters than offer clarity. I've listened to the guy for over ten years, though increasingly less often. His preaching and his views have taken a turn into progressive territory. If you've been with him for a while, and you're reading the same directions he is (I'm referring to the Bible), you're going, "Um, where are you headed, Matt?"

The following is the interview between Chandler and Vice's Gianna Toboni. (By the way, "vice" means "immoral or wicked behavior," a curious title for a liberal news outlet.) The transcript is provided word-for-word in bold. My responses are in regular type.

Gianna Toboni: Evangelical America is changing quickly. At the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination in the country reported that it had lost more than 200,000 members in one year alone. But a new class of evangelical leaders are pushing through these challenges. We spoke to Matt Chandler, who is considered a rising star among young pastors, about how evangelicalism is changing in today's political environment.

So there's our lede. Evangelicalism in America is experiencing rapid change, mostly in terms of people leaving evangelical churches. To try and solve this problem, evangelicals are turning to new leaders who look, talk, and present themselves differently than those often termed the "old guard." Matt Chandler is considered one of the faces of the new class. What does Chandler think about how politics are affecting evangelicalism? Note that this will mostly be about how politics are affecting evangelicalism, not how evangelicalism is affecting politics.

Toboni (to Chandler): Can we agree that President Trump isn't of the utmost moral character?

Chandler: Absolutely. Like are people arguing other than that?

Toboni: So this is what I want to ask you-- To me, evangelicals prioritize morality, being Christlike, and yet they played a huge part in getting him elected. How did that happen? What do they like about him?

Chandler: I think people are frightened. I think they're frightened at the speed at which things are changing culturally. And so I think they began to grasp for something that might help.

That's a safe opinion, but I don't think most people voted for Donald Trump because they're afraid. I think people are more like Donald Trump than we want to admit.

It's true that many voted for Trump because there was no other winnable option. Hillary Clinton would have been worse. Anything but Hillary. So they voted Trump. But the majority of Donald Trump's supporters were not concerned citizens who simply didn't want Hillary. The majority of his voters really, really like Donald Trump. He was always the front-runner in a crowded GOP pool full of a lot of options. I think Toboni is more aware of that than Chandler was in this interview.

I said in September of 2015, over a year before Trump was elected, that I believed Trump was going to be our next president. The reason why I thought so was because he talked like most evangelicals that I encounter: he always goes to church on Easter and Christmas, always on a major occasion, he drinks his juice and eats his little cracker, he tries to be a good person, and the Bible is his favorite book. Meanwhile, he's incredibly self-centered, loves a good conspiracy theory, has a perverted mind, and can't control his mouth. This is like many Americans, even in red states.

Chandler: The Obama presidency, great man -- some of his policies and some of the ways he rolled out his policies, really, really scared evangelicals. And without any kind of real help from pastors and ministers, to help their people understand, the news media just whipped us into a frenzy, and made people feel desperate.

There's a lot of slight going on here. Chandler said Obama was a great man who scared evangelicals, and that's the fault of pastors and the media, oh, and people could be a little less panicky, too. But somehow Obama comes out "great" in that answer. Great as in how?

I'll say this about Barack Obama: All that we've seen of him seems to indicate that he loves his wife and his daughters. Democrats gave us a family man for president, and the conservatives, supposedly the "family values" party, came up with Donald Trump. That's extremely frustrating to me.

But though he might be a faithful husband and father, Obama was an abysmal president. This is the man who said, "God bless Planned Parenthood." His track record on abortion was worse than Bill Clinton's, having defended infanticide when he was a U.S. senator. No leader riding on a slogan of "Hope" yet advocates for the murder of the most vulnerable human beings can be called "great" anything but a great fraud.

In addition to abortion, same-sex marriage became legal in the United States under Obama, whom Newsweek crowned "The First Gay President." The sins of America are worse than Sodom's. For anyone to talk down about Trump and herald Obama as a "great man" is being hypocritical, to say the least.

Toboni (narrating): Chandler invited us back to his church, which is one of the fastest growing in the country.

Toboni (walking up to the church): This is not what I expected The Village Church to look like. We are in a shopping center. It kind of looks more like a Costco or a Target, sandwiched between Starbucks and Chick-fil-A. But there are more than 10,000 congregants that come to The Village Church. This is what churches in many American suburbs look like today.

If that's what many churches in American suburbs look like, why is Toboni surprised when she sees it? She said, "This is not what I expected The Village Church to look like." She unintentionally exposed how out-of-touch she is with evangelicalism, and probably middle America in general. What if I said Gianna Toboni is not what I expect a news reporter to look like? Would that not sound like I'm out of touch with the culture and I'm secluded in my evangelical bubble?

Toboni (taking to Chandler): What are the challenges today in keeping young people engaged here?

Chandler: My experience with the "de-churched," that's what I would call them, those who grew up in church and have left, is that it's a sense of hypocrisy that they picked up on. A kind of cowardice among the church to address things that are serious and significant pains of our day. So whether that be domestic violence, which the church has just been painfully quiet on. Or even things like racial reconciliation, which, man, you step into those spaces, you're going to draw a lot of flack from the evangelical world.

That's incredibly ungracious. Chandler makes it sound like the church ignores domestic violence and is largely racist, so much that if you address those topics they're going to attack you. That is "painfully" not true. First of all, not all that's called the church is the church (Toboni especially doesn't understand that). Secondly, there's a whole context to what Chandler has termed "racial reconciliation" that is not being explained.

But let's set that aside to stay on the topic. Millennials have been leaving the church in droves according to the introduction, and Chandler says the reason for that is the fault of the people who are still in the church for not addressing topics "that are serious and significant pains of our day." He even goes as far as suggesting that any church not addressing such topics is hypocritical, and de-churched millennials sniffed out this hypocrisy.

Four years ago, I wrote a blog about a liberal false teacher named John Pavlovitz who was gaining a lot of attention on social media. One of his popular articles was Dear Church, Here's Why People Are Leaving You. In the piece, he said an emphasis on teaching sound biblical doctrine drives people away, and the church doesn't address issues relevant to a broader group of people. That's the argument of a theological liberal, and Chandler is borrowing it.

The most recent edition of The State of Theology survey from Ligonier shows that the majority of evangelicals believe Jesus is the first being created by God (more than 80%), that even the smallest sins don't make a person worthy of hell (about 70%), and that God accepts the worship of all religions (more than 50%). So according to the results of this survey, most American evangelicals believe heresy. And Chandler thinks the problem with evangelicals leaving the church is we don't address enough culturally relevant topics?*

We read in 1 John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."

That's why people leave the church -- because they were never Christians to begin with. The church needs the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness. Pastors need to be faithful in preaching the Scriptures. They should not be feeding an unhealthy craving for controversy (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

Chandler: But I think especially around topics like homosexuality, we're quick to say it's a sin and you may not understand, which I'm not going to disagree that I would think from the Scriptures that that's not what ultimately God intends. But to pretend like that we're not talking about human beings with souls, who sometimes are deeply conflicted, it's just a great error. And to be right the wrong way, is to be wrong.

Homosexual behavior is sin, and unless it's repented of and a person follows Jesus Christ, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Instead, they will suffer His wrath and will be cast into eternal fire on the day of judgment. I preach this knowing that this is about human beings with souls! That's exactly why I call attention to the seriousness of sin and point a sinner to the gospel -- because I love them, and I want them to be saved.

Chandler's answer was another one of his slights. Am I to understand that anyone who teaches "Homosexuality is sin" doesn't care about human souls? Maybe Chandler agrees men who practice homosexuality are living in sin (or "not what ultimately God intends" as he worded it), but if I actually say homosexuality is a sin, according to Chandler I'm right in the wrong way, therefore I'm wrong. Right?

Toboni: How do you think Democrats and media have isolated evangelicals, and where could they do better to be more inclusive?

Chandler: I think some of the blind spots on the Left is that the Left, specifically city Left, feels like the country is more progressive than it actually is. And the more it presses, the more it makes conservatives dig in their heels.

I agree, but with a caveat. Yes, the country is not as progressive as the Left believes it is. However, what's deemed conservative is often conservative by comparison. The Right is also progressive, just not as rapidly progressive as the Left. Chandler is progressive. The fact that he labels homosexuality as "not what ultimately God intends" shows a softening in his otherwise Christian worldview (though I would say his worldview is regressing, not progressing).

Chandler: When the bathroom bill had passed, and I'm telling you, people were terrified by that bathroom bill. More than anything else, the thought that their children were going to be in a bathroom with the opposite sex, right? And I know all the arguments around that, but I'm using the language that I think would make sense to most conservatives. That made them go, whoever the opposition is to that, I'm voting for. And then they lost their soul in it, many of them did.

They lost their soul in it? Is Chandler suggesting that anyone who had serious (and legitimate) concerns over the bathroom bill sacrificed their faith? Perhaps he's just using a figure of speech, but even if that's all it is, it's still ungracious. Concerns about the bathroom bill were not about who we're going to the bathroom with "more than anything else," as Chandler said. The bathroom bill quantified a depraved direction this entire country is headed over common sense issues like who's a man and who's a woman. Chandler was wildly out-of-touch on this response.

Toboni: How do you think the evangelical community will be different in 10 years versus 10 years ago?

Chandler: Golly. Well firstly, just that whole concept of what evangelicalism is is difficult right now. It is such a junk drawer. For some people evangelicalism now is like a political party, divorced from its theological roots.

The irony in that statement is, I believe, Chandler is fostering that. Chandler has fully embraced the social justice narrative which categorizes people into different constituencies or voting blocks. The social justice narrative is by its very nature prejudiced and political. It is neither social nor justice.

Chandler: I think you're going to see what we've already seen probably three or four times in Christian history. There are going to be those that try to reach the world by becoming like the world. And then there are going to be those that try to, by the grace of God, hold fast to orthodox Christian faith in a way that's compassionate and kind, and they're going to have to weather the backlash of all the wrong that's been done in the name of Jesus the last 50 years.

Again, that's ironic. Chandler shows symptoms of becoming like the world in that he's softening on how he refers to homosexuality, saying that conservatives "lost their soul" in the bathroom bill, and believing that the church needs to be more proactive on pop-culture outrage. I don't think Chandler is holding fast to orthodoxy. I believe he's loosened his grip.

Exactly what is "the wrong that's been done in the name of Jesus the last 50 years"? Is it Obama saying, "God bless Planned Parenthood"? Is it authors who claim sodomy is holy? Is it churches that tell people it's okay to be gay? Is it pastors who in the face of cultural pressure lie on national news? Is it teachers who say the church needs to unhitch from the Old Testament?

Since the interview with Chandler ends there and I have no idea what he said after the video concludes, I won't attempt to draw a conclusion to my question, even within the context of his other statements. Like I said, his answers did more to muddy the waters than clarify the issues.

Instead, let's go back again to our lede: Toboni said this was "about how evangelicalism is changing in today's political environment." Toboni's objective was to present how the church is responding to political issues that concern liberal-minded millennials. Chandler didn't respond, "With the gospel." At least, not in the edit we saw. Instead, Chandler gave answers that were more appeasing to left-leaning millennials.

What an opportunity to be able to say, "Here's what the gospel of Jesus Christ is. We're sinners who deserve God's wrath. We're full of evil thoughts, murder, idolatry, sexual immorality, theft, and slander. This whole world is fallen because of our sin. But God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross and shed His perfect blood to save sinners like you and me. All who believe in Him will not perish but will be delivered on the day of judgment, when He removes all evil and ushers in His perfect kingdom. That's the gospel. Here's how that message answers these questions you're asking."

But that's not what we got. Progressives would have watched that interview believing the church is moving to their side. Meanwhile, I came away more concerned that left-leaning politics are changing Matt Chandler, not that Chandler is continuing to preach the gospel in the face of progressive leftism.

Conclusion

Why did I choose not to post this article when I'd first written it? Because when a discussion came up online over some of the more concerning statements Chandler had made, Chandler spoke up on Twitter and said the following:
"I actually called homosexuality a sin no fewer than 15 times in that interview but Vice didn't let me edit the show. Never done much of anything "sheepishly" when it comes to the Word."

That's a perfectly reasonable explanation. So I hesitated posting the article expecting that eventually we would hear from Chandler, either decrying the Vice interview as it was published, or maybe he would clarify or apologize for some of the answers he gave. But unless I missed something, we have yet to hear from him.

I've grown increasingly concerned about Chandler, a brother in the Lord. I'm also concerned about anyone listening to him. Chandler preached the gospel to me when I was in a dark place in my life, but he's gradually moved into some dark territory himself. Perhaps an article like this will reach him and pull him out of the shadows. I pray he is not losing his grip on the truth.

*The paragraph marked with a star was added on October 18 to what I had first written on September 12. Also, the concluding section of the article was added.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Regard No One According to the Flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16)


"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

This week, we are going to focus on only one verse of this section, and that's the first sentence in verse 16: "From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh." Hanging over our understanding of this verse is this word "reconciliation." It is such a beautiful word, and in its definition, there are undertones of the gospel. To be reconciled means to accept that which was not previously desired.

Before you came to faith in Christ, you were dead in your sins and our trespasses in which you once walked. You did not desire God, nor did He desire you in that state. But as Romans 5:8 says to us, "God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." With Christ's sacrifice on the cross, He has taken our sin, and He clothes us in His righteousness (as verse 21 will go on to explain, and we'll get to that in a couple of weeks).

Having come to faith in Christ, you have repented of your sins and God has forgiven you. When He looks at you, He does not see the filthy, rotten sinner deserving of hell. He sees the righteousness of His Son. And we are received by God not because of anything we did, but because of what He did for us. We desire God because He desires us. As 1 John 4:10 says, "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

Reconciled to God and to His People

Not only have you been reconciled to God, but you have been reconciled to God's people. We read in John 4:19, "We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

This is why church attendance is so important. How else can we grow in our love for the family of God if we are not meeting regularly with the family of God? If you have been reconciled to God and to His people, you will want to be a part of God's people. If you do not want to be part of the people of God, you do not love God's people, you hate them.

Someone might say, "Oh, I love the people of God. I'm just not crazy about those people." Sorry. As you didn't get to pick and choose which family you were born into and which siblings you had, you don't get to pick which family you are born again into and which siblings you have. You don't choose who's in God's family. He does. God has adopted you into this family, and He has shown you through the visible church whom it is you are to love.

Over and over we are given in Scripture an instruction to love and grow with and mature with the people of God. You are not alowed to stay a babe in the faith. Your maturity benefits the rest of the body of Christ. Beginning in Ephesians 4:12, we are "building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."

In this way, the church is a safety. When a church is committed to teaching the sound words of our Lord Christ, we keep one other from going off course and getting tossed around by false teaching and worldly philosophy. My heart trembles for those who leave this church because they don't like the teaching. They abandon the steady, upright ship of sound doctrine and follow whatever dingy false teacher blows in their ear the right way, potentially making a shipwreck of their faith.

We protect and take care of one another. Ephesians 4 goes on to say that "speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."

If you think you are the more mature among your brothers and sisters, you have an obligation to consider their need for spiritual maturity. Romans 15:1-2, "We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up." We as the body of Christ consider one another spiritually.

From Now On, Therefore...

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh." Why do we regard no one according to the flesh? Because we've been reconciled. We've been reconciled to God and to one another. Once we were hated by others and hating one another (Titus 3:3), but since coming to Christ, we are a new creation. The old has passed away, and the new has come.

In the previous verse, 2 Corinthians 5:15, we read, "He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised." The "all" for whom Christ has died, in the context of this verse, is His church. Those who are not part of the church have not been reconciled. Those who are part of the church have been reconciled. They've been reconciled to God and to the people of God. Now we as His church have been commissioned with the ministry of reconciliation.

When we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, essentially what we are preaching is what Paul says here in verse 20: "Be reconciled to God." When Jesus began preaching, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17), what He was saying was essentially, "Be reconciled to God." Not just when we preach the gospel to unbelievers, but even when we correct a brother or sister who is walking in sin, we are saying to one another, "Be reconciled to God."

Since we who are in Christ have been reconciled -- once at enmity with God and now we are friends of God, through the forgiveness that is given in Christ Jesus -- once at enmity with one another and now one in Christ Jesus -- we regard no one according to the flesh.

What does it mean that we once regarded one another according to the flesh, and now we regard no one according to the flesh? To "regard" means to consider or think of someone a certain way. The Greek word here is oidamen which means to perceive something as though you would see it with your physical eyes.

We might think of the expression, "I see what you mean," or "I see what you are saying." You're not physically seeing what a person is saying, but you now understand what they are saying with such clarity, it's as though you could perceive it with your physical senses, but with your mind's eye. In Romans 12:2 we are told to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, and Philippians 2:5 says to have the mind of Christ.

So having a mind that is being renewed and conformed to Christ, we regard or we see no one according to the flesh. Now, there's certainly a sense here in which "no one" refers to the body of Christ. There's no one in the church whom we should regard according to the flesh. That's been the context of this passage, and that certainly applies. But let me ask you: having been given a mind that is being conformed to Christ, is there anyone whom you should regard according to their flesh?

When you look at a person, you may deduce that this person is either saved -- from the judgement of God by faith in the person and work Jesus Christ -- or they are not saved, and are therefore still under the wrath of God. Your concern is for their soul. You consider the soul, not the flesh.

Not the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their nationality, whether they're a republican or democrat, a nerd or a jock, a K-State fan or a KU fan, or even if they're a man or a woman. You see a person who either knows Christ or needs to know Him. This is how you regard every person you meet. You regard their spiritual position with God, not their physical position in the world. And so in this way, you regard no one according to the flesh.

Regard No One According to the Flesh

To regard someone according to their flesh means that you would consider their place in the world according to worldly standards and values as though their present physical life is all that matters. But it doesn't matter. In the eternal scheme of things, your skin color, your nationality, even your native tongue -- these things will not matter in eternity. When the book of Revelation says that people from every nation will worship God, what's described for us is not different colored people in different languages singing praise. They are one people lifting up one voice. Even now, we who are the church are called "a chosen race" and "a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9).

My friends, race and nationalities are a result of the fall. Different languages and even different skin colors happened after the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 when God confused the languages of sinful men and they scattered to settle in different places over the whole earth. This resulted in the different nations, each speaking a different language.

People who settled closer to the equator, where the weather is hotter and the sunlight more direct, over time their skin, hair, and eyes became darker. People who settled further north, where the weather is cooler and cloudier and the sun is less offensive, their skin, hair, and eyes became lighter. Groups of people that lived in close proximity with one another began taking on similar physical traits. But every single person on earth is still descended from one man, and that's Adam.

As Paul preached to a bunch of pagans in Acts 17, God "made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place." Paul went on to say, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the whole world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead."

When it comes down to it, and as I've heard Dr. Voddie Baucham preach, there are only two races. There's the race of the first Adam, and there's the race of the last Adam, who is Christ. We who are part of the race of the last Adam are reconciled to God, and we desire that those who are of the race of the first Adam be reconciled to God. In this way, we regard no one according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. We consider the soul of the individual, not their outward appearance.

Colossians 3:9-10, "Having put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all."

Galatians 3:26-29, "In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ hav eput on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave not free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."

Practical Implications

Now then, what are the practical implications of this? Well, we've talked about one already -- that we would view one another as either recipients of the gospel or someone who needs to receive the gospel. There should be no prejudice when it comes to preaching the gospel. There should be no prejudice when it comes to living out the effects of the gospel. We are all one in Christ. There is no regard according to the flesh.

And understand, when I say that we regard no one according to the flesh, I'm not saying there aren't boundaries. You would not raise a son the same way you would raise daughter -- at least you shouldn't, much to the chagrin of our culture. The Bible does detail for us roles that God has specifically for men, and roles that He specifically has for women. Men will not ever give birth to babies. God has designed that right only for women.

But when it comes to if a person is saved or if a person is not saved, or when it comes down to who is a recipient of the kingdom, these things are not determined by the flesh. Women are just as much inheritors of the kingdom of God as men are. Whether you're male or female, single or married, young or old, a pastor of a layman, everyone who is in Christ is an heir of the kingdom. Your flesh does not determine your eternity. Jesus does.

But those who are of the world do regard others according to the flesh. And here is where we must be careful. Though we are citizens of heaven, we still traverse this earth in bodies of flesh, and we are susceptible to the temptations of the flesh.

Romans 8:5 says, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit." Galatians 5:17 says, "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do."

If you are in Christ, you want to regard no one according to the flesh. But as you wrestle with the flesh, there is a temptation to regard others according to the flesh. You probably already did that this morning. You saw someone walking your way you didn't want to talk to, so you ducked down another hallway to avoid them. You must resist the temptation to be so prejudiced, for to regard your brothers and sisters in the Lord according to the flesh will divide the body of Christ, not unify it.

The Social Justice Movement

There is an incredibly persuasive movement in the western world today that has made its way into the church. It is known as the social justice movement. This is a radically prejudiced movement that regards others only according to the flesh, and its arguments are so sneaky that it has taken hold of the church, even our own Southern Baptist Convention.

Now, I want to be careful here, because in saying that the social justice movement has taken hold of the church, I am not saying that those who have been sucked into it aren't Christians -- that they are of the flesh and not of the Spirit. That is not what I mean to say. But though they have a desire to please God, in their flesh they have stumbled into something worldly minded, not heavenly minded.

They are like Peter who was rebuked by our Lord saying, "You are thinking with the mind of man and not with the mind of God." The church needs to be alerted to the dangers of the social justice movement so that they would repent of it and return to being a kingdom-minded people. Likewise, I say this to you to warn you not to get sucked in to such a worldview of the flesh.

To quote again from Dr. Voddie Baucham: "If the social justice movement went by its actual name, young Christians would not have been lured into it. Because the social justice movement is actually cultural Marxism under a new name. There's no such thing as social justice, people. Because in the Bible justice never has an adjective. There's justice and there's injustice, but there are not different kinds of justice. Something is either just or it is unjust."

The social justice movement is about putting people into various constituencies, which would be like voting blocks or demographics, only these constituencies are labeled according to their social struggles or their victim-status. Human dignity is taken from those people who have less of a victim-status and it's given to those who have more of a victim-status. It is arbitrary and subjective. It's tribal, motivated by cultural outrage and a sense of "I'm not getting what I deserve."

Another name for this is intersectionality, which works like this: Are you a white male? Then you are a person of privilege, and you don't have a very high victim-status. Are you a less privileged single black mom? You're single, you're black, and you're a mom. There's three victim statuses right there, and you are worthy of more human dignity than the white male. Are you a gay young man questioning your gender identity? Then you've been living under oppression with the least amount of opportunities, and you deserve more dignity than all the rest. We will even change the laws to accommodate you.

Going through these examples, perhaps you recognize that the character of people is being determined not by who they are as individuals but by the constituency that they belong to. The social justice movement has as its highest goal to achieve a certain equality between these different groups, which they will never actually attain. Someone will always believe they are not getting what they deserve. The only way that people will be reconciled to one another is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the only way. Unity cannot happen without the gospel.

Right Theology Unifies, Wrong Theology Divides

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Church in the Atlanta area, made the statement earlier this year that unity was more important than being theologically correct. On the contrary, there is no unity without right theology. Theology is everything. If you've ever made the statement, "Well, I'm a spiritual person, I'm just not very theological," you've just made a theological statement. Whenever you open your mouth and talk about God, you are being theological. If your theology is not grounded in right orthodoxy, you might be a heretic. There is no unity without Christ. Yet people will go on trying to force unity based on appearances and not right biblical doctrine.

I've read dozens of articles implying that if my church does not have a certain ethnic variety, then we're still racially segregated and not fulfilling the great commission. Folks, I have nothing to do with the color of people in my church. That's a work of the Spirit of God. When I stand up here, I don't see shades of melanin. I see people who need to hear the gospel today. If you have ever walked into a church, and you have judged that church because everyone's skin was the same color, I've got news for you. The church you're attending isn't racist. You are!

At the conference Together for the Gospel held earlier this year in Louisville, KY, David Platt, outgoing president of the International Missions Board, said, "Why are so many of our churches so white? Why are many of our institutions, seminaries, and missions, so white? Why is this conference so white?" If this truly troubled Dr. Platt so much, I wonder why he didn't give up his position as a speaker and let someone else preach who wasn't so white.

Now, there are churches in America where racism exists. I could even tell you stories. But these are matters that need to be handled the same way we deal with any sin in the church -- following the guidelines that Christ has set before us for confronting sin in an offending brother (Matthew 18:15-20, Titus 3:10-11). We handle these things on a case by case basis. As Paul instructed, we should not consider one another as enemies, but warning each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord (2 Thessalonians 3:15).

But the social justice mindset takes individual responsibility out of church discipline. Everyone belongs to certain groups and everyone's experiences in that group are the same. Whatever one person has experienced, everyone in that group has experienced, whether good or bad. Furthermore, everyone's sins are the same. If a constituency is labeled as being at fault for the struggles experienced in another constituency, then everyone in that first constituency is guilty.

For example, the secular notion of "white privilege," which insists that white people in America inherently have a societal advantage over black people, with more opportunities and privileges irrespective of wealth, gender, or other factors. The social justice movement considers white privilege a cultural fact, as undeniable as water is wet. White people just have it better, and they owe something to people who aren't white, especially black people whose ancestors were enslaved by white people. If you deny this, you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

What if a black man denies that white privilege is a thing? Well, according to Matt Chandler, Pastor of the Village Church in Dallas, TX, that black man is probably "trying to win approval or position." That is an incredibly prejudiced and disparaging comment. Even black people are not allowed to disagree with this approach or they are an embarrassment to their own race.

Samuel Sey, a Ghanaian-Canadian ministering in Toronto, has been outspoken against the counter-biblical narrative of intersectionality, white privilege, and social justice. In an article he wrote this past week, he said, "My inbox is full of angry words from white people who use racial slurs against me because they supposedly love black people."

This isn't unifying the church. It's tearing us apart. The Holy Spirit warns, "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. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people, who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth" (1 Timothy 6:3-5). Tell me that doesn't describe what's happening.

Following the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., Thabiti Anyabwile, a Southern Baptist minister in the Washington D.C. area, wrote an article entitled We Await Repentence for Assassinating Dr. King. In the article he said, "My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start by at least saying their parents and grandparents in this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice."

Yes, you heard that right. Your parents and grandparents were complicit in the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. -- not James Earl Ray, who actually pulled the trigger. If we truly want to be reconciled to one another, you need to apologize for Dr. King's murder.

Again, in the social justice mindset, you're part of a constituency, and you're responsible for all the actions of everyone else in the constituency that someone stuck you in. This relational mentality is beneath us as Christians. When we're slanderous of one another in this way, suspecting one another of evils another person isn't guilty of, it causes dissension and constant friction. This is not the ministry of reconciliation -- it is division.

This past week, Intervarsity Press, one of the largest publishers of Christian books, announced an upcoming book entitled, Can White People be Saved?

At The Gospel Coalition Women's conference last month in Indianapolis, a break-out session for women of color was held, and ahead of the conference it was explicitly asked that white women not attend. Folks, this wasn't okay when white people were guilty of this kind of segregation, and it's not okay for black people to do it either -- especially under the banner of "the gospel."

On July 4, Dr. Eric Mason, part of the Acts 29 network and a pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, said that when we forget about racial injustice and slavery in the United States, "we miss a key component of the gospel!" What does that mean? Racial injustice and slaver are key components of the gospel? Does that mean that we have to teach people about Civil War era slavery in order for them to truly be saved?

Ray Orlund Jr., one of the contributors to the study notes in the ESV study Bible, said this past May, "Moses renounced his social privilege, choosing to be mistreated with God's people. He didn't just decry his privilege; he crossed the line and left it behind, identifying with outsiders. And the Bible calls this saving faith."

Friends, not only is that not the story of Moses, renouncing social privilege and identifying with outsiders is not saving faith. It's bordering on heresy to add to the gospel in this way. I could give you more examples. This is happening over and over and over again. The language of the culture is beginning to infiltrate how the gospel is preached. This is not just affecting issues concerning race, it is also affecting issues concerning gender, and it is affecting issues concerning sexuality.

Just a few days ago, Brandon Robertson, a pastor in San Diego and a contributor to NBC and Time Magazine, said, "Folks think that they must either choose racial justice or LGBT+ justice. BOTH are inextricably linked and without justice for both, you’ll achieve justice for neither." The social justice movement is just another back door to usher in LGBT inclusivism. If we're not careful, we're playing right into the devil's hands.

Reconciled Through the Gospel

Now, I will grant you that some people are born into more privilege than others, and some have lives that are harder than others. That reality is certainly not lost on me. If you are born in the United States of America, you're already born into a position of privilege compared with most of the world.

But the Bible does not say it's the job of the church to ensure everyone has equal opportunity and privilege. The church has been called to preach the gospel. You are never promised your earthly situation will improve when you come to Christ. In fact, Jesus said the road will get more difficult when you become His follower. Broad is the way that leads to destruction and many will find that way because that's the easy way (Matthew 7:13-14).

As you walk this narrow way, you have the privilege of walking with others who have been called to this path. The Bible assures us that God is with us every step of the way. As we read at the start of our study in 2 Corinthians, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

You've been comforted, so you might be able to comfort others who need comforted. And no matter how dire your situation gets, you need to remember, "that this was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:8). Maybe your earthly situation won't improve, but your heavenly situation has certainly improved.

The Bible says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace which surpasses all understand will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7). And need I remind you, Paul wrote that when he was in prison for preaching the gospel.

We must love each other as individuals, not as constituencies. In Romans 12:15, we are told, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly." Show no partiality. Regard no one according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit of our God, in whom we have been reconciled through Jesus Christ.

In Ephesians 4:1-6, the Apostle Paul wrote, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

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.