Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Are T.D. Jakes and Steven Furtick Heretics?


Through the ministry When We Understand the Text, I've fielded a few questions about Steven Furtick and whether or not he is trustworthy. To give the best answer that I can, I've decided to use Steven's recent appearance at Bishop T.D. Jakes' mega-plex, the Potter's House, where he preached this past Sunday. This is written in love, so that the people of God will be able to test and know that not everyone who claims to be of God speaks the counsel of God (1 John 4:1).

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

I went to the Potter's House website to pull up Sunday's sermon, but first I had to sit through more than five minutes of Potter's House commercials. Then the camera showed this multi-millon-dollar stage with "Endure the Race" lit up on a video screen. Someone off-camera sang-shouted, "I just want to tell you what I think about you!"

Suddenly a bunch of singers and dancers came running out to pop music and a dazzling light show. Multiple video screens went into hyper seizure-inducing screen-saver mode. Everyone rushed the stage and started jumping up and down. Oh, great. I thought I had accidentally clicked on a link to a concert. Nope. This was a Potter's House worship service.

After the music, Jakes came out to do announcements and his money pitch, all to flashing lights and drum and organ fills. There were some more videos of other preachers at recent Potter's House events. Apparently everyone at the Potter's House -- black and white, men and women, young and old -- preaches with a throaty grovel, and you're just not preaching unless you're also removing all phlegm from the presence of God. (At one point, Jakes coughed and eluded to phlegm and dry throats being from the devil. It's probably because you're abusing your throat, Thomas.)

Jakes' wife joined him on stage and they prayed to God rebuking disease, infirmities, and abnormalities, because "we're about to step into our blessing. I declare and decree in the name of Jesus that the blessing of the Lord will break out." Apparently no blessing can come unless you declare with your mouth it will come. That's what Jakes believes and teaches. The Bible says no such thing.

He said, "We give you the praise as if what we are believing you for is already done. We don't have to wait to see it. We don't have to wait 'til it comes in the mail. We don't have to wait 'til the loan is paid. But right now by faith, we praise you as if it were already done, in the name of Jesus." (Of course, he's shouting this as he goes.)

Now that sounds about right. Don't we worship God believing the victory is already won? Doesn't God ordain all things, good or bad (Lamentations 3:37-38)? What would be the problem with believing that it's already done? Because again, Jakes believes it is the power of the human will that manifests the blessing of God. If we just believe that it's already done, and say that it's already done, then it will be done.

But that's not how the will of God works. It's not the Christian equivalent to mind-over-matter or wishing on a star or a motivational speech. God will accomplish his will whether we will believe in it or we will not. Are you in obedience to God's will, or are you trying to accomplish your own will?

The Hidden Will and the Revealed Will

There's a difference between God's hidden will and his revealed will. What has yet to be seen is his hidden will. Our obedience to God now is according to his revealed will. Ephesians 5:17 says, "Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." That doesn't mean that a person try to find the hidden counsel of God. It means knowing how to live according to counsel of God as found in the Bible, his "revealed will."

When Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10), he was teaching us to ask God for the ability to obey the decree of the King, the commands of Christ, his revealed will. This was not a lesson in mind-over-matter: "If you just believe in it hard enough, then God will make his will come true for you." Praying for God's will to be done according to your will-power is praying that your will be done.

Jakes does not pray for God's will to be done. He can't, in any way that is pleasing to the Lord, because he does not know God (Romans 8:7-8). That seems pretty bold and judgmental for me to say that. You're right, it is. But I'm not making that judgment by my own authority. I'm simply stating what the Bible says. T.D. Jakes denies the nature of God. He does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God the Father. The Bible calls such a man an antichrist (1 John 2:22).

Jakes' Rejection of God's Revealed Will

In The Potter's House statement of faith, it says, "There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." But God does not manifest himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. He is Father, Son, and Spirit. He is one God, three persons.

God has clearly revealed himself to us this way in the pages of Scripture. A person comes to the faith in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). As I've said elsewhere, salvation is a Trinitarian work: It is given by the Father, it is acquired through the Son, it is experienced in the Holy Spirit.

All three persons of the Trinity are distinctly displayed at Jesus' baptism (Matthew 3:16-17). Jesus said he was sent by the Father to do his will (John 6:38), and whoever else does the will of the Father is his brother and sister (Matthew 12:50). The will of the Father is to look on the Son so that you might have eternal life (John 6:40). He said the Father would send the Spirit in the name of Jesus, the Son (John 14:26). Jesus prayed to the Father, not to himself (John 17:1-5).

Jesus said that whoever knows him knows the father also (John 14:7). He said that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Matthew 11:27). Therefore, we can know this: a person who does not know Jesus as the Son, and God the Father as his Father, knows neither the Father nor Jesus and is not saved, for God has not been revealed to him.

T.D. Jakes Does Not Know God

Hey, at least Jakes believes God is one, right? Well, the Bible says even the demons believe that, and shudder (James 2:19). More than that, the demons know the Son of God (Mark 5:7), so it could be argued the demons know God better than Jakes does! Though Jakes knows God is one, he does not know him as Father, Son, and Spirit -- not three manifestations, but three persons in one.

In his book Judge Not, Todd Friel writes, "In other words, if T.D. Jakes went to a party with God, he could not attend with the Father, Son, and Spirit at the same time. T.D. could attend with only one manifestation of God at a time. That is a heresy called modalism. The Council of Nicea condemned this teaching as heresy in 325 AD."

Friel went on to quote the Athanasian Creed, written in 385. The Nicene and Athanasian creeds did not make up Trinitarian doctrine; they simply summarized and affirmed that which the Bible taught. The Athanasian Creed states as follows:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the universal faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. 
And that faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Faith, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit... 
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord and yet they are not three Lords but one Lord... 
He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
The early church taught from the teachings of Christ that if you deny the Trinity, you will go to hell. You are in league with the devil. You are an antichrist. It's that big a deal.

Now, that doesn't mean when you show up to heaven's gates, you're going to have to give a theological textbook definition of Trinity. Your pastor is not going to tell you, "Boy, you better be able to explain Trinity to me right now or you're not actually saved!" (at least, he shouldn't tell you that). You're not fully going to be able to understand this concept of One God in Three Persons because you're not God. But to deny the doctrine of the Trinity is to deny something fundamental about God. It's to deny God himself.

That's Jakes' theology. And as I've written about before, when a doctrine as fundamental as the Triune nature of God is rejected, a lot of wormy doctrines will wriggle up instead. It is common among Oneness Pentecostals, as it is of Jakes, to believe that you have the ability to unlock the power of God with your words. You can hear it in the way Jakes prays. But the reason he believes that is because he does not know God.

And Steven Furtick Probably Doesn't Either

Steven Furtick is a Southern Baptist minister, pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina, one of the fastest-growing churches in the country (as I keep hearing over and over and over again). Does Furtick affirm the doctrine of the Trinity? Yes, he does. But though he appears to know God, he still advances heresy, glowingly lifting up those who, with just a little discernment one can tell, are against God.

I should clarify that a person can praise a false teacher and simply be mistaken or misled yet not compromise the authenticity of their faith. Tertullian did this in his defense of Montanus. I believe Francis Chan and Ronnie Floyd also misunderstand how much of a false teacher Mike Bickle really is, but I don't doubt the genuineness of their saving faith.

So why would Furtick's endorsement of Jakes also make him a heretical preacher? Because this is not merely a shared respect for one another. It's not like Furtick just met Jakes and gave some weird "I love you, man" speech like Chan did of Bickle. Furtick hails Jakes as one of the greatest preachers on the planet, and openly admits he watches Jakes to learn how to be like him, even taking material from Jakes' sermons and putting them in his almost every week.

Here's what this comes down to: The Bible describes T.D. Jakes as an antichrist, and the bulk of church history would say he does not yet know the way of salvation, yet Steven Furtick is borrowing the teachings of an antichrist and repeating them, telling everyone else to listen to them, extolling his greatness, attempting to emulate him, and, as you would have seen in Furtick's presentation at the Potter's House on Sunday, pouring a great deal of money into it.

From Elevation to the Potter's House

Jakes welcomed Furtick to the stage and Furtick began his warm-up with cheap cheers from the crowd like some kind of hypeman. That's what he does: "Who's excited to be at the Potter's House? Let's go by section: Who's excited over here? Who's excited over here? How about you guys? Let me hear from the balcony! Everybody down here wave at the balcony!"

His attempt at humility was facepalm-worthy: "You will probably have better preachers than me come through here, but you will never have one that is more honored to stand here than the one you have standing before you today. I promise you that." Crowd applauded. "No, I'm serious, man." He gave a check for $35,000 to Jakes' ministry, which had something to do with Furtick being 35 years old, and he made sure everyone heard about it and saw him do it.

This is shortly after Furtick did this big interview where he said that Jesus wouldn't want him to reveal how much money he makes. But then he showed up to reveal to everyone how much money he gives, which apparently corresponds with his age times 1,000. I don't know what Jesus told Furtick about how much money he makes, but I know he said not to lavish praise and adoration upon yourself for what you give (Matthew 6:1-4).

Furtick also said it would be arrogant for him to reveal what he's given. Um...

Furtick jokingly said to Jakes that the check was a peace offering for all of the times he stole material from Jakes' sermons. He said that if Jakes received royalty checks from everyone who swiped stuff from him, he'd be the richest man on the planet. Between Sunday services at Elevation church, Furtick said he would get on his computer to watch the live stream of Jakes' sermons at the Potter's House. He called Jakes "the greatest preacher on the continent," and his wife the "first lady."

He said, "For all of us preachers, you know no matter how good you preach on any Sunday morning, you are only one click away from the T.D. Jakes app to be reminded that your sermon was just okay. You gotta time it carefully when you watch it on Monday. It'll make you suicidal."

...Suicidal?

"And that's his announcements," Furtick continued to fawn. "His announcements are better than your sermon."

Coming from an antichrist? No. They're not. As Furtick continued to lavish praise, he said Jakes is ambidextrous and "can beat the devil with both hands." In fact, he is doing the work of the devil.

This was nearly 90 minutes into the service, and it took me two days just to get that far, so I didn't listen to Furtick's sermon. But I bet I could tell you what it was about: he grabbed two or three verses from an Old Testament Bible story having something to do with a king or a battle, and took it out of context and applied it to explain why you're not getting what you want.

He used rhyming contrasts, like "It's not a stumbling block, it's a humbling block." His cadence went up and everyone cheered. He said "you" a lot. He talked about how great Steven Furtick was and how God blessed him because of how faithful he was, and how unfaithful others were who didn't have the believing power that Steven Furtick has. It's always the same.

His teaching is lacking in biblical discernment in a lot of ways. I've never felt like his sermons pointed the hearer to God, but rather to himself or themselves. However, he sure dispenses a lot of gusto when it comes to directing others to false teachers. Be careful of those who have an appearance of godliness but deny its power. The Bible says to avoid such people (2 Timothy 2:5).

Why Be So Direct?

Why was it necessary for me to be so forthright in calling out these men by name? For a couple of reasons. First of all, it's because I love God and desire his glory to be proclaimed. It is the church's calling to do that, even a defender of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-16, 1 Peter 2:9).

The second reason is because I love you and I love Jakes and Furtick enough to show them their errors and call them to repentance. As a pastor, I have been appointed to hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that I may give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). There are those upsetting entire church families, teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach, and they must be silenced (Titus 1:11).

Paul said that of those who fancy themselves shepherds and teachers, as Jakes and Furtick do, if the persist in sin, they must be rebuked in the presence of all so that the rest may stand in fear (1 Timothy 5:20). Names are named when necessary because names are named in the Bible (1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 4:14, 3 John 1:9-10).

So Christian, I appeal to you as I contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, keep your ears from turning toward the irreverent babble of false teachers. I hope that Jakes and Furtick indeed repent before it's too late, and that those who listen to their teaching will listen no longer, but instead fix themselves on the sound words of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why Are You Praying for Paris?


#PrayForParis has been a common hashtag on Twitter and Facebook since the terror attack in Paris, France on November 13, 2015. About 129 people were killed in coordinated attacks around Paris, and over 300 more injured.

Should we pray? Absolutely we should. I spent some time in prayer Saturday evening that God's will and his justice would be done, and that through this tragedy people would be saved, repenting of sin and coming to know the Lord Christ as Savior.

But the call to pray is not in and of itself a noble thing. We can pray with the wrong kind of motivation (James 4:3). A person can pray to the wrong god (Jeremiah 14:22). ISIS is praying for Paris, too. They're praying Paris would be destroyed.

You could argue that I'm taking #PrayForParis out of context: "No one is posting #PrayForParis and calling for them to be destroyed," you might say. But let me ask you something: What are you praying for? Are you praying for the victims and their families? Good! But what are you praying will happen for them? That they would find peace? What kind of peace are you asking for when you pray that?

I hope you understand my heart as I'm asking these questions. I'm not trying to be cynical. I want to help you, and I want God's name to be glorified. That's all I am after here. Do you know what you are praying for when you are asking God for peace?

The Bible describes the peace of God as being beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7). That's because the peace that comes through Jesus Christ is not as the world gives (John 14:27). It is peace with God (Romans 5:1). It is understanding that if we are in Christ, our sins are forgiven, and we are no longer under his wrath (John 3:36). That's real peace.

Is that the kind of peace you're praying for? A peace that's more than just relaxation of the body and a stillness in the soul? Are you praying for peace that comes through forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ our Lord?

More specifically, let me ask you this: Are you praying for repentance in Paris, France?

There are some who will decry what I am saying here as being "too soon." It is never too soon to call anyone to repentance. I have stood at the hospital bed of a man dying from COPD brought on by exposure to Agent Orange, and though he was clearly suffering, in love I told him to repent of his rebellion against God and know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

In that moment, politics didn't matter. Anyone's opinion of past events that resulted in the respiratory condition that this man was dying from were not going to save him. What mattered was the man's soul. He did not know the Lord, and he needed to. And that moment was the only moment I had to pray for his rebellious heart, sing hymns to him, and tell him about Jesus.

This is how we should be praying for Paris, France -- standing by the hospital bed of a sick culture, calling upon them to repent of their sin and know Christ as Savior. If you care about Paris, that is what you will pray for. It is never too soon to preach the gospel and call the lost to repentance.

Do you understand that the worst of the Paris carnage occurred at the Bataclan, a concert venue where a band called Eagles of Death Metal were playing? Eighty people were killed there. Have you looked up Eagles of Death Metal? One of their songs goes like this...
Who'll love the devil?
Who'll sing his song?
Who will love the devil and his song?
I'll love the devil!
I'll sing his song!
I will love the devil and his song
The next verse is, "Who will kiss the devil? I will kiss the devil on his tongue!" That's the first song of theirs I came up with just Googling "Eagles of Death Metal Lyrics."

Please understand, this is not me pointing a finger at eighty people and saying here's why they deserved to die. We all deserve to die because all of us have, at some point, followed the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3). But God who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, saved us from death by giving us life in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6).

The terrorists were following the devil also. They were not listening to God. They were listening to the father of lies who's been a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Whether we're talking about the terrorists or those being entertained by singing the devil's praises, they must turn from their sin and follow Jesus or they will suffer consequences that are far worse (Matthew 10:28).

Jesus was once asked about a terrorist attack. Pilate had slaughtered some worshipers in the temple and mixed their blood in with their sacrifices. Jesus said, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:2).

For many that night, victim or terrorist, it is too late to repent. It is appointed for a man once to die, and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). For many who live on in the aftermath of that attack, they have not yet learned that they need to turn from following the devil and repent of their sin. It is for them we must pray.

Did you know that there is a social media push right now to try to send Eagles of Death Metal to the top of the charts with their cover of Duran Duran's song Save a Prayer? Here's the lyrics of that tune...
You saw me standing by the old
Corner of the main street
And the lights are flashing on your window sill
All alone ain't much fun
So you're looking for the thrill
And you know just what it takes and where to go 
Don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after
No, don't say a prayer for me now
Save it 'til the morning after
If you go on, you'll see that the song is clearly about a one-night stand. The singer, Simon Le Bon, is trying to coax a woman into going to bed with him. "Don't say a prayer for me now, save it 'til the morning after." In other words, let's get our "thrill" on right now, and then pray for my forgiveness in the morning. But for some, the morning is too late.

This is the song that Paris and the many who are "praying" for them want to see rise to the top of the charts as some kind of remembrance anthem. When you change your social media profile picture to a French flag overlay and say that you stand with Paris, is that what you're standing with? (Admittedly, I'm a little more cynical about French flag-waving. ISIS bombed a Russian plane on October 31 killing 224 people, but we didn't start waving Russian red and gold.)

Not that there's anything inherently wrong with changing your Facebook page to blue, white, and red. You may have sincere and heart-felt intentions, not just because everyone else is doing it. This still comes back to the question: Why are you doing that? What exactly do you want to have happen?

God is doing something, even in the aftermath of violence, that we would not understand even if he told us what it was (Habakkuk 1:5). Let your heart's desire be that God's will would be done, and that all would come to a saving knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

Pray for Paris. Pray for repentance.

Monday, November 2, 2015

When Elijah Mocked the Priests of Baal


In 1 Kings 18:21, the prophet Elijah as directed by God stood before Israel and told them to pick a side: "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal, then follow him." Yet the people did not answer him.

So Elijah issued a challenge. A fight to the finish. Elijah vs. the priests of Baal. One true prophet against 450 false prophets. Each would take a bull and place it on their own altar. The priests of Baal would pray to their god, and Elijah would pray to his God. The God who answered by fire, igniting the sacrifice on the altar, was the true God. And all the people said, "Let's do it!"

Elijah let the priests of Baal take the field first. They built an altar and chose their bull. Then after preparing the animal and laying it on the wood, they danced around it calling on Baal from morning until noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they cried. But there was no voice, and no one answered as they limped helplessly around their altar.

The word for "limped" in verse 26 is the same word for "limping" in verse 21. The priests of Baal had this awkward dance that they did, an ascetic contorting of the body that was rather uncomfortable and painfully exhausting. Eventually the priests started cutting on themselves, a self-mutilating display of false humility before a false god.

As they did this, the Scripture says that Elijah mocked them. "Cry aloud for he is a god," he shouted. "Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened!" The priests raved on all the more, their blood all over them. But as verse 29 records, "No one answered. No one paid attention." Because there was no god there.

Elijah's turn. He called on the people to come near to him, and they did. He took twelve stones that represented the twelve tribes in Israel, and with them he built an altar. He dug a trench around the altar deep enough that if a person stood in it, the top would have been above the knees. On the altar Elijah laid the wood, then cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood.

Then he instructed, "Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood." These were huge storage jars which would have held enough water to soak the altar and run into the trench. Yet Elijah said, "Do it a second time." And they did. Then, "Do it a third time," and they did until the trench was full. Then Elijah prayed;
"O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back." (1 Kings 18:36-37)
The fire of the Lord fell from heaven and consumed the offering. The wood. The stones. The dust. Even the water. All of it. Gone. And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!" Then Elijah instructed that all 450 prophets of Baal who deceived and manipulated the people be seized, and they were taken to Kishon where they were slaughtered.

Why do I mention this story? Because it's a great story, of course. And through it we might be reminded of God's loving patience, his faithfulness, and his mighty power. It is God who saves us, and to him belongs all glory.

But I confess, there's another reason I wanted to bring this up. Sometimes I hear this story used to justify how it's okay to make fun of the lost; those who are on their way to hell unless they repent and follow Christ. Hey, Elijah did it in 1 Kings 18:27, so therefore I can do it, too! I've observed this reasoning given by apologetics and discernment ministries responding to criticism because they mock unbelievers and false teachers.

But those who use 1 Kings 18:27 in such a way are taking it out of context. When Elijah mocked the priests of Baal, he wasn't just throwing random jabs and blind haymakers. Each one of his insults had a specific meaning. Yes, even his point about Baal going off somewhere to take a leak (relieving himself).

The word that appears in 1 Kings 18:27 for "mocked" is a variation of the Hebrew word hathal, which doesn't just mean mocked. It also means "deceived." Elijah was doing more than just mocking. He was egging-on the priests of Baal, pushing them to become more emphatic so that the Israelites would see no matter how loud they got, Baal did not exist to answer them.

Each insult, if you will, was specific to the attributes of the god that the priests of Baal were calling out to...
  • "Either he is musing..." The false gods the pagans worshiped were considered to be a source for knowledge. Different gods possessed different knowledge. If Baal was off somewhere being contemplative, then apparently he had to get his knowledge from somewhere else and couldn't be considered a reliable source of understanding.
  • "Or he is relieving himself..." Baal was a god of rain, which in this story Israel had not seen in over three years. Elijah was mocking the priests by saying that Baal must not care about the Israelites, and was off in some other land giving them water instead. That makes Elijah's insult all the more hilarious, saying that Baal's "rain" was the god's pee on his worshipers' crops.
  • "Or he is on a journey..." Elijah was suggesting that maybe the priests of Baal were worshiping in the wrong spot. Sometimes pagan gods had to be journeyed after in order to be found, or there were certain spots designated as a channel through which that god could be contacted. A wandering god, whose location is inconsistent, makes things pretty difficult for the people to find him.
  • "Or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." According to the pagans, the reason why there was no rain was because the god of rain was asleep. Therefore that god's priests had to awaken him. Elijah was straight-to-the-point with this insult; the idea that a god needed to be woken up was pretty ridiculous. This was also said to provoke the priests to cry louder.
Contrast these insults about Baal with the attributes of the true God that Elijah called upon...
  • God does not seek knowledge. He does not need to be contemplative. He is the source of all knowledge (Proverbs 9:10, 1 Corinthians 1:4-5, Colossians 2:2).
  • God stores up and sends both fire and rain (2 Peter 3:6-7). Remember, Baal's a rain god, and Elijah told the priests of Baal to call upon their rain god to produce fire. Not only can Baal not do that, he can't do anything. He doesn't exist (1 Corinthians 8:4).
  • God does not wander, or needs to be journeyed after on the earth in order to be found. He is always with his people (Matthew 28:20, John 14:18).
  • When God rests, this doesn't mean he is asleep or inactive (Psalm 121:3-4). He listens to the  prayers of his people (Psalm 6:9), and knows their words before they say them (Psalm 139:4).
This was Elijah saying, "Your god does this, but my God does this!" All of his comments were intentional and purposeful, meant to direct the nation of Israel to what the true God was about to do before their very eyes.

The Israelites saw the 450 priests of Baal doing their little song-and-dance giving it everything they had and getting no response. Then over here was one confident prophet of God. He took a stand when no one else would, mocking Baal and all of his false attributes because he knew that false god did not exist and therefore could not retaliate.

Elijah precisely and obediently prepared his sacrifice. His methods were wise, raising up stones that represented the people of Israel, as if to tell them, "What you are about to see is grace for you, because the Lord your God loves you. He is faithful to you though you have been faithless toward him. He is calling upon you to repent."

As God with fire consumed that sacrifice and everything around it, the Israelites became astounded and worshiped God. God turned their hearts back to him (1 Kings 18:37). Just as God burned up the stones that represented the tribes of Israel, so he could have done to them for following false gods. But he was patient and loving toward them.

The point of the story is not 1 Kings 18:27. The point of the story is 1 Kings 18:37! Elijah's purpose was not to denigrate the priests of Baal. It was to exalt highly the saving grace of the Lord our God. It is God alone who saves.

Folks, it is not okay to act like jerks toward those who are supposed to be our mission field. There may be times when rhetorical devices like parody or sarcasm can be employed in order to get a point across. I've done that before. But we must be wise in how we use them. There are other times when such devices can be misused and are not acceptable. I've done that before, too.

When you take a Bible verse out of context in order to build an entire hermeneutic around the idea that it's okay to insult others or point fingers and laugh, your motives are self-serving. That is not loving and it is not Christ-like. You're using the Scriptures to justify your behavior rather than being filled with the entire counsel of God and letting his word guide your behavior.

We are instead to follow the example of the Apostle Paul, who wrote "even with tears" about those who "walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things."

Paul did not grab these individuals to be used as material for his vlog or podcast (or whatever the first century equivalent was) and deride them with put-downs much to the applause of his audience. He wept over them, even the ones who made his ministry hard on him (Philippians 1:15-18), just as Christ wept for those who would not listen to him (Luke 19:41-44).

Paul went on to say, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Philippians 3:17-21).

If we are confident citizens of the kingdom of God, as Elijah was a confident prophet of God, we must preach the word of God in love and care knowing that he will do his work to bring about repentance and saving faith.

I think also of Charles Spurgeon who said, "If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for."

As Dr. Russell Moore has said, "The message of the kingdom isn't, 'You kids, get off our lawn!' The message of the kingdom is, 'Make way for the coming of the Lord!'" That was Elijah's message. That is to be our message, too. In the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of salvation for all who believe.