Monday, December 12, 2016

Responding to the False Teaching of Bethel Church, Jesus Culture, and Todd White


Last week, I published a series of videos through WWUTT about false teachers at Bethel Church and Jesus Culture, including Bill Johnson and Todd White. This began with a video that Todd White posted on Facebook preaching a false man-centered gospel. I followed that up with a video on Bethel Church and Todd White. The last of the trilogy was a video addressing Bethel Church and Jesus Culture's use of "glory clouds" during their worship services. How do I know these men are cons? Because the Bible says so. The following are some of the comments we got about those videos. The comments are in bold and my response follows.

You still don't have proof. God manifest His glory in myriads of ways. What Moses experienced was unique and only occurred one time in the Bible. What about the cloud that was present in the camp? God was present in the cloud by day and the fire by night. God was present in the cloud that covered the tabernacle in the midst of over 2 million people. "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34). I'm not defending Bethel but you have made baseless accusations that you simply cannot verify. You do not know with absolutely certainly whether or not your accusations are true. Why not send someone to collect some of the dust and have it analyzed?

Ben
Overland Park, KS

Understand something: It is Bethel Church that calls this glitter-and-fog-machine manifestation a "glory cloud." That's their name for it, not mine. If it was the glory of God, it would kill everyone in that room. The pillars of cloud and fire described in Exodus 14 were not a display of God in His glory. Exodus 14:19 says that it was an angel of God that was in the pillar of cloud (not to be confused with the Angel of the Lord). In Exodus 40:34, "The cloud covered the tent of meeting" and "the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" are two different statements. It's not saying the cloud which was the glory of God filled the tabernacle.

Furthermore, it's as if Ben didn't actually watch the whole video (which is only 90-seconds long). The book of Exodus is not the only Scriptural evidence given as to how I know God's glory is not appearing in gold dust at Bethel Church. Hebrews 1:1-3 explicitly states that God does not appear to us in such ways anymore. He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, through His word, the Bible -- which is not preached at Bethel Church. That's how I know they are liars and deceivers, and they're piping in gold dust and fog through their ventilation system.

Thank the Lord, I don't need to invest the time and money to go to Bethel church and scoop up some gold dust to have it analyzed or crawl through their air ducts and take pictures. I have a much more infallible resource -- the word of God. If you won't believe that word, you'd never believe any other form of proof.

Is it bad to play their music in church? Some of their songs aren't bad.

Aisha
Plantation, FL

Here's three reasons why you shouldn't play their music in church. First, their songs offer nothing substantive. Your church will not be missing anything if you don't play Jesus Culture songs, but you will be missing something if you do. As I've written about before, there's nothing biblically solid about their music. If you think you hear doctrinally sound lyrics, that's because the song is ambiguous enough to allow you to impose your (probably better) theology upon it. But if their teaching isn't biblical, neither will their music be.

Second, you would inadvertently be endorsing their church. If someone found out the song you sang on Sunday came from Jesus Culture, that could open the door for that person exposing them to Bethel's teaching and heresy. I shared an occasion of this happening in a previous article (linked above).

And third, you would be paying them for their songs. If your church is singing something other than hymns or what's in the public domain, then you probably have a CCLI license. That means you pay royalties on the songs that you sing. If some of those songs are from Jesus Culture, you are paying them to sing their music. (By the way, these reasons also apply to why we shouldn't sing Hillsong tunes either.)

My friends, to correct your closing statements, there is no question that WWUTT, Pastor Gabe, and others who do what they do are false teachers. Leave God's anointed alone for once. That would be great.

Evans
Marion Station, MD

Regarding the video exposing Bill Johnson and Todd White, the closing statement is, "There's no question that Bethel Church, Todd White, and others who do what they do are false teachers." Evans was trying to be witty and turn that back around on me. His insistence to "leave God's anointed alone" is a common one used often in charismatic circles. The irony is that it's actually these charismatic false prophets who are harming God's anointed ones.

Upon the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, David gave praise to God for His faithfulness to His people. While they wandered from Egypt to the Promised Land, and were yet so few in number, God allowed no one to oppress them and "rebuked kings on their account, saying, 'Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!'" (1 Chronicles 16:22, repeated again in Psalm 105:15).

God's anointed ones are those who are descendants in the line of Abraham. In our case as Christians, it's all who are in Christ, Himself a descendant of Abraham and through whom we are adopted into the family of God. In 2 Corinthians 1:21, Paul says that we have been anointed in Christ. John says this also in 1 John 2:20, anointed by the Holy One. We who are in Christ are God's anointed.

Those who speak against God are the false shepherds and teachers talked about in Ezekiel 34 and John 10. In 1 John 4:1, we read, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." These false teachers are a burden upon the people of God, unsettling them by teaching for selfish gain what they ought not teach.

Jesus said, "For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24). Just as God protected his people from pagan kings in the Old Testament, so He will continue to protect His people from the wiles of false prophets. It is to these false teachers, like Bill Johnson and Todd White, that God is saying, "Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!"

Psalm 105:15 and 1 Chronicles 16:22 are in no way meant to give false teachers a pass. Rather, it's all the more reason why we need to test all things according to the Scriptures. This will be a topic in a future WWUTT video.

Another lovely video taken out of context. Watch the rest of the video and you'll see how Todd White realizes that it's all grace and mercy. Todd White realizes we were wretched but aren't anymore now that we are in Christ. Come on, Pastor Gabe. So as a Christian it's wrong to say we are a new creation?

Ricky
Omaha, NE

Ricky expressed appreciation for my ministry and WWUTT, so I know that his disagreement is respectful. The video that the Todd White clip was taken from was shared by White on his Facebook page, and has been seen over a million times. In the three minutes that he spoke, he never once mentioned grace or mercy. The 45-second clip that was used in the WWUTT video was perfectly in context.

I have watched dozens of Todd White sermons since I was first introduced to him in 2014. His messages are always the same. He constantly abuses Scripture, rambles on about nothing, and never shares the gospel. He uses the word "gospel," but doesn't preach it. There is never any understanding of guilt before God, repenting of sin and receiving forgiveness. He doesn't tell people to turn from their rebellious nature to the righteousness of Christ, who by His death satisfied the wrath of God burning against ungodliness, and by His resurrection has rescued us from the grave we deserve and given us the eternal life we do not deserve. Those who are in Christ are saved from God's judgment, those who are not will be consigned to an eternal hell at the last judgment.

That's not White's message. White's message is always about how we're great and deserving of the blessings of God. When he talks about God's love, he talks about it from the standpoint that the love God has for us proves that we are inherently lovable. We're not. We were children of wrath like the rest of mankind saved by the mercy of God (see Ephesians 2:1-10). White's doctrine could not be more man-centered. It is this very kind of teaching that prompted Spurgeon to say, "If you meet with a system of theology that magnifies man, flee from it as far as you can!"

White preaches about dominion and stuff he'll call "the gospel" that isn't the gospel. He thinks that "By His wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24) means that we're supposed to go up to people on the street and make their legs grow. And even that work is a total con. He is a liar, a Bethel Church cad, leading thousands of people astray into a false gospel of works-based evangelism. I pray he repents or the day of judgment will not go well for him. Have nothing to do with this charlatan.

A church here in Garden City has promoted him and has had Dan Mohler, one of Todd's mentors, to speak at the church. Thank you for your time to bring this to light.

John
Garden City, KS

As a former resident of Garden City, this grieves me. This is why it's so important to speak up about these things and alert people to this false teaching. People are being deceived. They think miraculous clouds and healings (which are nothing but tricks) are the gospel. They're trading in sound preaching and teaching of God's word for goosebumps and charismania.

Not so long ago, I was having my quiet time with God and I was sharing what's on my heart on how jealous I am for God, how I wanted to fight the false teachings in church that led God's sheep astray, how I wanted to expose it and burn it. And as I was sharing that, God spoke to me in a personal way and told me that to get the darkness away you need light. To fight falsehood, you need the truth to shine. Go share the truth instead of dedicating yourself to exposing falsehoods in other teachings. I quickly stepped down from my anger toward the false teachings in obedience and decided that I want to pursue learning the Bible so I can share the truth to all that I bump into. I'm sharing this testimony because I would love for the WWUTT team to stop releasing videos accusing others and instead focus more on sharing the truth without having to point fingers in order to do that. All that is doing is creating hostility, and I'm saying that from personal experience. Press on, aspire on being salt and light to the world, and may God bless you.

Daniel
New Cairo, Egypt

There were a couple of men that responded to Daniel with Scripture, and he seemed to be appreciative for the correction. For that reason, I rejoice. Daniel's experience is subjective and not based in Scripture. He heard something in his mind instead of reading for himself what God has truly said in the Bible. There it says we need to take no part in the fruitless works of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11). The church is to be a pillar and buttress of the truth, declaring the truth and defending the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). One of the responsibilities as a pastor is to hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught and be able to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). Sometimes that means naming names.

Preaching the truth and occasionally calling out false teachers does not divide. It unifies. It is the false teachers who divide. It is men who are faithful to the sound teaching of the Bible who are the peacemakers. The word of God pierces to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). If declaring it offends someone, that's not on the part of the teacher who humbly submits to and declares its truth. Jesus said, "I came not to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). Many will be divided from the people of God when the word of God is declared because they were not really of the people of God in the first place.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews?

The following is a response given on a recent episode of the WWUTT podcast, answering a question on who wrote the book of Hebrews. If you'd like to submit a question, the e-mail address is whenweunderstandthetext@gmail.com, and subscribe to the podcast here! Questions are answered on Fridays.


Hey Pastor Gabe, I really enjoy your WWUTT videos! My question is: who do you think wrote the book of Hebrews? What do you think are the best arguments out there? A.W. Pink makes very strong internal arguments from the Scripture in favor for Paul writing the book.

Thank you
Jeremiah

Greetings, Jeremiah!

Thank you for your question! It's hard to say who wrote Hebrews, but I do not believe it was Paul. Now, I'm not versed in Greek and am unable to compare Paul's Greek to the Greek in Hebrews. But I don't think a person would need to know Greek in order to rule out Paul as the author.

There are two reasons I don't believe Paul wrote it. First, there's no clear greeting. In all of Paul's letters that we have, there is a distinct introduction and conclusion. He identifies himself in every letter, and in Hebrews he does not. This is an argument from silence of course, but it's a very loud silence given the nature of the letter, who it's written to, and yet Paul doesn't find it necessary to remind them that he's a former teacher of the Law.

The second reason I believe is the strongest reason. Hebrews 2:3 says of the gospel, "It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard." Well, Paul didn't receive the gospel "by those who heard." He received it from direct revelation from the Lord himself (Galatians 1:12, Ephesians 3:3).

So who did write Hebrews? Well, considering there are some stylistic similarities to Paul's writings, it would have to be someone close to Paul. The mention of Timothy in chapter 13 suggests someone from Paul's group. The most likely candidates are Apollos and Barnabas. Despite the fact that Martin Luther argued for Apollos being the author, I think Apollos can be ruled out in favor of Barnabas.

Apollos was a Jew, but he was from Alexandria, Egypt. He had a Greek name, and his ministry outreach was primarily to the Greeks, particularly in Ephesus and Corinth. Barnabas, however, was a Levite (Acts 4:36). He would have known the levitical system well which is a central theme in the book of Hebrews. In Acts 11, we see Barnabas sent out from Jerusalem to find Paul, and they served in ministry together. Barnabas was present at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. His acquaintance with both Hebrews and Paul runs much deeper than Apollos.

That would be my argument for the author of Hebrews. I hope I've been able to give you something to consider. Ultimately the author of Hebrews is the author of the Bible: God Himself. It is in Him we marvel when we read His inerrant word, delivered to us through His apostles and prophets to the praise of His glorious grace. God bless, Jeremiah!

Pastor Gabe

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why People Leave the Church


The following is an exchange I had a few months back with a woman named Melissa via e-mail. These kinds of exchanges are fairly regular with a wide variety of people, but all making the same arguments. Receive my tone as even and caring. I want a person to love Christ and His church, which is why I share His word: so they will repent of their sins and through Christ be reconciled to God and to His people. A person will hear the gospel and be broken by it, or they will be crushed under it (Matthew 21:44). There's an omission and edits for grammar.

Mr. Hughes

I read your blog about the disagreement with Pavlovitz. I'm a once-in-a-while church person. The way you attempted to contradict Pavlovitz on why people leave Church is why people leave Church. My interpretation of what you are saying is that if you aren't a 100% believer of "our" beliefs you do not belong "here".  

Everyday people don't feel accepted in one way or another. It would be nice to enjoy a Sunday morning with people that are unbiased and accepting, unfortunately that's not reality. Do individuals or corporations own a Church or does God? It's interesting how people will say "our" Church or "my" Church as if it's something they own or a club they belong to.  

This is why Church Goers become Used to be Church Goers. The disillusionment is revealed & then they wake up and realize they belong to a cult where their true selves aren't accepted.  

I realize the Southern Baptist ways tend to rely on fear and intimidation to "keep its flock in order", but people are smarter than that. They want compassion, understanding and treated with dignity. 

Melissa

Dear Melissa

Thank you for reading the blog, and I appreciate you reaching out and sending me an e-mail. People leave the church because they hate God and they hate God's people. There is no other reason. The blog mentions 1 John 2:19 where the Apostle says they went out from us so that it might become plain that they were never of us to begin with.

Romans 8:7-8 says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." We read in 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2:14, "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."

You're an occasional church-goer because you also don't love God or His people. I pray that you will repent of this and that you will love the body of Christ. You like listening to men like John Pavlovitz because he makes you feel better about your decisions, accumulating for yourself false teachers to suit your own passions (2 Timothy 4:3).

Pastor Gabe

Mr. Hughes

I don't hate God or "his" people. Wasn't I a product of God and doesn't He have a plan for me? Is God only in a structure that is man made? Instead of quoting scripture maybe you should spend more time trying to understand human beings. Humans feel more accepted when one tries to understand their questions and concepts. The minute one starts to "preach the Gospel" I feel alone, threatened and alienated. Follow these words or else... is what I hear. 

Dear Melissa

Thank you again for your reply. I don't understand what you're asking by your first few questions, but let me say that all those who are in Christ, who are part of His church, are His people. It says in 1 Peter 2:10, talking about the church, "Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people." And in Titus 2:14, Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."

We read in 1 John 3:10, "By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother." As it says previously in 1 John 3:8, "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil."

The reason why you feel threatened and alienated when you hear the Bible quoted to you is because your conscience is guilty. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." You feel exposed when the word of God is given to you. Rather than ignore it and try to tell people not to speak the Bible, repent of your sins and desire Christ the Lord.

Jesus said, "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God" (John 3:19-21).

If you don't hate God, then you'll come to the light of His love and mercy as spoken about in His word. But if you hate God, you will hate His word, and will run when you hear it.

Pastor Gabe

Wow!! Just wow. I can't be a part of your world. I guess I must hate people that love God. I should quit my job as a nurse who goes on mission trips to third world countries and join the devil. 

This condescending "Join God and his people or else you're a hateful person" is what drives people away from your kind of Church.

Thank you for your response again. I just wanted a real human discussion with a pastor that had different thoughts than mine and you could not even do that. 

I won't email anymore as I'm sure I'm an insult to your belief system.

"All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." Isaiah 66:2

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

People Who Claimed to Be the Second Coming of Christ

Do you remember a story in 2011 where a man got arrested after shooting at the White House? Did you ever hear why? Well, that guy thought he was the second-coming of Jesus Christ, and he needed to stop Obama, the antichrist, from ruling the world. His name was Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez. In a video addressing Oprah, he announced his divinity and said, "It's not just a coincidence that I look like Jesus. I am the modern day Jesus Christ that you all have been waiting for."

Many others have claimed to be the second coming of Jesus Christ, and unfortunately, some of them aren't as on-the-fringe as Oscar. They have duped thousands, even millions of followers. Yet the true Jesus has said to us:
"If anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." Matthew 24:23-27
The following are twelve of the most notorious prophets who claimed to be the return of Jesus. Some of this is just downright ridiculous and will probably make you laugh. But we need to have broken hearts and remember that unless false teachers and their followers repent, they will stand before the true Christ in judgment who will say to them, "Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. I never knew you."

We must remain committed to the true words of the Bible, preaching them to the world, and exposing the fruitless works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). The false gospel will damn (Galatians 1:8-9). Only the true gospel has the power to save (Romans 1:16).

Ann Lee
Ever heard of the Shakers? Less popularly known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, they were called the "Shaking Quakers" or just Shakers because of their spasmatic behavior during their worship services (hmmm, that sounds familiar). The sect was founded in 18th century England, known for practicing communal living and egalitarianism, believing that the second coming of Christ would be through a woman. Along came Ann Lee who said she was the female incarnation and second coming of Christ. Mother Ann, as she was known, preached that sex of any kind, even sex in marriage, was lustful, and told her followers to forsake marriage (which 1 Timothy 4:1-3 calls the teaching of demons). The Shakers are still around, though I'm not sure how that's possible if they aren't allowed to breed. Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, located in Maine, is said to be the last existing Shaker community.

Arnold Potter
From among the Mormons came a guy named Arnold Potter who also went by Potter Christ. In 1840, Potter was ordained by Mormon founder Joseph Smith and given the Melchizedek priesthood, becoming one of the seventy. In 1856, Potter was called by Latter-Day Saint Church President, Brigham Young, to serve as a missionary in Australia. It was on that trip that Potter claims that he became Potter Christ, Son of the living God. What else can you expect from a religion based entirely on new revelation? He moved back to Independence, MO, which the Mormons claim is the true Zion, then to Council Bluffs, IA where he maintained a group of devout followers. In 1878, on the day of his death, he rode on a donkey up to the bluffs and told his disciples it was time for him to ascend into heaven. Then he jumped off the cliff, and... well, I'm sure you can guess what happened.

Baha'u'llah
In 1844, a man named Sayid Ali Muhammad claimed to be the Bab (meaning "Gate"), the eighth manifestation of God and first since Muhammad. Before his execution by Persian and Ottoman authorities in 1850, the Bab spoke of a coming prophet. On April 22, 1863, Mirza Husayn Ali, one of the Bab's followers (also called Babis), claimed to be the fulfillment of that prophesy. He took the name Baha'u'llah, which means "the glory of God," founder of the Baha'i faith who claimed to be the second coming of Christ. The faith believes it is the reconciliation of all major religions; therefore, Baha'u'llah is not just the second coming of Christ but the fulfillment of the greatest prophets in every major religion. Their yearly annual conferences are held in Haifa, Israel. It is estimated that the Baha'i faith has up to 8 million members, about as large as the Jehovah's Witnesses and half as large as Mormonism. But unlike those two religions, the Baha'i do not believe in proselytizing. The Baha'i faith is monotheistic, but says that God is unknowable.

The Baha'i House of Worship for North America, located in Wilmette, IL.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
An Indian religious leader and founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Ahmad claimed to be the coming of the Mahhdi, the redeemer of Islam, in the likeness of Jesus. In 1891, he claimed that God told him, "The Messiah, son of Mary, Prophet of Allah, had died and thou hast come in accordance with the promise." Ahmad is among the first, certainly the most influential, to suggest that Jesus survived his crucifixion. He then traveled to India where he died a natural death. Therefore, since he died of natural causes, Jesus would not return physically but would return in the likeness that Ahmad represented. Ahmad's teachings continue to be followed by an estimated 10 to 20 million people to this day, though he's considered a false prophet by most Muslims.

John Hugh Smyth-Pigott 
The Agapemonites, also known as the Community of the Son of Man, was founded in 1846 by the Reverend Henry Prince, a former minister in the Church of England. Prince gained several interested followers which he narrowed down to primarily wealthy single women, and initiated what he called "spiritual marriage" (as opposed to a legal marriage, I guess). Prince believed himself to be the visible embodiment of the Holy Spirit. He lost a number of followers in 1856 after a ceremonial act of public sex in front of a large audience. Those who remained received titles such as the "Anointed Ones," the "Angels of the Last Trumpet," and the "Seven Witnesses." After he died in 1899, he was succeeded by John Hugh Smyth-Pigott who claimed to be Jesus Christ reincarnate. The claim apparently traveled from England all the way to India, where Mirza Ghulam Ahmad condemned Smyth-Pigott as a false teacher, and warned him that it would result in a miserable end. So one false Jesus said to another false Jesus, "You can't be Jesus, I am!" The last member of the Agapemonites died in 1956 and the cult came to an end, but not before having produced several illegitimate children.

Haile Selassie I
Though Selassie never claimed to be Jesus Christ, he had a group of followers who did. When Selassie became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930, a group of worshipers in Jamaica hailed him as the second coming of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you've heard of them -- the Rastafarians. Selassie was born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael, which is where Rastafari gets its name ("ras" means "head" in Amharic, and the name Tafari means one who is revered). But Selassie was not so on-board with the whole worshiping thing. He sent an archbishop to Jamaica telling them to convert to Ethiopian Orthodox. The parts of Rastafari that remain popular today are the smoking of pot and rejection of materialism and oppression. It gained widespread recognition thanks to reggae music and Bob Marley. But the whole thing started because they believed the Emperor of Ethiopia was the second-coming of Christ. True Rastafarians believe Selassie's death in 1975 was a hoax, and he still reigns on earth to this day.

Yes, Bob Marley believed Selassie was the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
James Warren Jones
Perhaps you know all about crack-pot Jim Jones and the mass murder-suicide of his cult in Jonestown, Guyana, killing 918 people by cyanide poisoning, the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan, and Jim Jones himself with a gunshot wound to the head. What you might not know about Jones is that he claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ -- also the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, Buddha, Vladimir Lenin, and African American spiritual leader Father Divine, who also had claimed to be God. It's from the Jonestown deaths that we get the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid," when a person goes along with a false teacher or group that may have dangerous consequences. Until the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Jonestown was the largest loss of American civilian life by a single event. By the way, that happened in November, 1978, 38 years ago this month.

Ahn Sahng-Hong
A former Seventh-Day Adventist, the church excommunicated him in 1962 and twenty-three people followed him. Two years later, he founded the Witnesses of Jesus Church of God. After his death in 1985, the church split and formed the New Covenant Passover Church of God with both churches claiming Ahn as their founder. Ahn was among some of the end-times kooks who thought the beginning of the modern state of Israel was a sign of the end of the world, which he predicted would happen in 1988. He died before he saw his prophecy flop. The Witnesses of Jesus Church of God maintain that Ahn is the Second Coming of Christ (even though he's dead). Arguments persist between the Witnesses New Covenants as to what Ahn actually claimed and taught. His churches have been planted in over 150 countries with 2 million registered members.

Sun Myung Moon
A Korean religious leader and media mogul who founded the Unification Church, Moon told his members that he was the Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ. His influence is pretty incredible. His international media conglomerate, News World Communications, runs newspapers in South Korea, Japan, South America, and North America, including the Washington Times. Moon invested $1.7 billion in the Times, which he said was an "instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world." In the 1970s, he gave a speech in Washington D.C. about "God's Hope for America," attended by 300,000 people. He has also spoken in New York City at Madison Square Garden and at Yankee Stadium. He had many political ties, including relationships with Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and both Bush's, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbechev, North Korean President Kim Il Sung, and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. His book Divine Principle is considered Scripture by Unification Church adherents. Moon died in 2012 at the age of 92. His wife, Hak Ja Han, has assumed leadership in the church, and is believed to be a reincarnation of Eve.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda
Born in Puerto Rico and based out of Miami, FL, Jose Miranda claimed to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. He had millions of followers in several countries who sang songs to him and worshiped him as though he was Jesus. He would be introduced at church services as "king of kings and lord of lords." Eventually, he also claimed to be the antichrist, and his followers showed their support by getting tattoos of 666, the mark of the beast. Miranda said that 666 wasn’t the devil’s number, but is actually the number of wisdom and shows who is truly following Jesus Christ. He was interviewed by Bill Maher in his mocumentary Religulous, where Miranda claimed there's no more sin because he already died for our sins. NBC did an exposé on him, which you can view here. He died in 2013 of cirrhosis of the liver. His church maintains that he’s still Christ and has just become immortal. Even his own kids claim he is God.

Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop
In 1990, a then 29-year-old Russian man claimed to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. His followers called him Vissarion. He founded a church called the Church of the Last Testament, and a utopian community called Petropavlovka, where eating meat, drinking alcohol, smoking, and cursing is prohibited. The community still exists, located in remote Siberia where Vissarion also lives, and reportedly has a population of 800. But it is said that including the surrounding churches that worship Vissarion, he has about 50,000 followers. There's a YouTube video on this "Siberian Messiah" that has over 8 million views.

Apollo Quiboloy
Claiming to be the "Appointed Son of God," Apollo Quiboloy is the founder of a church in the Philippines called the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name, Inc. Like an American megachurch, he has turned this into an enterprise. He is the President and CEO of Sonshine Media Network International, he founded Sonshine Sports Management based in Davao City, and is attempting to infiltrate politics having anointed the next Philippian president in 2010. When the man he anointed failed to win the election, Quiboloy blamed his followers for not stepping up. According to Quiboloy, God has appointed him Son of God or the reincarnation of Jesus Christ to become the Savior of the Gentiles. He claims to be sinless, and that God has given him the authority to enforce the laws of the Kingdom throughout the world. It is estimated that he has over 6 million followers, most of whom are in the Philippines with 2 million abroad.

This is a false christ warning about other false christs.
(Dis) Honorable Mentions
  • William W. Davies, another from the Mormon camp, began the Kingdom of Heaven sect in Walla Walla, WA. Davies claimed he was the archangel Michael who previously lived the lives of Adam, Abraham, and David. When his son Arthur was born, February 11, 1868, Davies declared him the reincarnated Christ. He would become known as Walla Walla Jesus, and his followers increased. He had another son whom Davies said was the reincarnated God the Father. Both children died of diphtheria, and his followers sued him.
  • Marshall Applewhite, though not as notorious as Jim Jones, was also an American kook cult-leader who convinced his followers to commit murder-suicide. Applewhite was the founder of the Heaven's Gate cult back in the 90s, and called himself, "I, Jesus, Son of God." He convinced his followers to kill themselves so they could rendezvous with the mothership flying in the tail of the comet Hale-Bopp.
  • Wayne Bent, a former Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, founded Lord Our Righteousness Church, also called Strong City near Clayton, NM. Bent claimed, "I am the embodiment of God. I am divinity and humanity combined." He went to prison for allegedly having sex with a minor, but was released due to a mistrial. There have been numerous investigations into Bent's cult practices. His community still exists, and Bent is still writing stuff online. It was reported this year that he has cancer.
  • Mitsuo Matayoshi founded the World Econominic Community Party in Japan, a political party he started based on his claim that he is Jesus Christ. Within this claim, Matayoshi says that he will be the one judging all mankind at the end of the world according to the current political system.
  • Hogen Fukunaga, also from Japan, founded Ho No Sanpogyo, known as the Foot Reading Cult. Fukunaga attended a Clinton fundraising dinner in the 90s with Yogesh Gandhi, a distant relative of Mahatma Gandhi, and presented President Clinton with the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Award. Fukunaga claims he is the reincarnation of Christ and Buddha.
  • Inri Cristo from Brazil claims to be the second Jesus reincarnated. He has been on television and debated others regarding their own claims of reincarnation. He still gives lectures on college campuses and has a smattering of followers in several countries.
  • Alan John Miller is a former Jehovah's Witness elder who claims to be the second coming of Christ and started the Divine Truth movement in Australia. Also a prophet of the 2012 Mayinism phenomenon, he prophesied catastrophic waves would turn the land he owns, 150 miles from the coast, into beachfront property by 2013. His partner, Mary Suzanne Luck, is said to be the second-coming of Mary Magdalene.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hey, Porn Addict: Stop It


It's late as I'm writing this. I just finished an article from someone -- a sound teacher, plenty of credentials, reputable website -- offering five points in a tidy little acronym for how to fight a porn addiction. Honestly, I didn't read the whole thing. I browsed it. I read the main points in bold. I'm sure it was insightful and doctrinally sound. But it was over-thought and cute.

A porn addiction isn't cute. It's serious. Dead serious. With a capital D. As in, if you don't stop this, it will kill you. When it comes to looking at porn, there's a simple solution for ending this lurid obsession with the flesh. You won't even have to take notes or remember a cutesy acronym. Here it is:

Stop looking at porn.

It's that simple, and you know it. You know what you're doing is evil. You know God hates it. You know He is going to judge all the sexually immoral and throw them in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. Because of what you're doing, you're qualified to be among that lot. You will go to hell for this if you don't repent. You know it.

Unless, of course -- God forbid -- you've become so enslaved by your lust that you don't know it's wrong anymore. You've reasoned it as being okay. Just a thing. Not hurting anyone. It's not actually sex. It's not actually adultery. There are worse things you could be doing. No big deal. In which case God has already turned you over to a debased mind to be devoured and destroyed by your passions. You've suppressed the truth with unrighteousness. God save you.

But if that part of you, by the Holy Spirit of God, is still convicted by this sin and you know you need to stop, then you need to hear me. Stop. You know it's evil, demonic, satanic, and you know that you need to end it. So end it. Right now. Cold turkey. Just stop. Stop looking at porn.

Easier said that done, right? You've tried before. It didn't work. You went right back to looking at porn again. Do you know why? Because you don't really want to stop. Because you'd rather look at naked women on a screen than worship God. Point blank, that's your problem.

You like the feeling of watching sex and masturbating more than you enjoy worshiping God. Ultimately, that's what's going to destroy you -- idol worship. You worship something else, something you don't want to stop doing, more than God. You are bowing to an idol, sacrificing on an altar to a false god.

There's really no difference between what you're doing and the what the pagans did. They had fertility gods and sex gods and goddesses. They built temples for them. Employed at those temples were priestess prostitutes with whom they would have sex on altars to made-up gods. Well, in your porn habit, you've raised up such an altar and are sacrificing on it with prostitutes. You're doing the same thing. You yourself are acting as a whore, cheating on the God who gave His Son to die for your sin.

Jesus said that if you even look at a woman with lust, you've committed adultery with her in your heart (Matthew 5:28). You know that verse. Sermon on the Mount stuff, right? You've heard it before. But you still think it's just not that big a deal. Do you know what will happen if you don't repent? You'll be among those at the final judgment who are crying out to Him, "Lord! Lord!" but He says to you, "I never knew you. Depart from me, you worker of lawlessness" (Matthew 7:21-23).

I think you know what you should be doing, but I'm going to tell you anyway. It is the power of the gospel that saves, and faith comes by hearing. So here's what you should do: When you are tempted to look at porn, you worship God instead. The more the temptation seizes you, the more you pray, call on His name, sing His praises, worship God. Be in the Bible and let His word govern your heart. Beg for His mercy. Cry out for deliverance. And He will give it to you.

Fall on the ground. Bawl your eyes out if you have to. Be wretched, mourn, and weep. Worship God. You stop the awful, filthy, disgusting habit you've been doing and you behold the beautiful love, grace, and mercy of God, given to us through His Son Jesus Christ, who paid for sins such as these with His own blood, who resurrected us from death and darkness into His life and marvelous light. Repent. Worship Him.

Is your computer too tempting? Get rid of it. "But I need it to pay bills!" Write checks. Images popping up on your smart phone? Throw it away. "But I need it to make phone calls!" They still make landlines and cordless phones. Get one of those. Are there television programs that tempt you? Get rid of your TV. "But football!" Well, that might be an idol too, then.

Can't keep your eyes off those risque Netflix shows? Cancel your subscription. "But my wife loves Netflix!" Then you explain it to her. You apologize for your adultery. You beg for her forgiveness. You tell her this is your fault. You make sure she knows it's not hers. She's going to feel betrayed, lied to, cheated on. And she's right: you've betrayed, lied, and cheated. You've had affairs with other women. Countless women. And you don't even know who they are.

You've still got to tell her. You must be honest with her. For your body doesn't belong to just you. It belongs to her also. And this is what you've done with it. No matter how long it takes, you aspire to win back this woman's trust. Tell her you're willing to do anything possible to never be overtaken by this sin again. Lay your life down for her. Sacrifice yourself for her.

If you're a single man, you are no less off the hook. Your porn addiction is still sin before a holy and righteous God. It will destroy you if you don't repent. You do everything you have to do to remove it from your eyes. If your eye causes you to sin, then you cut it out and throw it away. It's better to lose a member of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell (Matthew 5:29).

Are your friends bad influences? Get new friends. Is your church cool with this kind of sin? Then you get a new church. Go where the gospel is preached, and go often. Confess to brothers in Christ who know how to pray for you and admonish you and hold you accountable. These are brothers who love you. "Let a righteous man strike me -- it is a kindness. Let him rebuke me -- it is oil for my head. Let my head not refuse it" (Psalm 141:5).

Pray for a heart that is convicted by sin. Do not ever let this overtake you again. Be a new man in Christ. You are a new creation -- the old is gone, the new has come. Worship, worship, worship Christ the King! For He has dealt bountifully with you. He did not destroy you when you were an enemy of God, worshiping things other than God. He was patient toward you, not wanting you to perish, but to come to repentance.

Take it from someone who knows. I'm guilty of this sin. By the grace of God, He didn't destroy me in it. I've been washed, I've been sanctified, I've been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I'm still being sanctified. I'm still being shaped into the image of His Son, growing in righteousness and holiness. I will not complete this process until the day I enter into glory with Him.

I want to submit myself fully to God -- mind and body -- as we are instructed to do in the Scriptures: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1). "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Ask God for a new mind and He will give it to you. Ask Him for a new heart and it will be yours. Ask Him for forgiveness and He is faithful and just to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, according to the sacrifice of Christ and the shedding of His blood on our behalf.

Then go. And sin no more.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Some Post-Election Thoughts


I'm a small government guy, so I'm going to start with some small government advice. Pastors, might I recommend that you go grab your local paper and find out who won your local elections? Then write to those candidates congratulating them on their win. No matter who they are, they have received their appointment by God (Romans 13:1). Tell them you're praying for them, share a little gospel, and invite them to contact you if they need anything.

It just has to be one page. Put it on church letter-head. I'm planning on doing this and including signatures from all of the elders. It shows this came not just from the pastor, but from the leadership of a whole church of fellow citizens. If you need any help with how to address your elected officials honorably, see how Paul does it in Acts 20-28.

I've shared some election thoughts on the podcast every day this week so far. Today in our Old Testament study of 1 Samuel, it is of no coincidence that we arrived at chapters 10-12, featuring Saul's anointing as king and Samuel's farewell address to Israel. If you have half-an-hour, click here to listen. It's relevant to our current situation in our country.

The following are some other post-election thoughts...

There is now no excuse not to overturn Roe v. Wade.
For the first time since the 1920s, the republicans have control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. We are going to find out within the first two years of Trump's presidency whether or not Trump and the republican party are truly serious about stopping abortion. We're also going to find out within the first two years whether or not evangelicals are truly serious about it, and will hold them to their word.

I understand that these things need to be done strategically. The republicans might want to wait until Trump has picked a pro-life judge to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court. That way, if the bill ends up in front of the Supreme Court, there's a 5-vote conservative majority that will uphold the measure. It was a tyrannical Supreme Court that enacted Roe v. Wade. It will take a constitutional Supreme Court to overturn it. Again, that is if the republicans and their constituency are true to their word. We'll find out in the days ahead.

It's absolutely crazy that after the Planned Parenthood videos that surfaced last year, showing what happens in PP back rooms, dissecting children and selling their body parts, nothing was done to cut funding from Planned Parenthood (at least on the federal level). When Donald Trump has said things like Planned Parenthood does good work, a comment that PP president Cecile Richards praised, it doesn't leave me terribly hopeful. I'd like to be proven wrong.

The election of Donald Trump is not God's blessing on our nation.
Yesterday, a fellow on Twitter named Dean asked Dr. James White this question: "Just curious. Are we still under the judgment of God? So much winning is happening. Just curious." It was a snide jab at Dr. White's recent comments that our two morally bankrupt candidates, Trump and Hillary, were evidence of the wrath of God on an increasingly godless culture.

Dr. White responded with the following:
I confess, I am utterly shocked that a Christian could, even snidely, ask the question. What has changed? Are there any less abortions being done today? How many people voted the way they did because of repentance from the culture of death? How many voted as they did simply because they want more money in their pockets?  
Do forgive me if I just have missed it, but where is the outpouring of repentance? Where is the evidence of a ground-swell of bowing to the Lordship of Christ? I am hearing a lot of talking on TV about what this election means, but these are the same folks who were clueless about what was going to happen in the first place. Almost no one is admitting the basic fact that this election, as far as the Presidency was concerned, was a nose-holding contest as to who was the least repulsive to the populace. The idea that this shows some major "paradigm shift" or all the rest seems to me to be pie-in-the-sky thinking.  
In any case, just what is this "winning" that is going on? Hearts changed? God’s law honored? World-view reformation taking place? Where? One of two very, very poor candidates was going to win and, shockingly, one did! And this somehow means God is now smiling upon the United States and all the evidence of the Millennials collapse into a secular worldview and the love of immorality and abortion and homosexuality and the profaning of marriage and the greed and all that just disappeared over night due to a single election? Seriously?  
I am very, very concerned for anyone who can be so disconnected from a biblical worldview as to think this election signals some kind of removal of the judgment of God upon a sinful and rebellious people. We were not given a corrupt, anti-Christian socialist for a President—we instead were given a corrupt pseudo-Christian demagogue for a President. You tell me if that signals the removal of God’s wrath upon this nation.  
I do pray God will bless this nation—with repentance and the clarion preaching of the gospel that calls for men and women to repent and believe. I pray God will change Donald Trump’s heart, free him from the pseudo-religion he has professed, and bring him to repentance for all of his infidelity and proud immorality. I would love to see a road-block placed in the speeding train of socialism and secularism, and the freedom to continue to preach boldly protected. It could happen. I pray it does.  
However, it might not as well. We could find out that the man who shows no fidelity in his personal relationships will turn out to be the same in his public activities. And if it all comes tumbling down over the next four years, I wonder what you will be saying then? So a serious answer to a clearly snide inquiry: yes, we are, and if you can’t see it, you are not looking with eyes enlightened by biblical truth.
Dr. White said elsewhere, "I really, really, really wish [the rejection of Hillary Clinton] was due to a ground-swell of righteousness in the land and a rejection of the culture of death, but alas, I don't think that had anything to do with it at all."

It doesn't matter that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.
Donald Trump won the electoral college, but Hillary Clinton won the popular election by about 300,000 votes. Perhaps you've seen the CNN video of the irate young man-on-the-street angrily calling upon Hillary to march into the Supreme Court and sue the United States because she won the popular vote and deserves to be president. (Shame on CNN for even giving that guy a microphone.)

There are conservatives in largely blue states that don't even bother voting. Because their state is so liberal, their vote can't change anything. Likewise, the opposite is true. There are states that are so conservative (my red state of Kansas, for example) that many liberals don't bother showing up to vote. This is why, at the end of a national election in the United States, the "popular vote" is not a true showing of the will of the people.

California has what's called the Two Candidates Open Primary Act, which has been in effect since 2011. Basically, the two candidates that appear on a ballot for any state office or U.S. congressional office are the two most popular candidates no matter their party affiliation. So when you go to the ballot box in California, your choices are most likely between a democrat and a democrat rather than a democrat and a republican. That influences the vote even more left than it ordinarily would be.

The electoral college does more to hinder a candidate with regional rather than wide-spread appeal from becoming president. In other words, the south can't elect the president, or New York and California can't elect the president. Through the electoral college, it's more likely like the elected candidate is a true representative of the population than a candidate chosen simply by popular vote. You want that system in place, even if you disagree with the outcome.

The #NeverTrump protesters are, in part, Donald Trump's fault.
Trump, Obama, and Hillary have all shown grace the past couple of days in victory and defeat. Both Obama and Hillary have called for unity and a peaceful transference of power. But that's not how their constituency has responded. Protesters have taken to the streets saying that Trump is not their president. The protests are not all peaceful either. There's been rioting, looting, and violence. On social media, some people have lost their Darwin-loving minds. (I can't post any of the videos I've seen because they're laden with expletives.)

I've seen it said, "This is what happens in a culture where everyone gets a trophy." Perhaps Obama is somewhat to blame the way he's encouraged rioters in the past. Maybe even Hillary Clinton when it was uncovered a few weeks ago how her campaign recruited volunteers to incite violence and unrest at Trump rallies. But the reaction of the Never-Trump protesters is also partly influenced by The Donald.

Remember in the last presidential debate, Trump was hesitant to say that he'd accept the outcome of the election when it was all over, suggesting that Hillary's victory might be the result of voter-fraud. This is also a man who is obsessed with getting revenge. We've seen during the campaign the way he reacted to Megyn Kelly and Alicia Machado. Trump threatened House speaker Paul Ryan that he'd "pay a big price" if Ryan didn't support him.

In his 2007 book Think Big, Trump said, "When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it. I always get even." In 2011, to the National Achievers Congress in Sydney Australia, he said, "Get even with people. If they get you, get them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it." The next year, he said it again: "One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you've got to hit 'em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You've got to get even. Get even."

Trump is not a man who has a reputation for bringing peace and unity. He is a poor sport who actively and openly encourages retaliation. We can expect more of this kind of a behavior, following the example of our Commander in Chief.

Melania Trump is a poor example for boys and girls.
If you thought Barack and Michelle Obama's fawning over Beyoncé was bad, this is the first time in American history you can find nude photos of the first lady of the United States (for heaven's sake, don't look that up). Neither Donald nor Melania are sorry or apologetic for any of this. Trump has openly boasted about the bodies of his wife and his daughters. This has the potential to increase indulgence in pornography, even among young boys and girls.

You know how boys can be. At school and in class, they'll be shown a video of the First Lady encouraging our youth in some way. Then the boys will be giggling about how they can look up nude photos of the First Lady on the internet. Girls will be fascinated by the First Lady and this interest among their male classmates, and they'll be tempted to practice some nude modeling themselves. They'll try it with their friends at slumber parties, and those photos will leak. I do mean to scare you. This is a very real and potential danger.

Regarding both of these points -- Trump inciting vengeful behavior and Melania's immodest behavior -- we must remember Paul's instructions in 1 Timothy 2:8-10. "I desire that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness -- with good works."

Parents, we must teach this to our children -- that our boys will know that lashing out in anger is not okay, and that our girls will know that true beauty is on the inside. We're raising our children in a culture where true godliness is going to look way different than that attitudes of the people around us.

Donald Trump is our next president, and we must pray for him.
There are a lot of things to not like about our incoming president. But we must respect him and we must pray for him because he's our president. Romans 13:1 says, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment."

Peter said, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor" (1 Peter 2:17). Paul said to Timothy, "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

The Prophet Samuel said, "Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23). So we must respect and pray for our nation's elected leaders. We must pray that they would turn from sin to Jesus Christ and be saved. To not do so would be a sin against our Sovereign Lord.

Let us not lose hope or fall into despair. We as Christians were always supposed to be strangers in this world anyway. This was never supposed to be easy. Lift your heads. Look toward the King of heaven. Our God is still on his throne. I am still as in love with God today as I was yesterday. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise His holy name!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Donald Trump is not David, Paul, or Samson


Donald Trump is not David or Solomon. He is not the Apostle Paul. He's not Samson. He isn't Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus either. He's Donald Trump. To try and mirror him with any of these biblical characters is nothing but eisegesis -- imposing something on the text the reader wants it to say but it doesn't actually say.

The bias should be obvious. If Trump can be Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus, why can't Hillary? And why is Trump only comparable to someone like Kings David or Solomon, Samson or Paul, and not someone like Kings Saul or Ahaz, Balaam or Simon the Magician?

I've made a comparison before between Trump and Ahaz. King Ahaz refused to ask the Lord for help just as Donald Trump has refused to ask God for forgiveness. At last year's Family Leadership Summit, Trump was asked if he has ever asked forgiveness for his sins. "I don't bring God into that picture," he said.

Consider the story of Simon the Magician, who had everyone in Samaria believing "he himself was somebody great" (Acts 8:9). Then Philip came preaching the gospel and the people believed, including Simon. This was a guy skilled in illusion and he became amazed when he saw the apostles performing miracles. So he offered them money that they would give him the same power that they had: "Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

Peter rebuked Simon, saying, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity."

Simon responded, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me." Notice that it doesn't say Simon repented, nor does it say he was "cut to the heart" as the men of Jerusalem were when Peter was specific about their sins (Acts 2:37). It just says Simon asked them to pray for him, rather than praying himself.

The apostles were given authority to determine whether or not a person was walking in forgiveness or still lost in their sin, as the church has also been given this responsibility (Matthew 18:18, John 20:23). Simon had believed and was even baptized. Yet notice that Peter said his heart wasn't right before God: "For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity."

Good grief, why doesn't that describe Donald Trump? Instead, we've got men holding up Trump as a Christian because he was presumably introduced to Christ (by a heretic, the attractive blonde one, of course), rather than calling him to repentance realizing that by his own words, he isn't a Christian at all. (Did everyone just totally miss the comment he made two months ago that becoming president is the only way he'll get to heaven?)

They compromise their own witness by not actually checking their facts and not even checking behind them before guilting believers into voting for him. They say "Trump, or else" in the name of fantasy Supreme Court justices and the protection of religious freedom, either not hearing or deliberately ignoring that Trump says he's evolving on same-sex marriage (the same words Obama and Hillary have used) and is in favor transgender bathroom laws.

Trump has said that Republicans need to compromise on abortion, and that Planned Parenthood does good work. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards even thanked him for it. Not a single word was said by him in either debate or the Republican National Convention about defending the unborn. At the March for Life in January, every republican candidate vowed to protect unborn children except Donald Trump. How do you not even use pro-life speech at a pro-life event?

The portion of the evangelical right holding up Donald Trump is holding up their version of Donald Trump. Hey, you can even find their version of Trump in the Bible. To overlook Trump's sin in favor of a voting bias, comparing him to biblical men who finished well like David, Paul, Nebuchadnezzar, and Samson, is selfish, uncaring, and -- okay, I'll just say it -- it's stupid.

Proverbs 12:1 says, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." That verse doesn't just apply to those who receive or won't receive reproof. It also applies to those who issue or won't issue reproof. Why do they not rebuke? Because they hate it. They're stupid; foolish, senseless, and dull of mind.

It's much easier to just accept or wave off whatever Donald Trump says and does in the name of voting for #NeverHillary than to take a principled stand and say the man is wrong even if saying so might mean Hillary will win. Evangelical men have a real opportunity here to defend women, as we should. Here's a chance to preach that being a Christian is not about voting republican or having a conservative ideology; it's about following Christ and obeying His commands. Instead, they're standing for Donald Trump.

It is wrong of him to talk about women the way he does -- and continues to do. He still says disparaging things about women. It wasn't "locker room talk" that happened ten years ago. Trump's most recent interviews with Howard Stern were two years ago, boasting about his conquests in bed and judging the bodies of famous women like he's walking through a meat market. In addition to these instances of his unabashed lewdness, you hear his disparaging comments about women in his everyday speech. Last week he denied hitting on a reporter from People Magazine, and his alibi was she was ugly.

And he still has the gall to say, "No one has more respect for women than I do." He said it in the debate last week, and he said it on Twitter over the weekend. This is not a repentant man. An apology that includes the words, "This is nothing more than a distraction," while attacking your opponent's actions as being worse is not an apology. I am personally offended that anyone would actually defend Trump's self-proclaimed "respect" for women.

I am a husband with a wonderful, beautiful wife and the father of three adorable children (one more on the way). Two of my kids are girls. I do not take lightly the comments of any man who boasts about sleeping with another man's wife, or would devalue my daughters because they're female and would think even less of them if they couldn't win a beauty pageant. That is not pro-life. That is appalling.

The man is a strip-club owner, a serial adulterer, a racist, a gambler, and a bully, arrogant and godless. He has personally invested in things and ideologies and practices that open the door for abortions, not close the door on them. To be pro-life means more than just hating the idea of abortion (and I don't think Trump even goes that far). It means valuing life. All life. Every sex, race, and age, able-bodied or disabled, from conception to natural death.

Picking and choosing parts of Donald Trump to compare with parts of biblical characters is dangerous. Peter said the ignorant and unstable twist the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). It also leads others astray. It teaches those who don't know much about the Scriptures that we can bend the Bible to mean anything we want it to mean and excuse virtually any kind of behavior.

If we can find a biblical reason to shrug at adultery, misogyny, compulsive gambling, bullying, coarse speech, and a litany of other sins Trump gets away with, then we don't need the Bible. Not only is its truth suspect, the Bible can't even be considered a moral book if it allows for immoral behavior.

This is also unloving toward Donald. Rather than confronting a man and holding him accountable, preaching the gospel that saves, false teachers are waving him off and saying, "Meh, David did the same thing. Samson did that, too. Hey, Paul and Nebuchadnezzar used to kill believers!" All of those men were repentant. Donald Trump is not. Would you rather Donald Trump perish in his sins just so Hillary Clinton won't become president?

The Bible says that God hates sin (Psalm 5:4-6, Proverbs 6:16-19, Revelation 3:16). Among those sins that God hates is perverted speech (Proverbs 8:13), of which Trump has no lack. The Bible says, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them" (Ephesians 4:6-7).

Those who are sexually immoral, impure, sensual, idolatrous, divisive, bitter, jealous, driven to fits of anger, revel in rivalry, dissensions, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these "will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21). The cowardly, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars will be thrown into the lake of fire forever (Revelation 21:8).

But Jesus Christ died for all sin. There is not a sin He won't forgive. Whoever believes in Him will be forgiven their sins, for Christ has died in our place and satisfied the wrath of God. But understand me here: the grace of our Lord is never, ever an excuse to sin. As Paul said, how can we who have died to sin and are alive in Christ continue to live in sin (Romans 6:2)? We would still be enslaved to our sin if that were the case. John said if we say we have fellowship with God while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6).

Those who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, who turn from worldliness and sinful passions to follow Jesus, will confirm their calling and election with virtue, growing in the knowledge of God and His word, will be self-controlled, steadfast in the faith, living godly lives, showing brotherly affection and love for one another. "For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:3-11).

So again, Donald Trump is not David or Solomon, Paul or Samson, Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus. He's Donald Trump. He needs to be held accountable for Donald Trump's sins, told to repent and believe in Christ Jesus the Lord. By the way, the same goes for Hillary Clinton, also a foul-mouthed, baby-killing, racist woman-hater. She needs to repent for her own sins, too; to be wretched and mourn and weep (James 4:9), and believe in Christ as Savior and King.

This has been a deplorable election. But I believe God in His Sovereignty is not done. I pray that in the midst of such immorality He is raising up moral and godly men and women, who stand upon principled and biblical truth, who are not afraid to speak up, call evil evil, and promote what is good and righteous in the eyes of God. It is when the night is darkest that such stars tend to shine out the brightest (Matthew 5:14-16, Philippians 2:14-16).

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Preach the Word: Responding to 5 Common Arguments for Not Having to Preach From the Bible


In 1 Timothy 4:13, the Apostle Paul instructed, "Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." Later he wrote, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching."

Yet there are liberal theologians who argue that we don't need to use the Bible when we preach. We can talk about Jesus without the Bible, they say, what He said and what He did, even though we don't know about any of that without the Bible. Ironically, they have biblical arguments to explain why they don't need to preach from the Scriptures. (If all of this sounds confusing, that's because it is.) The following is a response to the five most commonly (mis)used passages.

This is part 2 of my critique of Andy Stanley's 7,500 word article in Outreach Magazine last week, "Why 'The Bible Says So' Is Not Enough Anymore." But this didn't start out being a part 2. I began writing this blog two weeks before Stanley's article and was delayed in finishing it. When Stanley presented 4 of these 5 exact arguments, it just made sense to turn this into a response to Stanley.

Stanley labels his arguments Exhibits A, B, C, and D, all taken from Luke who wrote the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. I'm going to add an Exhibit E which comes from John's gospel.

Exhibit A: Peter and the Jews

After Christ's ascension into heaven and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles went into Jerusalem and delivered the first "Repent and believe!" sermon in the history of the church. Acts 2:5 tells us that the crowd consisted of "devout Jews from every nation under heaven," and by the power of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, they heard the gospel in their own languages. Peter showed them how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Scriptures, quoting also from Joel and the Psalms.
"This Jesus, delivered up according to the definition plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. For David says concerning Him, 'I saw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'" (Acts 2:23-28)
Stanley says, "Throughout the message, Peter leverages his version of 'The Bible says,' 'The Scripture teaches.' This makes perfect sense given Peter’s audience. This was a group that held their Scriptures in high regard. If their Bible said it, that settled it. It didn’t hurt that most of Peter’s audience believed those particular Scriptures pointed to a future Messiah. Peter simply connected the dots. He connected their existing belief, which was informed by the Jewish Scriptures, to a current event."

The reason Peter referenced the "Jewish Scriptures," Stanley argues, is because the Jews already accepted the Scriptures as authoritative. We can't use that same method for preaching the gospel in a Post-Christian culture that Stanley says knows the Bible (they don't) because not all millennials accept the Bible as authoritative. Here are three points in response.

First of all, that's wrong. There's nothing in the New Testament that indicates the Old Testament Scriptures were reserved for the Jews who accepted them as true. In fact, in Acts 17 at Berea, the Scriptures were given to both the Jews and the Gentiles who came to hear Paul speak in the synagogue. "Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men" (Acts 17:12). Paul quoted and explained the Old Testament to both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 3:10-18, 1 Corinthians 1:19, Galatians 3:6, and Ephesians 4:8). He said the Scriptures were written for our instruction (Romans 15:4), and said this even to those who didn't yet accept it as true (1 Corinthians 9:10).

Secondly, consider this: At what point does the word of God become authoritative? When God says it, or when people accept it as authoritative? In Exodus 20, the entire nation of Israel heard the voice of God deliver the Ten Commandments, yet clearly the people didn't revere His word. After they heard Him say, "You will have no other gods before me," they turned around and worshiped a golden calf. Should God have withheld His words until the people were ready to receive it as authoritative? According to Stanley's reasoning, He should have.

Third, just because an apostle wasn't referencing an Old Testament writer by name doesn't mean they weren't referencing the Scriptures. I'll elaborate on this point in the next exhibit.

Exhibit B: Peter and the Gentiles

In Acts 10, Peter preached to the Gentiles at Caesarea. But unlike his sermon at Pentecost, Peter didn't reference Old Testament names like Joel and David. But again, that doesn't mean what Peter said wasn't from Scripture. After all, when he talks about the resurrection of Christ in verse 40, it was in accordance with the Scriptures (Luke 24:27, 45-46, 1 Corinthians 15:4).

What does it mean to reference the Scriptures? Obviously it doesn't mean quoting chapter and verse because the chapter and verse markers didn't come about until the 15th century, so Peter didn't have them. Does it mean that Peter has to name the Old Testament prophet he's referencing? Can he still use their words without mentioning their name, and that's still a Scriptural reference?

Instead of going back through Peter's message at the house of Cornelius, let me select a shorter example. Consider this sermonette preached by Paul and Barnabas to the pagans at Lystra:
"Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." (Acts 14:15-17)
Now where did Paul and Barnabas get these phrases like "vain things" and "living God" who "made the heaven and the earth" and that He "allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways" yet gave them "rains from heaven and fruitful seasons" and "food and gladness"? These are all references to the prophets.
  • Vain things: "And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty." 1 Samuel 12:21
  • Living God: "My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God." Psalm 84:2
  • Maker of heaven and earth: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1
  • Allowed all nations to walk in their own ways: "For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever." Micah 4:5
  • Rains from heaven and fruitful seasons: "I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit." Leviticus 26:4
  • Food and gladness: "These all look to you, to give them their food in due season... and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man's heart." Psalm 104:27, 15
Paul and Barnabas didn't name the prophets Samuel, David, Micah, and Moses because the pagans from Lystra didn't know who they were. That's not the same thing as saying Paul and Barnabas didn't use the Scriptures because the pagans from Lystra didn't receive them as authoritative. The word of God was still their authority, and Paul and Barnabas did not withhold it.

Here's something to keep in mind: Andy Stanley is a pastor of a church making excuses for why he doesn't need to preach the Bible to his church. Yet notice the examples he's using are non-church settings. Preaching to the Jews at Pentecost or the Gentiles in the home of Cornelius was not the church, for they were not yet sealed by the Spirit of God. The church is instructed to be devoted to the reading of the Scriptures, encouraging and admonishing one another by them (Colossians 3:16). This is a point I'll come back to as we go on.



Exhibit C: Paul and the Jews

Here is perhaps the most abused Scripture in Stanley's exhibition hall; his use of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. He uses this to compare Paul's sermon at Antioch (Acts 13) with his sermon at the Areopagus (in Exhibit D), but for the sake of brevity, let's just stick with his Corinthian argument. Paul said the following:
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Paul expounds upon this in the next chapter: "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1).

That's the explanation. This is very simply Paul being a humble servant, counting others more significant than himself (Philippians 2:3), being considerate and not causing anyone to stumble by anything he does, showing empathetic love for others so to leave the door open for the gospel and building them up in the faith.

This wasn't just Paul's conviction, as he says that all of us are to be imitators of him. He explains it this way to the Romans: "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" (Romans 15:1-2).

Now, Stanley's explanation for 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 is very exclusivist, meaning that he attempts to interpret these five verses on their own and disregard every other verse outside of them. Here's what he says (and pardon me for the odd paragraphing, but this was how he put it):
Let this phrase rattle around in your mind for a few minutes:
"… so that by all possible means I might save some." 
Which means, Paul? 
"All possible means." 
So, you may take one approach one day and a different approach a different day? Am I reading you right? 
"All possible means." 
Is that really necessary? Doesn’t the Spirit do the work? 
"All possible means." 
But isn’t it enough to preach the Word and let the seed fall where it may? 
"All possible means." 
And why do you go to such lengths? 
"… for the sake of the gospel." 
What if we just did that for a year? What if we opted for the "all possible means" approach? What if we decide to do whatever it takes?
The work of the Spirit (Titus 3:5), sowing seeds (Matthew 13), and being all things to all people are intertwined. The way Stanley words this -- whether or not it's his intention -- it's like he's singling out "all possible means" and mocking the concepts of the work of the Spirit and sowing seeds. Yet they're entirely biblical concepts. We're not meant to reach people simply by "all possible means" alone without the gospel or the Spirit of God.

You can be all things to all people until you're blue in the face. Unless the gospel is declared and the Holy Spirit works in the heart of the hearer, no change will ever take place. Paul said previously to the Corinthians that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). He came to them not with lofty words of wisdom but with the testimony of the gospel to be received by spiritual people.
"For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:11-14)
You can't do 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and ignore 1 Corinthians 2:11-14. Do you know what happens when you think you can save people by "all possible means" without understanding the power of the gospel or the Spirit of God? You open the door to sinister slicks like Todd White who does his street-magic healings making people think he's growing a person's leg out to even it with the other one and solve their back problems. It's a total con and he knows he's lying. But if it means a person comes to know Jesus, who cares? It was by "all possible means," right?

Another thing that happens is an evangelist can become an outright jerk. He'll beat people over the head with signs or berate them with a "turn or burn" gospel that they've heard twenty-two times today alone. He skewers people with his spiritual sword and shouts in triumph only for his hearers to harden their hearts even further. After all, it's by "all possible means," right?

"All possible means" does not mean "absent the gospel of Jesus Christ." It doesn't mean lie to people or yell at people. We should be able to lovingly relate to others and empathize with them, so that we may by "all possible means" share the gospel. The gospel and good doctrine still need to be ever-present, with gentleness and respect. It is the Spirit of God who saves, not us. Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63).

Exhibit D: Paul and the Gentiles

The Apostle Paul and his missionary brethren came to the Greek city of Athens, a city full of idols. He preached in the synagogue and in the marketplace the words of Jesus and about His resurrection. Now, the Greeks were a people that valued new knowledge, so even though they thought this resurrection-speak was complete craziness, they wanted to hear more. So Paul went to the Areopagus, or Aries Rock (later named Mars Hill by the Romans), a place used for public discourse in the presence of the gods. It is there that Paul preached:
"Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  
"And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for, 'In Him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are indeed His offspring.'  
"Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 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 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." (Acts 17:22-31)
It's interesting to me that as much as Stanley loves Exhibit D, he doesn't reference the actual words of Acts 17 all that much. Instead, he summarizes it this way: "[Paul] tells the Athenians they need to repent of their idolatry. But that’s it. He doesn’t reference all the other things they needed to repent of. And the list was long. But the most unusual facet of his message to this elite group in Athens is that he never mentions Jesus."

There's a couple of problems with that loose summary. First, Paul didn't just tell the Athenians to repent of their idolatry. He told them to repent because the judgment of God was coming. Why repent from worshiping false gods? Because if you don't, the true God will destroy you. By the way, that's something you won't hear Andy Stanley talk about in his sermons: the judgment of God upon all evil-doers. For all his chest-beating, saying he's doing things Paul's way, Stanley doesn't actually preach the way Paul preached even at the Areopagus.

Secondly, Paul did mention Christ! He was known in Athens for preaching about a God named Jesus rising from the dead (Acts 17:18), and that's why the Athenians wanted to hear what he had to say at the Areopagus. Paul was, to use Andy's term, connecting the dots. He was saying, "The one who will come in judgment is the one I've been preaching about all this time."

Here's another very important distinction: the Areopagus wasn't church. It was open-air evangelism in the public square. Stanley proudly admits he sometimes preaches entire sermons without ever referencing the Bible, and Paul's message at the Areopagus is one of the examples he uses for why he doesn't need to. But Paul wasn't in church. He was speaking in the presence of pagan idols, making a particular point about an "altar to an unknown God" whom he points out is actually known and will judge all the earth through this Jesus he had been preaching about. Context, Andy!

Acts 17:22-31 is not permission to preach sermons without the Bible. Because again, we are to be devoted to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching. Where does 1 Timothy 4:13 fit into Stanley's method? How about 2 Timothy 3:16 which says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." Why does Stanley put more energy into explaining why he doesn't need to use the Bible instead of teaching the Bible? What the Apostle Paul said was Scripture. What Andy Stanley says is not.

Charles Spurgeon once said, "A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home and never preach again." A sermon without the word of God in it is a sermon without Christ in it. For it is Christ who is defined as the very Word of God (John 1:1).


Exhibit E: Jesus and the Woman at the Well

This is an Exhibit that Stanley didn't use, but I hear it referenced fairly often when it comes to seeker-friendly preaching: Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. It's a longer example, 45 verses in length, but I'll try to keep it brief.

Jesus and His disciples were passing through Samaria, which Jews just did not do because Samaria was full of Samaritans. He sat down by Jacob's Well while the disciples went to find something to eat. While He was there, a woman came by to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink. She said, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?"

Jesus replied, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." Not knowing what He was talking about, the woman proceeded to argue with Him, but He said, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The woman said, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water." Jesus said, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered, "I have no husband." Jesus said, "You right to say you have no husband. For you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is quite true."

The woman said, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." The mountain she referred to was Mount Gerizim where the Samaritans believed true worship ought to take place (according to Deuteronomy 11:29). The Jews claimed that true worship was to happen on Mount Moriah, which was where the temple was built. Indeed, it was built there by the command of God (Genesis 22:2, 2 Samuel 24:18-19, 2 Chronicles 3:1).

The Samaritans actually had an incomplete Bible. They only accepted the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Law written by Moses. This is why Jesus went on to tell her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews."

When He says, "You worship what you do not know," He was saying the Samaritans worship in ignorance because they've rejected the words of the other prophets of God. If she knew the Scriptures, she'd have known that the promised Messiah, whom the Samaritans also believed in, was coming through the Jewish people, specifically the tribe of Judah whom the Jews are named for. Saying that He would give her "living water" was a reference to the prophets who foretold about this living water (Jeremiah 2:13, Zechariah 14:8, Isaiah 12:3). Get that: Jesus was making references to Old Testament prophets she, as a Samaritan, didn't accept as authoritative!

Jesus went on to say, "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

The woman said, "I know that Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will tell us all things." In other words, she's appealing to moral relativism. She's saying, "You believe what you want to believe, and I'll believe what I want to believe, and when that Messiah shows up, He'll be the one to tell us who's right and who's wrong."

That's when Jesus lovingly drops the hammer: "I who speak to you am He."

Argument over.

The woman ran back into town and brought scores of people with her to hear the testimony of this man claiming to be the promised Messiah. Up until that point, He'd not yet made a claim to be the Messiah to anyone in Judea. But He revealed His identity to this woman in Samaria, and "Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I ever did'" (John 4:39).

Many liberal theologians will reference this story and say that Jesus didn't use Scripture in His witness to the Samaritan woman, therefore we don't have to use Scripture in our witnessing. But as I've demonstrated, there were plenty of Scripture references. I gave some of the citations to help understand the meaning behind Jesus' words and the woman's responses.

Liberal teachers are also fond of saying that Jesus didn't tell her to repent of her sins, but that's a misunderstanding of the context of the exchange. He did in fact point her sin out to her, and she knew that He did. Jesus is the one who searches mind and heart and judges the thoughts of man (Jeremiah 17:10, Revelation 2:23). Remember, it was by that testimony of the woman, "He told me everything I ever did," that people believed in Him as the Messiah.

But again -- and this goes back to the point I made earlier -- this is not a church setting, and Jesus is God. Whatever He says is the word of God. You can't say Jesus didn't reference the Scriptures with this woman when everything He said became Scripture. The words of Jesus and the words of His prophets and apostles are the words of God. The words of a pastor are not. This is why a pastor's sermon needs to be under the full authority of the Scriptures, preaching the word, not twisting Bible verses for his own personal use.

Wrapping Up

Stanley makes several appeals in his 7,500 word article for pastors to leave the old way of doing things, and instead do things his way. I'd like to offer a counter-challenge. Put the Scripture back into your sermons. If you really want to meet the unchurched or the dechurched or the post-churched where they are by "all possible means," then go to where they are, which is not in church. Go out on the street and do Acts 17 evangelism there. To those who say, like the Athenians did, "We will hear you again about this," invite them to church to hear more Scripture, which the Spirit of God has conditioned their heart to receive.

Stanley is also sure to mention that he doesn't use notes when he preaches, and Paul didn't use notes when he preached either. Well, I also don't use notes when I preach -- it's just me and a Bible (unless the sermon I'm doing features a number of quotes, in which case I'll have a print-out of those quotes in front of me). But even if I have the passage I'm reading memorized (my fellow elders will testify to this), I will still open the Bible and read it so that the congregation will see that these words are not mine. It is not by my authority that I speak. I submit to the authority of God's word. Sometimes I do quote entire sections from memory. But otherwise, I want people to see I got this from the Bible.

I take no teaching instruction from anyone who says, "Try it my way," if that way includes excuses or "exhibits" for why we need to stop saying "the Bible says so." As Dr. Mohler pointed out, a mature Christian faith will say more than that, but no less than that. It is the gift of God to His ministers that we might be able to stand before His people and declare, "Thus says the Lord!" God willing, I will preach the word until my dying day.