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Monday, September 12, 2016

These Words Shall Be On Your Heart

On Friday, my kids and I visited a local museum. It was the last weekend for their dinosaur exhibit. One section of the display had a timeline showing the different periods in which different dinosaurs lived -- like the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, etc. And of course, the timelines were labeled in tens of millions of years.

My eight-year-old, as she read it, unashamedly said aloud, "149 million years? Why are scientists so ridiculous? Don't they know that God can create everything just like that?" I noticed a couple of men standing nearby who began to snicker and whisper to one another. I couldn't hear what they said. Nevertheless, I was a proud dad.

I took out my phone, down to its last 1% of power, pulled up my ESV Bible app (shameless plug), and showed Annie 2 Peter 3:1-7. There Peter says, "For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly."

I told her, "See, Peter says that they deliberately overlook the facts, that the earth was created by the word of God. In Peter's first letter, he said that Jesus is, 'A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,' and that people stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do" (1 Peter 2:8). I also made a point to tell her that there are good scientists who see God in all that He has created, and they look at science through the Bible rather than looking at the Bible through a bias of naturalism, though most are blinded by their desires. Then my phone died.

God created all things, that much my daughter knew (and as I've written about and spoken about before, it didn't happen over billions of years). I wanted to show her that the Bible also tells us why there are people who don't believe God created all things. They deliberately overlook the facts, and they stumble on the rock of Christ Jesus, as they were destined to do.

This is how I teach my children, infusing the word of God in all that we do. Where'd I get that idea from? The Bible: "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

Wherever you go, the word of God goes with you. In all that you do, teach your children the word of God: How does God's word apply to this? How does it apply to that? Well, let me show you. What we as a family read about in the devotions we do every morning, we then apply to what we encounter throughout the day, being thankful for all things and giving God the glory.

Sermons With No Bible

So according to this passage in Deuteronomy, if we are to --
  • write God's word on our hearts
  • teach it to our children
  • talk about it in and out of our homes
  • consider it in our work or leisure
  • apply it when we walk out the door
  • through it filter every thing we do and look at 
then how on earth could we ever find any reason not to use the word of God?

Yet in the recent controversy surrounding Andy Stanley's apologetic preaching method for reaching unbelievers, that's exactly what's being done. Arguments and excuses are being made for times when it is okay to exclude the word of God -- deliberately, intentionally, and strategically leaving it out.

Stanley thinks we need a more grown-up faith, and that grown-up faith is not based on a biblical foundation. When we were kids, songs like Jesus Loves Me were great songs: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." But as adults, that's silliness.

For Stanley, this is not about style or a pastor's personal conviction in how he reaches a certain audience. This is being presented like: "Here's why people leave the church: because of the Bible. Here's why you walked away from the faith: because of the Bible. Here's why you need to come to Jesus: and it's NOT because of the Bible. The Bible is not the foundation of the Christian faith."


"This is where our trouble began." Andy Stanley, referencing the song Jesus Loves Me.

Andy Stanley is the pastor of North Point Community Church based out of Atlanta, GA. North Point has their main campus, plus five other campuses, plus several satellite churches, all reaching nearly 40,000 people each Sunday. That's not including the number of people watching online and receiving Andy's teaching through other means: books, seminars, video conferences, Bible study apps, etc.

In other words, a lot of people hear this message emphatically reducing the importance of the Bible. I see it affect people and churches in my area. Though I'm pastoring a small church in Kansas, I hear Andy Stanley's name come up all the time. Stanley is more passionate about making sure people know the Bible is not needed for you to be a Christian than he is about telling people what it says.

Two weeks ago, at the ERLC national conference in Nashville, TN, Dr. Russell Moore had a sit-down interview with Stanley in which Stanley said that sometimes he preaches sermons without ever quoting the Bible. He was rather proud of the fact. This came as a shock to some. I wasn't surprised. I've listened to enough of Stanley's sermons to hear an entire message go by without any Scripture.

In some sense, I'm grateful he said it. I've tried to warn others about Stanley's preaching and they don't believe me when I say he actively wants to reduce Bible use and uses it very little himself. Stanley has been saying for some time that he wishes pastors would stop saying, "The Bible says." At the ERLC conference, he said that if he were an evangelical pope, he would make pastors take the spotlight off the Bible and put it on the resurrection. The following Sunday, in a sermon entitled The Bible Told Me So, he doubled-down on his hermeneutic by saying Christianity is about an event, not a book.

The absurdity and the confusion of that statement is that you don't even know about the event without the book. The Old Testament predicted it, the New Testament recalls it and expounds on its significance. The eyewitnesses to the resurrection did not believe the resurrection without the Scriptures. They were there, they saw it, and they didn't believe their own eyes. 

I talked about this on the podcast Friday and mentioned the story of the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus. Jesus, having just stepped out of the grave that morning, started walking with them, but they didn't recognize him. When Jesus asked them what they were talking about, Cleopas said, "Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn't know what's been going on?" And they told him about Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified and buried and some women went to the tomb and found it empty and saw angels who said he was alive.

Jesus response to them was this: "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:13-27). Before he showed them he was Jesus who was alive, he showed them the Scriptures!

When the Apostle Paul made his apologetic case for the resurrection, he did so "in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). The Scriptures said it would happen, then it happened, the disciples were shown how the Scriptures said it was going to happen, then they were shown that it did happen, then the Scriptures written by those who saw what the Scriptures said would happen continued to say that it happened, according to the Scriptures! You cannot separate the event from the book. Even the disciples neither knew about nor understood the event without the book.

Yet Stanley is purposefully trying to reach unbelievers without the book that speaks of the glory, power, and majesty of God (and presenting a very misleading version of church history in the process). There's a saying that goes, "What you reach them with is what you reach them to." If you reach unbelievers with a form of Christianity that contains no Bible, they will accept a form of Christianity that contains no Bible, which is no Christianity at all.



Impotent Apologetics

Dr. David Prince of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote about Stanley's sermon and pointed out that his arguments are just repackaged liberalism. Driving the point home, Dr. Prince mentioned Luke 16:31 where Jesus said, "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."

A minister from Indiana contended with Dr. Prince saying, "The Scripture he uses to proof-text his point has been ripped out of its context and misapplied. It is taken from Jesus' parable about the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The audience Jesus was addressing in that parable is Jews, for whom the Hebrew Scriptures (Moses and the Prophets) were already considered authoritative."

That doesn't matter. Guess what? Unbelievers have Moses and the Prophets too, regardless of whether or not they've heard them and accept them as authoritative. This isn't the local phone book we're talking about here. This is the word of God. It applies to absolutely everyone. The law of the land still has authority over you whether or not you know what it is. Likewise, the law of God has authority over you whether or not you know what it is.

The Bible says it's the responsibility of the church to be a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15); presenting the word of God to the world (pillar) and defending against those who try to malign it (buttress). Paul said, "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Romans 10:14-15)

Yet Stanley wants to reduce the importance of the Bible in the calling to go preach the Bible. His defenders say that isn't so. As that Indiana minister said, "I'm convinced that [Stanley's] critics are either not listening to him very closely, or they are intentionally misrepresenting him." He concluded his article by stating, "The point of all of this is that Stanley is making an apologetic case." Oh, I'm aware that's what Stanley is trying to do. It's just that his apologetics are really, really bad.

One of the main illustrations that came out of Stanley's sermon was this: "Christianity does not exist because of the Bible anymore than you exist because of your birth certificate. Your birth certificate documents something that happened. And if you lost your birth certificate, the good news is: you do not go out of existence."

Dr. Prince points out, "This logic minimizes the uniqueness of the Word of God and is right out of the classic theological liberal playbook. Liberals have historically asserted, 'The Bible is not the Word of God, it is merely a witness to the Word of God.'" (Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think Stanley referred to the Bible as the Word of God a single time in the same sermon in which he was diminishing its importance.)

The Bible is not mere history. This is the powerful word of God. How did all things come into existence? By the word of God, right? God said "Let there be" and there was. Get this: the same word that brought all things into existence is the same word that brings about saving faith. Someone shared the word of God with you, and you believed it, and you have faith.

James 1:18 says, "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth." Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ." No one is brought to faith but by the word of God. The Bible says so.

Stanley doesn't get that, which is why he's trying to bring people to the faith without the Bible. His defenders are always quick to fill in the blanks that Stanley leaves blank: "What Stanley really means is this! What Stanley is really trying to do is this!" I'm convinced his praisers are either not listening to him very closely, or they are intentionally misrepresenting him. (Zoinks!)

The defense of the Christian faith without the Bible is powerless apologetics. Stanley openly and proudly admits he is out to "take the spotlight off of the Bible." If Stanley's church sees anyone won to the faith, it is a very, very weak faith, if it's the Christian faith at all.

Faith Like a Child

The disciples asked Jesus, "Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Jesus called a child to him and put the boy before the disciples. He said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:2-4).

In his sermon The Bible Told Me So, Stanley says that Jesus Loves Me is a precious song, and we should teach children, "Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so." But that kind of theology is not for adults. You need a grown-up faith in which, according to Stanley, the Bible is not foundational. It's great for kids, but bad for adults. That's a great big load of manure.

"I hate manure."

People, I must tell you, because I love you and I care for you: Have nothing to do with Stanley's garbage. It is dangerous. It will keep a person from the Kingdom of heaven. No one is above the word of God. We must humble ourselves and be like children. Or as Peter put it, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation -- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Peter 2:2-3).

Woe to the person who wants less of the word of God. Without it, they cannot be sanctified, and therefore they have never been justified. They will "accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions" (2 Timothy 4:3); teachers like Andy Stanley, who is all about less Bible. Woe more-so to the teacher who will withhold the word of God that rescues from death and gives life.

Andy Stanley, if by some weird chance you happen to read my blog, repent of your nonsense. Apologize to your congregation. Tell them you were wrong. If there is any kind of humility about yourself, resign from your position as pastor until you can understand that the Bible is the word of God, and it is only through that word that anyone is saved -- washed clean from their iniquity and clothed in the righteousness of Christ, in whom we have the forgiveness of sins.

In 1 Timothy 6:3-5, it says, "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth."

Just as I teach my children the word of God, I also teach it to my congregation. They are children, too. They are the children of God (1 John 3:1-3). How can I expect children to have the word of God written on their hearts if I won't tell it to them? When the devil comes whispering, "Did God really say," as he did to Eve, I want my children -- in my home and in my congregation -- to know what God really said. Likewise, I also listen to men who preach the word of God because I am a child who needs to be fed this pure spiritual milk, too.

The Bible is our response to everything. In it are the words to eternal life. The word of God should be withheld from no one -- no believer, and especially no unbeliever. Don't dumb it down, don't leave it out. It is only by the word of God that men are saved, brought from death to life in Christ. Romans 1:16 says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe."

The Bible tells us why people leave the church, and it isn't because of a Sunday school song. It's because it might become plain to all of us that they were never of us to begin with (1 John 2:19). Examine yourselves to see that you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

You know, there's something Andy Stanley said I happen to agree with. There are people who have left the church because they were told, "The Bible says so." The Bible says they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:9-11