Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Gospel Truth

There have been a lot of things over the years that I have been able to put up with in the evangelical movement. But a distortion of the gospel is not one of them. Turn on the TV on Sunday morning and you will hear anything but the message of the cross. Every week I try not to burn iron marks into my shirt while a smiling Joel Osteen tells me how I need to think nicer thoughts about those around me and then slips in a prayer at the end of his "sermon" so that I can begin my "Best Life Now."
Or take a recent discussion I have been having on an email list I am on. We have been discussing Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life. His gospel presentation, found on page 58 consists of "Believe God loves us and made us for his purpose" and "Receive Jesus into your lives as Savior and Lord by praying this prayer." What follows is even a corruption of the sinner's prayer: "Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you." That's it. You're now a Christian.

Is it any wonder that, according to the Founder's Ministries blog, the Southern Baptist Convention reports that they have over 16 million members and only 6 million in attendance? Is 37% follow-through acceptable? Or is this an indication that in our desire to be relevant, we have lost the gospel.

How often are we willing to take the time and effort to share the gospel like Paul did in Romans? He spent 11 chapters detailing to the church in Rome the gospel that He was going to be preaching when he got there. Did you ever sit down and read those 11 chapters straight through? It will probably take more than an hour. No fast-food gospel here.

When was the last time we heard about the holiness of God. We must remember that when Jesus presented to good news to the Jews, their background was the Old Testament. The Old Testament is filled with the holiness of God, especially the Law, and they were very aware of it. Why do we not use the Law when presenting the gospel to show people that God is holy and we are not? Is the practice of our Lord not good enough for us? (See Matthew 5-7 for Jesus' use of the Law.)

What about the cross and the need to repent and believe? Why are we afraid of giving the message clearly? Is it because we would not be popular? The modern evangelical presentation of the gospel has turned into a feel-good message that leaves out anything offensive. Is it any wonder 63% of the people who are members of evangelicalism's largest denomination don't even go to church?

We are told in 1 Corinthians 1:18 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. If we want to see real revival, and not just temporary emotional responses to big stadium events, it's time we get back to preaching foolishness and the power of God.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Things That Separate Us

We live in a world in which distinctions are blurred and the question "Can't we all just get along" is of paramount importance. We are told that we should not call homosexuality a sin because that would be hate-speech. We enjoy watching a nationwide prayer service at the National Cathedral where a Muslim and a "Christian" pray to god simultaneously without a second thought. We are called by society at large to keep our religion to ourselves (unless of course it involves a turban or a red dot on your forehead) in order to maintain a peaceful existence. After all, all roads lead to Rome. Or at least all religions are equally valid. Right?

But two things over the last few days have really brought to the forefront the distinctions between what is the true religion, biblical Christianity, and what is a false man-made religion. The first was the sermon I preached this week in church. It was from Luke 9 where Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was. The answer? The Christ, Son of the Living God. This answer, which according to Matthew came from the Father directly to Peter, is what separates us from every other religion. The Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe Jesus is God. They believe he was the first created being, a heresy that was rejected at the Council of Nicea in 325. Most other religions, if they have anything to say about Jesus, believe that he was just a man. A good man, but just a man.

The second thing was my "read-through-the-Bible" passage from this morning. It was Mark 16 - The resurrection. According to Romans 1, it is the resurrection that declares to us the deity of Christ. It is the resurrection that proved God's acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ. It is the resurrection that gives us, as His followers, the hope that He will return and raise us from the dead.

It is the resurrection that makes us a laughing stock to the rest of the world. This happened to Paul in Athens. He had them listening to him until he spoke of the resurrection. That was when they mocked him, for they were naturalists, who did not believe in any resurrection. We, too, live in a naturalistic society that mocks us when we proclaim that our Lord died and was raised on the third day. Even from within the ranks of those who call themselves Christians, we will hear naturalistic explanations, such as "his spirit lives on." This is ridiculous. The resurrection is true or Christianity isn't true. We cannot back down on this point.

These two areas, the deity and the resurrection of Christ, are what separate us from all other religions. There are many others, such as the five Solas of the reformation (sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria), that distinguish us from others who claim to be Christians. But the deity and resurrection of Christ are two things that distinguish us from the rest of society. And these are two things about which we cannot be silent. For in every gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the event which immediately follows the resurrection is the Great Commision, where Jesus commands us to go and tell everyone else about it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Original Post

Since this is my first forray into the blogosphere, you will all have to cut me a little slack. This blog will contain my thoughts (hence the name) on a variety of subjects. And since I am passionate about religion, especially biblical (also known as "reformed") Christianity, and politics, I figure I can stir up some good conversations. Ultimately, I hope that everything I say brings glory to God, since that is all that matters anyway.

So, here's my first musing: Peter Jennings died of lung cancer today. He hadn't smoked for more than 20 years, but the damage had been done. It seems that the major news media is falling apart. First, the emergence of the "new media" with AM talk shows and cable news. Then, the disgrace that was Dan Rather finally coming to light. And now, Peter Jennings is gone. He was probably the only one of the major news anchors that I could put up with. I find it interesting, in this era when those in the public eye are talking about leaving America and renouncing their citizenship, that in 2003 he becam a US citizen. When asked about the timing, he said, "Did 9/11 make a difference? Yes, it did make a difference." I respected Peter Jennings as much as I can respect anyone from the major news media. I am sure much of America will miss him.