The Laodicean Project- Feeding a Land in Famine

May 31, 2008

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land- not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.” -Amos 8:11-12

“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. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” -2 Timothy 4:1-5

The next aspect of what we can do congregationally to try and reach “Christian” societies is to heed Paul’s advice to Timothy and “Preach the Word!” (2 Timothy 4:2). To many of us today this seems like such an old-fashioned thing, but as the Bible teaches, it is the foundational part of all Christian evangelism.

In many churches today there is a debate over just how to use Scripture. Some places the argument is over whether there is contradiction between the teachings of Paul and the teachings of Jesus, and if so, whose side should we take? In others it is a debate over whether the Bible is still accurate for us today or if its’ teachings should be rethought in light of how our culture has evolved (this is the idea of a trajectory hermeneutic)? And still in others, the debate is over what is the true Gospel and if we should change our perspective on the Gospel to make it more applicable to modern or postmodern culture? To all of this I would just say one thing: preach the Word!

As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2 something which I think we should take to heart again today:

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Paul did not want to attempt, in this Greek town of Corinth, to use philosophy or intelligent words or complex thoughts to win the people. Instead he wanted to rest upon the “power of God” to work through his simple message of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” to effect change in the lives of the Corinthians. If he were to recast this today it could not be said any better. It appears to me that too often in our postmodern church we try and win people over by doing everything but proclaiming “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We offer up love and peace and radical new interpretations. We can see it most plainly in the book titles on our shelves: The Secret Message of Jesus, New Perspectives on Paul, The New Christians. For some reason today we feel the need to find a new angle on the Scriptures that has not been tried in the past 2000 years, and that without that we will be ineffective at growing the church.

However, to see a Biblical picture of what’s supposed to happen, all we have to do is look at the testimony of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 8. It is in this chapter that we see the first public church service in the newly rebuilt Jerusalem. And what is the message for that day? Well, we see that “they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses (v.1)”, which he did, and he proceeded to “read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. . . . They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading (vv.3,8).” So, Ezra and his fellow scribes read straight through from Genesis to Deuteronomy, clearly, and while doing so they exposited on the text. They didn’t skip pieces or bring in extra-biblical texts, just the Law as revealed to Moses. And this took 4 to 6 hours, yet the people stayed and listened attentively. Then what happened next? “All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law (v.9).” The people had an emotional reaction to it. They were broken and they fell on their faces and cried for the sins and the disobedience that they had committed. And then what? “Then he [Nehemiah] said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ . . . And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing (v.10,12a).” The people rejoiced for they knew that God had forgiven them and that he was their strength for salvation. And how did they know this? “Because they had understood the words that were declared to them (v.12b).” The preaching of God’s Word had done this change. Wow!

So, as we see here, the clear exposition of God’s Word, by his faithful and learned scribes (Ezra 7:6-10) unto the people led them to brokenness, repentance, and then joy for their salvation! Contrast this with what the Lord says in Amos, that the absence of his Word leads people to “wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD (Amos 8:12).” With his Word, people are found, and without his Word, they are lost! Keeping this in mind I believe that we need to honestly evaluate if the Word of God is truly being preached from our mouths and our pulpits or if we are vainly trying to win the souls of men through our “lofty speech and wisdom”, and only once this is set right can we begin to see revival in our wandering “Christian” societies!


The Laodicean Project- Malachi Speaks to Our Emerging Bretheren

May 30, 2008

It never ceases to amaze me at how while reading the Bible you can come across certain verses that seem so appropriate for our modern/postmodern context that you almost forget they were written over 2000 years ago. It is such a reminder of how the problems we deal with today are problems that the people of God have always had to deal with. This is both comforting, because it helps you know that the things that are being said today have already been tried and argued and God has already come out on top, and frustrating, because you see that the church has really not come all that far in the 2000 years since Christ’s death.

The verse which spoke so heavily to me can be found in the book of the prophet Malachi in his prophecy to the Israelites as they continue working on rebuilding Jerusalem.

You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17)

This verse seems so pertinent to me in light of our last post concerning the emerging church and how they tend to struggle with losing their saltiness while out in the world. The reason why I think this is so is because in this one verse we see two claims that the emerging people are so frequent to make and we can see how God responds to them.

Working in reverse, the first statement we see is the question “Where is the God of justice?” So many are want to rail this claim against God, that he is unjust because he appears to be sitting idly by while people suffer and die in poverty and obscurity or from painful sickness and disease. He seems to sit by while families are torn apart by drugs and cheap cons. Emerging leaders such as Brian McLaren are so concerned with injustice that it becomes the focal point of who they are and what their ministry preaches, like his book The Secret Message of Jesus. Bart Ehrman wrote a book on this called God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer. Rob Bell is writing a book concerning social justice to be released in the fall called Jesus Came to Save Christians. The Emerging Church views God’s inability, or the inability of God’s people, to end suffering and promote social reform as the primary concern of the Church today. And yet, how does their evangelism prosper when they do such things? How does it help Brian McLaren’s ministry when he is arrested for protesting the federal budget?

The second statement made is that “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” This takes on various forms in the emerging church, but probably the most obvious is in their promotion of homosexuality. For whatever reason, the emerging church and gay rights have become inextricably intertwined. Whether it be the out-and-out acceptance of it by leaders such as Tony Campolo, or if it is the tacit acceptance by McLaren and his slippery line of “Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality.” To me this type of response is beyond disingenuous. With the current climate of moral and social living in America, there should not be any person going into the ministry who is unsure where they stand on homosexuality. Go to the mountains like Jesus, or take three years out to study like Paul. But whatever you do, don’t go stand up in front of the people you are supposed to shepherd and tell them you don’t know what to do with probably the single most pressing moral issue of our time! It is the same with abortion, sex outside of marriage, alcohol and drug use, and manner of speech. The emerging church has decided that there are a set of things that they want to do, either out of their own desires or out of a desire to appease the world, and instead of calling things black and white as stated in the Bible, they hide under a cloud of cultural relativity and freedoms in Christ to maintain these behaviors. They pronounce what is evil as being good in the sight of God, even to the point that some consider God as being a universalist!

So what does the passage say is God’s response to all of this? “You have wearied the LORD with your words.” God says through Malachi that he has been wearied by these statements made by his people. To weary means to make jaded or exhausted. With their words, the people of God, and I believe the emerging church as well, have exhausted God. Not that he is tired, but that his patience and his exercise of mercy have been exhausted on them. And honestly, the last place I want to stand is on the brink of God removing his mercy. It is like when your mom says, “You’re getting on my last nerve,” only it is the most powerful being in the universe who is about to unleash his cosmic discipline upon you!

Of course, we may discuss the merits of these claims and argue over whether the things mentioned above are really sin, but as far as I see it, the emerging church needs to refocus their efforts on being the Salt and working to preserve God’s goodness and turn away from the attitudes which God has warned before lead to his weariness with them.


The Laodicean Project- And Add a Pinch of Salt

May 29, 2008

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:13-16

In our first post concerning the above passage we discussed how the evangelical church has tended to fail in the way in which they behave as a light to the world, hiding that light under a basket and burning the skin of the ones whose path they need to illuminate. Today, in the second post on this passage I wish to discuss how the emerging church fails to do its job as the Salt.

Though I imagine we are all mostly familiar with this by now I think it is important that we review what salt meant to the people during the time of Jesus’ ministry. Today we view salt only as a seasoning for our food, and possibly (depending on your climate region) a substance used to keep roads from freezing. However, salt in First century Rome held a slightly different meaning. At that point in history there was no such thing as refrigeration, and since it wasn’t exactly practical for people to slaughter an animal every night and eat it in its’ entirety before the heat spoiled it, the people had to find some way to preserve food. They did this by using salt. With the salt as a cure for the meat they could then keep it for longer periods of time, allowing them to save both work and money on dinner. Salt also worked as an antiseptic to pack wounds with and keep them free of infection (Ouch!).

But, another thing that the ancient world lacked, besides fridges, was manufactured table salt. Instead, the people of that time used salt extracted from the sea. And one inherent problem with sea salt is that it does not retain its capabilities as salt forever. This is what Jesus is alluding to in saying the salt has “lost its taste.” That means that the salt no longer worked as a seasoning, and more importantly, it no longer worked as a preservative or antiseptic.

So, with this understanding, let’s look again at what this passage means. If we are called to be “the salt of the earth” then this means that we are to act as both a preservative and an antiseptic for the world. Christians should act both to preserve the world in keeping away evil, encouraging people away from evil deeds and in general promoting holy living, and as an antiseptic by helping to cleanse out evil and remove the infection of sinful living in various aspects of the culture.

Thus, my claim against the emerging church is that they have lost their saltiness. They are effective at getting out into the world, being wrapped around environments which need preservation or being packed into situations that need cleansing, but they have lost their saltiness and so their presence does not make a difference and does not keep things from going bad or getting worse. I see the emerging church as very effective at being the Light that we desired of the evangelical church; at engaging the culture, at getting down into the gritty places where many Christians have trouble reaching, and relating to sinful people on a level where they don’t burn them. However, at this level, I don’t see much preservation or cleansing. Sure, they are able to pull people into the church, but are they really preserving them from the corrupting influence of the world? I don’t believe so.

Instead, I believe that we see too much association with the sinful world on behalf of the believers in the emerging church. So much so that they lose their own saltiness and instead of influencing the culture they are letting the culture influence them. This can be clearly seen in the decidedly liberal bend of most emerging congregations. Congregations which have traded in standing on Biblical truth for being acceptable to the general population. Congregations which have decided that the Cross was too offensive and so have decided to remove the offensive parts on their own without ever getting God’s permission to do so. They have fully accepted their role as being Salt to pack the culture in, but because they have lost their taste they are of no more good to the culture than if they were just thrown out into the street and trampled on.

If the emerging church is going to have a lasting positive impact on “Christian” societies I truly believe that they need to try and regain their saltiness, regain their preservative and antiseptic abilities, so that in their myriad interactions with the world they can be an effective agent for removing and keeping away the corruption of sin. It is real encouraging to see the passion which so many in the emerging movement seem to bring, and to see their excellence at engaging the secular culture of our society. But, at the end of the day, if they stand in a position where Jesus says they are just as well off being trampled under foot, then their connections with the culture are going to make no more difference for the kingdom than if they had never even tried.


The Laodicean Project- This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine!

May 28, 2008

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:13-16

To continue on with our discussion of how the corporate church can help reach out to “Christian” societies, I think it would be best if we look at a very familiar passage. I would venture to say that anyone who has spent any amount of time in the Church has heard at least three lessons taught out of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Of those three it would be no doubt that one of them was on the topic of being the Salt and the Light. And, if you heard this lesson you undoubtedly heard your teacher close by saying “Now go and be a light into this dark, sinful world.” The question is, did you? It is this thought which I want to expound on over the next two posts. In this first post I want to discuss how the evangelical church has failed in its’ adherence to Jesus call to be the Light, and in the second post we will look at how the emerging church is failing to heed Jesus’ words on being the Salt.

(Note: The inspiration for these posts came to me from John Stott’s excellent book The Living Church. To anyone who is interested in methods of how to make the church both effective and relevant, such as people who have read They Like Jesus but Not the Church or unChristian, I strongly recommend this book. Stott is an amazing theologian, and even in his 90′s he is able to deliver a work which is both extremely practical as well as Biblical sound).

It appears to me, given the current state of the evangelical church in America and other Western cultures, that the resounding part of Jesus’ message on the Light for them is the opening phrase, “You are the light of the world.” They really seem to take this to heart and it shows out through their involvement in politics, talk radio, and literature. They view their role as light as central to everything in their Christian faith. However, though their light is burning strong, there are two problems which I see with the way they are using it.

The first problem I see is that they fail to heed the third sentence of Jesus’ exposition: “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket!” There is such a strong call in today’s evangelical culture to put our light under a basket, though it is not nearly that blunt. Instead it masquerades itself in the self-imposed isolationism which evangelicals put on themselves. They avoid the theatre and the cinemas because the images and language are too racy. They run from secular radio and television for the same reasons. They go out to eat, but never too late, and never where there is dancing or a bar. But beyond all of that, probably my biggest disagreement with this mentality is the way in which Christian parents are sprinting away from the public schools. They have all of this light but they put it under a bushel because they are afraid of what might happen if they were out in the world.

It is to this type of attitude which Paul in 1 Corinthians writes “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world (5:9-10).” Even back then, the people of God began to see themselves as so holy and set apart that they chose to set themselves apart physically, which was never the intent of the teachings. So, in order to rectify this, evangelicals (myself included) need to look inward more closely and see if there are areas of our lives in which we should be more open and engaging, more willing to take our light out to. I understand that there are some of us who make these decisions based on personal conviction, but I sincerely believe that not all of this withdrawal is based on a conviction of purity. If we don’t see God leading us to stay away from certain areas then we should take that as his invitation for us to take our light out into those areas.

The second problem I see is that too often we are using our light to burn people. If we are a lighted candle, it appears that we more frequently run our flame against others flesh than we use it to provide light to their surroundings. This can be clearly seen through the sometimes arrogant, sometimes vitriolic way in which evangelicals engage the world. Again we should reflect on Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 where he says “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’” We can’t just go around kicking the world in the teeth for being sinful. They’re the world. They’re supposed to be sinful, else they would be brothers.

To rectify this failing I think we need to look at how Jesus handled his engagement with the world. I think a pertinent example would be his meeting with the woman at the well in John 4. It is clear from Christ’s words in verse 16 that he knew this woman was a serial adulterer/divorcee and that even now she was living with a man who was not her husband. Yet, the interesting thing is, that is not how he starts the conversation. Sure, he gets to it soon enough, but the first interaction we see Jesus having with her is one of bonding and building of trust (“Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’… The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (vv.7-9)”) and then of sharing with her the hope of Christ himself (“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.’ (vv.13-14)”). It is only once Christ has shared with her the hope that exists that he declares to her her need for him, that being her fallen nature. Through this, we see Jesus using the light to illuminate the path to the woman. He doesn’t seek to burn her and then say “It’s okay, I’m the Great Physician,” but instead he says “I am the hope for eternal life” and then he illuminates the path so that she may what stands in her way of getting there. We need to take this to heart as evangelicals, not seeking to tear down unbelievers by focusing on their sins, but showing them the eternal hope that we have in Christ and then showing them that their sin is all that stands in the way of them realizing that hope as well.

We are called to be the Light of Christ into this sinful world, and hopefully upon prayerful consideration of what we’ve discussed today we can let that light shine out unhindered by a basket and free from burning our neighbors, in order that the Light may transform the darkness that surrounds them.


The Laodicean Project- What Will Cleanse the People?

May 25, 2008

Continuing our look at how our corporate actions can be used to reach “Christian” societies, there is another verse I would like to share with you. This time it comes out of the book of Haggai (really digging for these, huh?). Haggai was a prophet, alongside Zechariah, during the time of the rebuilding of the temple and the city gates of Jerusalem, the event whose history is given in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Haggai was focused directly on the rebuilding of the temple, and so along with this came the question of how the people are cleansed by the ceremonial law:

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. (Haggai 2:11-14)

So, in this verse we see God asking the question through his prophet, “Are things made holy simply by being in the presence of something holy? Are things made defiled by being in the presence of something defiled?”

Working in reverse, the answer to the second question is “Yes.” If things or people or ideas are clean and holy, and then something unclean is introduced, then the defilement of the unclean thing ruins the whole bunch. This is the same as the principle being expressed by Paul in Galatians when he says “A little leaven leavens the whole lump (5:9).” This plays itself out in numerous ways in our life; through relationships, activities we engage in, the words we say, books we read. If we are not careful to protect the things which are holy from the things which aren’t then we stand to lose the holiness that we had to start with (see also 1 Corinthians 15:33).

As to the first question, “Are things made holy simply by being in the presence of something holy?”, the answer that comes is “No.” Yet do we believe this? Do we act this way? I don’t believe so. I think too often in our churches we think that just by being in church, just by being in Sunday School or a Bible Study or participating in “Guys Nights” that we are being made holy. I know in my own life I operated for a long time under the thought that a personal, daily time with God wasn’t necessary because I was at church twice on Sunday, once on Wednesday, and in Bible Study on Tuesday. Yet it isn’t enough, or should I say, it is not the right stuff. Yes, a good pastor (shepherd) should “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), but as John Stott says in his book The Living Church, “But how do shepherds feed their sheep? The answer is that they don’t. To be sure, if a lamb is sick, a shepherd may bottle feed it. But usually he leads his sheep into good pastures where they feed themselves.” Until we beat this mindset that we are cleansed by simply being IN the church we will have trouble being of any good to those OUTSIDE the church.

It is so wonderful how the Old Testament prophets can still speak volumes to us. The same problems which caused the Israelites to be scattered and destroyed back then are the same things which are causing us to fall apart today, so we would be careful to heed the word which God has already revealed and preserved for us to know.


The Laodicean Project- A Verse on Cleansing and Protecting Our Leadership

May 24, 2008

While I was thinking over the issue of our need to cleanse the leadership of the church in order to more effectively reach traditionally Christian societies I was reading in the book of Ezra. The story given in Ezra is the same as that in Nehemiah, about the return of the Jews to Jerusalem where they work to rebuild the city gates and to construct anew the temple of the Lord. And during this period, a continual theme that we see come about is the constant attempt by adversaries of God’s people to keep the work of the kingdom from being done.

One particular attempt at this really struck me, as it came in a slightly different flavor than most of the others that are written about. Typically in Ezra and Nehemiah we see the foes of the Israelites come in and try and scare the people away under threat of death (see Nehemiah 4) or by trying to convince the kings to decree a halt to their work (see Ezra 4:6-5:17). However, a different tactic is tried in Ezra 4:1-3:

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

It is in this passage that we see the opposition come up to the Israelites and claim an allegiance to the God of Israel in order to try and get inside of the congregation and tear down the building from the inside. I believe that a lot of times this is what we see happening in our own congregations; people coming in, claiming allegiance to Christ in order not to serve Him, but instead to gain status and influence in directing the Church in the way that they see fit and not the way God does. We need to be aware of this and we need to follow the example of the workers in Ezra, not afraid to put our foot down and judge the intentions of those who would seek to see the work of God’s kingdom destroyed.


The Laodicean Project- It Continues Corporately

May 23, 2008

“But you are a chosen race,a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light…. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” -1 Peter 2:9,11-12

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” -1 Timothy 3:1-7

Our last post in the Laodicean Project dealt with what I believe the first necessary step in reaching “Christian” societies to be, that being the internal cleansing and living of a life which causes others to glorify God. The second step, though quite similar, is on a much larger level. This step is the step of a corporate cleansing of the Church and a return of the Church to a level of esteem in the society.

Too often today the Church is used as an excuse for not believing the message of the Gospel because, in the world’s eyes, the Church has no special position above anything else in the society. We have dealt with this problem repeatedly on this blog. Most of this has to do with a perceived (or real) hypocrisy in the Church and its’ members or because of overbearing legalisms or because of a weakening in the doctrinal integrity of a congregation. However, in lieu of betting these subjects into the ground I will just give links to those previous discussions.

Instead, what I want to discuss here is the way most of these problems occur, which is in the diluting of the strength of our Christian leadership. Paul in the New Testament lays out for us three times what the qualifications for specific leadership posts are in the church. He discusses the Elder/Pastor qualifications in both 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 and for Deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Moreover, all of the New Testament authors offer pointers and direction in the way the church should be led.

The problem is, today’s Christian societies continue to move further and further away from these ground rules. One of the most notable examples of this is the rejection of 1 Timothy 2:12, which says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet.” Today it is such common place to “call” female ministers, or at least install female Bible teachers over adult males, that most congregations don’t bat an eye at it, even though this is clearly in opposition to what Paul teaches. To excuse this they often claim that what was written was culturally relevant for then, a time in which women weren’t valued as much as they are now, but that today, since we are much more egalitarian in our behaviors, we are no longer under this restriction. (But note, this argument is inaccurate in its premise since we have already discussed that Christianity has been egalitarian in its teachings since the beginning, and so if this is true then it makes Paul’s instruction not culturally relevant even in the culture he was specifically addressing, which makes absolutely no sense!) We see similar arguments made for every other type of bending being done on the Bible’s instructions for leadership.

So what? What is the big deal about bending the rules a little bit? Well, first, it is disobedience, which is never something we should strive for. Second, if we allow for disobedience and rationalizing away God’s rules at the top then there is no hope for people to respect them further down the totem pole. The Bible says that “not many of [us] should become teachers” since those “who teach will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).” This is because, as a teacher and/or leader, you are acting as a miniature shepherd to God’s people, and so if you go astray then many of them are sure to follow, and the Bible speaks pretty harshly about those who lead God’s children astray, as we have discussed before.

Therefore, if we are to reclaim our Christian societies in the name of Christ and see his name and holiness glorified in them again, then we must hold more closely to the Bible’s instructions for appointing Church leaders. This may not be popular, or comfortable even, since sometimes these bad leaders may be people who are very close to us personally, but in order to see a change it must be done. We shouldn’t allow just anyone with “lofty speech or wisdom” to lead our congregations, but should seek to appoint leaders who have “decided to know nothing among [us] except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).” Only once we have seen individually our lives sanctified, and corporately our leadership sanctified, can we hope to begin seeing our society changed from their cold, dead views of Christianity and into a right relationship with Christ.


Calvinism is the Gospel- A Quote by Charles H. Spurgeon

May 20, 2008

I don’t have much time today to complete the post which I am working on to continue our Laodicean Project thread, but I did want to share with you guys a quote. It comes from Charles H. Spurgeon, a nineteenth century Baptist preacher in London, and it speaks on the topic of Calvinism and the Gospel. To let you know, I resonate strongly with this quote, and expect that sometime in the not so distant future that I will discuss within these posts my particular convictions and beliefs concerning Calvinism and the means and extent of salvation. But for now, please enjoy:

“I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross.”



The Laodicean Project- It Starts with Us

May 16, 2008

“None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” -Acts 5:13

“And they glorified God because of me.” -Galatians 1:24

One of the biggest chasms which true Christianity has to cross if it is to reach “Christian” societies is that of hypocrisy. This is a common complaint, one everyone is undoubtedly familiar with, but because of that I think we have become too casual in ignoring it. When faced with a charge of being a hypocrite, most Christians respond back with either two defenses. Either they look at the critics life and say, “Well, here’s something you do that is hypocritical…” or they say “At least I am trying to live the right way.” Neither of these is usually wrong when you say it, but to take Paul out of context, this may be permitted but that doesn’t mean it’s beneficial.

Research shows that upwards 85% of 19-44 year olds view present-day Christianity as hypocritical, so if we were to fold at every person who says they don’t want to be a Christian because Christians are hypocrites then we are not going to accomplish much. However, there is also no reason to fight fire with fire. Instead, I think we would be best served if we took to heart the verses I listed above.

In Acts 5:13 it says “None of the rest dared join them.” That is interesting. The onlooking unbelievers (in this case in Jerusalem) did not dare to join the early Christians. But why? Was it because they were crazy Bible thumping, judgmental, gay bashing religious nuts? No, because as we see “but the people held them in high esteem.” They thought well of the Christians. They saw their lives and the result of their faith in God through their actions towards man and they thought well of them. So then, if they thought that the Christians were generally good people, then why did they not join them? Because the unbelievers were dead in their sins (Ephesians 1:1-3) and refused to turn from “for doing what the Gentiles want to do (1 Peter 4:3).” As Paul says in Romans, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (1:21).” So, we see that the people did not refuse joining the Christians NOT because they were hypocritical and lived lives indistinguishable from the world, but because the unbelievers did not honor God.

Unfortunately, we can’t usually be found to level the same conviction and condemnation against unbelievers. It would not be commonly said of most people claiming to be Christians today that unbelievers hold them in high esteem. Instead, we allow our indiscretions and lack of self-control to give the condemned an excuse for their unbelief. Not that they have an excuse, but that they can’t be convicted to turn from their ways because we are unable to say as Paul that “they glorified God” because of us. More like it, we are probably guilty of being able to say “they doubted God because of us” or “they cursed God because of us.” When we live our lives in a way that adds offense to the Gospel (which is already offensive enough; 1 Corinthians 1:23) then we distract from the message of the cross and we impair their ability to see the utter depravity and inadequacy of a life lived outside of the Lordship of Christ.

If we are to reach the people of our Christian societies we must first work to sanctify ourselves, to conform our lives to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29), so that our lives will serve as a witness to the transforming power of God’s mercy and love (1 Peter 1:3). If we are to help people see Christ, we must first make sure that we don’t stand in the way, and let it be our prayer that we can live and serve in such a way that people will glorify God because of us!


Salvation or Whiskey?- An “Electric” Quote by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

May 12, 2008

I’ve recently been doing a lot of reading and listening to a preacher from mid-20th century London named Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London, England from 1939 until 1968. His original career was as a medical doctor, but six years into his profession Dr. Lloyd-Jones left it behind to go into the full-time preaching ministry. This appears to have been the right decision, a choice which affected many a future preacher on its own:

When J. I. Packer was a 22-year-old student he heard Lloyd-Jones preach each Sunday evening during the school year of 1948-1949. He said that he had “never heard such preaching.” It came to him “with the force of electric shock, bringing to at least one of his listeners more of a sense of God than any other man” he had known.

Therefore, in hopes that an interest in Dr. Lloyd-Jones may inspire more people, even 27 years after his death, I thought I would include a quote from him that I feel accurately conveys the character of this amazing preacher:

“So the first effect of Christianity is to make people stop and think. They are not simply overawed by some great occasion. They say, ‘No, I must face this. I must think.’…the greatest trouble is that men and women go through life without thinking. Or they think for a moment but find it painful, so they stop and turn to a bottle of whiskey or television or something else—anything to forget.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity)