Cynicism and The Sinner’s Prayer- Introduction and Reflection

June 8, 2009

Jesus said, ‘You may ask Me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’ (John 14.14)

Therefore, if you pray sincerely, asking Him this:

“Lord Jesus, please come into my life
and be my Savior and Lord.
Please forgive my sins,
and give me the gift of eternal life.”

– He will do it now.”

(The Bridge to Life tract, by The Navigators)

This week I plan on taking a look at what is commonly known as The Sinner’s Prayer for Salvation.  I have been thinking of doing this for awhile, and finally I feel compelled to do it after watching it employed full force from the pulpit of my church this past Sunday.  Over the next several days I will go into my initial misgivings about The Sinner’s Prayer and then scour the New Testament for evidence supporting or denouncing its use in the course of Christian evangelism.However I wanted to start off with a confession.

My confession is that I hate seeing people saved using The Sinner’s Prayer.  Okay, that’s too strong.  Better to say, if people are being genuinely saved, I love seeing that.  But, when people are saved under the preaching of someone who asks them to pray The Sinner’s Prayer, who tells them, “If you pray this prayer and really mean it then you will be saved forever,” I get this feeling in my gut that resembles a mixture of ‘Can I trust this person?’ and ‘What did I just eat?’ and I hate it.  My God is a big God and he can use all types of folly to save people.  Still, there is nothing in this world that scares me more than false assurance, and when I see this sort of evangelism used to “win souls” my mind immediately turns to Matthew 7.21-23.

The problem is, what should I do when “souls are won” this way?  Yesterday three young men came forward saying they prayed the prayer and had committed themselves to God, and I struggled to rejoice.  I should, I know I should, but every part of my body wants to cry out, “Have you truly believed?!?”  I earnestly pray that these men have, and the last thing I want to do is stunt their spiritual growth by questioning their salvation experience.  Yet, is it responsible not to probe deeper?  They were told to pray a prayer and they did, they are “saved.”  Am I not the ultimate jerk for doubting that?

The Sinner’s Prayer.  I hate it.  Should I?  That is what we will be looking at in the days to come.

Who Sits in the Seat?- A Question about Church Attenders

May 11, 2009

The following  question is likely to be an area of surprising controversy to some of you out there: Who should we expect to fill the pews on Sunday at church/what should the purpose of the sermon be? (And for those of you in the know out there, please excuse my coarsely unhip terminology).  This seems like a no-brainer, right?  Okay, then who?  Do you have a verse?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Opinions on this question vary, going from the idea that it should only be unbelievers (and purely evangelistic sermons) to only believers (and purely discipling services) and all levels of moderation in between.  Everyone has an argument and a verse, but honestly I believe at the end of the day that this comes down to autonomy of the church in making the decision.  Ideally I believe that the church should be partly evangelistic and partly discipling, acknowledging that the purpose of our gathering is largely for the building up of the saints (cf. Hebrews 10.24-25), but that there are likely unbelievers or false professors there who need the gospel, and even if there aren’t it’s not always a bad thing to remind believers of the gospel (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.1-4).

Beyond the tilt of for believers versus for unbelievers comes the question of who’s lifestyle carries the day?  Should the church inside cater to believers or unbelievers?  Again, seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not.  We want to be open and encouraging of the poor and lame coming to Christ, but in the white, suburban American megachurch mentality, this seems to be something of novelty that we feel pride over, not something we actually are serious about.  The illustration I always use here is of a story that a church member told me about a hippie (for real hippie, this was back in the 70′s) who walked the aisle of our church one Sunday.  The church applauded the fact that God could take someone who didn’t shower and dressed in all kinds of tie-dyed rags and make a believer out of him.  How wonderful is the diversity in the body of Christ!  And yet, my first thought in hearing this story was, “How did the church view his dress the next Sunday?”  

It’s true.  In so many churches and in the mentality of so many church-goers, people who have truly been saved must come to church cleaned up, bringing their best before the Lord, both in physical and spiritual appearance.  We don’t want a hot mess of human depravity coming to church in jeans and a t-shirt saying they’re a Christian, because, I mean, clearly they’re not, right?  I’ve even had someone tell me that, sure, a person in rags may come to God during a Sunday service, but as they are progressively sanctified they will make sure to dress nicer on Sunday mornings.  Wow!  Talk about white-washed tombs!  

The thought is this: progressive sanctification leads people to dress better and not talk about their sin so much.  Yeah, that definitely sounds wrong when articulated, but nonetheless it tends to be the prevailing philosophy in most of our congregations.

Matt Chandler addressed his church on this two Sunday’s ago, talking about complaints over the way some strippers who have been visiting the church were dressing and various other nuisances.  Chandler iterated that sanctification leads to better choices over time, but then he had this to say about who the church expects to fill the pews on Sundays:

“The rule to get in the door can’t be ‘Mature Christian faith’, because that’s cruise ship, country club, nonsense.”

I completely agree.  We need to quit expecting these white-washed tombs to gather together on Sunday mornings for a lifeless hour of worship and a sterile 45 minutes of small group where no one has any flaws, no one has sin they are struggling with, and everyone has a prayer for a friend who does not seem to have things nearly as together as they do.  We must honestly answer the question for ourselves of “Who should we expect to fill the pews on Sunday at church?” and then not be afraid of the grittiness and reality that some of our answers will bring.

Am I Not Called to (Ad)Minister?- John Piper on Avoiding Sacred Substitutes

April 27, 2009

Having just concluded my reading of John Piper’s excellent book on pastoral ministry, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, I thought that I would share one more thought from it that was very convicting to me.

In the chapter entitled, “Brothers, Beware of Sacred Substitutes,” Dr. Piper develops an idea of how the Christian minister is to allot his time based around the text of Acts 6.2-4, 

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The life of the Christian minister is full of starts and stops, interruptions and diversions away from the biblical calling to “preach the word” and to “shepherd the flock of God” that is among them (2 Timothy 4.2, 1 Peter 5.2).  Expanding on this, John Piper notes that “most of [the interruptions to our spiritual growth] and most of our busyness is ministry-related, not ‘worldly’.”  By this he means that most of the distraction comes not in the form of sinful diversion but disguised as good, seemingly essential, administerial and care related ministries.  Such was the case with the elders in Jerusalem who were being side-tracked by the dispersion of meals and other provisions to the widows in their fellowship.  This is undoubtedly a good thing, and yet its goodness does not make it superior to the elders call “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (v.4).  Looking to contemporary examples, Piper remarks,

And what opposes the pastor’s life of prayer [and thus his whole calling] more than anything?  The ministry.  It is not shopping or car repairs or sickness or yard work that squeezes our prayers into hurried corners of the day.  It is budget development and staff meetings and visitation and counseling and answering mail and writing reports and reading journals and answering the phone and preparing messages. (p.61)

Honestly, even though I am not yet officially “in the ministry,” I understand this difficulty quite well.  As a servant in the church and one who wants to contribute as much as I can currently within the scope of the ministry that I have, I often find that I simply spread myself too thin by assuming that every responsibility that comes up which seems remotely related to what I’m doing is a dire task that I personally need to respond to.  Thus I find myself committed to meeting people at 5 different locations and 4 different times, while simultaneously calling businesses trying to schedule events or place merchandise orders, which undoubtedly pushes my day out in both directions, shortening my mornings and my nights, making me feel more pressed to pray than I am comfortable with, and so I just short-change it and resolve to be in prayer “the way I should be” the following day.  I let my desire to be everything to everyone in my public ministry interfere with my devotion to God and reliance on him in my private ministry.  This is precisely what the psalmist is speaking to when he says, 

It is in vain that you rise up early
     and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
     for he gives to his beloved sleep
. (Psalm 127.2)

God bless John Piper and his wise insights into the trappings of the Christian pastorate; how I have benefited from them as much as any writer outside of God’s inspired word.  Again, if you are or plan to be involved in the pastoral ministry and you have not already read Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, you need to obtain a copy and immediately bump it up to the top of your reading list.

Rocking the Cutting Edge of the 16th Century- Time Magazine on the Influence of the New Calvinism

March 18, 2009

(Note: If you like what you have read on this blog, please go here and vote for it in the 2009 Blog Madness competition. I am listed as the 15th ranked blog in the West Division. Thank you for your support.)

In case you may have missed it (and honestly, I don’t know how much press this got because I was out of town last week) but recently Time Magazine released its 2009 edition of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now,” and among these, listed at number 3 overall, was the New Calvinism.  Pointing to the influential ministries of guys such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Al Mohler, Time said that (in true pop culture fashion) “Calvinism is back”! 

Truthfully, this really is surprising to me.  If they had been doing a list on the top 10 ideas changing the church right now, sure, I would have definitely listed the New Calvinism.  But the world?  Wow!  That really is something.  

The question then becomes two things.  First, can we infer from the rising influence of the New Calvinism (which really is the old Calvinism just with new guys, right?) that there is a global revival in the church?  Second,  can we infer from the rising influence of the New Calvinism if the global church is moving towards orthodox, conservative Christianity?

In the first question, I think that I would have to say ‘No.’  I do not think from the fact that Calvinism is enjoying a resurgence that we can infer that Christianity as a whole is experiencing revival in the world.  It is true that many places such as Africa and the Global South are simply booming with new believers these days, but I don’t know that across the board we are seeing any more people coming to Christ (percentage-wise) than we have over the years past, it is just that the distribution of where believers are has shifted drastically.

On the second question, I do believe that we are seeing a move towards historic, orthodox, conservative Christianity, at least in the realm of theology.  Though there are still plenty of loud voices out there pushing the emergent agenda, it seems that the “Great Emergence” that they have been predicting has been nothing more than sociological wishful thinking thus far.  Particularly when you look to the abundant harvests being gathered in the Global South and Africa, these people are among the most conservative believers in the church today, leading the charge in various arenas such as the recent battle against the liberalization of the Church of England.  They may not all be Calvinists per se, but as Dr. Mohler was so wonderfully quoted in the article, “The moment someone begins to define God’s [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist.”

This is certainly something to be excited about.  It is a great day when a movement towards biblical authority and orthodox beliefs gets so large that a secular magazine recognizes how important it is.  Thanks be to God that we are living in a time where great men are being raised up with great ideas and are leading a great impact on the church and the culture.  Unlike the Jews after the exile, God is not silent in our day, if only we are prayerful enough to listen.

See the full article here.

To Hell in a Hand Basket- (Not) Surprising News from the Pew Forum

December 19, 2008

Tomorrow, in light of the upcoming holiday, I will be staring a series of several posts on what I believe to be the real “reason for the season” of Christmas. However, with that in mind, namely the fact that so many people badly distort if not altogether ignore the significance of Christmas, I thought I would share a recent study with you guys that (sadly) is not surprising and really exemplifies why we see so little of Christ in Christmas.

The study is one conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and is reported on in an article entitled “Many Americans Say Other Faiths Can Lead to Eternal Life.” Now, the title itself may not be so shocking, but here is the first line: “A majority of all American Christians (52%) think that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life.” What?

But it doesn’t stop there. If you scroll down and look at the box labeled “Which Religions Lead to Eternal Life?”, you get these interesting facts:

[Note: these numbers are from those who said "Many religions can lead to eternal life"]

  • 64% of White Evangelicals and 73% of White Mainline Protestants say that Judaism can lead to eternal life (Okay, maybe these are all dispensationalists that have gotten crossed up).
  • 35% of White Evangelicals and 55% of White Mainline Protestants say Islam can lead to eternal life (At least it’s still monotheism, I guess).
  • 26% of White Evangelicals and 46% of White Mainline Protestants say that Atheism can lead to eternal life (Umm, so we’re universalists, or at least we forgot that whole “justification by faith” thing that got us out of the Catholic church?)

Where it all goes to hell (and I mean that quite literally) is in the box labeled “What Determines Who Obtains Eternal Life?” This beautiful nugget informs us that:

  • 11% of White Evangelicals and 33% of White Mainline Protestants say that your actions (apart from belief) determine your eternal destiny
  • 10% of White Evangelicals and 10% of White Mainline Protestants say that it is a combination of belief and actions which determines your eternal destiny
  • 45% of White Evangelicals and 9% of White Mainline Protestants say that belief in Jesus and being born again determine your eternal destiny (!)

This means that over half of all white evangelicals and more than 9 out of every 10 white protestants disagree with Jesus when he says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3.5). Nor do they agree with John 3.16. Or John 14.6.

This begs the question, at what point do we stop calling these people Christians? When we say “Most Christians” and when the society critiques “Most Christians,” it is now clearer than ever that they are not actually talking about Christians in the first place. They’re talking about people who wear the clothes of a Christian, but work for someone else. They’re talking about people who apparently don’t have anything better to do on Sunday morning (oh wait, they probably aren’t going to church, which explains our attendance numbers) and people who feel guilty for calling themselves what they really are, functional universalists (or atheists, since they seem to believe in no god I know of).

Why has this happened? Which came first: the denial of Scriptural authority and the inerrancy of God’s Word, or the abandonment of actual biblical Christianity? When did we become so self-assured that we lost the fear of God?

I don’t think I have anything constructive to say about this right now. Honestly, I’m shocked and appalled and a hair short of just really ticked off. I get so tired of people going around calling themselves Christians and then believing crap like that! If you wonder why Christmas is better called X-Mas and you are more and more likely to be shot trying to buy a Nintendo Wii than you are to hear someone talk about the birth of their savior and actually mean it, try these numbers on for size. This is sad, but unfortunately, it’s only sad because it confirmed what we’ve known all along.

I hope this motivates all of you, as it does me, to be more evangelistic and more adamant about the truth, the biblical truth, than ever before.

The Language of Salvation- A Further Look at Misusing Phrases and Imagery for Salvation

October 28, 2008

Just to continue the idea that I started yesterday, about the misuse of certain verses and imagery in presenting the Gospel message, I thought I would share with you guys a quote from Dr. John MacArthur which deals with the subject:

Listen to the typical gospel presentation nowadays. You’ll hear sinners entreated with words like, ‘accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior’; ‘ask Jesus into your heart’; ‘invite Christ into your life’; or ‘make a decision for Christ.’ You may be so accustomed to hearing those phrases that it will surprise you to learn that none of them is based on Biblical terminology. They are the products of a diluted gospel. (The Gospel According to Jesus, p.21)

These words strike even further to the core of what I simply breached yesterday which was the fact that many evangelists just throw around spiritual phraseology, to the point that we basically accept it as biblical talk, and yet at the end of the day most of it doesn’t stand up to the truth of Scripture.

The thing that is even more provoking about it is that all of these phrases seem to emphasize a highly man-centered view of the act of salvation. Now, I believe that man does have the responsibility of exercising repentance and faith in the act of redemption, as called by forth by Acts 2.42 and Romans 10.9, but by describing the receiving of salvation as “asking Jesus into your heart” or “accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” it seems we lose the very God-centered flavor of many passages in Scripture, such as 1 Peter 1.3 (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again . . . “) or Ephesians 2.4-5 (“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved“) or Colossians 2.13 (“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses“).

Scripture is very clear that there is some sense in which it is God who “saved us . . . according to his own mercy” (Titus 3.4-7), and yet that is overlooked, even taboo in some circles of the church. Maybe this is part of our wanderings in attractional, self-esteem based evangelism which makes us desire the act of salvation to be a brass ring that we are skilled enough to grab, I don’t know. But I can tell you this, if we really long to see a change in the life of the American church we are in dire need of a return to the biblical accounts of salvation which emphasize God’s goodness and our inability, a humbling perspective on what has become a disgustingly consumerist idea.

Are We Christian Yet?- Erwin Lutzer on the Purpose of Our Politics

October 26, 2008

With the whole country staring down the barrel of Election Day 2008, there are many opinions out there on who you should vote for and why (I have my own if you would like to hear them, not here though). A number of opinions out there will even brandish the moniker of the “Christian viewpoint.” Now, I’m not saying that there is not a viewpoint which is more consistent with Christianity than another, but if you take the whole landscape of people who claim to be giving you the “Christian” candidate you will be amazed by the worlds of difference in interpretation.

That’s not what this is about. What this is about is what our endgame should be in all of this. If Christians are getting involved in the electoral process, if Christians are throwing their support behind this candidate or that one, then the hope would be that these Christians have a clear purpose envisioned for what they are seeking. And we do, right? We want to end abortion, feed the poor, display the 10 Commandments, and protect the environment. We want to preserve the family and promote community. And we all know just who can do those things for us.

But at the end of the day next Tuesday, whether our guy wins or not, it is important that we keep a proper perspective about what we are to be striving for in the first place, and it is this that I think Dr. Erwin Lutzer proclaims well when he says:

[L]et us not think that getting a community to change its laws means that it has been ‘Christianized’ or that its citizens are closer to believing the Gospel. Christianity, properly understood, is a message that a holy God punishes sin, and if we do not flee to the protection of Christ, we will be damned forever. Redemption and not reformation is what we should be about. (Is God on America’s Side?, Lutzer, p.80)

That’s what it’s about. Yes, there are many social and economic issues that will make living the Christian life easier day-to-day in these United States, but above all else we must remember the words of Peter in Acts 4.12 when he said, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Be it John McCain or Barack Obama, no one will be saved from the condemnation that awaits all of us without knowing Jesus Christ as Lord, and that should be what we campaign for more than anything else!

Are We Truly Being Disciples?- Baxter on the Necessity of Christian Studies

October 14, 2008

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” -Matthew 28.18-20

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” -Hebrews 5.12-14

This is a pet peeve of mine, and maybe I get a little too harsh on it sometimes, but I was excited to see Richard Baxter address it in his book The Reformed Pastor. The issue is that of Christian brothers who are not interested, sometimes even disdainful, of studying the deeper things of God.

Maybe you know who I’m talking about. Those brothers and sisters who week in, week out want to come to church to hear the same old message on John 3.16 or Philippians 4.13 or Jeremiah 29.11, a message of encouragement and self-esteem, and maybe even a word or two about someone else’s sin. The ones who get mad at you or think you are trying to act smart when you use words like ‘justification’ or ‘penal substitutionary atonement.’ The ones who put books like Your Best Life Now and The Shack on the best-seller list while skipping over more edifying works such as Don’t Waste Your Life or Knowing God. On this, I know I have much to say, but I really liked the way Baxter said it, with all his Puritan tongue-in-cheek:

Convince [the church members] what a contradiction it is to be a Christian, and yet to refuse to learn; for what is a Christian but a disciple of Christ? And how can he be a disciple of Christ, that refuseth to be taught by him? And he that refuseth to be taught by his ministers, refuseth to be taught by him; for Christ will not come down from heaven again to teach them by his own mouth, but hath appointed his ministers to keep school and teach them under him. To say, therefore, that they will not be taught by his ministers, is to say, they will not be taught by Christ; and that is to say, they will not be his disciples, or no Christians.

As I finish The Reformed Pastor and as I move on into Light and Heat: The Puritan View of the Pulpit, I am becoming more and more convicted of the need of strong, deep, challenging Biblical teaching from the pulpit and Sunday School classes of our churches. As a Sunday School teacher myself, I see the tendency of church-goers to slip into a humanistic coma, unaware that the doctrines of God’s majesty and man’s total inability to reach him are just as applicable as passages on prayer and the Proverbs.

More importantly, the church continues sliding away into liberalism and pluralism, neglecting the Word of God, because, I believe, they see so much of the Word of God as unnecessary. What matter is it if we deny a fifth of the text when we see half of the text as being of no use to begin with? The battle for the authority of Scripture is more than just a battle over inerrancy, it is a fight over the proper purview of the Living Word in our everyday lives.

We can no longer be satisfied being Christians that aren’t disciples of Christ. We must be committed to the study of the Word or else we might as well neglect the whole thing!

The Corruption of Modern Cultures- The Papacy Weighs in on the Decline of “Christian” Societies

October 6, 2008

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 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. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” -Romans 1.18-23

In light of some former posts on the problems facing the church in so-called “Christian” societies such as Great Britain, France, and even the United States (see The Laodicean Project), I thought it was interesting to hear the words which Pope Benedict XVI had to say this weekend is opening up a synod on Biblical relevancy. [Note: I do want to remark that I am in no way endorsing the papacy or the Catholic church, but only find this interesting as a matter of general Christian awareness]

Here are a few of the quotes from his speech:

Today, nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture.

There are those, who, after deciding that ‘God is dead,’ declare themselves to be ‘god’ and the artisan of their own destiny, the absolute master of the world.

When men proclaim themselves to be absolute masters of themselves and sole masters of creation, can they truly build a society where freedom, justice and peace reign?

As a point of information, these comments were directed specifically at the withering communities of Western Europe which have in the past half-century seen secular humanism replace Christianity, and are on the verge over the next half-century of seeing Islam replace Western society as a whole. I am curious to see how the wider Christian community deals with this issue, as these words coming from the papacy, though certainly nothing new, may strike many people for the first time as to the degradation plaguing the culture around (and possibly including) them.

I’ll be the first to say that a return to the 1950′s is not what we need, but it would be negligent to think that things aren’t snowballing downhill rather quickly these days. In a time when the Gospel message has all but vanished from our daily lives, I am thankful for any voice which may speak awareness to this in the Christian community (even if it is the Pope).

Here is the full news story from the Associated Press: Pope decries godless nature of modern societies

Rebuilding the City- Drawing Lines in the Sand

September 20, 2008

But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’ Then I replied to them, ‘The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.’” -Nehemiah 2.19-20

These days it seems there are two things you can count on: one, everybody is going to claim to be spiritual in some sense of the word, and two, everyone will have a “justification” for what they do that comes from the Bible. Mark Driscoll illustrates this point when he talks about a group of potheads in Seattle saying that they all know two verses from the Bible: “I have given you every seed-bearing plant” (Genesis 1.29) and “Thou shalt not judge” (Matthew 7.1). Of course these aren’t legitimate excuses for breaking the law with the use of marijuana, but to most Americans this is a ground which they will not question, that being the ground of faith.

This senselessness creeps into our congregations as well. Look to the Methodist churches in California whose ministers are defying church rule and performing marriages for their gay communicants, making statements in defense of their actions such as “This is my flock. It’s a matter of integrity and a matter of what it is to be a pastoral ministry.” So, in order not to violate the consciences of these ministers the Methodist leaders of Southern California “recognized ‘the pastoral need and prophetic authority’ of clergy and congregations to make marriage available to all.”

Clearly this is a problem. When we have churches that begin changing their stances based on individuals consciences and personal opinions about what is hateful then we lose all notions of a church which is standing on the Word of God. I know I refer to this a lot, but Tim Keller’s quote from his book The Reason for God is so true here:

To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense?

Except, unlike in the quote where Keller is addressing people who avoid Christianity because it offends them, what we are finding instead is people who are “embracing” Christianity and yet declaring from the inside that it must change because it is offensive to them. How ridiculous is that?

It is my belief that the church, in order to build its walls strong once again, must take the approach of Nehemiah saying “Excuse me. You clearly don’t belong here. Please get out.” Yeah, it sounds harsh, but so do the words of Jesus in Matthew 7.21-23 when he says “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Guess what? It’s supposed to be harsh. We are not supposed to just put up with whatever in the church. This is repeated numerous times in not so many different ways throughout the Bible (Try 1 Corinthians 5.12-13 which says, “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? . . . ‘Purge the evil person from among you’“).

If we are to be serious about rebuilding the church, returning to the place where God’s presence is felt among us and where we are able to stand as a city on a hill and a light unto the world, then we must not be afraid to be harsh and hurt a few feelings. I certainly would much rather offend a fallen human here on earth than the only perfect God in heaven. The Methodist ministers in California are right, it’s about integrity. But that integrity is not the integrity of being PC in the world, it’s the integrity of standing under God’s Word in every action we take. And sometimes that’s not going to make everybody happy. And it’s not supposed to!