I’ve just been in a funk, lately. Nothing out of the ordinary is wrong, but it’s been raining for eleventy two days in a row, and the constant darkness and dreariness seems to have wormed its way into my psyche and, I noticed recently, even into my prayer life.
A couple of days ago, I started out my prayer time with a huge sigh followed by a bunch of wimpering and whining about nothing of consequence. I was just moody. And I didn’t feel like praying.
And then God graciously brought a lovely little snippet of Scripture to my mind:
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Want to know God’s will for your life? There it is: give thanks in all circumstances. When you get a new car. When you catch your spouse cheating on you. When you’re on a glorious vacation. When you get laid off from work. When you’re happy. When you’re sad. When you’re in the mood, and when you’re not in the mood.
Give thanks in – not necessarily for, but in – all circumstances.
Well, this was certainly a circumstance. Why not give gratitude a try? I was in the car headed to pick up my boys from school, and I decided to spend the entire twenty minute drive just thanking God for things.
I started with the big stuff: salvation, forgiveness for my sin, times when God has miraculously provided, specific answers to prayer…
I was starting to slow down and I still had about half the drive left. Surely there was more to be thankful for! And that’s when it struck me. How often do we forget to thank God for all the (in our eyes) tiny little unnoticed things He does for us every day? We thank Him for the miracles, but what about the mundane? What “little things” had I forgotten to thank God for?
1. Air conditioning. I live in the South. Enough said.
2. I know where my next meal is coming from.
3. Social media and e-mail. I can keep up with far off loved ones, and I’ve “met” some awfully nice people.
4. I can see. I can hear. I can think clearly. I can walk.
5. I live in a country where Christianity is not yet against the law.
7. Cute baby animals.
8. I can read and write. That’s not the case for women, globally.
9. I was able to conceive and carry my children to term.
10. Warm quilts on cold nights.
11. The Bible is available in my native language, and I have several copies of it.
12. I have no fear of suicide bombers in my community.
13. The beach.
14. A crawfish boil with friends.
15. Reliable electricity.
16. Hearing my children sing when they think no one is listening.
17. My husband is a Believer and is good to me.
18. Mountains. I miss mountains.
19. Indoor plumbing and clean drinking water.
20. Laughing hysterically with my family.
21. Level-headed discernment ministries.
22. Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.
23. A roof over my head.
24. Home schooling.
25. People who are kind (or crazy) enough to read my blog articles all the way to the end.
Well, that was my list, and I think I’ll keep looking for things to add to it. Thanking God for the “little things,” realizing they might be big things to others, and recognizing the pervasiveness of God’s blessings and provision cheered me up and was truly a worship experience.
Some things have changed in the SBC, at LifeWay, the ERLC, etc., sincethis article was originally written in 2015 (see footnotes), however the bulk ofwhat is mentioned here is still relevant. It also helps us see justhow longstanding and pernicious many of these problems are.
Earlier this week, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission3 published a nifty little article called “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Southern Baptists“. Although I disagree with Dr. Moore on a number of things, I thought the article was pretty good, overall.
But it got me thinking. Yes, there is a lot of ignorance about Southern Baptists out there among those who aren’t part of our denomination. However, there’s also a lot of ignorance inside the SBC about what’s really going on in our denomination, our doctrine, practices, leadership, and so on. These are ten SBC realities I wish the average Southern Baptist church member were more aware of.
1. LifeWay sells lies and heresy, and they don’t want you to know. Now I’m not saying everything they sell is lies and heresy. I’ve bought lots of good doctrinally sound materials from them over the years. However, the fact remains that they continue to sell books and materials from false teachers like T.D. Jakes, Sarah Young, and Andy Stanley on their shelves. They will order books by false teachers like Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen for you if you just ask at the counter.¹ They continued to sell The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven (a book recounting Alex Malarkey’s supposed trip to Heaven after a car accident) for nearly a year even after Alex, his mother, Beth, and respected SBC pastor, speaker, and author Justin Peters repeatedly told LifeWay leadership that the story was a lie. Emails and phone calls about heretical materials at LifeWay are either ignored or the caller placated (I know this from first hand experience). Questions from the floor at the Southern Baptist Convention about LifeWay carrying false doctrine are quashed.
This entity of your denomination which purports to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ is selling lies about Him to make a fast buck, and they need to stop.
2. There are plenty of apostate Southern Baptist churches, and we have no mechanism in place for kicking them out of the SBC. This is a verbatim quote from the FAQ section (5th question from the top) of the SBC’s web site:²
“According to our constitution, if a church no longer makes a bona fide contribution to the Convention’s work, or if it acts to ‘affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior,’ it no longer complies with the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention and is not permitted to send messengers to the annual meeting. These, however, are the only explicitly stated instances in which the SBC has the prerogative to take action.”
What does that mean? As long as your church doesn’t affirm homosexuality and gives to the Cooperative Program, you’re in. Never mind if your pastor twists God’s word until it’s unrecognizable. Or lets women and false teachers get behind the pulpit like Steven Furtick does. Or plays AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday and says he probably wouldn’t have strippers on stage like Perry Noble does. Or any of the other ridiculous and blasphemous shenanigans so many of the seeker sensitive types in our denomination pull. Nope, as long as you give your money and stand on the right side of homosexuality, you’re good to go.
3. Beth Moore is a false teacher. That’s right, the queen of SBC3 women’s Bible study, divangelista Beth Moore, does not rightly handle God’s word, partners with false teachers, and violates Scripture by preaching to men, among other things. And Priscilla Shirer is right there with her.
4. Having a small church isn’t a sin and it doesn’t necessarily mean your pastor (or your church) isn’t trying hard enough. The average church size in America is 186 members, and 94% of church goers attend a church of 500 or fewer people, yet the constant drumbeat of SBC leadership is “bigger is better.” Countless articles harangue exhausted pastors about breaking the 200 or 250 or 300 member attendance “barrier.”
Listen, if your pastor is faithfully preaching and rightly handling God’s word and your church members are serving one another and carrying out the Great Commission in their daily lives, that’s what counts in God’s eyes, not how many butts are in a pew.
5. The Bible doesn’t require you to tithe, and neither should your church. The tithe is part of the Old Testament law that Christians today are no longer bound by because we are under the covenant of grace, not the Mosaic covenant. Christians are to gladly give the amount we determine in our own hearts to give out of love for our Savior and a desire to serve Him- not under compulsion from someone else.
6. The “sinner’s prayer” won’t save you. If you think you’re saved because you parroted a prayer someone led you in when you were five but your life shows no love of Christ and no evidence that you belong to Him, then your faith is in the prayer you prayed, not in Christ, and you are not saved. The evidence that you’re a Christian is that you love the Lord, and are growing in holiness, not that you once repeated a prayer (or that you were baptized, attend church regularly, are a “good person,” etc.) Examine yourself to see if you’re really in the faith.
7. Your church probably has a significant number of lost people in it. Jesus Himself said, there are few who find eternal life and that there are many who call Him “Lord” whom He does not know and will turn away on the Day of Judgment. This is why it is absolutely imperative that pastors, Sunday School teachers, and all other church leaders know the gospel inside out and teach it incessantly, even to people who claim to know Christ.
8. Lots of Southern Baptist churches violate 1 Timothy 2:12ff. We do fairly well at not permitting women to serve as pastors, but beyond that there are plenty of churches and pastors who sin by allowing women to serve in positions in the church that are restricted to men. Do women in your church preach the Sunday sermon or teach co-ed Sunday School classes? Do they head up committees or ministries that put them in authority over men? Do they, as worship leaders or in some other capacity, stand before the congregation and instruct or exhort them? Then your church is in sin.
9. Politics won’t save America. This country is imploding. You don’t have to be a prophet to see that. Voting according to biblical principles, running for office, working through the system to right wrongs, signing petitions, and other political activity is fine, but don’t put your eggs in those baskets. The Titanic has hit the ice berg, and Christians in this country will soon be facing real persecution like we see overseas. We need to rescue the perishing with the gospel. It can’t be done with the White House or the state house. When is the last time you shared the gospel with someone?
10. Jesus wins. Things are bad and getting worse. In our world, in our country, in our denomination, in our churches. But the good news of Scripture for all people is that, in the end, Jesus is coming back for His bride. He will conquer evil and those of us who truly belong to Him will spend eternity with Him. This world is not all there is. Jesus wins.
¹It is possible LifeWay has changed this policy. I called my local LifeWay last week (Jan. 2017) and asked them to order a Joyce Meyer book and a Joel Osteen book. I was told the store could not order books by either of these authors. I applaud LifeWay for this step in the right direction.
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
What a beautiful passage describing Christ’s suffering for us. Usually, when we think about suffering, we think about suffering we’ve personally experienced, things loved ones have been through, newsworthy events from around the globe, and natural disasters. And, as normal human beings in a broken, sinful world, that’s what we tend to do- we think of people, topics, and circumstances in light of our experiences with them or how they affect us. But as Christians, it’s imperative that, when we think of suffering, we look first to Christ, the Suffering Servant, and see all other suffering in light of His suffering.
Certainly, Isaiah 53 doesn’t cover every aspect or incident of Christ’s suffering, but let’s take a look at a few of these verses that prophesy – over 700 years before He was ever born – about the suffering of Christ.
Christ suffered physically Most have read the Bible’s account of the crucifixion. But in the same way a verbal description of abortion doesn’t really capture the horror of the act the way a video can, our English words used in Isaiah 53 can’t adequately express the extreme physical suffering Christ endured on the cross. The cross was such an agonizing experience we had to invent a new word for that kind of suffering: excruciating. Ex– out of, cruciare– the crucifixion. Suffering drawn out of the cross.
So, how did Christ suffer physically?
Verse 5 says He was pierced, crushed, chastised, and wounded. Let’s take a closer look at those words:
Pierced– The Hebrew word means: “to wound (fatally), bore through” We see this with the crown of thorns that “bore through” Jesus’ head and the nails that pierced His hands and feet.
Crushed– The Hebrew means: “to be broken, shattered, beat to pieces” Interestingly, it can also mean “contrite”- He was contrite for our iniquities.
Chastisement– The Hebrew means: “discipline” as you would discipline a naughty child
Wounds/stripes– The Hebrew means: “a welt, blueness, bruise, hurt”
The flogging. The thorns. The pummeling He took from the soldiers. And carrying the cross to Calvary after all of that. Nails through His wrists, nails through His feet, the agony of trying to breathe, and, finally, the spear through His side. Jesus’ physical body took some of the worst abuse that’s ever been doled out by professional torturers.
Christ suffered emotionally
Jesus was a human being, just like you and me. That means he had feelings and emotions just like you and I do, and people and circumstances hurt Him just like they hurt us.
He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Jesus had loved ones die and friends betray Him and turn their backs on Him. He wasn’t immune to the hurts of life.
We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. Stricken, smitten, afflicted- those aren’t words we use very often. What do they mean? Stricken is to reach out and touch someone. It’s the same idea as God striking someone down or striking someone with leprosy. Smitten by God– same idea, but with more of a judgment or punishment angle: “smite, chastise, send judgment upon, punish, destroy.” To be afflicted is to be “oppressed, humiliated, be bowed down.”
This phrase in verse 4 carries the idea that people thought Jesus had done something(s) that so displeased God that that God’s punitive hand of judgment was upon His life. Of course, that wasn’t true. Yet, there were people thought of Him that way and treated Him that way- at the cross, certainly, but also, to some extent, during His life.
And yes, that grieved Him as the God who loved and wanted to save these people, but, on the human side, well, we all know how it feels to be misunderstood and misrepresented. Christ felt those slings and arrows of the heart.
Christ suffered spiritually
When I say Christ “suffered spiritually” I want to be clear that I do not mean anything ever happened to Christ that marred His sinless perfection or in any way diminished His deity. What I mean is that He suffered due to fallen man’s sinfulness regarding theological or spiritual issues. For example:
He was despised and rejected by men…he was despised, and we esteemed him not. We see this constantly in the gospels. The Pharisees were always trying to trick Jesus and trap Him with difficult questions. They repeatedly accused Him of “working” on the Sabbath by healing people, picking grain and eating it, and so on. They plotted against Him. They tried to stone Him. Even at the end, when He was on the cross, Scripture says “they hurled insults at Him.”
And why? These aren’t just playground bullies picking on a random kid for no reason. They had a reason. And those insults the chief priests and scribes and elders hurled at Jesus in Matthew 27:42-43 sum up that reason pretty neatly:
He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’
Jesus was God. He was their Messiah. Yet these men didn’t want to humble themselves and admit it and bow the knee to Him. They looked Jesus in the eye – the God who loved them, created them, and breathed the breath of life into them – and said: We will not have this King reign over us! They despised and rejected the core of who Jesus was: Savior, King, Son of God.
But Jesus suffered in other spiritual ways, too…
The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. [He was] stricken for the transgression of my people His soul makes an offering for guilt He shall bear their iniquities He bore the sin of many
Christ carried our sin. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree… (1 Peter 2:24). There’s no way we could begin to fathom what it was like for Christ to carry every single sin of billions of people in His body. But He didn’t just have the weight of that sin on His shoulders, He also propitiated God’s wrath toward every single one of those sins. God poured out the cup of His wrath for our sin and Jesus drank every last drop of it.
Jesus suffered tremendously. How did He respond to all that suffering?
Christ’s Response to Suffering
Hebrews 2:17 tells us: Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect.
One of the ways Jesus was made like us, His brothers, was that He suffered. He suffered physically, He suffered emotionally, and He suffered “spiritually,” just like we do. In fact, He suffered far more in each of these respects than any of us ever have or ever will.
But what’s even more amazing to me than the actual extent of Jesus’ suffering was the fact that He endured all of it, from the moment of His birth to the moment of His death without ever sinning. Not even once. Not even in His thoughts or the attitude of His heart.
That’s huge. Think of the suffering you’ve experienced in your life and how you responded to it. I’ve retaliated against people who have hurt me, or at least harbored bitterness against them. During times of calamity, I’ve yelled at God, I’ve questioned His love for me, I’ve not trusted Him, I’ve been angry at Him.
But Jesus never had a sinful response to suffering. How did He respond?
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23
In some cases, Jesus just didn’t respond at all to the person or situation causing the suffering. He communed with God instead. Jesus knew that He was in God’s hands and God would mete out judgment at the proper time.
But this is the same Jesus who instructed us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give your cloak as well as your tunic. And Jesus certainly embodied these responses to those who caused Him suffering.
Let’s look at Jesus’ response to Pilate in John 18:33-38. But before we do, bear in mind that Jesus has the power to call down any number of angels to destroy Pilate, the courtyard where He’s about to be flogged, Calvary, Jerusalem, the whole world, if He wants to, in order to avoid the suffering He’s about to endure, and Jesus is fully aware of that. But watch how He responds to Pilate:
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.
Jesus took the time to, essentially, share the gospel with this horrid man, whose next move was to have Jesus taken out and beaten to a bloody pulp. Jesus not only refused to retaliate against Pilate, He blessed him with the gospel instead.
When Jesus was on the cross, how did He respond to those who had crucified Him and those who were mocking and insulting Him? Did He yell back? Tell them they were all going to burn in Hell? No, He prayed for them: Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Every time Jesus suffered, He responded to it in exactly the right, godly way. He trusted Himself, the situation, and everyone involved to God, He loved His enemies, and He said or did whatever would best proclaim the gospel or glorify God in that situation.
It’s difficult to wrap our minds around all of the ways Jesus suffered, and more difficult still to comprehend that He never responded sinfully to His suffering. But perhaps the most baffling aspect of Jesus’ suffering is that He willingly chose to endure it all for rebellious, thankless, undeserving sinners like you and me. To serve us. To purchase the salvation we could never earn. To live the life we could not live. To die the death we could not die. And to conquer the grave that, for us, was unconquerable.
They’re words cooed by a mother to dry the tears of her frightened child.
Words murmured bedside by a nurse calming her anxious patient.
They’re comforting words, imparted by someone in charge, someone taking care of us, someone we’re depending on. Words that God has spoken to His people from the beginning.
I’m coming back.
From walking with God Himself in the cool of the day to banishment from the Garden.
The anguish of giving birth.
The toil of tilling the ground.
The sting of physical death.
Could anything compare to man’s ache of losing tangible communion with God? And, yet, even in the curse of the Fall, His bold declaration rang out:
I’m coming back.
In base splendor.
In humble glory.
Emmanuel – God with us – came back.
He tabernacled for a time among us, but all too quickly, the days of His visitation drew to an end.
Time and again, though they would not yet understand,
Though the cross was unfathomable,
And the empty tomb, unimaginable,
He gathered His disciples close and taught, with unassailable authority:
I’m coming back.
They saw the stone rolled away. The nail prints. His riven side. They ate with Him, walked with Him, talked with Him. They followed Him out to a hillside and watched as He was taken up into the clouds.
And with them, we wait. We set our gaze upon the heavens. We long for His blessed return. And we hear the same words they heard…
Words which should drive terror-stricken sinners to their knees in repentance and faith…
Words which warm the hearts of believers with glorious hope, comfort, and joy…
Words which, one dazzling and magnificent day, will never need be heard again…
“What should I preach about on Easter Sunday? Help me out, here.”
That’s the gist of a tweet I saw recently from a pastor. It caught me quite off guard, and it must have had the same effect on many others who punctuated their excellent advice –“preach the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our sins”- with lots of “duh’s” and other indications that this should be a no-brainer for a Christian pastor.
Traditionally, the prevailing line of thought about Easter (and Christmas) services has always been, “This is one of the two times a year that a lot of lost people go to church. It might be our only chance to reach some of them. Let’s make sure we give them the gospel.” Maybe after so many years of that, some pastors feel that their church members have heard it all before and they need to move on to something else in order to keep people’s attention. Sometimes, as a pastor, it’s tough to know just what to do to best reach people for Christ.
But, see, the thing is, Christians never move past our need for hearing the gospel again and again. Young or old. Newly saved or seasoned saint.
We need the gospel.
Christians never move past our need for hearing the gospel again and again. Young or old. Newly saved or seasoned saint. We need the gospel.
We need it because we forget. We forget that we are great sinners in need of a great Savior. We forget to slow down and pour out our gratitude and worship for the sacrifice of our beautiful Savior. We forget to bask in our wonder, our amazement, at His glorious and triumphant resurrection.
As Christians, every day our sin sick souls need to bow at the cross and be washed afresh in the precious, atoning blood of Christ. What can wash away my sin? Nothing –nothing– but the blood of Jesus.
Every day our sin sick souls need to bow at the cross and be washed afresh in the precious, atoning blood of Christ. What can wash away my sin? Nothing -nothing- but the blood of Jesus.
Daily, we must approach the tomb, see the massive stone rolled away and shout with joy over its emptiness. Hallelujah! Death has lost its victory and the grave has been denied! The very reason we worship on Sunday instead of Saturday is the celebration of an empty tomb. Every Sunday is Easter Sunday.