Discernment, False Doctrine, Southern Baptist/SBC

A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention

Originally published April 6, 2018

Think back to your childhood. Remember the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Once upon a time, there lived an emperor. One day two swindlers came to his palace and told him they could weave cloth for his royal robes that was magical: to those who were foolish or unfit for their jobs, it would appear invisible. Only the wise and worthy would be able to see this fine fabric. The emperor hastily agreed to pay the “weavers” an exorbitant amount of money to make him such an amazing garment, thinking he would use it to weed out anyone unfit for royal service.

The weavers set about pretending to weave. From time to time, the emperor sent various folk to check on the progress the weavers were making, and – though in reality, none of them could see the non-existent fabric – all reported back that the garments were coming along nicely and the cloth was beautiful. But strangely enough, when the emperor himself looked in on the weavers, they held up the magnificent fabric, and he could not see it. Not wanting word to leak out that he was unfit to serve as emperor, he pretended to examine the cloth and complimented the weavers lavishly on their fine work.

Finally, the weavers informed the emperor that the garments were finished. They had the emperor strip down to his skivvies and pretended to help him on with his fine new “garments”. Word had spread among the emperor’s subjects about the magical properties of the fabric, and as the royal procession made its way through town, all shouted out praise for the emperor’s fine new clothes.

All. Except for one little boy.

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the boy shouted.

It took the innocent honesty of a simple child to shock the emperor’s subjects back to their senses. The truth spread like wildfire, and the crowd began to cry out: “The emperor is naked!” “The emperor has no clothes on!” “He’s not wearing anything!”

But did the emperor admit to his foolishness, return to the palace, and get dressed? No. Sadly the story ends this way:

“The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, ‘This procession has got to go on.’ So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.”¹

And so the “emperor” of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention and those who carry its train march proudly on, despite the cries of simple peasants and innocent little children crying at the top of our lungs, “The emperor is naked!” “There are issues that need to be addressed, here!” “Listen to us!”

You’ll note that the story doesn’t say that the emperor was a cruel man, that he overtaxed the people, oppressed them into slavery, was a warmonger, or was in any other way an evil leader. In fact, one could argue that he had good intentions of making sure the people who served at various posts in his empire were of the finest caliber.

And while there are many issues that need to be addressed in my denomination, I think this could generally be said of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention as well. Call me a Pollyanna, but I have no reason to believe our denominational leadership – as a whole – is evil or has anything less than the best of intentions for the SBC.

There are many good and praiseworthy things going on in SBC life. We have hundreds of doctrinally sound pastors faithfully preaching the gospel week in and week out. Discernment and biblical literacy among Southern Baptist church members is slowly but steadily growing. The SBC takes a public, biblical stand on abortion and homosexuality while many other denominations do not. Our organizational structure for funding and sending out missionaries, while sometimes flawed in its execution, is without peer. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the finest relief organizations in the world. And there’s so much more. Find a godly Kingdom effort going on somewhere, and you’ll probably find a Southern Baptist involved in it. By the grace of God, while we’re far from perfect, we’re getting a lot of things right.

But even benevolent emperors get things wrong sometimes, and, Southern Baptist leadership, your drawers are flapping in the breeze on this one²:

Sin. The public sin our leaders commit that we excuse and the public sin our leaders commit that we discipline, and the fact that there’s a discrepancy between the two.

Southern Baptist leadership, your drawers are flapping in the breeze on this one.

Recently, Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (one of the top positions of SBC leadership at the national level) resigned his position due to “a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past,” which, we are left with little choice but to assume means “adultery”. (As an aside, Christians, when confessing sin, let’s knock off the the terminological hem-hawing and call a spade a spade. “I had a six month extra-marital romantic and sexual relationship with a married woman in my church,” or whatever. You don’t have to give all the gory details or name names, but, for crying out loud, if you’re going to confess, confess- don’t finesse.)

It was right and biblical for Dr. Page to publicly confess and express sorrow over his sin as well as to resign (it would also have been right and biblical for the SBC to remove him had he refused to resign, which, undoubtedly would have happened). He sinned against God, his family, the woman and her family, his church, his co-workers, and the entire denomination. He publicly embarrassed the Southern Baptist Convention and gave unbelievers fodder for scoffing when the report of his sin made the national news. This was a case of a well known Southern Baptist leader whose public, observable sin was handled biblically by SBC leadership. I am thankful for this witness to Christians and to the world that sin is not to be swept under the rug, but that sinners are to repent, be disciplined, and then be restored to fellowship (although, in cases like this, not leadership).

But we don’t handle all cases of public sin that way. Some public sin we reward by making the sinner into a wealthy, lauded celebrity.

“Impossible!” you say?

Check the shelves at LifeWay. Select twenty average SBC churches with women’s ministries and see whose books, DVDs, and simulcasts are being used again and again. Peruse the speakers at popular SBC conferences.

You’ll find names like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lysa TerKeurst, Christine Caine, Ann Voskamp, Sarah Young, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Rick Warren, and T.D. Jakes, just to name a few.

Have they committed adultery? Voiced approval of of homosexuality? Committed theft, abused their spouses, or promoted pornography? No. But those aren’t the only types of sins the Bible prohibits.

Every single one of them teaches false doctrine, from Sarah Young’s blasphemous “channeling” of Jesus, to T.D. Jakes’ denial of the Trinity, to Christine Caine’s Word of Faith heresy, to Lysa TerKeurst’s teaching of contemplative prayer.

All of these women who do speaking engagements unashamedly and unrepentantly preach to co-ed audiences. All of these men allow women to preach to co-ed audiences from their pulpits.

All of them who join in ministry with others have yoked or affiliated themselves with false teachers. Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer. Priscilla Shirer and T.D. Jakes. Steven Furtick and Joyce Meyer and T.D. Jakes. Rick Warren and the Pope.

Scripture plainly prohibits the teaching of false doctrine. It’s a major theme of the New Testament, for goodness sake. The Bible tells us that women are not to preach to men or exercise authority over them in the gathered body of Believers. And God’s Word makes very clear that we are to have nothing to do with false teachers, especially not partnering with them in “ministry”.

In the wake of Frank Page’s resignation, I asked this poll question on Twitter

followed by this one

Why are Southern Baptists leaders so quick to – rightly and biblically – oust Frank Page for, as far as we know, one isolated sin which he publicly confessed to and repented of, and yet overlook three major – and much more publicly observable and harmful to Southern Baptists – ongoing sins from pastors and teachers who have been rebuked and refuse to repent? Why, instead of disciplining them for their sin, do those in leadership give them fat book deals, invite them to speak at all the cool conferences, fawn over them on social media, and make them into celebrities?

How many sins will it take to disqualify and discipline these people? Four? Eleven? Ninety-six? Is there any amount of sin these pastors and teachers, and those like them, can commit that will cause those in SBC leadership to pull their materials off the shelves of LifeWay, deny them a seat at the table, and urge them to repent and step down from their positions?

I’ve been a Southern Baptist from the day I was born. I’ve been taught since the cradle roll that if God’s Word says not to do something and you do it anyway, that’s a sin. If God’s Word says to do something and you don’t do it, that’s a sin. And that sin is sin in the eyes of God.

Well is it, or isn’t it, Emperor?

If sin is sin in God’s eyes, why aren’t you treating Beth Moore’s sin like Frank Page’s sin? Why are you rewarding her for her sin and disciplining him for his?

Why does the SBC reward some sins while disciplining others?

The Bible says in James 3:1:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Those who teach and lead bear more responsibility to teach sound doctrine and walk worthy because they are teaching and leading us by example.

Why are all the aforementioned pastors and teachers better examples to us in their rebellion and unrepentant sin than Frank Page was in his repentance of sin?

Why?

Southern Baptist peasants and little children see right through your foolishness on parade on this issue and we want answers. Biblical answers.

Don’t just stand there shivering, suspecting we are right, but thinking, “This procession has got to go on,” and walking more proudly than ever. Go back to the palace. Repent. Clothe yourselves with humility and obedience to Scripture, and come back and lead us rightly. Biblically.

Because the Emperor of Southern Baptist leadership has been naked for far too long.

The Emperor of Southern Baptist leadership has been naked for far too long.


¹H.C. Andersen Centret (The Hans Christian Andersen Centre). The Emperor’s New ClothesAccessed April 5, 2018.

²I am well aware that this is not the only problem in the SBC that needs to be addressed. It would be impossible to address every issue in one article, so this time I’ve chosen to focus on this one particular issue.

Easter, Holidays (Other)

The Daily Wonder of Easter

Originally published April 1, 2014

“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.

Remember, and rejoice!


Originally published at Satisfaction Through Christ.

Complementarianism

Throwback Thursday ~ Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue

Originally published August 3, 2018

When it comes to Christianity, are the specifics of what people believe important?

I think most of us would answer a resounding “yes” to that question. Of course, the various concepts we believe are important. You can’t just believe anything you like and still be a Christian. There are certain things you must believe in order to become a Christian at all, and there are certain things you will come to believe because you are a genuinely regenerated Christian. But what are those things, and how do we know which is which?

Maybe you’ve heard the terms “essential doctrines” or “primary, secondary, and tertiary theological issues” or “first, second, and third tier levels of doctrine”? For years, theologians have been attempting to organize beliefs of the Christian faith – all drawn from the Bible, naturally – into nice neat categories in order to make things a little simpler. As someone who thrives on organization and categories, I’m grateful for their efforts. But if you begin to study this categorization of beliefs, you’ll find that we haven’t reached an across the board consensus yet.

Generally speaking, “essential”, “primary”, or “first tier” doctrines are those which you, biblically, have to believe in order to become a Christian and/or be considered a Christian. For example:

✢ Sin is a thing, and I am a sinner.

✢ God exists and is the supreme authority of the universe.

✢ Jesus was God in human flesh.

✢ Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

See how this works? If you don’t believe you’re a sinner, you’re not saved. If you don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, you’re not saved. Here’s how our friend, Pastor Gabe, briefly outlines essential doctrines:

(Gabe later tweaked the acrostic a little and added an “S”, which I think is helpful.)

The vast majority of brand new Christians have only the most basic understanding of most of these tenets at the moment of salvation. But it’s not an issue of fully understanding – or else we’d all have to be theologians in order to get saved – it’s an issue of believing. Someone who is genuinely regenerated may not completely understand how the Trinity works (honestly, no one does), but when she’s introduced to the biblical idea of the Trinity, she believes it, learns more about it, and does not reject it.

There is typically agreement among most reputable theologians regarding what constitutes first tier doctrine. Scripture is clear about these things, and several of these issues were settled long ago by the church fathers in assorted church councils (Nicea, Chalcedon, etc.)

Secondary issues are routinely defined as non-salvific but still extremely biblically important, if not quite as biblically clear-cut as primary issues. Doctrines surrounding baptism (credo versus paedo, affusion versus immersion), for example, are usually cited as a secondary issue. A disagreement on a secondary issue doesn’t mean one person is saved and another isn’t, but it normally prevents close partnership in ministry activities involving these issues. For example, my Presbyterian friends and I can join together in pro-life ministry, but we would most likely not plant a church together.

Tertiary issues are non-salvific, less immediately urgent, biblical issues in which the Bible is even less clear-cut and open to wider (yet still biblical) interpretation. These are issues over which Christians can disagree and still maintain close doctrinal fellowship, even in the same church, if they’re in agreement on first and second tier doctrine. Eschatology – the order and timing of events at Jesus’ second coming – is a doctrine that’s often considered third tier. Someone can hold a different eschatological view than mine, yet it doesn’t affect our ability to worship together, work together, or participate in the ordinances together in the same church.

Some theologians add a fourth category – issues of adiaphora, conscience, or Christian liberty. Usually these are issues of much less importance that the Bible either doesn’t specifically address, or doesn’t give commands about one way or the other. Individual Christians may use biblical principles to inform their consciences and decide for themselves. These would be things like whether or not to take your child trick-or-treating or deciding whether to dress formally or casually for church.

While theologians are largely in agreement about primary doctrines, there is wider spread disagreement on which doctrines are secondary and tertiary (many consider eschatology to be a second tier doctrine, for example) and whether or not there is a need for a category of adiaphora, since such issues are normally not considered to be “doctrinal” issues. In fact, there’s enough space for disagreement that pastors and theologians often wisely refrain from making concrete lists of secondary and tertiary doctrines.

But when we’re talking about the different levels of doctrine, what you won’t find is questions like these: Is murder a first, second, or third tier doctrine? What about gossip? Rape? Adultery? Lying? Gluttony? Pride?

And it’s not because these issues aren’t important or because the Bible doesn’t address them. It’s because they’re in a different category from the other issues: the category of sin. They aren’t doctrines upon which salvation hinges, they aren’t open to interpretation, and the Bible is clear that we are absolutely not to do these things.

In 2005, Dr. Albert Mohler wrote an excellent article about the different levels of doctrine entitled A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity. He carefully explains the importance of each level of doctrine and what it covers in a plea to keep each level’s urgency in its proper place of significance during discussion, debate, and decision-making.

It was a helpful article to which I always refer people who have questions about tiers of doctrine, and I agree with Dr. Mohler’s thoughts wholeheartedly1 …except on one point:

“In recent years, the issue of women serving as pastors has emerged as another second-order issue.”

Women serving as pastors, women preaching, women teaching men Scripture in the church, and women exercising authority over men in the church is not a secondary issue. Nor is it a primary or tertiary one. It does not belong in the category of “doctrine” in the same way baptism and eschatology do. It belongs in the category of sin in the same way murder, gossip, and adultery do. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12

(The preponderance of Scripture supports and affirms this concept, so to keep things simple, we’ll use this verse as an exemplar.)

✢ The prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a clear command against a certain behavior. And when we behave in a way God has prohibited, that is called “sin”. All of the tenets in the three levels of doctrine are affirmative statements regarding beliefs (you must believe in the resurrection of Christ, we believe in baptism by immersion, etc.). None of them are commands, in the negative, against sinful behavior (Thou shalt not murder, I do not permit a woman to teach… etc.)

✢ Secondary and tertiary doctrines can be open – to varying degrees – to biblical interpretation. Every stripe of non-heretical eschatological thought can provide you with chapter and verse passages that can, depending on the angle from which you approach the subject, be biblically plausible and scripturally supported. There is no biblical support for anything God prohibits. No one can cite a properly handled, in context Bible verse in which God says, “It’s OK to commit adultery,” or “Women are allowed to preach.” There can be multiple views on a secondary or tertiary issue that can all be considered biblical, but there can only be one view of sin that is biblical.

✢ Differing beliefs on true secondary and tertiary issues are not sin. My Presbyterian friends have a different view of baptism than I do. That doesn’t mean either of us is sinning. I may think their interpretations of the verses they believe support paedo baptism are incorrect, but they are not breaking any of God’s commands. Differing behavior (again, we see the distinction between doctrinal belief and sinful behavior) on issues of sin is sin. If someone behaves differently from God’s command about lying, she is sinning. If a woman behaves differently from God’s command in 1 Timothy 2:12, she is sinning.

✢ Differing beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. When someone has studied a theological issue enough to hold a particular position on it, it’s usually because she is striving to please God and to be biblical in her beliefs. Differing behavior on issues of sin is born out of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Someone who steals has already decided in her heart that her desires are better than God’s command. A woman who knowingly holds improper authority over men in her church is doing so because she has already decided to defy God’s clear command against such.

✢ Because different beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of rebellion and are not sin, they do not require church discipline. Sin does require church discipline. If someone in your church is openly dishonoring her parents, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. If a woman is pursuing a career as a pastor, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. 

Since the publication of Dr. Mohler’s article (and perhaps as a result of others teaching the same thing) the idea of the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 being a “secondary doctrine” has spread in a most unhelpful way, leading many Christians to treat the issue in a c’est la vie, “We can just agree to disagree on this,” manner.

No, we cannot.

We would not say, “We can agree to disagree,” on lying or adultery or homosexuality or abortion, and we cannot say it about women preaching, teaching men, or holding unbiblical authority, either. We disciple and teach a sister in Christ who is unaware of what the Bible says on these matters, and if she is committing any of these sins, we begin the process of church discipline. But it would not be loving toward her, or honoring God, to allow her to continue in biblical ignorance or in willful sin.

Furthermore, the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 brings with it dangers to the church that true secondary and tertiary issues, and even many sins, do not…

She may not say it with her lips, but when a woman preaches to men in defiance of Scripture, she’s teaching false doctrine through her behavior. What is the false doctrine she’s teaching? “I don’t have to obey God’s Word, and neither do you. If there’s a part of the Bible you don’t like, you’re free to disregard it.” If your pastor stood up in the pulpit on Sunday morning and said that in words, you’d run him out of town on a rail, and rightly so. Neither should a woman be able to teach that same false doctrine via her actions.

Additionally, I have mentioned several times when dealing with this issue that women preaching to men is highly correlated with women teaching other forms of false doctrine. I have researched scores of women teachers. Every single one of them who unrepentantly teaches men also teaches false doctrine in some other aspect of her theology (usually Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation). In other words, if a woman teaches men, you can just about take it to the bank that she also teaches additional false doctrine. False doctrine and heresy are infecting the church – via female preachers – at an alarming rate.

We dare not simply “agree to disagree” on this.

The violation of God’s command that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures nor hold improper authority over men is a sin like any other. It is not a doctrinal issue in the same sense that other second and third tier doctrines are. If left undisciplined, however, it can lead to first tier doctrinal issues infiltrating a church and eventually destroying it. It is detrimental to the church to label and treat any sin as a secondary doctrinal issue.


1In the years since 2018, when this article was originally written, Dr. Mohler has said, done, and supported a few biblically questionable things, leading some to question whether or not he has “gone woke”. While I don’t support his stance on those questionable things, I also don’t believe he has reached the point at which I need to warn against him. To my knowledge, at this time, he is still generally doctrinally sound.

Holidays (Other)

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

Originally published March 3, 2017

Although, as a Louisiana girl, I’ve had a decades long love affair with king cake, and I totally support the increased availability of fish entrées at local restaurants and getting a few days off school or work, I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras and Lent.

The intrinsic philosophy behind Mardi Gras – a day of revelry, indulgence, and debauchery to get it all out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent – is patently unbiblical.

The practice of Lent often is, as well. Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday, observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Originally, it was simply a time of fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter, and for Christians who continue to observe it this way, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord.

For many, however, Lent – particularly the aspect of giving something up for Lent in an act of self-denial – is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, or worse, works righteousness. Giving something up for Lent because, “I’m Catholic and that’s what good Catholics do,” or to atone for your sins, or to curry favor with God, or to flaunt your self-righteousness flies in the face of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone biblical Christianity.

If you give something up for Lent, why do you do so? If it’s for one of the aforementioned unbiblical reasons (or others), or even if you don’t observe Lent at all, I’d like to challenge us all to give up the things below for Lent:

1. Give up Lent for Lent.

2. Give up attending any church that requires the observance of Lent in a sacramental way and find a doctrinally sound one.

3. Give up thinking your good behavior earns you right standing with God.

4. Give up the idea that there’s any such thing as truly good behavior.

5. Give up thinking your good deeds could ever outweigh your sins.

6. Give up willfully indulging in sin as long as you “make up for it” later.

7. Give up the notion that penance or self-denial can pay for your sins.

8. Give up thinking that penance or self-denial curries favor with God.

9. Give up the idea that repentance and obedience belong to a certain season on the calendar. We are to walk in repentance every day.

10. Give up the concept that Christmas and Easter are Christian “high holy days.” We celebrate Christ’s incarnation and resurrection every Sunday, and should prepare ourselves all during the week. Every Sunday is a high holy day for the Christian.

11. Give up rote participation in church rituals. Search the Scriptures and see if they’re biblical first.

12. Give up thinking God concerns Himself strictly with your external behavior rather than the condition of your heart.

13. Give up “sounding a trumpet before you” with humblebrags on social media and in real life about giving things up for Lent, fasting, giving offerings, or any other good works you might do. You just lost your reward, baby.

14. Give up approaching church attendance as punching the time clock for God. The Christian’s entire life, our very beings, belong to Christ, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.

15. Give up the delusion that you’re basically a good person. You’re not.

16. Give up biblical ignorance and become a good student of God’s word.

17. Give up forsaking the assembly and become a faithful, serving member of your local church.

18. Give up thinking that everyone and everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is.

19. Give up the desire to have your itching ears scratched and long for the truth of God’s word. Even when it’s hard to hear.

20. Give up neglecting the daily study of God’s word.

21. Give up rejecting parts of the Bible you don’t agree with. We don’t sit in judgment over Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over us.

22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.

23. Give up making excuses for failing to memorize Scripture. You can do it!

24. Give up being a non-serving member of your church.

25. Give up being a non-giving member of your church.

26. Give up thinking you’re hearing God speak to you. If you want to hear God speak to you, open your Bible and study it. God has spoken in His word and many are largely ignoring what He has already said.

27. Give up following false teachers and be a good Berean.

28. Give up being afraid to share the gospel and just do it.

29. Give up thinking you can please God apart from faith in Christ.

30. Give up basing your doctrine and beliefs on your own (or anyone else’s) opinions, experiences, and feelings, and base them on correctly handled Scripture instead.

31. Give up following your wicked and deceitful heart, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.

32. Give up thinking you have to do big things for God in order for Him to be pleased with you and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”

33. Give up worrying and trust God.

34. Give up neglecting to fear God’s wrath if you don’t know Christ.

35. Give up fearing God’s wrath if you do know Christ.

36. Give up the idea that “God is love” means God is a pushover who won’t judge you.

37. Give up thinking you’ve been so bad that God could never forgive you.

38. Give up thinking you’re so good that you don’t need God to forgive you.

39. Give up refusing to forgive others when Christ has forgiven you so much.

40. Give up everything and be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and walk in His ways, all the days of your life, to the glory of God alone.

Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Is It Really All Our Fault?

Originally published July 15, 2016

all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?

Yes!…and…no.

It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.

Christ.

Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.