I followed the lead of Travis. They want advertising and it was a reasonable survey on web logging. Took a few minutes.
June 2005 Archives
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.— Ephesians 4:1-3
Continuing with my study from last week, I finished the sentence Paul started in verse 1. The real goal of this whole coming section of scripture is Paul exhorting his readers to seek unity. The following passage is translated into English using the word "one" many times. Here, Paul is building up to that point by presenting this as the thesis for the next big point of his letter.
In summary, he tells us to be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." He says we do this by being humble, gentle (or meek), patient, and forebearing.
Humility is a virtue that once you realize you have it, you've lost it. To be humble, you must never admit or declare that humility is yours, as such is the demonstration of humilities opposite: pride. Humility is a virtue that orders ones priorities correctly: (1) Christ, (2) others, and finally (3) self. Humility is the name we give to modesty and selflessness. This is a virtue for maintaining unity because a truly humble person is willing to absorb an insult to their pride because they have no pride to wound. If someone says, "You're an idiot!" The humble person agrees or at least takes the insult and then considers, "Am I an idiot?" The humble person is always evaluating himself for faults and never willing to accept the status quo. Romans 12:3 puts it well, "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has alloted to each a measure of faith." Humility is not martyrdom, "Oh, my life is so tough. Why am I such a loser?" No. This is self-pity and is placing one's own pity for self above concern for others.
The word translated as "gentleness" above is frequently translated as "gentleness and meekness." Gentleness is, according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, "the quality or state of being gentle" and gentle is defined as "docile; free from harshness, sternness, or violence; moderate." Meek is defined as "enduring injurie with patience and without resentment; mild." The Bible Exposition Commentary defines meekness as "not weakness. It is power under control." They have this definition based upon the fact that both Moses (Numbers 12:3) and Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:29) were called meek. Moses smashed the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments when he first came down the mountain and found Israel worshiping a golden calf. Jesus Christ is the God-man and had all the power of creation to command at his will. He once silenced a storm with a word and physically threw the money-changers out of the temple for their abuse of the temple rituals. When I think of gentleness, I think of how one can gently wake a person by speaking their name or nudging them versus jumping on them and screaming, "Wake up or you'll be late!" (as my sister used to do in high school when my mom wanted me to get up for school.) A person being gentle has the power to be violent, but chooses to use a more subtle force. The Bible Exposition Commentary also mentions that the Greek language used this particular word to refer to soothing medicine, a broken colt, or a soft wind—all things that could cause rather more violent actions, but aren't. This is a force of unity because it means that one will make every effort to talk through a disagreement rather than resort to angry argument or violence.
The next virtue of unity is patience. Patience means "long-suffering" or in the Greek literally, "long-tempered." Patience is to endure discomfort without fighting back. Patience is a word seen frequently in the New Testament. This particular word for patience appears 14 times in the New Testament. In James 5:10, the James admonishes his readers, "As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord." The Old Testament prophets often suffered a great deal at the hands of a sinful Israel and yet they suffered without fighting back in many cases. Elijah, one of the greater prophets, was nearly killed on a number of occasions because of his uncompromising stand for Christ.
The final virtue of unity is forebearance, "bearing with one another in love." Forebearance is described as "a grace that cannot be experienced apart from love." This is a culmination of patience, humilty, and gentleness in love. We patiently bear with one another out of love for one another. We are humble and willing to pass over a slight against us by another out of love for one another. We are gentle in speaking to one another because we want the best for one another.
Now we come to the key clause, "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit with the bond of peace." Some translations use the term "endeavoring" rather than "eager" and both seem to be appropriate. To endeaver, according to Merriam-Webster, is "to attempt (as the fulfillment of an obligation) by exertion of effort; to work with a set purpose" and to be eager is to be "marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire or interest." It is a bit odd to see eagerness and patience set side-by-side, but we see that this is a harmony and they compliment one another in the way they are each used. We're "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit" which means that we are patient out of love for one another. Not only are we eager, but we are doing this because we intend to do so, this is our set purpose.
The phrase here can also be translated "we must constantly be endeavoring to maintain this unity." Unity is not something that comes naturally, but requires a maintaining force. Unity is not a natural part of the fallen world, it is a state that is only achieved through vigilence. The moment we stop maintaining unity, we lose it. As a side note, I feel that it is possible to maintain a sort of unity without vigilence, but this is a false unity we call "complacency." Unity occurs when two people differ in opinion, but agree to work together for the good of their common goal anyway. Complacency is not caring enough to have an opinion and not really working toward a goal.
Unity is also not uniformity. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the human body to illustrate the idea of unity. Each part of the body does something different, but all the parts together are required for the human body to function normally. The same is true in the church, we all have different gifts and abilities and it is our goal to work together for the common goal of glorifying God through works. We may even differ on how that should be done, but, assuming the one we disagree with is not working outside of God's precepts (which compels me to continue the body analogy into tumors), we should work together in unity.
Finally, Matthew Henry puts it this way, "The seat of Christian unity is in the heart or spirit; it does not lie in one set of thoughts, nor in one form and mode of worship, but in one heart and one soul." Unity isn't about preferences or whether or not I believe the Bible teaches Calvinism or Arminianism. It's about working together to equip each other to do God's work and to reach out to those who are lost in the hope that they might be redeemed. I can disagree with my brother in Christ and still work with him to do Christ's work. We can even, in unity, vigorously debate our differences in order that we might spur one another on and use our differences as a lever to dive into God's word and understand more deeply God's truth. Unity is not uniformity.
Finally, this unity is carried out through "the bond of peace." Literally, by peace treaty. Ideally, if two nations disagree, they sign a peace treaty and each side agrees that they will accept a compromise in the interest of avoiding bloodshed. This requires that both sides of the agreement stick to the provisions of the treaty, even if they think they do not have everything just the way they'd prefer. Colossians 3:15 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful." We should agree to seek unity in peace as Christ delivers such virtue to us and be thankful that Christ has given us such grace.
In conclusion, James 3:13-4:10 tells us that this peace is maintained only by getting our relationship with God right. If we aren't relating to God as we should, we will break the unity Jesus would give us grace to maintain. We must first get our priorities straight (i.e. be humble) and seek to know God and become closer to Him as our highest priority. Through maintainence of that relationship we may grow in unity with others. Soon we may find that we have the ability to endure the foolishness of others and not be quick to anger. We will be able to maintain unity through the bond of peace.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. — Ephesians 4:1
For some reason, I decided recently to study Ephesians 4. I don't really remember the reason anymore, but here goes... ;)
As the old pastor's cliche goes, whenever you see "therefore" you have to find out what it's "there for". Paul spends the first three chapters of Ephesians talking in more abstract terms about what it means to be a Christian. Chapter 4 starts the application section of the book. My outline of the book, up to chapter 4, looks like: 1:1,2 Introduction; 1:3-14 Our calling, predestination, and spiritual blessing; 1:15-23 Thanks for the Ephesians, blessing to them, and praise to God; 2:1-3 We were all once under the wrath of God; 2:4-10 God showed us mercy and gave us faith that we could do the good works He's planned; 2:11-18 Remember what you were and how Jesus brought you back into fellowship with God; 2:19-22 We are built up together into His Church; 3:1-6 God has revealed a mystery that the gentiles should take part in the Jewish spiritual inheritance; 3:7-13 Paul has been called to bring the gospel out through this revealed mystery; 3:14-21 Prayer for strength and understanding and praise to God. Paul is basically, saying, given all I've said, apply it this way.
Next, I thought it was curious that Paul would restate the fact that he's in prision, "a prisoner of the Lord." Why state it here? Since this study is completely out of my own understanding of this scripture as I haven't relied on any commentary or other helps I don't think I have a full understanding of what is going on. However, I did note a few things. Basically, this statement links this passage to vv. 3:1ff, "For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you gentiles—assuming you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly." Paul is stating his credentials. He sort of saying, "You can trust my recommendations because of what God has called me to do for you. And look, I am willing to even go to prison for it." He is in prison for preaching the word. His goal is to reach the gentiles and bring them together with the Jews into the kingdom of God (this is the mystery explained in chapter 3).
Moving on, Paul "urges 15) Paul is "egging them on" to greater heights of service. I think it's important for Christians to admit that the process of sanctification (the second part of redemption that the Spirit is making us better as we learn to love God more and more) is never finished in this life. I think too many Christians start to think like the young ruler who came to Jesus and said, "I have kept all of God's commands." No one has, so stop being a hypocrite.
The part about "a manner worthy" suggests to me that we should remember what we are. As citizens and adopted children of the household of God (v. 2:19), we should act in a manner worthy of that citizenship and adoption. This is build upon the words Paul gives throughout chapter 2, "You were dead in the trespasses and sin..., following...the spirit of disobedience...we all once lived in the passions of our flesh...[and
were by nature children of wrath. But God, being rich in mercy...even when we were dead..., made us alive together with Christ." (Ephesians 2:1-4) We were broken and headed in the wrong direction. God fixed us and turned us around. Remember this and be motivated to act worthy of the God who has called you.
The final key, then, is "the calling to which you have been called." I believe this remark takes us back to the statements of chapter 1. I believe the "calling" is a direct call back to God's purpose in our lives. "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world." (1:4) Before He even created the earth, God had hand picked those who would believe in him. Talk about destiny! "He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will." (1:5) God has a purpose for each of his chosen people. He didn't pick us according to blind luck or according to foreknowledge, He picked us because He has a plan. "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the cousil of his will." (1:11) Clearly, this choise was not an accident, but part of God's sovereign plan.
A caution: Even though God called us and we were hand-picked for a purpose, this doesn't make us special or superior. We were all children of wrath (2:3) and our salvation was a matter of God's mercy and his choice, "not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (2:9) Whenever a Christian acts holier-than-thou (and we all do from time to time, if not much of the time), we are hypocrites. This is not "a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called."
Instead, we should know that God chose us, predestined us, called us for a reason. We should walk in a manner worthy of it. We should be humbled rather than prideful over this. We should be grateful rather than ungracious. This should motivate us to lower ourselves even more as a servant to others and spur us on to greater works. Amen.
I've been examining my church with quite a bit of scrutiny as of late. This analysis has expanded to include pop-evangelicalism as a whole and even further, the Reformation and the proper form of Protestantism. Some of my friends and my pastor and others have been made aware of this scrutiny, but some may not be, so let me explain before feelings are hurt. I've personally become very thirsty for Biblical teaching and preaching. I have also become aware that the philosophy of ministry and Church in my local church are very different from what I've come to accept as correct. This awareness has been slowly building for the last year and a half. At this point, there's not much to report other than the fact that I have these issues. I'm still in discussion with the pastor and will not delve into details in public, but it was important for me to state why this topic has become important to me before moving on.
Today, I'm considering the fact that Christians aren't any different from non-Christians. We are not salt and light to the world. (For the non-Christian, that's the Christian way of saying we are making a difference.) Looking at just my own church, I see very little evidence that Christ is the focus of the lives of our membership. Rather, I see business and friendships and family being the primary orientation of believers. Now, I'm not saying these aren't important, but to place Christ into the back seat is to be an idolator. I just finished reading an essay by D. G. Hart, "Taking Every Though Captive: The Ministry of the Word and the Limits of Christian Scholarship." (Whatever Happened to the Reformation?, ed. Gary L. W. Johnson and R. Fowler White, 2001) In this essay, Hart argues that the problem with the Church today is that it has fallen into the worldly trap that states that scholarship and learning are Christian efforts for their own sake. He argues against thinkers like Kuyper, Machen, Noll, and Guiness who state that scholarship is important to Christians because it helps Christians "take every thought captive" and helps Christians change their culture.
Interestingly, I have been planning on blogging my study of the verse that was used for the title of this brief for the past few days. I stumbled upon this essay while researching a different study. My reading of 2 Corinthians 10:3 ("Take every thought captive and test it according to the words of Christ," my paraphrase), was very similar to Hart's, but not as refined and studied. My conclusion is that every Christian should be searching the word for the truth and that, as Hank Haanegraaf often remarks, we should know the truth so intimately that the fraud becomes immediately apparent. Hart's conclusion is that the Church has thrived during times when literacy was measured by the percentage of men who could write their name on a marriage license and when the percentage of that "literacy" was far lower than today. Paul's writing to the Corinthians would have been received by a largely illiterate group (where perhaps 2 in 10 were able to read at all). Hart believes that the importance, then, is instead that Christianity is strengthened by powerful preaching.
I would say that in this age where literacy is as close to 100% as has been seen in history that the onus for Biblical learning becomes an imperative on all. However, I think Hart is right, that the power of Biblical preaching cannot be underestimated and that the Church's current desire to avoid strong preaching altogether is a dangerous dance next to a deep precipice. I believe, however, that even though the vast majority of Christians can pick up a Bible and read it, most do not. Most rarely do. I have been one of those "most Christians" until recently. I've deterrmined that, as Paul, I want to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2) This isn't to say I'm going to stop my studies in computers, stop developing relationships, etc. On the contrary, I plan to do these things as well, but I want to be certain that my first love is always Christ.
I believe God has placed the current Church crisis before me in this way as a bur to bother me. I believe God has placed godly men around me to inspire me to yearn, search, and reach for a better way. I don't think I can stand idly much longer and watch the Church doing this to itself. Therefore, I am making a commitment to be different and to place Christ and His word in the highest position in my life, in my work, in my friendships, and in my family. I haven't the strength to do this on my own and I pray that God will give me the strength I need and admonishment when I choose my own path. Amen.
Finally, I must finish by admitting frustration and impatience with God. I yearn for everything to change for the better right now. Every aspect of my life, but perhaps for my joyous marriage, seems to have become a trial and I frustrate quickly. I must be patient and wait in hope knowing that God will do the best for me and my wife. (Romans 8:28) I do not know the nature of the change that is coming or if a change is coming, just that I am now unsettled and yearning. I pray that God will, in his time, lead me and my wife in the direction he wills, even if it is a direction we do not want to go, and that He will restrain me in my impatience, teaching me patience, until then. Amen.
Sinners in the Hands of a Good God
This is one of the best pieces of Christian non-fiction I have read. I admit to not having read a lot of Christian non-fiction, but this book is excellent. It covers some very technical topics and, regardless of whether or not you agree with Clotfelter, the author does so in a way that relative novices can understand. The book was, in my opinion, very easy to follow and strongly scriptural.
The back cover of the book summarizes the book as "David Clotfelter's reasoned and personal inquiry into the nature of divine justice." Early in his Christian life, Clotfelter tells us that he was a strong follower of the works of George MacDonald. He was led to MacDonald out of a love for the writings of C.S. Lewis as Lewis greatly revered MacDonald. MacDonald's basic belief was that God is the Great Father of mankind and reasoned that from the analogy of fatherhood all theology could be formed. This entailed a number of interesting positions. For example, MacDonald reasoned that a father would not punish his children by sending them to their rooms forever for a minor infraction. Thus, God would not send His "children" (humanity) to hell forever, but only for a time until they turned from their evil ways. It might be a long time, but certainly not eternal. MacDonald's views are very much about God's fatherhood and the importance of free will.
However, as Clotfelter grew in his understanding of scripture, he began to see this view as inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible. Clotfelter eventually moved completely to the other end of the spectrum and began to instead follow and highly revere the teachings of Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin. In this view, man's free will takes a back seat to God's sovereignty.
This book is a three part argument for viewing divine justice as the true revelation of God as given through the Bible. He divides the book into three parts: (1) Under His Judgment discusses why God must punish some men forever and why sin is such a bad thing, (2) At His Mercy discusses why God gets to choose who is saved and why that's a good thing, and (3) Within His Embrace discusses how this view of God is not only what the Bible teaches, but is also a great source of strength and confidence.
Prior to reading this book, I would have said I was a Calvinist. However, after reading this book, I think I have a better idea of what that means and feel a lot more firm in that belief. All Christians have to face the mystery of man's free will versus God's great sovereignty. This book gave a very excellent explanation of the Biblical basis for the Calvinist view of divine justice in pretty easily understood language. I think Clotfelter also does a pretty decent job of facing the different arguments and he's tried very hard to give a fair presentation of opposing views.
Anyway, I'd highly recommend this book.
Before I begin, I need to state that I'm about to descend into a technical theological discussion for which I'm assuming a certain amount of background. Within evangelical Christianity there are two major poles when it comes to the free will versus God's sovereignty debate. On the side of free will you have a position called Aminianism. On the side of God's sovereignty you have a position called Calvinism. There are a number of variants of each of these and more and less extreme views, etc., but these are the two major positions. Anyway, I'm not going to explain a lot about the terminology, so I recommend following the above links if you need additional explanation.
Basically, I want to establish that the Calvinist versus Arminian debate is very important to the Christian life. I've heard it said a couple times in the last month or so by fellow Christians that this debate doesn't matter very much to the Christian life. However, I think this indicates a failure to critically understand the debate itself and the ramifications this debate has.
As a simple and perhaps shocking example to the mainstream Christian, it is a fairly common statement in postmodern (Arminian) evangelism to say, "Jesus died for your sins, will you accept Him into your life as your personal Lord and Savior?" However, a Calvinist cannot make this statement, at least not without some sort of special gifting. A true Calvinist doesn't believe this is the case for every person; Christ died for his elect only. Instead, the Calvinist says, "Christ died for the sins of his chosen ones. If God is drawing you to Him, pray and ask Him to become your personal Lord and Savior." This is an important distinction.
However, the debate goes really much deeper and the position a Christian takes often shifts their views in many other doctrines. The key to the debate is about whether or not God's will or man's will is supreme. In the postmodern church, Arminianism is currently the most popular view. The reasoning for Arminianism is thus, God is not a tyrant and God doesn't want us to be automatons. Therefore, He granted his creations ultimate creativity and free will and then merely presented evidence of Himself to mankind. Those who see this evidence and choose to believe it and follow Him are "saved." God doesn't work to compel or otherwise force anyone to believe and when the Bible speaks of the "elect" or "predestination" these are merely terms referring to the fact that God foreknew what each person would do and, therefore, predestined those people to be saved.
Calvinists on the other hand reason that God is sovereign and does not restrict himself from interfering with man's will. In fact, according to Calvinist's men hate God so much that they cannot turn to God on their own, it's simply not in their nature. Rather, man has free will to act, but he will never act in a way that is opposite of his nature. Instead, God reaches down, so to speak, into the lives of those men and women he's elected and changes their nature for them. The men and women involved don't have any choice in the matter and are compelled to be "saved." On their own, men will use their free will to always make the wrong decision, regardless of the evidence.
I've purposely avoided giving any specific Scriptural evidence for either position and I've tried to present these views fairly because I'm more interested in demonstrating that there is a very important difference between these two ideas. (And to do anything less would be dishonest.) This difference has ramifications on almost every aspect of the Christian life.
For example, those who believe in Arminianism generally have a hard time saying that a person who becomes saved can be sure that she will stay that way. If it's up to the person to come to faith, then why should God then restrict a person's free will if she wants to then fall away? Calvinists on the other hand believe a person is either elect or not. The elect person can't really help but first become saved and then to stay saved even if she backslides horribly. Either that, or the backslider only gave the appearance of salvation without ever having it. Which is the case, only that person can know for certain. Both Calvinism and Arminianism accept that a person demonstrates faith through the fruit of her labors, but the meaning of falling away has drastically different meanings to each point of view.
Stating that it doesn't really matter which one believes is a cop out. One cannot be a Christian without knowing whether one believes that she saw the evidence and believed for herself or that God reached into her life and changed her. And to state that the ramifications of this belief aren't important is also a cop out. The problem is that Scripture has a great deal to say on the topic and I don't believe that this is one of those "mysteries" in the Bible that isn't really clear and cannot be resolved.
In my opinion, there are two major reasons for taking the "it doesn't matter stance." I will consider the ignoble reason first: laziness. A lazy Christian can make this statement and not need to bother searching out the Scriptures to determine what the Bible really says on the topic. If it doesn't matter, why should I work to find it out? I hope this is the minority of Christians taking this stance.
The second reason is actually a noble reason: unity. Unity is an important reason why this distinction cannot fought too fractiously. The Church has broken into thousands of sects since the Reformation. Churches have divided strongly over every silly doctrine there is and even stuff that isn't doctrine (such as the infamous divisions over "What color should the carpet be in the new building?"). Well, as with many other doctrines, I believe this is a discussion the Church needs to have, but doesn't need to divide over. It is important, but it is not primary. The outcomes of each position are similar enough that we don't need to denounce each other over it. However, I do not see how this lessens the importance of knowing your stance, searching out the Scriptures, and understanding the ramifications.
The ultimate purpose is this: Knowing God. The purpose of existence is to know and glorify God. I believe every Christian can agree with that. God has given us all kinds of information about Himself if we will just seek out a Bible and read it. This should be a topic that every Christian should be searching out because the Bible speaks quite a bit on this topic.
In conclusion, I can cope with a Christian who has studied Scripture to search out the truth of this issue amonst others and disagrees with me. However, I find it most painful to see Christians who aren't working to understand the depth of knowledge ready for the taking to anyone willing to search it out. All I can say is that knowing what a great gift it is to be Christian should spur us on to ever greater heights of knowledge of and obedience to and worship of our God. Amen.
First, I have not recently (nor ever) gotten a speeding ticket. Though, this has less to do with any virtue on my part and more luck or providence. I have, however, moved into a neighborhood where a cop has a speed trap setup just down the street at least once a week.
I like speed laws, mostly. When speed laws are intended to improve general road safety, I think they are good. I believe that many roads have speed limits set too low and a few set too high, but overall, speed laws improve the general safety of roads. A law that is not enforced isn't obeyed, so I believe that enforcement of speed laws is also a necessity.
However, the goal of such enforcement should also be the goal of the law itself, to improve safety. Yet, I do not believe that the goal of speeding tickets is that of safety, but rather that of revenue. This because completely apparent when one, generally around the age of 10 or 12, discovers that traffic officers are often assigned a "quota" of revenue they must bring in via speeding tickets. That is, each officer is expected to bring in a certain number of tickets to be paid to the city in the form of tax revenue. This is sick. In my opinion, this turns an otherwise straight peace keeper into a tax collector and a highway robber. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that this isn't the view held by many police officers.
Add to this the fact that the places cops stake out aren't places where safety is an important issue. For example, just west of where I live, I pass a cop running a speed trap on Kimble (in the parking lot shown in the center here). The speed limit on this stretch of road is 30, for a very wide, straight 4 lane stretch. Cops sit here because you have to brake while coasting down the hill if you want to stay within a reasonable approximation of the speed limit. This is stupid. I have a hard time imagining this particular stretch of road being nearly as dangerous as other places in town, such as around Aggieville, or even other stretches of Kimble that are very narrow, include and S-curve, and the speed limit is 40.
My solution? I don't know if I have thought through a complete one, but I think handing out community service punishments rather than fines would be a very good deterrent for speeding and would eliminate the profit potential for the city. Another alternative would be to force the city to donate all procedes from speeding tickets to charities for victims of traffic accidents or something similar, though this still strikes me as a little too convenient. Of course, none of this is ideal, but I think fines simply encourage abuse by localities and this form of taxation should stop. Let traffic laws be for safety, not so that your town can make a few extra bucks.
I have a strong passion for equipping ministries. My position on how these equipping ministries should be handled is extremely conservative. My position is also not one help by the popular American protestant churches at present. I'm not sure that my position would even agree very well with that of the church I currently attend. I don't even know if it would be accepted at any church in Manhattan—since I have not attended every church in Manhattan and because such things aren't necessarily readily apparent, I will withhold judgment.
My basic position is that held by some of the original reformers and that is that if we are to be effective ministers, we must preach the truth without compromise. This is the kind of ministry that led Paul to the passion that he should preach to an unreached, hostile mob that wanted to stone him. It is the kind of ministry that is so unpopular that Paul's fellows held him back. I won't say that Paul or his fellows were right in this particular instance because prudence is a good thing sometimes, but that Paul's passion was so strong to reach the lost that he was willing to risk it all. His preaching was so emphatic and offensive that men wanted him dead.
To elaborate: the message of Christ should be offensive to the unbeliever unless the Spirit of God is working in that unbeliever's life to transform them. I believe the church today is interest in trying to avoid the offensiveness of this message. The church wants to avoid presenting the aspects of God's holiness that are offensive and try to focus on God's love. This presentation of the gospel makes me ill because it is not the gospel, but only half the story. Telling half the story is what I consider to be lying.
The epidomy of this half-gospel movement is the "seeker sensitive" church movement. There is a strong pull for the church to focus on an unbelievers "felt needs" as a method to try and reach the believer's "unfelt needs" (i.e., the fact that they need to be "saved" to keep them from going to hell). I find this movement to be highly hypocritical and I don't really blame the folks on the #ksu IRC channel when they start ranting about "those f***ing Christian hypocrites." They are right. We are hypocrites if we're going to try and seduce unbelievers into our church by making them feel good and then trying to address their real needs without letting them know what we're doing. This is deception and manipulation.
What Christians should be doing is getting into the education business. In a day of information and a generation that is weary of false messages, we need to start telling the truth without restriction and without apology. We need Christians who know what the message is and are equipped to "in order to persuade some." We need Christians who are willing to accept that the message of Christ reaches those that God chooses and it's really not up to us to do anything more than present the message in full. Christians don't have the power to do more and God expects nothing less from us.
If the Christians can break free of the fetters of this present world and do this, we will see a revival such as we haven't seen in generations. Until Christians do this, the Church will descend into a new Dark Age of mediocrity and the rest of the world will sink with us.
I feel this passion has, to some extent, been renewed this weekend. I've been getting more and more discouraged during the past weeks about this. However, discussions with my father-in-law and his church's former associate pastor has left me feeling renewed. It was good to hear some of what these men face on different battlefronts, but with the same passion: that God's whole truth be proclaimed without shame. I pray that God can use me as a tool to equip those around me so that one day, whether months, years, decades, or centuries from now, God can use this truth to perform His revival. Amen.