DUMB THINGS PEOPLE SAY Thursday, Jun 8 2017 

Some of the things people say are just plain funny, while others are extremely harmful. Quite often, things that are stated are only strange because of where they are uttered. This is like the visitor who goes to the OB ward to visit an obviously expectant mother. The visitor says, “Are you still here?”  Then there is the man who is visiting at the funeral home and comments about the deceased, “My, he looks so nice”.  My favorite is church bulletin humor.  “The Pastor’s message: What the fool said”.  Dumb things can often be quite entertaining.

When the time rolls around for elections, we are subjected to some of the dumbest things I have ever heard.  You sometimes have to wonder how anyone could possibly be elected who appears to be totally brain dead.  I love one-liners, and they probably are the best way to respond to dumb statements, if you are not still laughing after five minutes.  Dumb things are not always verbal; sometimes they are put in print.  I tend to do this in emails because I never spell- check them.  That can get you into a lot of trouble, as some of you well know!  Then there is social media. This is the king of written dumb things.  It covers almost 50% of the comments posted. We live in a world that doesn’t think. That, of course, is the fruit of today’s liberal American education, and almost everyone I know struggles with thinking before speaking.

IN THE CHRISTIAN CIRCLES

Let me begin with dumb things preachers say.  An oft repeated statement is, “The lost will be separated from God for eternity” or “The worst thing about hell is that God is not there”.  Unless you have a different God than the one described in the Bible, that is a dumb statement.  The God of the Bible is omnipresent.  That means He is present always, everywhere, for all time and eternity.  There is NO place where He is not eternally present.  The psalmist put it this way: “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”  (Psalm 139:8)

My pet peeve involves a string of things that all mean the same thing.  “I believe”, “I think”, “my view”, “my opinion is”.  Let me be blunt.  What the preacher believes, thinks, opines is not relevant.  I don’t care.  What we want to know is what the clear teaching of the Word of God says.  If you don’t know, either say so or wait until you do know.  The authority in the pulpit is the Word of God, not the imagination of the preacher.  If you do know what the Bible says, then say it clearly and pointedly: “The Bible says…”  That is not arrogance; it is obedience.

We should all agree that preachers telling lies in the pulpit is dumb.  Everything we say ought to be tested with the truth.  Let me focus on lying about time: “This is my last point”, “I am almost done”, “Just a minute more”.  This is fine if it is true; but if you then ramble on for another half hour, let’s face it – you lied, and that is dumb.  Oh, I see – “the Lord led you”.  Why do we always blame our errors on God?  That is also dumb.  The best preaching doesn’t ever refer to time.  It holds the attention of the listener so that, when the end does come, the listener is surprised.

The problem appears to be that there is more error taught in the name of God than truth.  Part of this has to do with a tragic, casual approach to the study of God’s Word.  Digging in the text is hard work.  It takes time, energy, and persistence.  I often wonder why anybody listened to me in my early years of preaching, and I wish I had known then what I know now.  What I do know, for sure, is that I now know very little of the whole even after fifty-seven years of ministry!

A second problem with this issue of dumb things is the infringement of “historical theology” upon the clear teaching of the Scriptures.  Instead of being like the saints at Bera (Acts 17:11). who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” too many preachers blindly accept what other men have said about the text.  Everyone wants to be loved and accepted, so asking questions about historical positions is off base.  To those who have chosen to be followers of a man, disloyalty is almost criminal.  Even the faithful know better than to ask questions about historical conclusions that don’t make sense.

This would include the problem of the worship of scholars.  I repeat: scholars and scholarship have great value for all of us, but they do us no service if we are not allowed to ask questions. How often are scholars wrong?  The answer is “often”, and that is easy to prove.  With so many and such varied conclusions about a text, they couldn’t possibly all be right.  Maybe one of them is; but even if one is right, it means the majority must be wrong.  Let me remind you that the Bible was not written to scholars; it was written to the common man.  Deep inside, the liberal in you may be saying that this writer is opposed to scholarship and serious education, even if the evidence is the exact opposite.

THE HEART OF DUMB THINGS

The road to “dumb things” is paved with wrong interpretation.  Actually, it is paved with wrong systems of interpretation.  I am racing to finish the book “The Normal Hermeneutic”.  In it I deal with the word “interpretation”.  The Bible interprets itself.  God put truth in, and He wants to lift it out of the text.  Somewhere, it seems, we got the idea that God needs our help; so, we began to add our wisdom to that of the scriptures.   We end by adding our ideas to the text.  Our task is to find out what God has plainly said and to make sure that is what we teach.  What has happened is that we teach what we think about what the Bible says and so end up saying a lot of dumb things.

An example of this problem is found in our own national government.  The founding documents of this nation are its laws.  The responsibility of the courts is to see that the original documents are upheld and that people obey those laws.  Now enters a system that allows the courts to interpret the law rather than uphold what was written.  The product is a corrupted judicial system that does not represent the original documents.

That is exactly what has been done to the Bible.  Instead of letting the Bible speak, we have added our ideas and ignored the things we don’t like.  So, we end up drowning in a sea of dumb theological ideas.  And then there is music…but don’t even get me started!

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VULGARITY CELEBRATED Tuesday, May 16 2017 

Under Old Testament law, vulgarity was forbidden and the penalty was serious.  “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”  (Exodus 20:7)

Under grace, the standard for such speech is even higher.  It extends to any words that have the slightest bent toward disrespect of God’s name, vulgarity, swearing, and even vain repetition.  In setting a higher standard, Jesus said that committing such an act in the heart is the same as actually doing it.  (Matthew 5:29)  The epistles overflow with commands saying that questionable speech and vulgarity do not belong in the mouths of the saints.  Paul tells us that if we rein in our thoughts, we can guard our words against those things that offend a holy God.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”  (II Corinthians 10:5)

With all this in mind, can you tell me why our present world is covered with a tidal wave of vulgarity?  The offense is multiplied when humans, made in the image of God, actually defend the right to be foul mouthed!  A celebration of vulgarity.

WHO SHOULD BE SURPRISED?

A foul mouth rises from a corrupt, putrid heart.  We are surprised when a wicked heart is polite, kind, reasonable, and gentle in speech.  It does happen.  The reader has learned by now that I leave the devotional ministry, in the main, to my other friends; and they do well with it.  My task, however, is to be a truth teller; and even believers are uncomfortable with truth in plain speech.  Let’s be clear about this.  Any heart that has rejected Christ as Savior is “wicked”.  It has committed the most heinous sin that can be committed.  The murder of the unborn and sodomy are wicked acts, but rejection of the Son of God, His deity, and His virgin birth are the height of wickedness.  That is why liberalism is a wicked movement.  It is why the majority of people you know are wicked.  That is why some politicians, judges, and business men and women are wicked.  So, when they vent their wickedness through their foul mouths, it is only a confession of just how evil they are.  We are obligated to remember that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son.  We are commanded to remember that God hates all sin, both small and great.  While we are commanded to love all mankind, we must hate what God hates.

IMMERSED IN A WORLD OF VULGARITY

It is everywhere – news, radio, television, printed media, and our own communities.  Spirit-filled Christians are buried in verbal filth at work, school, and out in public.  No-one seems to care that God has forbidden such low-level conversation.  If we go out for a special dinner, the conversation at the next table often turns to garbage.  Try enjoying a night with the family at a special sports event -there is an onslaught of offensive language on all four sides.  How many times have you been driving somewhere and encountered vulgar warfare between drivers or pedestrians?  We live in a world where many people have the morals of a “junk-yard dog” with language to match.  If you want a real eyeful or earful, go to social media.  If you try to have a reasonable discussion, some liberal will bust in with a string of vulgarity that only demonstrates that he doesn’t have the slightest idea of what an answer should be… but he sure knows how to cuss!

You get the point: it’s a bad world out there.  Let me ask you a question: Is there anything God’s people can do when buried in such despicable situations?  There are times when it is best to be silent.  In the vulgar world, people have been known to become violent if they think you are “judging” them.  We know what Jesus did under such temptation; He quoted scripture.  Many of you do that on Facebook.  We can try a reasonable answer, but that usually doesn’t work with people who have rejected truth as a way of thinking.  We probably don’t think of praying for depraved people, but that might be the first thing that should come to our mind.  Of course, you could isolate yourself and pretend it is not really happening; but remember that “Silence isn’t always golden; sometimes it is just plain yellow!”  Of course, you could side with the perpetrator and defend him/her by attacking the person who brought up the subject of holiness and truth.

THIS IS WHAT REALLY HURTS

It is so easy to pick on the children of the devil.  In case you have forgotten, anyone who is not a child of God through faith in Christ is a child of the devil.  That is the reason why they lie, cheat, steal, and communicate with vulgarity.

Would someone please explain why there is so much vulgarity flowing from the mouths, pens, and keyboards of those who call themselves Christians?  You can see it for yourself.  Go to Facebook right now, and see how many vulgar words are being used by those you think are believers.  Sure, they think hiding vulgarity in code (OMG, etc.) is not the same thing.  Shame on anyone who tries to defend “hidden swearing”.  If I were an unbeliever, I sure would not be impressed with the fact that your foul language is just like mine.

You sure wouldn’t expect to hear this kind of language at church, right?  Then you might want to listen a bit more carefully.  Have you listened carefully to the conversations of teens?  What boggles my mind is that several “evangelical gurus” have been championing vulgar language inside their messages and teaching.  It may get some laughs, but it is not funny.  Teaching others to sin does not set well with a holy God.  Those who feel free to abuse grace hate it when their feet are held to the fire.  When they are angry about the message, they attack the messenger.  That is an old liberal trick.

APPLICATION

This seems like an impossible task.  How do we get rid of this plague?  In our own lives, we follow the commandment “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation”.

(I Peter 1:15)  Since God lives within us, the answer is that His holiness makes it possible for us to live His holiness out in our living and speech.  That means we don’t defend vulgarity in our lives or in the lives of others.  Remember – silence is approval.

WHO TAUGHT YOU TO THINK? Thursday, Apr 13 2017 

There are two basic premises in the process called thinking.  Within each premise there are a variety of differences, but at the poles of each there is a difference as great as that between night and day.  In philosophy, this idea is demonstrated in Raphael’s painting, The School of Athens.  At the center of the painting, Plato is pointing upward and Aristotle holds his hand downward.  Each of them is emphasizing his center of thought and authority – Plato the absolutes or ideals and Aristotle the particulars of earth.

The difference between these two foundational issues is critical to life and death.  It is clearly demonstrated in the third chapter of Genesis.  God is the authority, and everything He utters is true and flawless.  Eve allows the devil to deny God’s Word and add his own ideas to God’s words.  Then Eve follows that error and adds some words of her own.  God’s Word is wholly without error; its statements are pure truth.  Repeating what God has said is always trustworthy. This is the correct process of thinking with the words and mind of God.  The majority of individuals in our world, however, have followed the thinking process that Satan invented.  They deny truth or add error where they choose.  Here you have the conflict between pure truth and truth that has been corrupted.

Some years ago, I started using a term to clarify this contrast.  There are only two religions on earth.  I know Christianity is not really a religion, but please bear with me.  Christianity holds that the eternal, sovereign creator is God and that our authority is the pure Word of God.  The other religion is “Humianity”, a play on words.  All other religions are part of this.  The god of Humianity is man, and his authority is human reason.  Once again, you have the contrast of two authorities, two ways of thinking.

CLEARING THE AIR

The problem is that human authority often borrows true statements from God, but then adjusts them to fit flawed human reason.  The sad commentary is that believers who should know better often take the clear statements of scripture and either add to them or do the unthinkable – they deny the plain statements of scripture.  Believers who can’t find the answer they were looking for simply go ahead and invent one.  Unfortunately, the discipline of Systematic Theology is full of these inventions.  They call them “different points of view”.

Just a reminder, in case you may have forgotten: Shepherd’s Staff isn’t about forcing answers on the reader; it is about making people think.  So, before you get all bent out of shape, do some thinking, and beware of borrowing from flawed human reason.

THE SAME QUESTION

We began this discussion by asking “Who taught you to think?”  Thank God for churches, pastors, professors, parents, etc., who have reminded us that true thinking begins and ends with the Word of God.  All other expressions are opinions.   On the other hand, though, we also had teachers who ought to know better tell us that science, physical evidence, philosophers, and scholars are the true source of authority.  As a result, we borrowed from human thought, experience, physical evidence, etc., and made them part of our authority.  State education is particularly culpable in this shift of authority.  In fact, almost everyone reading this – if not all of us – have been moved in our thinking and have adjusted the one trustworthy authority.

Science, as defined by man, has become an authority higher than God.  Let me ask you this: has science ever been wrong?  In the Old Testament, if a prophet gave one false prophecy, he was stoned.  Why would believers ever doubt the clear statements of Scripture in order to please the false prophecies of science?  Is God wrong – was there indeed a “big bang”?  Read the plain statements in the book of Romans, and consider what God says about those who deny Him as creator.

This, however is the problem; the god of intellectualism permits men to deny the things that God has simply stated in His Word.  Their argument is that it can’t really be that simple, so they borrow from another authority to get their way.  That is why “intellectualism complicates to confuse” while the biblical thinker “simplifies to clarify”.

Science, falsely so-called, has information, but not truth.  It is intellectual, but it does not have intelligence.  Did you forget that those who deny the creator are absolutely sure that there was no “intelligent design” in what they call “nature”?  It has knowledge, but it does not have wisdom; it has opinion, but not fact; it has belief, but no final authority.

BRING IT HOME

It is easy to pick on intellectual pagans; however, we shudder to consider how deeply the wrong kind of thinking and the final authority of flawed human reason have made their way into theology.  Most of my day, at this point, is spent in study and research in the Word.  How can it be that theologians in our camp can go to the same text and come away with a dozen different conclusions?  If they go to the same statements, with the same authority, why do they disagree? The answer is simple; you cannot go to the same text, and use the same language system and universal rules, and get more than one answer.  I know that scholars tend to hate simplicity.  It robs them of human creativity and the power to have it their own way.  Remember, though, that the Bible was not written to scholars; it was written to the ordinary humble believer who finds peace in the fact that each text has only one interpretation.  If the answer is illusive, there may not be an answer; but we certainly are not free to invent one.  That is a major problem with historical theology – it certainly does have value, but it is not authoritative.  An error long held is still an error.  Any idea as to what you are thinking, or how you are thinking?  Your next words will reveal that.

THINK ON THIS FOR A MOMENT Wednesday, Mar 22 2017 

At some point in life when the future looks brief, it is a wise thing to take stock of one’s own life. With that in mind, it dawned on me that my life is really made up of the people I have known. Each of them has put something into my life.  These days I am attempting to say thank-you to as many of them as I can.  It has turned out to be a slow process, so let me turn to the Shepherd’s Staff to reach as many of you as I can.  If you know me to any degree, you are one of those individuals.  Our contact may have been brief, but you left something with me when our paths intersected.

Counting negatives is a waste of time, so let me major on the positives.  I am thankful for a father, and also his father, who taught me how to work.  Some of my employers added to that gift, and today I can say that I love to work.  That is why at eighty-one years of age I am still working.  This is the kind of gift we can pass on to our children, and our family of five have all exhibited a strong work ethic.  My parents were products of the Depression.  They had learned some hard lessons, and I inherited them.  If we didn’t cut firewood, we would have frozen to death.  If we hadn’t raised our own food, we would have starved to death.  In my youth, I was angry about this, but now I thank God for those hard days.

My mother exhibited genuine Christianity.  Instead of being bitter over the circumstances of life, she used them to minister to others.  Even in her advanced age, she was ever the servant.  It was her patience and love that drew me to her Savior.  Many of her positive traits were a gift to me, and I am thankful for those qualities.  They often say that it is the woman in a marriage who makes the man what he is.  I confess that that is true in my life.  Ruth’s remarkable patience has made all the difference.  Mother-in-law jokes never worked for me.  God gave me a great one, and I loved her dearly.  There were many other family members who had a part in my growth, but these are just a few.

No one could have had a better pastor than I did.  He loved his people and especially the teens. He was steady and firm.  As a result, I came to Christ under his ministry, was baptized, licensed to preach, ordained, and married.  (He threatened to do my funeral, too, but I conducted his instead!)  I fondly remember a few adults in the church who set a high standard by the way they lived.  It was in this same ministry that some of my fellow teens ministered to me, and some of those friendships are still alive today.

OTHERS WHO ADDED TO MY LIFE

There were also those who taught me in the classroom.  Some whose names I remember from the early years have passed from this life, but their influence remains.  The years in Bible college brought onto my path more people who marked my life.  The same is true of graduate and post-graduate work – too many names to remember.  Thirty-seven years in the pastorate added some unbelievable people who helped to turn my life in the right direction.  Many of those friends are still in touch.

Then came the years of education and missionary ministry.  You will note that I have not mentioned many names so far.  Recently, however, a great friend and theologian, Dr. Hoyle Bowman, moved to his heavenly residence.  His passing was what started my effort to make a record of those people who have impacted my life in a special way.  It also sent me on a journey to thank those who are still living.  In every area of my life there were special people, but those peers in academics and ministry are especially on my mind.  Please forgive me if I have missed you with this summary.  I am thankful for your investment in my life.

I have just returned from a journey to the Middle East, where I have been ministering off and on for seventeen years.  Our youngest son, Kraig, and Pastor Frankie Matthews were along for the ride.  It would have been good if we could have visited all the countries we worked in, but time did not allow.  Some of you who read this have blessed my life, and I would have loved to see your face one more time.  In Egypt, we did see many of you.  This allowed me to embrace you and say thank-you for what you put into my life.  Thirty years in the pastorate was the center of ministry for me, but the last seventeen years as a missionary and educator in the heart of the Middle East was the capstone.  The students there, and our fellow servants, poured their lives into mine, and I send you a collective package of gratitude.

A NEW DAY

Now it is early morning, and I have another day to say thank-you; and I will continue to work on this project of thanks for as long as I can.  Today I can say thanks for loving pastors who have been a great source of encouragement to me.  My wife, five children, fifteen grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren have also enriched my life.  The members of my Sunday School class make another long list.  Add to this a few men who are helping me with research for writing projects. Then there is the lady who edits my diatribes before they go to print.  To list friends would be impossible, but they all have made an impact on my life.  That would include a good group of couples who reside at Maranatha Village.  This may sound strange, but I am thankful for those folks who are willing to bring me up short when I am “off base” – you know who you are.  Perhaps you are now able to see why I used the Shepherd’s Staff to say how thankful I am for the hundreds of people who added something to my life to help make it worthwhile.

A LONG WAY TO GO BEFORE NIGHT FALLS

While I stop here and there to say a word of gratitude to many more folks, I still have some things to do.  There are two books I have authored that have been in constant print for well over twenty years. Those are The Weeping Church: Observations on Church Polity and The Conflict: The Separation of Church and State.  Both are available at FaithfullLifePublishers.com.  There are three more in the works, but the most important one is The Normal Hermeneutic: The One Biblical Hermeneutic.  This has become the centerpiece of our ministry.  It has also been the core of the tremendously effective ministry in the Middle East.  I can only ask that you pray that I will have the time and energy to finish it.  Hani Hana, my spiritual son, is co-author; and the book will be published in both English and Arabic.

And so, to all of you I say thank-you for what you have put into my life that has helped to make it worthwhile.

THAT IS NOT A CHURCH Tuesday, Feb 14 2017 

 

They say that confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation.  There comes a time in later life when we are no longer threatened by this.  After fifty-seven years in the ministry, I still have in front of me a Scofield Reference Bible.  Back in Bible college we learned that, while the scripture text is always right, the notes inserted by men are not.

I am reading from Matthew 18:20 – “For where two are three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.  That is true because God is all-present, and that is the meaning of the text.  The note above this verse in the text before, however, says “the simplest form of a local church”.  Nothing in the text even hints at this being a church.  That is because two or three believers who are gathered together is NOT a church.  It is good way to have fellowship, but it is not a church.

THE CHURCH ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE

The Old Testament prophets made it clear that there would be salvation for the gentiles.  In John 10:14-16, Jesus makes it clear that the future church would be composed of Jews and gentiles.  The idea was repulsive to the Jews.  In Matthew 16:18, there is a clear prophecy about the future church.  In the gospels, the church is eschatological, and the disciples would not have had a clue as to what was being referred to.  The church was a mystery until after the gospels, and the apostle Paul clearly explains this mystery in his writing.  In reference to Matthew 18:15-19, Scofield wrongly inserted “Discipline in the future church”.  There is nothing in that text to indicate such a command.  In fact, the disciples would have thought of the synagogue when he used the word.  While the book of Matthew may have been written for the church’s benefit, it definitely was not written to the church.  The content of Matthew demands that it was written to the Jews who were still under the law.  “Behold your King”.  The church could not have existed prior to Pentecost despite what historical theology claims.

The Bible calls the heavenly church the Body of Christ.  That body includes everyone who is redeemed in the time from Pentecost to the catching away of the church prior to any part of the tribulation.  Some of the members of that body are in heaven, others are alive on earth, and some have not even been saved yet.  In this age, God has chosen to use the local church to function and minister through.  Some members of the local church are members of the Body of Christ; others are not.  The local church is definitely not equal to the Body of Christ.  The local church represents the Body of Christ on earth.  Every true believer is part of the Body of Christ and should also be part of a local church body.  The local church is made up of people, not buildings.  It is God’s agent for ministry to carry the gospel message.

God helps us understand the ministry of the heavenly church by painting a clear picture.  The Body of Christ is a flock with a Chief Shepherd.  It is a body of redeemed members with Christ as the head of that heavenly body.  It is also a household, or home, and it is a theocracy.

The Bible clearly assigns these functions to the local church.  The local church is a flock with a local resident “under-shepherd”.  Members of a local church are sheep.  Obviously, some of them are wolves’ in sheep clothing.  The New Testament local church is supposed to function like a flock, not a political organization.  The local church is a body with a local resident head assigned by Christ himself.  It has members with different spiritual gifts, roles, and functions.  In reality, it is a theocracy.  The Bible is the rule book, the Holy Spirit directs the church, and the church administrates that which God has commanded.  Sadly, many have pressed a humanistic model onto the church by inserting culture into the text.

SO, WHAT IS A CHURCH?

Using the word “church” for a building or group does not make it a church.  It may be a gathering, assembly, fellowship, or small or large group; but any one of these does not make it a New Testament local church.  In Acts 19 you have an assembly in the theater at Ephesus, but it was not a church.  A true local church will be a functioning flock with a shepherd.  It will be a local body with members who have gifts and ministry through the church.  A Bible study group, a family, or a prayer group is not a church in itself.  Without a local church, an individual believer is without a flock and a shepherd.  He would be a member alone without the benefit of other members or a local resident head appointed by Christ.  He would be a person who is an orphan without a church home.

AND WHAT IS NOT A CHURCH?

In our day, there are many groups who choose not to use the word “church” in their names.  That would be good, because many of them are not really churches.  There are those groups who one day were New Testament local churches, but their candlestick has been removed and God has written “Ichabod” over them.  They once were, but now they are not.

What about the churches who have the form, but not the content?  A true local church depends upon what a church believes and where its authority comes from.  The Word of God will be the final authority in all matters.  If a church denies the Word of God, it has denied the God of the Word.  So, if a church rejects the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of scripture, is it a church?  You cannot reject the deity and virgin birth of Christ and expect to go to heaven, so is a church that rejects the real Christ actually a church?  If a church pulpit disrespects the clear truth of scripture, and the “worship” person leads them in singing lies, is it a church?

So, if a “church” meets once a week, and there is no real shepherding or flock interaction, if all the sheep get is a “cute” story time to sustain them for a week, is that a church?  If a so-called church body doesn’t interact daily in ministry with members who have atrophy, is that a church? Is it a flock, body, and home?  What would you think of a home where members only interacted once or twice a week?

There is no end to the questions that need to be asked, but the real point is this: Are you part of a local church, and is it a church?  I personally know a lot of people who have no idea what their church believes.  It may be a cult, and they wouldn’t know it.  Before you waste your time debating the above, consider reading the following, which has been in print since 1985.

The Weeping Church, Confronting the Crisis of Church Polity. By Clay Nuttall, D.Min.  Faithful Life Publishers, North Fort Myers, FL 33903.  FaithfulLifePublisers.com

WHO GETS TO DEFINE SIN? Sunday, Jan 15 2017 

The answer to this question has to do with who your God is.  For the true believer, this has to be the Sovereign Creator God.  He is the spiritual Father of all who truly believe.  If you are not a true believer, your God is man and your father is the devil, the father of lies.

The first problem here is that, in the circle of professing Christians, you are likely to end up with a variety of definitions.  That is because, on the right, “externalists” have put things into the Bible text that were not there originally.  On the left, the “libertines” simply reject what the Bible does clearly define.  The first question is “Who is right?”  The answer is that only God is right, and His definitions are in the Bible text.  They were placed there by divine inspiration and are true.  They are clearly understood only when the reader approaches the text with the one biblical hermeneutic.

THE HAZING OF AMERICA

In our nation, the definition of sin and wrong has been forcibly changed.  The most egregious of sin and wickedness is now celebrated by those who control education, government, economy, entertainment, sports and, sadly, the professing church.  How did this happen?

In his book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, the author, Erick Larson, records a terrible truth from the past.  It is a clear statement of where our own nation is today.Captain Reginald Hall is described and quoted on page 350 of the book.  He visited Germany and Austria in 1934.  Ever the intelligence man, he reported his observations about the National Socialist movement to the government.  He also described his experience to a friend in America.  “All the young are in the net,” he wrote; “anyone who tried to keep out of being a Nazi is hazed till they change their mind; a form of mass cruelty which exists only in such a country.” He added, “It will sometime soon be the duty of HUMAN BEINGS to deal with a mad dog.  When that time comes, your people will have to take their share.”

By using federal education (falsely called public education), the minds of generations have blindly accepted “liberal, progressive socialism”.  It has created a nation of intellectual pagans who support everything they believe with lies.  They are expert at turning truth into lies and lies into truth.

To ensure that everyone follows their “lie pact”, anyone who disagrees has been, is, and will be “hazed”.  They are made persona non-grata, ridiculed, punished, and dismissed from the public sector.  The socialism described by Hall is the very same destructive, liberal, progressive socialism being forced on this nation.  If you want an example, all you have to do is turn on the liberal media for one day.

This process of making sin acceptable may begin with redefining words, but it continues with derogatory name calling.  If you have any sense of godliness, you are called homophobic, Islamophobic, etc.  Political correctness only adds to the hazing.  Change your speech, fall in line, be silent about what you believe – or else.  This plan ultimately includes legal and physical force until you submit to the wicked ideas of liberal, progressive socialism.

TELL ME IT ISN’T SO

The church in America should be first in line to speak strongly to the definition of sin that God has given us in His Word.  The liberal church has long ago turned its back on the clear statements of God.  Sadly, this has given momentum to the paganizing of America.  With a low view of scripture, this group has become complicit in the removal of God’s moral standards.

Mainline evangelical church leaders have simply hid in the shadow of liberalism.  For whatever motive, they hold their silence; and their pronouncements find them guilty of teaching people to sin.  It seems that if a person is very good at communicating he gets a pass on what they are communicating.  Anyone who challenges one of these popular gurus is subject to “hazing”.

Without any shame, the Emergent, Emerging, and now Millennial churches are on a dead run to leave God’s standard for holiness in the dust.  It is no wonder that these churches ignore or offend basic doctrines.  The way one lives always rises from what he believes.  The more you degrade the Bible and its pure doctrine, the easier it is to throw off moral and righteous constraints.  If anyone dares challenge this moral runaway, they are “hazed” with words like “legalist”.  It is no wonder that cults have found a place to hide among these movements.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?

In the end, the biblical church must bear some fault for this.  Almost everyone you talk to, it seems, has their head in the sand.  They want no part of truth when it brings conflict and rejection.  Silence is the watchword when it comes to what is happening in our own world. Remember that “silence is not always golden; sometimes it is just plain yellow”.  Leaders tend to hide behind things like “political” and deny that we have responsibility to speak the truth on every subject, even outside the pulpit.  It is true that much of the problem is ignorance; leaders often simply don’t know.  A careful reading of Acts 20 will help with that problem.

Paul’s words in his two letters to pastor Timothy make all this very clear.  He was not afraid to speak the truth, no matter what the consequences.  Timothy was instructed not to cut corners, run and hide, or be silent about what God has said.  Paul made it clear that people would not listen and would reject the truth, but that did not mean this young pastor should be silent.

It appears that the silence of those who have the truth in this country has cost us deeply. Religious and theological games are very expensive.  If we had preached the gospel fearlessly, taught sound doctrine with passion, and clearly defined the holiness of God and His instruction in the Word, things might have been different.

THAT’S NOT A CHURCH

You will have to wait for the February, 2017, Shepherd’s Staff for this, but we don’t expect much from those who aren’t really churches.  They really don’t disappoint us, but the real churches are those we look to for truth and sacrificial effort to do battle and define the wickedness of this hour.  These pastors will give an account in due time.  (Hebrews 13:17)