“Somebody observed about Christopher Columbus, ‘Columbus went out not knowing where he was going; and when he got there he did not know where he was; and when he got back he did not know where he had been, and he did it all on other people’s money.’
This is the way of religion today. People do not know where they are, they do not know where they have been, they do not know why they are here, they do not know where they are going; and they do the whole thing on borrowed time, borrowed money, borrowed thinking, and then die. Science may be able to help keep you, but it cannot help you here. Science can keep you alive so that you have longer to think it over, but it will never give you any answer for the purpose of your life.”
If you carry even the very scent of exclusive claim that Christ is the only way to heaven (and I do believe he is the only way; John 14:6), expect slander and challenge from the world. No revolutionary or reformer was not counter-cultural. For me to say that Jesus is the only way to heaven is to go against the present grain of life and culture in America and the world.
“For in Scripture it says: ’See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.” - 1 Peter 2:6-8
He is the center of my life and defines everything that I am! It was the pagans that gave the early church believers the name Christians, first at Antioch because of how the apostles behaved, which was like Christ (Acts 11:26). Hence the name Christian stuck. I am a Christian. I will fight to follow! I don’t care what laws are passed in this country despite my best prayers and hopes. I refuse to compromise. I will not bend or break. I will not water down my faith. No! I will fight to conduct myself as Christ did on earth.
The fiercest and deepest wounds to be inflicted will come from those who claim to be from among the camp of Christ’s followers. This trend has not stopped, but increased. The Gnostics showed up within the first four centuries of the faith writing hymns that denied the deity of Jesus Christ. Surely enough the fruits of their labor have not faded; to de-Christ Jesus of Nazareth and thereby defang him as God in human form.
“And if Christ is not raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
Christian, are you prepared to fight in the paradigm shift, which has already begun?
The paradigm shift is this, simply put: The time has come where people who were called to share the Gospel and to discern and declare evil as evil, will call evil as good. The world has always called evil as good, but not so for the Christian.
“For a time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want them to say.” - 2 Timothy 4:3
In more practical terms it is the choice of church versus the club and drunkenness, blessings over your enemies versus profanity and cursing of them and their name, providing for the physical need of those of lesser livelihood versus passing them by, telling someone why you hold the convictions you hold to and why, despite their possible hate-filled response and loving them anyway versus caving to the ebb and flow of culture and relative personal morality. Breaking with and/or moving out of the place in which one is co-habitating with his/her girlfriend/boyfriend versus shacking up. It is not the world that I’m describing in the negative here, it is other so-called Christians!
The worst evil and greatest reasons by which I have been tempted to abandon my faith were not from things non-Christians have done and said, but from what so-called Christians have chosen to say and do in front of me and to me.
C. S. Lewis had this to say about hypocrisy:
“When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world. The war-time posters told us that Careless Talk costs Lives. It is equally true that Careless Lives cost Talk. Our careless lives set the outer world talking; and we give them grounds for talking in a way that throws doubt on the truth of Christianity itself.”
We don’t need to be a repugnant offense due to our actions that counter our claims of having been redeemed. Mahatma Ghandi, a Hindu, said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” If Christianity is a reasonable and logical faith, then it should be coherent, and thereby natural tangible evidence in the lives of its adherents should be evident of its claims. No one likes to be lied to or taken for a fool. Hypocrisy is lying!
Christians are admonished to not be offensive, but not through compromise by any means–social, cultural, political, greed, nothing whatsoever. Rather, Christ compels us through obedience, in spite of living in a pagan society, that we are to pose no offense in the defilement of the truth of the Gospel’s affect in our lives! If you struggle, then fight, kick and buck to show why, and then overcome. As you do tell people why you fight not to conform to the ways of this world.
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” - 1 Peter 2:11-12
The truth of the gospel is offensive enough all its own, as it is why Christ was killed. He claimed to be what the world, Jew and Gentile, refused to believe was true. The Pharisees had him killed and mocked him, and the Romans carried out the action and mocked him along the way.
“Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” - Matthew 27:40
But there is one radical truth that sobered me before I made any further stupid decisions to defect from what I once perceived as a hypocritical faith and religion. Yes, while there are hypocrites in churches, there are hypocrites in the the grocery stores, amusement parks, movie theaters, schools and at our jobs, but we don’t stop going to those places on account of them. Moreover, if hypocrites have shown up in church, well it is exactly where they should be and it is also high time they heed the words of the book they don’t live by and the God and Man they claim to follow and obey. I chose to stay in church and in the faith by fighting for the truth of the Gospel through obedience to Christ Jesus, despite what wrong I saw and still see happening among Christians, by Christians.
Watch and pray lest all the little foxes that lurk among us come your way. ”Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyard, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15).
The foxes will compel you to compromise then will slander you. And to follow slander (2 Timothy 2:17), comes the revised “religion” of the foxes; pseudo-spirituality, social gospel, sensual-centric gospel, appetites gospel, watered down gospel and so on. ”Jesus knows sex is natural, so I should be able to do what I feel, you know what feels good.” ”I can’t help it. Jesus understands.” ”Everybody does it. Who really follows everything in that old book?” ”I’m a good Christian. I go to church with my girlfriend, and sometimes I pray and open my bible. God knows my heart.” ”My parents are Christians and I would go with them to church. So I’m good to go.” The one I dislike the most is, “God is love and understands that I have needs. So ya know, I dabble bit here and there to take the edge off.”
I once heard it said that sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse.” (Galatians 1:8)
Stand your ground and do not run into fear and isolation, for that is where compromise and then shame takes hold and weakens your resolve (which comes by faith and reading of the Word of God) to stay the course and fight the good fight of righteousness in Christ. ”For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7) Rather, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
When I fall and fail, I will not fail to get up nor give up on my resolve to overcome what causes me to stumble. The world is fallen and refuses to accept God’s help, and get up.
I will fight to follow. I will fight for love. I will throw my life forever into the triumph of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Are you a fox or a fighter?
I am a fighter! And this is how I fight:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The fact of the incarnation speaks volumes about the existence and the power of God, who is spirit, and the sequence of the spirit over the material universe; the unseen before what is seen. In addition to sequence is the power of the spirit over the physical.
If in fact Christ was immaculately conceived by the Spirit of God, then we know that any other miracle performed by Jesus and the Father is not the least bit unacceptable, but true.
If Jesus is who he claimed to be, then his resurrection is possible.
If his resurrection happened in accordance with the scriptures, then we have hope in what he spoke about life, death and eternity.
More importantly, if he is who he claimed to be, then truth cannot be a realm in which he falters!
If all of this is true, then it all points to Jesus as the solely unique being through which humanity will find and have endless fulfillment because truth never fails.
And finally, if Jesus is true, then he is forever good and without equal, debunking any other claims for the existence of gods besides Jesus.
This final point excludes any other claims to the contrary by virtue of the Christian message itself: Jesus is the one and only way and source of eternal life because of who he claimed to be.
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” – John 18:37-38
Unhinged space filled with foundations - By David Moore
Are not all the stars in place?
Have we not all that marked space by which to anchor our direction?
“Whither are we moving?”
The laws of nature are in force. That is how all mankind has a foothold.
Through the reading of the signs in the earth and sky.
Through the listening to the predictable winds of a year’s life.
Under the auspices of life’s rhythm and steady beat of time.
Within us harmonizes the heartbeat with the nature of all creation.
But how is it that all these things hold together?
Whither do they move?
From what foundation do all these foundations to man have they come?
Should we faithfully thinking unseeing accept unhinged space filled with foundations of no source of mind?
What a silly notion of spontaneous something with no sentience preceding.
Having been cleanly leaped, logic stands alone in the cold.
And ah, debate, for what importance of which is placed in the origins of man are all but scientific upon which the many stumble.
Nay! They too, the wise, the humanist, and intelligent, pontificate into the philosophical abyss from physics to metaphysical!
One of my graduate seminary course required reading is titled “The Art of Personal Evangelism.” In it the author, Will McRaney, pointed out 13 points that he presented at the National Conference for Church Leadership in Ridgecrest, NC in 2001.
To preface these points, however, I want to provide the crux of the chapter from which the points come. The main idea is that the cultural and social context for which the church’s evangelistic approaches were fashioned and used for a long time prior to 1985 (the rough birth year of personal computing) are all but dissipating at this point in history. We have gone from a modern age to a postmodern mood, where people like my parents (Babyboomers and on back) would be receptive to biblical, philosophical and legal approaches of evangelism. However, today’s postmodern crowd (Generation X or Y and forward) speak and receive information through a language of verbal, visual and narrative forms. It is not that the content (the Gospel) is any less relevant, but that the church, at least in America, is still struggling where we are speaking pass the intended audience with what has become foreign language or “Christianese.”
Here are the points:
- We are failing at our mission.
- We live in a radically different culture (modernism vs. postmodernism).
- People no longer share a common story.
- People now perceive and determine truth in different ways.
- People no longer believe in absolute truth as determined by others.
- Lost people are more negative toward church than in the past.
- Lost people are further from a true understanding of God than in the past.
- We live in a post-Christian and pre-Christian culture, not a Christian culture (no home court advantage).
- Christians have an identity and image problem. (Christianity means everything and nothing.)
- People perceive themselves as spiritual and therefore not in need of the church.
- The church has little to no perceived value in the lives of many lost people.
- People’s approaches to life have changed and our methods have not.
- Much of conservative Christianity’s evangelism has been built upon one-time encounters and memorized presentations, an approach effective only in a highly homogeneous culture.
The thirteenth and final point is among the deepest of concerns out of them all, especially where McRaney says, “an approach effective only in a highly homogeneous culture.” Christians are not in Kansas any more. It is as if the church went to sleep for a series of decades and then woke up in a foreign land. It seems we hid ourselves in our personal lives and Christian bubbles somehow for so long and underestimated the importance of keeping close active and involved tabs on the culture war. We have to somehow continually step outside of the proverbial aquarium in which we live and observe, re-organize and adjust our approach to evangelism
Technology and the latest emphasis on the visual/verbal medium as the source of knowledge today play a large roll in the propagation of the new normal that we face today. Inception, to an extent, is real. In fact, the Hollywood invented term is really the sensational re-hashing of the words, deceit and illusion. It is classic Genesis 3:4 meets the 21st century, newly reincarnated in bright immaculate 4K movie theater experiences, or on 1080p 50-inch or more HD screens for home viewing experience of what and how to think and go about our lives. But the inception comes in the form of newly shaped values and lifestyles that are believed to be of the viewer’s own making, but are ideas played out in all types of fantasies ranging from daytime and prime time television, films and pornography. What praise and worship is and its function in enveloping or framing the sermon message for Christians, is what the arts are and have become for everyone else in the world who do not follow Christ. They too have songs, ritual acts and rites, so to speak, that are centered around core messages that are anti-Christian, and a great deal of it comes through the visual and audio mediums. In short, secular society has its form of worship and preaching, and it is pervasively effective at delivering its message with a high success rate of assimilated ideas among the masses.
Christianity is being pushed to the outer edges of the mainstream and can potentially lose this battle in the war of ideologies for the hearts and minds of the young. Disney marketers must know a phrase I learned from a Christian apologist I deeply admire, Ravi Zacharias. He said on more than one recorded talk concerning youth and their innocence, that “what you win them with is what you win them to.” The marketing machine that is Disney is forever studying each new generation and adjusting their schemes for reaching each child to make them lifelong consumers of their products, and thereby devotees to the Disney brand and icon Mickey Mouse. Disney has its symbol, its icon, its message in all the films of the company’s notions about good and evil and utopia, and centers of congregating all the hopefuls engulfed in the wake of the mouse that roars. I am by no means talking of starting a marketing campaign of manipulation for Christ, as that is just silly and far from biblical. I’m simply using as an example, Walt Disney’s vision, and how it has been kept in tact posthumously while leaders of his company have managed to inject the seeds of that vision into as many newborn children in the language of their time.
The United States’ highest military leaders are already privy to this reality in Afghanistan. We are not going to win the middle east at the barrel of our weapons alone, but with ideas. Our military leaders learned over the long course of a decade and more that we will only win this war by going into the villages of the Afghan people and sell them our ideas for peace in exchange for helping us eliminate what is truly a common ideological enemy–terrorism. During my training for deploying to Afghanistan I heard the phrase stated numerously that we will win this war by “winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people,” or in other words, changing their culture with influences from our western ideals. We learned from Iraq that our methods and tactics had to change in accordance with the way our opposition perceives and lives in the world. Christians, all of whom are commissioned to make disciples, are not exempt from making adjustments to our methods of evangelism either in order to spread the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. On that note…
We, however, are never to change the truth of the gospel nor subjugate it to political philosophy or culture in any way, but to influence culture for the salvation of the lost in the name of Jesus Christ. The truth remains, but the methods can and should change because the Father set the example in the incarnation of Christ. He has come down to us and met us where we are in order to bring us closer to him through his son’s sacrifice on the cross, becoming the propitiation for our sins. He spoke the languages of his time, understood the culture and simultaneously transcended it while living within it (see the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus – John Chapter 4), and also obeyed the political realities of the day to achieve the greatest blindsiding event in human history freely and purely for our benefit. What a gift! And what immaculate genius it was for the Father to orchestrate an approach that would perfectly meet the needs of each and every human being that would look to the cross and find comfort starting from the very beginning of Christ’s incarnation. Every scriptural word of his life and ministry addresses the needs of our hearts and minds.
We should speak to our audience in the language, culture and political climate in which we find them without manipulating them with how we feel they should adjust to our methods. What worked for evangelizing one generation may not work for the next. It is bad enough that the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, so it is up to us to deliver the gospel even if we have to translate its good news to a new people in a new time.
To be continued…