Just Quit: How Nike got it Wrong

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One of the upsides of working in a predominantly non-Christian (and often openly anti-Christian) environment is that I get asked the tough questions. Not only about the Christian faith, but about why the world is the way it is.  On many things we’ll all agree:

The world isn’t fair. Behind the masks we all wear, people are hurting and the world can be a harsh place of broken dreams, broken relationships, and broken lives.

We also agree that we want the world to be a better place. Deep down, we all know that it’s supposed to be better, and our desire to make it better is a good thing.

But where we part, where Christianity parts with every other worldview and stands alone is in HOW we do this.

I want you to get this:

Every single worldview, apart from Christianity, will solve the problems of the world, and define their “greater purpose” by what Adolf Koberle described as climbing one of three ladders.

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It is so important that you not only understand the futility of climbing these ladders, but how our human nature attempt to smuggle them into our faith.  While various generations cyclically move between the three, and while some cultures or denominations lean harder into one than the others, make no mistake about it… these will lure us away from our trust in Christ and His atonement; of the central theme of all scripture: Christ crucified for Sinners. And to lose that is to lose our very salvation, for only faith in Christ can save.  That’s as serious as it gets.

The reason these ladders are so tempting, so alluring in fact that they provide the framework for every non-Christian religion, is that we *want* them.  It’s how we’re hard-wired. And they tempt us with the promises of our “best life now”, discovering our “purpose in life”, “life change”, “changing the world”, and ultimately leading to reaching God to receive His approval, blessing, and “favor”.  Learn the ladders, learn the temptation, and learn the lingo by which it’s been smuggled into the church since the 1st century.

This week we’ll discuss a ladder which at first glance hasn’t been as much of a threat to our generation as it was to our parents and grandparents.  Under closer examination, we’ll find that we’ve simply put the same deadly poison into a prettier bottle.

The ladder is Moralism.

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“The way of moralism seeks to earn God’s favor, or a satisfying life, through the achievement of moral perfection – always doing what is right, avoiding wrongdoing of every kind, keeping oneself under control by sheer willpower and a scrupulous conscience.  Certainly, the desire to be good is a laudable sentiment – if it only could be accomplished.” – Gene Edward Veith,  The Spirituality of the Cross.

S0, moralism is seeking to achieve what we’re after by doing the right things and not doing the wrong things. In this way, we will receive God’s favor, blessing, and attain the awesome life we’re looking for.

See the problem? Who is in control? Who is doing the *doing*?  Any grace here? I mean, if I’ve earned it, God owes it to me, right?  And if I don’t get it? God has robbed me. He’s failed me.

I see moralism fail again, and again, and again in those around me who either hate christianity, or given up on it completely.  So why does it still allure us?

As westerners, and particularly as Americans, it just sounds right. It not only aligns with our natural sinful bent to “save ourselves” it matches everything our culture values: hard work, self-determination, and discipline.

So, what does this look like? How does it develop and ultimately fail?

First of all, the enemy has to convince you that you’re actually capable of pulling this thing off; that you can do it.

Secondly, once you realize you can’t do it, you’ve got to change the rules as you go. We lower the bar.

Third, when confronted with the fact that we’re not doing it, we look for the exit. We either despair, or we quit. (Would it surprise you if I told you that quitting was the actual solution here?)

See, scripture is clear that we are held to God’s perfect standard of righteousness, revealed to us by God in the Ten Commandments, and summarized, and reinforced by Jesus in the New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The first thing we do is to look for the out. Am i doing it? Scripture gives us a great example of our natural reaction when being confronted by the law:

The rich young ruler, the pharisees, and Marc.. we all do the same thing:

“Don’t murder? Check. Don’t steal? Check. Don’t commit adultery? Check.”

But Jesus would have none of it.

Not committing adultery? How about lusting after a woman?

Not stealing? How about selling everything you own and giving it away?

How about loving God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul and loving your neighbor as yourself?

How’s that working out for you? Ever missed it? Once? Game over.

And I think, deep down, we know this. We’re “sophisticated” enough to not believe ancient paganism where throwing virgins into volcanoes makes the crops grow, and that “God is gonna getcha!” if you wear jeans to church.. but are we really any more sophisticated? Before we get too smug, ask yourself if we’ve really just traded one path for another on the road of moralism?  Will God now bless us for sacrificing 10% of our paycheck instead of the virgin? Have we traded “God’s gonna getcha!” for the threat of missing a “life of favor” if you don’t follow the latest trend of purpose-driven, audacious, missional law?

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(nonsense)

See, just like the rich young ruler and the pharisee, none of the things they were doing were BAD, they were just INSUFFICIENT!

You want to help others? Stay faithful to your spouse? Feed the poor? Vote for human rights? ALL GOOD!  But the moment you judge your standing before God, you’ve missed it. When these activities (what we do and don’t do) become the standard by which we judge ourselves and the world around us, we’ve walked away from the only thing which can save us… knowing that Christ’s work alone is sufficient.

So, we take these things we do/don’t do and start measuring other people by them. Since we’re the standard, we’re nailing most of what we hold other people to… and it starts to sound like this:

Real Christians don’t go to the movies.

Real Christians vote X.

Real Christians don’t (insert your pet cause here).

While we mock the legalistic moralism of our ancestors (wearing suits, not wearing makeup, not drinking or smoking, not watching TV, or going bowling) we’ve simply replaced the legalistic moralism of the pharisees with the internal moralism of the post-modern (“live audaciously”, “live missionally”) not so that you won’t “go to hell” like our ancestors, but that you would receive “favor” and “double portions” (from the mundane like getting better parking spots, to the sublime, like financial abundance.) in short, we’ve actually gone past “Do what Jesus did” to “Think how Jesus thought”!

And in the end, what have we lost?

We don’t love God with all our heart, because at the core, we don’t really need Him. We’ll do the work, you give us what we’ve earned.  We don’t really need Christ’s forgiveness because we’ve (pretty much) kept the standard we’ve created for ourself.  And we won’t love our neighbor as ourself because they’ve created their own standards (which don’t match mine).  It’s easy for me to divide my world into “us” (those who vote, act, and think like me) from “them” (those who don’t).

So, to wrap it up.. be very, very careful of the ladder of moralism. If you’re still attempting to “Just do it”, you can’t accept what Christ has already done.

You can’t receive with empty hands of faith if those hands are wrapped around the rungs of a ladder.

If you’re attempting to “do it”, you by definition cannot receive the very thing, the ONLY thing which can save you!

Jesus never said “You just gotta begin to..”. He said “It is finished.” Rest in Christ’s finished work. If you hear any variation or spin of “if you will ____, God will ____”. God’s not making trades. There is no quid pro quo. The only thing you bring to God is your sin and open hands of faith. If you come to Him, works in hand, you are rejecting the very thing, the ONLY thing which can save you; Christ’s work on your behalf.

So, Nike has it wrong. Don’t “Just do it”, just quit. Stop trying to earn God’s favor through your works. Even at your best, you can’t do it.  Christ has done it all through His atoning work on the cross. Your sins are forgiven. You stand perfectly justified before God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

And that, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is real “favor”.

 

Marc

 

 

 

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Posted in General

Joel Osteen and In-N-Out (Redux)

If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating an In-N-Out Burger, you are missing out on one of the little, artery clogging,  pleasures of life.

As for the name, it’s about as basic and simple as you could get.  You come in, get your burger, and go out.  Fast, easy, and well.. tasty.

Inside of you is hunger, outside of you are tasty burgers for your enjoyment.  You go there, get one, and satisfy your hunger. There are no burgers inside of me, so I go out, where there are burgers.  Simple. Not exactly deep theology here.. right?

Can you imagine the absurdity and utter confusion of getting that basic premise wrong?

Would it be absurd? Would it be mocked?  You would think so, but I recently saw this obvious error applauded and treated as if it was the deepest, most philosophical, life-changing truth imaginable by no lesser names than media mogul Oprah Winfrey and “christian” Pastor Joel Osteen.

Before you think I unfairly listed Osteen as “christian” (in quotes), let’s watch his latest appearance on Oprah’s “Lifeclass”:

Did you catch the quote?

“You’ll never rise any higher than you see yourself.” – Joel Osteen

Hmm.  So, how high I rise (externally/out) is based upon me (internal/in) and how I see myself (internal/in).

So the answer to the external is from within.. how I view myself, and as he states later, what words I speak about myself.

You’ve got to see this… Joel Osteen’s view, his teaching in the role of “Pastor” is that the external is determined by the internal (You, your view, your mindset, and your words).

Sounds good, and boy, does it sell.  Oprah has built a multi-billion dollar media empire. Joel Osteen “Pastors” the largest church in the United States, it’s also helped sell books like “The Secret” and spin up careers of Oprah’s other Lifeclass speakers.  But what does scripture say?  Is THIS the message of Christianity, that the internal controls the external?  That it’s IN that controls OUT?

The written word of God, inspired by God the Holy Spirit is clear.. it’s not the SOLUTION that’s in us, it’s the PROBLEM!

(I’m going to intentionally quote a LOT of scripture this week. I want the sheer weight and volume of scripture which speaks to this core issue to blow you away.  While Joel Osteen doesn’t quote a single verse, here is a mere sampling of God’s word on the issue. Read them all now, or later, but they’re here for your reference.)

1. Men are born in sin:

  • Psalm 51:5 – Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
  • Genesis 8:21 – the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
  • Psalm 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
  • John 3:6 – “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”

2. As all men have sinned, they are slaves to sin:

  • John 8:34 – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
  • Titus 3:3 – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
  • Galatians 4:8-9 – Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
  • Romans 6:6,16,17,19,20 – We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey…? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
  • Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

3. The heart of sin is UNABLE and UNWILLING to do good. It is, in fact, HOSTILE to God:

  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Romans 8:7-8 – For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God
  • Colossians 1:21 – And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds
  • Psalm 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb;
  • Ephesians 2:12-13 – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
  • Ephesians 2:3 – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
  • Proverbs 15:9 – The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord
  • Proverbs 15:8 – The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord (c.f. Proverbs 21:27)
  • Proverbs 28:9 – If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
  • Isaiah 64:6 – We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
  • Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please [God]
  • Romans 8:7-8 – Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
  • Psalm 10:4 – In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Isaiah 65:1 – “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
  • Isaiah 64:7 – There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
  • Romans 3:10-12 – “no one seeks for God.”

So, if we are born in sin, slaves to sin and hostile to God, unable to do good works… is the heart a good place to be looking?

Yes, for those in Christ, He has changed their heart of stone into a heart of flesh.  But.. where does that come from? IN or OUT?

Our righteousness? OUT! It is an external (or what some call “alien”) righteousness. Our only hope in life and death is the external/OUT righteousness of Christ!

“The first is alien righteousness, that is the righteousness of another, instilled from without.  This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies though faith, as it is written in I Cor. 1:30:  “whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”  In John 11:25-26, Christ himself states:  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me…..shall never die.”  Later he adds in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  This righteousness, then, is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant.  Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say:  “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did.”  Just as a bridegroom possesses all that is his bride’s and she all that is his—for the two have all things in common because they are one flesh[Gen. 2:24]—so Christ and the church are one spirit [Eph. 5:29-32].  Thus the blessed God and Father of mercies has, according to Peter, granted to us very great and precious gifts in Christ [II Pet. 1:4].  Paul writes in II Cor. 1:3; “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

– Martin Luther

So, do you see the completely backward message of Joel Osteen? Not only is it not biblical (Did you hear a single mention of Jesus, or a single passage of scripture in his dicussion?) it’s the polar OPPOSITE of biblical Christianity.  And he’s telling unregenerate sinners (who the bible says are slaves to sin and UNABLE to please God) that they are blessed and victorious?  That’s not just incorrect, it’s rank heresy. He’s speaking peace and victory to people who in their unregenerate state are destined for hell.  Smiley face and sweet voice or not.. that’s the cruelest act I can think of a man committing, and to do it while presenting himself as a “Pastor”?  God have mercy!

False teacher much?

So, the takeaway here is this:  Get the In-N-Out right, your only hope is OUT, through the external/alien righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith in Him for the forgiveness of sins.

Marc

 

Posted in General

CAPTCHA and God’s Plan for your Life

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As you may have noticed, there was no article last week. I’d like to say it was for some wholly holy (see what I did there?) endeavor, but it was due to a career move for which I am truly grateful.  And that has me thinking this week about vocation, careers, and God’s plan for my life.

This was an issue which bothered me for a long time, and it may be something you struggle with as well. If so, I pray this article is helpful.

As a young Christian, I really REALLY wanted to please God. And it was important (to the point of obsession) for me to know what God wanted me to DO.  Sure, I was saved, but now what? What is God’s plan for my life?  Where does He want me to go to school? Who does He want me to date, and to marry? Where does He want me to work?

And to be honest, it got pretty goofy.  Simple decisions weighed me down as I wrestled with what God would have me do in nearly every mundane sitauation.  And since, after multiple times reading the Bible cover to cover, I’ve yet to find scripture addressing college selection or career choice, I did what all of us tend to do… I looked for “feelings”.

Funny thing, feelings. You can convince yourself of just about anything.  Like the time I came home on military leave, convinced that eventually God would have me marry a nice girl from my hometown. I shared this information with a friend.. who happened to be engaged to said girl.  (Yes, that happened. And yes, I still want to pound my head against the desk everytime I think about how stupid I’ve been in trusting these “feelings”. By the way, they’re a beautiful couple who have been married for more than 15 years, raising a beautiful family, and doing great work in Christ’s name.)

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So, then, where do we go to find “God’s plan” for our life? Our jobs? Our college majors?

Let’s start with the basics:

You want to please God. I get that. That’s not a bad thing.. but realize that God is *perfectly* pleased with you in Christ. PERFECTLY.  There’s nothing you can do to please God more. Get that. So, where scripture doesn’t speak, we have freedom.

What this frees us from is thinking that any given career is more or less pleasing to God.

God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does!

God uses you in very normal, “boring” ways every day to accomplish His will on earth.

But that’s not very “audacious” or “radical”. And because of that…

God’s people have struggled with this since the beginning of time.  Remember the purpose driven mantra which has become the favorite “life verse” for millions?

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11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

If you take this verse as being about *you* then you end up with a wonky theology which says that God has this amazing plan and it’s your job to discover it.  The problem?  Not only is it nowhere in scripture, but it’s incredibly damaging to believers.

See, the vast majority of the time, our life isn’t EPIC, it’s mundane. And if you think that anything less than epic isn’t pleasing to God you begin to see vocation (jobs) as either spiritual or non-spiritual. Working at the church, then, becomes “more holy” than, say, working at McDonalds. Spending the weekend at a “retreat” becomes “more godly” than changing diapers or bathing your kids.

Do you see how damaging this is to folks who are “just” living a “normal” life? How do I please God when “all I do” is get up, drive to work in traffic, do my  job, come home and take out the trash?  How does the mother changing diapers and cooking dinner please God? This is just “regular” stuff, right?

Wrong.

This mentality is what caused damage in the early church as men and women who were “really” devout and dedicated to God ran off and joined monestaries, becoming nuns and monks. It created two categories of Christians; essentially, amateur/part-time, and professional.

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But the problem is that scripture doesn’t teach this.  God has chosen to work through common means to accomplish His will: Ink, Paper, Water, Bread, and Wine… and people.

Each night as my daughter goes to bed and prays The Lord’s Prayer, one of the peitions is “Give us this day our daily bread”.  And God DOES give my daughter her daily bread. How? Not through direct deposits of manna on our lawn, but through the farmer who grows the crops and raises the livestock. Though the truck driver who delivers it to the grocery store. Through the grocer who sells it. Through her mother who makes delicious meals. Through me, as I drive in traffic every day to earn a salary.  Even her very life is a gift of God; Not through a creation out of the dust (like Adam), but (as bluntly and tactfully as I can put it) the “means” of her mother and I.

God. Uses. Means.

God uses these means to accomplish His will on earth.

Martin Luther called these “masks of God”.  While we know that God is sovereign over His creation, and that God will bring His perfect will to pass, the means by which He does so are often hidden to us.

So, while I know that my command (and pleasure) is to be used as a means of gospel proclamation, I don’t know (and may never know this side of heaven) the ways in which my vocation is used to accomplish His will.

Remember the verse from Jeremiah 29:11? Most of those people died as slaves during the 70 remaining years of captivity. (Seriously, if you think that’s a promise for your “best life now”, you might want to check out my article here: http://marc5solas.com/2012/04/27/stuff-the-bible-doesnt-say-part-2-for-i-know-the-plans-i-have-for-you/)

So, even in this situation, what was God’s guidance to these people in their day to day life as He worked, sovereignly, to free them?

4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29: 4-7

 

Big purpose for their lives.. ready?  Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat what you grow. Get married. Have kids. Work for the good of your community. Pray for your community.

Not very epic, huh?

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How about praying “audacious” prayers? God’s big plan for your life?  I’ll be honest, that stuff sells like hotcakes. People gobble it up faster than Steven Furtick, Mark Batterson, and Rick Warren can churn it out.

But that’s not what scripture teaches.

When Jesus himself (a pretty good authority on prayer, one would think) taught His disciples to pray, how “audacious” and “radical” were His prayers?

Give us daily bread.

Forgive us our sins.

Lead us not into temptation.

Deliver us from evil.

Bookmark that on each end with God’s epic plan for the exiles (plant gardens, build houses, and have families) and God’s great comission to His followers (proclaim the gospel, baptize, and make disciples) and you start to see a God who works in the mundane, pedestrian lives of normal people to accomplish His magnificent plan.  There are no “nominal” vocations when seen in light of God’s use of means!

Which leads me to CAPTCHA (because I’m a nerd, and I think like that).

Even if you don’t know CAPTCHA by name, you’ve certainly seen (and hated) it if you’ve ever tried to do anything from purchase movie tickets to use various facebook functions online.

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While most people know that it’s purpose is to ensure that the fields are being filled out by a person rather than a computer, and for security.. here’s what you may not know:

Those weird words in goofy fonts that you have to type?

Those are scanned images from printed books, often books which are out of print and not available online.

See, when books are scanned, OCR software doesn’t do a very good job on old ink or old fonts.  What used to take hours for a proofreader to go back and manually review and correct now happens in seconds as problem images are pushed out via reCAPTCHA. What you’re doing when you read these words and type them in is actually proofreading an old book and providing valuable feedback!   So while you can’t see the big picture of daily activity, the part you play is infinitely more important than they seem!

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So, young mother, you are absolutely being used, powerfully, of God as you change that diaper. Read that again. I’m not overstating this. God is using your work as a mother as His “mask” as Luther said, His means for accomplishing His will on earth.  If you work oustside the home and rush home to get the kids fed and bathed and in bed, you are the very means by which God is caring for them.

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Dad, as you fight traffic and work through your day, you are being used as the means by which God cares for His creation.

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Student, as you struggle through homework, you are serving God. You are preparing skills which God will use to providentially care for His creation as you serve your neighbor.

So rest in the salvation we recieved by grace through faith in Christ. Know that you stand righteous before God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. You don’t have to DO anything to earn His favor… and in doing so be freed to wisely pursue a career, a family (or not), knowing that God is sovereignly using you to administer his creation.

LOVE God and SERVE your neighbor, knowing that you’ll fail in both but that you are perfectly *perfectly* justified before God in Christ.

Marc

 

NOTE: I’ve only very briefly touched on this subject. For an ouststanding article, and links to primary sources, I highly recommend this article: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=881

 

 

 

 

Posted in General

Marc5Solas is a Meany Pants

 

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I received a comment recently which I think deserves an honest response.  While I’m using this particular comment, it’s not to single this reader out. I get this comment (or one much like it) on a daily basis.  I’d like to use this opportunity to respond.

I hope this comes across as intended: In love toward those who hold this view, but in vicious contention for the truth involved.

Below is the tweet in question, and one of several responses I received:

 

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Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my quote. I don’t want to single you out, but as I get this type of response occasionally, I’d like to respond to it and give others something to consider as they draft similar responses.

I’d like to start by praising God that you “love Jesus will all your heart”.. but to jump the gun here a bit.. I’d have to ask, which Jesus?

The Jesus who is one of many ways, and who is the same as the Mormon Jesus of Joel Osteen?

The modalist Jesus (not part of the trinity) of TD Jakes?

The Jesus of Paula White who promises “financial abundance” as a promise of the Atonement?

 

“God uses us all to bring glory to Him”

 

Amen! Some will be used to His glory in showing His grace, and others used as a means to show His perfect attribute of wrath.  It is, however, our role to point out false teachers within the body of Christ. I see absolutely no scriptural guidance to allow them to continue, unchecked, simply because “God uses them”.  Paul, in his first letter to the church in Corinth said this very thing.. that there must be heretics:

 

“in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” (1 Corinthians 11:19, ESV)

 

“I, personally, have been blessed and touched by some of the things several of these men have said.”

 

At the risk of sounding corny, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”  While there are certainly very generic “christian-ish” or “Jesus” tweets that I would agree with from these false teachers, you don’t have to dig very deep or let them speak very long before you realize that they are in fact teaching blatant heresy.

 

“This breaks my heart.”

 

If you’re talking about believers being misled by heretical teaching, then yes, this breaks my heart as well.

 

“Make sure your heart, Marc5Solas, is full of HIM and not yourself, so He can use you.”

 

But He uses everyone, right? You said so in your first sentence. In all sincerity, I don’t trust my heart. It is wicked above all things. And I pray, daily, that my “stupid-self” wouldn’t in any way hinder my efforts to spread His gospel.

 

“What you have just said makes me turn away from anything you say. I will no longer “like” your page. I love Jesus with all my heart and am deeply hurt by your judgemental and negative comments.”

 

I wish I could say that I didn’t see this coming, but it happens every..single..time.

The very people who accuse me of being judgmental will end their posts being judgmental.  Aren’t you, by saying that I’m judgmental and negative (and saying that you will turn away from anything I say) being, well…. judgmental and negative?

Am I being judgmental? Yes. I am judging their teaching against the faith “delivered once and for all” to the saints.  Do you not agree that we are to, as scripture dictates,examine teachings in light of scripture? And in doing so, are we not to warn brothers and sisters of false teachers? If so, by the very command of scripture we are to not only judge, but warn our brothers and sisters about these teachings!

If you think this small tweet was negative, I’d submit the following from Paul as he identified false teachers by name:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” – Galatians 1:6-11

Paul is saying that anyone teaching a different gospel should be accursed! (Pretty judgmental and negative, isn’t it?)

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he called these false teachers false apostles and deceitful workmen.

In 2 John, we are told that if anyone brings another gospel we are not to receive them in our houses or give them any greeting. (Well, that’s certainly not very nice.)

How about this from 1 Timothy:

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

 

or this from John 8?

 

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

 

or this from Matthew 23?

 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

 

We have false teachers being called: Stupid, Children of Hell, Sons of the Devil, conceited, understanding nothing, deceitful workmen, accursed, whitewashed tombs, dogs returning to their own vomit, and in what would be completely unacceptable to our post-modern sensibilities, Paul says of the Judaizers in Galatia:

“I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” – Galatians 5:12

 

And I’m judgmental, negative, and unworthy to be listened to because I said these three false teachers were not to be listened to?

 

I’d ask you to take a long, hard look at these men, their teachings, and ask yourself what scripture would have us do with them.  Play nice, or call them out as the false teachers they are in order to save brothers and sisters from false teaching, and to contend for the faith delivered to the saints.

 

If you want specifics on why these 3 (specifically) are false teachers, I recommend doing a deep study of their teaching. I won’t point you to biased articles, I’ll ask you to find them speaking, in their own words.  I’ll give a short summary next to each false teacher for those who don’t have the time or inclination to read the full articles:

 

Joel Osteen: (Positive Confession, Word of Faith, Prosperity Gospel)

 

Paula White: (Positive Confession, Word of Faith, Prosperity Gospel)

 

TD Jakes: (Denies the trinity, Word of Faith, Prosperity Gospel)

 

So, to circle back to my initial tweet to pastors:

 

If you’re people are posting quotes from these false teachers on their facebook walls, then someone is dropping the ball in:

Teaching: Teaching sound doctrine in order to show the contrast to heresy.

Discipleship: Nobody knows *everything* and discipleship is a lifelong process.  It is entirely possible that many in the church came from backgrounds where this type of false teaching wasn’t examined. It takes intentional work to disciple believers in proper teaching.

Discipline:  If your church is teaching orthodox theology, and discipleship is helping young/new believers grow in sound doctrine, people who continue to teach this false doctrine should be corrected and rebuked by their leadership.

 

So, I ask you in closing, sister… have you judged my teaching or have you judged my heart?  Is your issue with me simply that I said someone was wrong?  In that case, I would ask you on what logical basis would you call me wrong and judge what I wrote?

My issues with them aren’t personal, I simply call them out *by name* as Paul did to at least 8 false teachers, to warn others of their false teaching.

Sounds like a double standard.  And frankly, I’m OK with that.  I encourage anyone to read what I write on this blog, twitter, or facebook and examine it in light of scripture. I’m certainly not above question, and I’m open to correction.

I hope you’ll continue to read and respond to what I write.  I mean that sincerely.

 

Marc

Posted in General

Creepy White Vans

 

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As Daddy to three beautiful daughters, I worry. Now that 2 of them are teenagers, one of whom is driving, I worry a LOT.  I’d probably worry less if they looked like me, but unfortunately for me (and very fortunately for them) all three got my wife’s good looks.

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While the role of Father has always been that of protector, these days we don’t get much call to bar the door and ride out on horseback to meet the coming threat. No, we perform the mundane heroism of “waiting” and “picking up”.  Knowing when an event ends and when and where I need to be waiting in my truck to pick them up is a big part of what I do now.  And I’m glad to do it.  And all goes well as long as…

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1. I tell them where to find me.

2. They come to where I’ve told them I’ll be.

3. They get in my truck.

 

That’s pretty simple, right?  This is a text exchange I think most of us can relate to:

Me: “Be there in 10min”

Girls: K 🙂

Me: “I’ll be in the parking lot to your right when you walk out.”

Girls: k

And it works. I mean, how could you mess that up? But what if, Lord forbid, they decided to “meet me” somewhere else? Somewhere I never said I’d be? What if they decided to look for me in the alley behind the restaurant? What if they somehow got into the wrong car and rode with someone else? What if the intentionally got into another vehicle because they were promised something, like candy?

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What if they got into a creepy white van?

If the thought is chilling, good. I want the weight of this subject to rest heavily on you. What we’re talking about here is no less serious, or dangerous.

As we look around, we see many in the church lined up to climb into an endless stream of creepy white vans, to their peril.

See, God is, well GOD; Completely beyond our comprehension. Yet, he has revealed Himself to us and agreed to meet us. But we can only meet Him where He’s told us He would be found, and on His terms.

Where has God told us that He would meet us?  What are some of the creepy white vans we have chosen to climb into instead?

God has graciously condescended to be found among men. (Notice that He CON-descended and DE-scended.. we never, ever, ever A-scend.)  and He’s told us he could be found…

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In the Word:

God has revealed Himself to us in His word. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ.  And the means by which we come to be changed by the Holy Spirit is through the spoken words of the Gospel:

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken
to you are spirit and life.
John 15:3-5 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me,
and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can
you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I
in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the
word.

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to
everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of
God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through
wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

Galatians 3:2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by
hearing with faith?

Galatians 3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by
works of the law, or by hearing with faith–

Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your
salvation; in who also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

James 1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind
of firstfruits of his creatures.

1 Peter 1:23-25 …since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable,
through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the
flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains
forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

He meets us in the Waters of Baptism, and the Bread and Wine of Communion:

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Baptism is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word; or as St. Paul says in Holy Scripture, “The washing of water with the word.” Through Baptism, we are made partakers of Christ’s death and resurrection. Since Baptism is connected to the Word and promise of God, it is truly a life-giving water, rich in grace—a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. – John 3:1-8

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit – Titus 3:3-5

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyonewhom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. – Acts 2:37-41

In Holy Communion God offers believers His body and blood under forms of bread and wine for Christians to eat and drink (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

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And at the table of Communion, where we receive His Body and Blood:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:26-29

54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” – John 6:54-58

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

So God has told us, clearly, where He would meet us; The Word, The Waters of Baptism, and The Communion table.  As long as we meet Him there, in the Christ-instituted, objective, means of grace we’ll find Him. Let that sink in.. God has CON-descended to be found by us. He’s told us where he’ll be, not through an oracle on the top of a remote mountain, not in a remote temple, but with us in the common means of word and water, bread and wine… and He’s there. We will FIND Him. What grace!

There’s nothing “magic” or “mystical” about these things. Words. Water. Bread. Wine. Nothing in and of themselves that makes them special, except… that God has promised to meet us there. The same dark parking lot which would terrify my daughters when they walk out of a restaurante becomes a place of safety when I flash my lights to let them know that I’m there. I’m where I told them they would find me.

Now, my girls are about as obedient as a Dad could ever hope for.  Sure, they’re still battling their sinful nature just like the rest of us, but what if in complete disobedience they decided to reach their destination by riding with a stranger? What about someone who offered them candy in the old “creepy white van”? How crazy would one have to be to make that decision? To trade the safety of their Father for the danger of a stranger, simply on the offer of something “more”.

Yet we see it every day. Rather than the simple means of grace, rather than meeting their Father in the assigned location, people chase something “better” by climbing into the creepy white van of…

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Mysticism:

Mysticism is the belief that you can find God inside yourself through “feeling” or “emotion”.  And that God has agreed to meet you “immediately”. (By immediate, I mean without a mediator; A direct, internal connection with God without the mediation of Christ or the means of grace.) God has not agreed to meet you as you jump around and work yourself into a frenzy. Sorry. I’ve done it, and frankly it’s fun, but God never agreed to meet you in your emotion.  You can put yourself into an emotional state and be open to subconscious suggestion, but those “voices” you hear? Are they wrong? Even once? Then guess what, it might be a lot of things, but the Holy Spirit it is most certainly not.

And we climb into this van because rather than listening to our Father, we’ve listened to someone (or in this case, something) trying to lure us away… our heart.

“God laid this on my heart.”  “I feel in my heart that….”

Your heart?  You mean this heart?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery

He that trusts in his own heart is a fool – Proverbs 28:26

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5

That heart? That’s where you’re looking for God to speak? For His voice?

God has revealed himself to us objectively, in things that are real, that we can see, hear, touch, and taste.  They are unchanging and concrete, regardless of your changing heart or emotions.

Are we to respond to His grace in worship? YES! I’ve wept over the beauty of the Gospel and the grace shown to me, but when I attempt to work into this state and THEN hear from God, i’ve gotten it completely backward!

God objectively works from outside of us to change us inside. We can’t start by closing our eyes, making a constipated face, and feeling our way to God. When we do, we’re attempting to climb toward God on the ladder of mysticism.

Word, Water, Bread and Wine? Yes.

Rolling around on the ground or sitting quietly in a chair and waiting to hear voices? No. That’s straight-up mysticism.

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Nature: 

Yes, God has in general revelation shown His wonders in the beauty of His creation.  The problem is, the gospel isn’t there. What you see is, even in it’s beauty, fallen… and it’s all law. You may “feel at one” with God on the lake or hiking in the mountains, but nowhere there will you discover Christ crucified for your sins. For the gospel you need the Word.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll stop here. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks working through how we attempt to climb various ladders to A-scend to God.  For now, let’s focus on not climbing into those two creepy white vans. The promises are empty lies.. there is no “candy”, just very real danger.  If it’s worse to lose your soul than your life, the white van of mysticism is worse than any creepy white van the movies have ever shown us.

 

Don’t talk to strangers!

 

Marc

 

 

Posted in General

The Epidemic of Leadership

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Leadership. I like it. I’m interested in it. At the risk of sounding like Paul in his letter to the Philippians, let me throw this out there;

I’m a C-level executive. I work with a Lakewood Church sized budget. I have the formal education and training. I speak at executive conferences. I do the seminars. I read the books. I mentor promising junior executives. I’m certainly not opposed to leadership.

But that’s because my charter is clear, and it’s defined by the stakeholders of my company. It’s measurable, and it’s pragmatic.  It has a cash-value bottom line. I’m asked to create strategic and “vision” documents to chart the course for my organization.

So… why is there such a fascination with leadership in the church? Why would your pastor be reading the same books and following the same leadership blogs that I am?

There is a drought of leadership in the church, but it’s not due to the lack of leadership training at the pastoral level.

The problem is that we’ve forgotten our charter.

Sure, for the sake of mission we get the “to do” right:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching themto observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)

 

So, with the “do” (imperative) in hand, we default to doing what our heart desires… taking the reins, rolling up our sleeves and doing it ourselves.

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So, we look for the tools of the trade around us: leadership, marketing, demographics, techniques, etc.  And these tools work for their intended purposes. They work well in my chosen career. They can certainly mobilize, organize and energize a group of people to unite behind a cause.  Unfortunately, that cause could be anything from building a new city library, to creating a terrorist organization. There is nothing inherently Christian about these tools.

But what if we look at the “why” (imperative) of the great commission?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV)

We find no “bottom line” pragmatism here. No call to “hit our numbers” for the quarter. Our charter is clear: All authority has been given to Jesus (the why) so we are sent to make disciples, baptize, and teach.

And we’ve even been given the “how” (means) of how we will fulfill this call: Jesus will be with us. And so He is, in the preached word of His gospel. In the body and blood of communion. And in the water of baptism.

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So, we have an epidemic of leadership in the church. Not because we value leadership, but because we have a current obsession with being leaders.

The leadership position has been filled: All authority is given to Christ.

The mission has been made clear: Make disciples, baptize, and teach the scriptures.

The means has been made clear: Christ with us in word and sacrament.

So to jump on the latest leadership fad, to replace the activities of discipleship, baptism, and teaching of scripture with anything else, and to use the tools of western business is to replace the authority of Christ, the Great Commission, and the Means of Grace.

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You may be successful by the metrics of business, but the “performance” review may go really, really poorly for you when you are called to give an account for your performance.

I’m NOT saying that we don’t have church leadership. We not only need, but are directed by scripture to have church leadership to whom we are to model as they model Christ. Please don’t see this as a screed against “leaders”. I’m simply trying to challenge the notion that “leadership” in a wester business model (with it’s method, measure, and metric) is for the church.

So, do you believe that all authority has been given to Jesus?

Do you believe He is mighty to save His people and send you to disciple, baptize, and teach scripture?

Do you believe He will do so with the simple means of grace?

Do your actions show this, or do you really.. deep down.. believe that you need to employ the better technique, the better plan, the better program to really get it done?

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I can certainly tell you how I would handle a subordinate who took over my office, replaced my gameplan with their own, and did so under their own power.  How much more accountable are we to Jesus and His Great Commission?

Just a thought.

Marc

 

 

 

 

Posted in General

Does God Get it Wrong?

 

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There seems to be a never-ending parade of folks hearing from God. I would say “these days” but it has been happening from the beginning of time.  There are those who sit at the bus stop  claiming to talk to Jesus (or BE Jesus). Those guys are mentally unstable, right? What about the guy in the suit standing behind a lectern who tells you that God told him something? Crazy? Prophetic?

Let’s look at a few, actual, historical examples. The pattern is obvious and changes little over the course of history. Some of this might surprise you. If you thought a guy in a suit is more credible, what about 3 of the largest religious affiliations on the planet? Are there lessons to be learned here? Let’s take a look:

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1. In 610 AD, nearly 6 centuries after the death of Christ, a 40-year-old prophet from the Arabian Peninsula began receiving messages from God from the angel Gabriel.  He was believed (and his followers continue to believe today) to have been the restorer of the original monotheistic faith; that of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

The problem? The information supposedly imparted in this direct revelation, when speaking of the errors of Christianity, is inaccurate in regard to what Christianity actually teaches. When these writings speak to matters of historically objective Christianity, they don’t contain what is written in the Old and New Testaments, rather what was understood about these writings in the Arabian peninsula during this period in history.  If you want to quickly identify a man-made historical document, you can validate (or disprove it) in light of information which would have been available to a *man* at the time, and contrast that with what was actually true yet little known, but would be known to an omniscient *God* at that point.  How does this play out?

In the content above, we have descriptions of christianity which are not only inaccurate, but in direct conflict with the christian faith.  Without going into the errors of the infancy gospels or the divinity of Christ, here’s an example that should be obvious to anyone: In condemning the teaching of the trinity, the Koran identifies the trinity as God (the father), Jesus, and Mary.

So, either God somehow changed (or forgot) the persons of the trinity, or the author of this content had a historically limited view of the christian faith.

The result? Islam, the second largest religion on the planet and it’s revelation from God, The Koran.

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How about on the American shores?

In 1835, a 30-year-old New York man, who had previously received direct revelation, multiple times from God himself and angels, began translation work on what would later be known as “The Book of Abraham”.  This translation was from ancient Egyptian Papyri which had been found, sent to America, and purchased by the young man.  Even more surprisingly, this young man was enabled to not only translate the ancient text, but to codify the alphabet and grammar from this single document.  Quite impressive!

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The problem?  While egyptian hieroglyphy was unknown in the mid 1800’s, it was later developed substantially and experts were able to go back and view both the papyri and the supposed translation.  In 1912, these documents were sent to 8 scholars who all identified the papyri to be an ordinary funerary document.  Their feedback on the young man’s supposed translation:

Egyptologist Dr. James H. Breasted of the University of Chicago noted:

“… these three facsimiles of Egyptian documents in the ‘Pearl of Great Price’ depict the most common objects in the Mortuary religion of Egypt. (his) interpretations of them as part of a unique revelation through Abraham, therefore, very clearly demonstrates that he was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing and civilization.”

Dr. W.M. Flinders Petrie of London University wrote:

“It may be safely said that there is not one single word that is true in these explanations”

Dr. A.H. Sayce, Oxford professor of Egyptology,

“It is difficult to deal seriously with (his) impudent fraud…. (he) has turned the goddess [Isis in Facsimile No. 3] into a king and Osiris into Abraham.”

 

The problem? The author is Joseph Smith, founder of the 3rd largest religious denomination in the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), better known as “Mormons”.

 

And finally, one that may surprise you as it hits within “mainstream” Christianity:

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In October of 1900, a 27 year old Kansas man named Charles Fox Parham formed a Bible College in Topeka, Kansas.  The only textbook was the Bible and the only teacher was the Holy Spirit, with Parham acting as the spirit’s “mouthpiece”.

In December 1900, Parham sent his students (who had been at the Bible College less than 3 months) to diligently search the scriptures for the Biblical evidence for his theory of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”.  The students returned with the view that “baptism in the Holy Sprit” was evidenced by speaking in unknown tongues.

With this view, Parham called a “watch night” prayer service on December 31, 1900 to pray fervently through the night.  According to Parham, after midnight on January 1, 1901, a student named Agnes Ozman asked that hands be laid upon her in prayer.

“I had scarcely repeated three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak English for three days. When she tried to write in English to tell us of her experience she wrote the Chinese, copies of which we still have in newspapers printed at that time.” – Charles Fox Parham

I’m sure you can guess where this is going.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your view) we DO still have copies of what Agnes wrote during those three days:

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The problem is predictable and follows the pattern. While Chinese was obscure on the Kansas plains in 1901, it is not obscure today.  What you see above is most certainly not chinese.  I personally submitted this paper, with no background story, to a colleague who holds a PhD in Chinese from The University of Texas at Austin as well as several Chinese chinese co-workers. Their responses were uniform:

“This is gibberish.”

 “This isn’t Chinese.”  

“This is actually quite funny. Someone said this was Chinese?”

The problem?

The woman, Agnes Ozman was a student of Charles Fox Parham and her experience is now known as the Topeka Revival which began the modern Pentecostal-Holiness movement. Parham’s ministry moved several times to areas which continue to this day to be hotbeds of the pentecostal movement, notably southwest Missouri and Houston, Texas and in 1914, Parham’s “Apostolic Faith Movement” merged with several other pentecostal groups to form The General Councils of the Assemblies of God, the largest pentecostal denomination in the world.

Parham’s view of this “baptism in the Holy Spirit” was its necessity for assurance of the salvation of the believer and that ONLY those exhibiting this baptism would be raptured at Christ’s second coming ,whose total number would be 144,000. (A view later rejected by the Assemblies of God.)  The problems here are obvious and many as there are significantly more than 144,000 people speaking in tongues. There are more than 280 million pentecostals globally. 1 in 4 professing Christians identify themselves as pentecostal.

Of interest is the fact that Parham believed these utterances to be literal, known, human languages which would eliminate the need for missionaries to receive language training prior to their placement on the mission field. Parham labeled this as “xenoglossae”, or “foreign languages”.

The most notable and documented cases of this belief was of A.G. Garr.

The following is from Dr. Gary McGee (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church History and Pentecostal Studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary):

“God is solving the missionary problem,” trumpeted the Apostolic Faith newspaper,published by the Azusa Street mission in Los Angeles, California. Indeed, “the Lord has givenlanguages to the unlearned, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Zulu and languages of Africa, Hindu and Bengali and dialects of India, Chippewa and other languages ofthe Indians, Esquimaux, the deaf mute language and . . . the Holy Ghost speaks all the languages of the world through His children.”

The best-known attempt to demonstrate this proficiency came when Alfred G. (“A. G.”) Garr, pastor of the Metropolitan Holiness Church in the city, and his wife Lillian, left for the east coast in July 1906 to board ship for India, the first missionaries to leave Azusa for the “regions beyond.”

Unlike their Protestant missionary counterparts who often struggled to learn the necessary languages for mission work, the Garrs insisted they had already received the ones they needed directly from the Holy Spirit before they even left the shores of America. They could now avoid the time-consuming delay of formal language study—usually requiring several years—and begin preaching once they arrived. 

Though a missionary to India visiting Los Angeles had challenged Alfred’s ability to speak Bengali, he went still confidant that he could not only speak the language, but Chinese as well. Lillian claimed Tibetan and Chinese.

Early in the Calcutta revival, A. G. Garr not only had to face his inability to speak Bengali, but also had to re-examin the actual meaning of speaking in tongues. 

The young student, Agens Ozman later spoke of her experience, which began the modern Pentecostal-Holiness movement (which birthed the Assemblies of God, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, and the United Pentecostal Church) and summed up the problem with the errors we see in the following article published in 1909:

“Some time ago I tried but failed to have an article printed which I wrote calling attention to what I am sure God showed me was error. The article maintained that tongues was not the only evidence of the Spirit’s Baptism. When that article was refused I was much tempted by Satan, but God again graciously showed me He had revealed it to me, and satisfied my heart in praying that He might reveal this truth to others who would spread it abroad. For awhile after the baptism I got into spiritual darkness, because I did as I see so many others are doing these days, rested and reveled in tongues and other demonstrations instead of resting alone in God.” 

And here we see the common thread in all “direct revelation” from God. At best, it leads to unorthodox theology and a misfocus on the “new” message over the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, such as…

“The biggest thing for us in our exegesis of Scripture is that we believe in baptism in the Holy Spirit.” – Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions

…and at worst leads to outright rejection of Christ’s atoning work (Islam and Mormonism).

I challenge you to look at the message of any ministry which received such “direct revelation” from God, do they point to Christ’s atoning work on the cross for the forgiveness of sin? Do they confront the unbelievers with their sin and plead for their repentance, salvation, and rest in Christ?

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I believe that you’ll find, as the Mother of the Pentecostal movement herself found and repented of later in life that they do not.  “New Revelation” will always, always, replace the gospel.. and it will replace it with faith in yourself; your “feelings” and your works. If these revelations are truly “from God” then they would, be definition, be on par with commands of scripture. In other words, they would be law and to disobey them would be sin. These “new revelations” may be as seemingly obvious as someone claiming that a 900 foot Jesus appeared  and commanded them to build a medical center which would be a success (and which actually closed 8 years later) like Oral Roberts.

Others, like the current “Vision Casting” phenomenon are a bit more subtle.  Either way, looking for direct/extra-biblical revelation is a recipe for disaster.  Either way, we’re obscuring the gospel taught by the apostles, and putting people under new “law” outside of scripture.. all because of a “vision” or something “in our spirit” or “laid on our heart”.

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God speaks to you. He speaks to you every time you open scripture and begin to read of the faith once and all delivered to the saints.

Don’t be deceived by your subjective emotion. The heart is wicked above all things and certainly not the place to look for “nudges”.  Open the word, the very “breath of God”.

Marc

 

 

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