She stared unblinking as cold sweat ran down her face. The bag around her shoulders pulled her toward the door, as if its contents wanted to return to the prince.
During Florida’s evacuation ahead of hurricane Irma, Christian evangelical celebrity Kirk Cameron live-streamed a message to Facebook that the hurricane was God’s power on display. Quoting from Job, he pointed out that God is in control of the weather. The proper response to seeing God’s power is to be in awe and repent.
Not long before, movie celebrity Jennifer Lawrence claimed that the hurricane was Mother Nature’s judgment on our nation for electing President Trump.
Are these celebs right? Is the weather a message from God (or mother nature)?
Remember those highly important, yet secretive little notes passed between desks in junior high? Each person in the chain must be trusted not to open the note, not on the way to the intended person, not on the way back. Yes, you guessed it, this was before cell phones and texting. Their content was simple, but vital. They had check-boxes with ‘like,’ ‘really like,’ ‘friend,’ and ‘love’ written next to them. One’s entire future depended on which box was checked. It meant the difference between getting a date after school, or walking home with despair. In reading certain verses in the Bible, it can really be the same sort of thing.
Genesis 9:9-17 KJV — And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
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Does a wedding ceremony make you married? “Of, course,” you say! Well, does baptism save a person? Many will answer “no.”
This morning I was reading Acts chapter 2 where Peter says, “repent and be baptised …in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit.”
Peter later says in one of his epistles that baptism is for the remission of sins.
Many take this literally to say that you aren’t saved until you get baptised.
Of course, the rest of scripture indicates that isn’t the case. And since there is only one gospel, there must be something else going on.
Look at what Peter says “…in the name of Jesus Christ…”
A name is more than the word. It denotes the character and essence of a person. It includes their reputation and all that they stand for.
The name of Jesus is Lord, Savior, Sacrifice, Master…the list is long.
Being baptized into his name is not an outward ritual. It’s an inward change that we accept by grace and through faith. We take on a new nature, a new name. The old is gone. The new has come. The bars used for outward cleansing are filled with the new wine of Inward renewal.
It’s normal for Christians to ask, “where do you go to church.”
This creates some need for explanation when we learn that we are the church. Well, how can you go to something that you are?
We should never stop seeking out and gathering together with other Christians. But maybe it’s time we stop calling a building the church.
Perhaps it would be better to ask, “where do you attend worship?” It might be at home with a small group. It might be in a large building. But you’re garnering to worship, you’re celebrating the body of Christ, you’re not going to church (a building).
Recently, Hillsong “Pastor” Carl Lentz was seen knocking back stiff drinks with Justin Bieber. Not only that, but apparently Carl is making news for being a “hot, shirtless pastor.” Oh, and Biebs was taking off his shirt and pulling down his pants for the female bartenders while Carl sat with an approving smile.
Bieber isn’t the only celebrity with whom Carl and the other so-called pastors at Hillsong rub elbows. Carl has photo-ops with well-known rappers and celebrities of all stripes. And it’s all in the name of “spreading the gospel.”
Unless you think this is an aberration, many of these mega churches are well connected with celebrities. Even if it isn’t a “Hollywood” celebrity, it could be a well-know Christian celebrity, like Tobymac, or maybe a former contestant from American Idol, or The Voice. If it isn’t those level of acts, it will be strong men who rip phone books in half and do other stunts, claiming it is done in the “power of the Lord.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a new phenomenon, either. I enjoy reading books by F.B. Meyer, a preacher from the late 1800s. In one of his books he commented on how some churches would do comedy skits and shows to attract members.
This is nothing new. Ever since the fall of man, we’ve admired our own images and followed the charisma of human leaders, looking to be close to some celebrity. This is the world’s method. We should wonder whether it is to be used by the disciples of Jesus Christ.
Put another way, are we to engage in “friendship evangelism?” The answer is somewhat less black and white, which is why we need discernment.
One form of friendship evangelism is what we see in mainstream evangelicalism. We see it when the pastor dresses like a biker, uses a lot of trendy cultural references, turns his sermons into a comedy monologue with a point (hopefully). It shows up when Christians celebrate with a friend at a pagan rally or ceremony that flies in the face of what the Bible says is good and true, hoping that their winsome attitude will encourage their friend to consider becoming a Christian. It looks like Hillsong with their creepy animal masks, Naked Cowboy, and celebrity instagram feed.
Rather than comment on this myself, I’ll let the Bible speak for itself:
“Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4
Do you think Carl Lentz wants to be friends with the world?
I know, they’ll point to this verse:
“I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22b
Notice, that’s the last part of the verse. Often, it is important to know the whole verse, and maybe even the context of the chapter or even book.
“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; for woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.
For if I do this of mine own will, I have a reward: but if not of mine own will, I have a stewardship intrusted to me.
What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the gospel.
For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more.
And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law.
To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:16-22
I underlined a few key parts. First, Paul was compelled to tell the Gospel as someone who was entrusted with something. It would be dangerous for him NOT to preach the whole Gospel. And he did so without charging money! He admits that a preacher can claim a right to have their needs met (a far cry from the salary demands of many pastors in America, or the idea that they should have the median income of the average person attending their church–so let’s get those churches in wealthy communities, shall we?). No, Paul saw the Gospel not as a form of gain, but a duty to preach for the glory of God.
Paul bore these standards upon himself willingly as a duty to Christ, his Master. He considered himself in bondage to all those around him, which is a sign of his humility. Read his letters! He never once demands things based on who he was, or based on the fact that he saw Christ. He mocks such an idea that he would do so.
Then he says he would become like a Jew–under the law–or like a Gentile–not under the law. He clarifies that he’s no longer bound by the letter of the Mosaic Law, and he’s never without God’s law. The meaning here is that he doesn’t go out of his way to offend people. So, if he’s witnessing to a Jewish man, he won’t serve him bacon. If he’s preaching to a Gentile, he won’t insist that everything should be Kosher.
He goes on to say that he becomes weak to gain the weak! Paul identifies himself with those who are not powerful, attractive and influential. He’s meek and humble.
Paul’s attitude is the polar opposite of the friendship evangelist’s M.O. Paul wasn’t taking selfies with the elite and posting them on his Facebook page. He wasn’t re-naming his sermons to sound like trendy titles of the day. He wasn’t making T-Shirts that look like the latest fashions from Rome.
In fact, Paul was brutally persecuted by the elite and powerful. He was despised by the influential people of his day. No sooner did he leave a congregation did others come in and badmouth him. Read 2 Corinthians where he makes his defense against such things.
Paul is not a poster boy for Friendship evangelism.
On the other hand, if we mean that we are to be friendly, showing the love of Christ, that is true. Christ called all manner of people out of sin to follow him. In that way He clashed with the Pharisees who looked down on various classes of people. Jesus offered rest for our souls, promising to lift the burden of our sin if we turned from our rebelliousness and followed Him.
Peter didn’t have silver or gold, but he offered the Gospel to the cripple at the beautiful gate in Jerusalem. By the power of Christ, the man’s legs were healed, too. But the greater miracle was over 3,000 people repenting and turning to Christ.
As Christ’s ambassadors we are to love our enemies, do good to them that hurt us, and pray for those who spitefully use us. A good example of this was the early church, of course. More recently (relatively) we can look to the Anabaptists who sought the welfare of those who were killing them. They would feed and clothe their enemies. One Anabaptist was being pursued. If he were caught, he’d be executed for his crime of being an Anabaptist. His pursuer fell through the ice and was going to drown. The Anabaptist couldn’t allow that to happen. For his goodness he was killed.
That is the way we shine. That is how we should be seeking the welfare of the world around us. That is how we should be a friend to the world.