Never again. Those somber words fall from the lips of those who remember the Holocaust, when Nazi Germany murdered Jews, dumping them in mass graves. Sadly, we don’t hold the same attitude when we remember the Reformation period. It, too, drips with the blood of the minority at the hands of a greater power. The slaughter, like the Holocaust, attempted to extinguish opposition to the State Church, invoking a single word: Authority.
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.
I’m working on a graphic novel with my oldest daughter. It’s a story that I’ve had for some time and have been working on in parts over the past few years. It’s gone through some different versions … but something hit me as we were talking it through: Is the Gospel a story device for us to use? Or, putting it another way, is Christian Fiction safe? Or does it do harm?
Chances are you know someone who ‘speaks in tongues.’ If you run in a church crowd or have friends who do, you most certainly know someone. This practice is linked to the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, described in the Acts of the Apostles and by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians.
Though the first instance of speaking in tongues is without a doubt related to known languages … that fact has been lost. In fact, some believe it was lost at the time Paul was writing to the Corinthians.
I came across this YouTube teaching that summarizes the issue very well.
This vlogger is not what folks would call a “cessationist,” or one who believes the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament were only for that short period. But he also isn’t one who believes the babbling “spiritual language” of the charismatic movement is genuine.
I don’t believe any of God’s gifts have ceased any more than they had stopped between Elijah and Moses. God decides when and how His power will be shown.
In every instance, God’s power is dispensed according to His will and for His glory.
To illustrate this, look at the healing ministry of Peter in Acts 5:14-15: “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.”
Some will argue that the Bible doesn’t say the shadow healed anyone. But, that appears to be the obvious intention of the passage, since there’s a comma after the multitude that is being added to the Lord. And the very next verse says that all who came to him were healed.
But, this power didn’t continue. Paul couldn’t send a hankerchief to his friends to heal them. He couldn’ be healed himself of his “thorn in the flesh.” None of the other Apostles could heal Paul.
It’s obvious from the context that, in contrast to Jesus’ ministry, which healed people apart from the Gospel, the Apostles healing came after the people believed and were added to the Lord.
Does this mean that everyone who repents of their sin and believes on the Lord Jesus as their Savior will have their sickness healed? No.
The point of the healing appears to be a sign, like Elijah’s signs, like Moses, like Jesus. If it became a celebrity status for Peter or Paul, it would no longer be glory for God.
The Almighty doesn’t share His glory. His people give it to Him without holding on to a single bit. And without remorse.
So, think about that when someone talks about the “gifts of the spirit” or of speaking in tongues. Who is being honored? How is God being glorified?
For my part, I believe God can and does perform miracles. He may choose to do so in the presence of a particular person to authenticate their message (as with Moses, Elijah, Peter, Paul, etc.). Or He may do it apart from any human agency. But there is only one who gets the glory.
19, 10, 18, 24, 25, 25. No, that’s not my high-school locker combination. Those are the chapters and verses in Matthew, Mark and Luke that record one of the more popular illustrations that Jesus gave:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
I’ve heard that the “eye of the needle” referred to a gate in the city that wouldn’t allow a camel to pass when it had all its baggage on it. Allegedly, the camel would have to be unloaded, get on its knees and then crawl through.
I’m thinking the illustration is more imagination than fact. The meaning is actually worse than the fanciful explanation: No one can enter the kingdom of God through their riches, either moral or monetary. Let’s look at the context.
I was shocked when Ted Dekker, a well-known Christian author–son of missionaries to Indonesia–ripped off the mask to reveal himself as a prophet of Baal.
I’ve written about it here for part 1 and here for part 2. Like all heretics, he declares that he received an audible-yet-not-audible word directly from God telling him to forget everything he knows about God and embrace the new way that God was going to reveal to him.
There’s a long list of people who will have similar stories. Some are more heretical than others, but they all bring strange fire before the Almighty. They all claim to have a New Way that nobody knows about. For Ted, it’s the ‘Forgotten Way.’ And it can be yours, for as low as …
Funny how that works. I’m fairly certain that Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and John never charged for their inspired works. How times have changed.
I continue to see Ted–in unrepentant fashion–promote his new cult. Here’s a quote:
Why are people leaving churches? We’ve lost sight of the power found in our true identity as the light which manifests in a radical love without which all else is found worthless, as Paul wrote. Ignorant of who we are, our own self-limiting beliefs sabotage us and keep us in darkness every day. But that can change today. Watch this eye-opening 2 minute video and see the only problem Christians face today. You don’t have a light. You ARE the light.
Good marketing always tells people what they want to believe.
This pill will shed all your excess fat without any exercise or special diet!
Drinking beer will make you popular and sexy!
Drive this car and you’ll command respect from everyone around you!
Wear this bracelet and you’ll have energy all day!
You can write a novel in 3 days if you follow these two simple steps!
I think we’ve all seen these types of things. The Superbowl is coming up and we’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll … buy. We even know that it’s pure marketing, but we still really, really want to believe it.
Same with what Ted’s selling. It’s actually no different than what Rob Bell advanced in his book, Love Wins. The premise is that our ignorance of God’s love is our ‘hell’ or ‘darkness.’
Rob says that everyone is a child of God and are already in His family. They simply choose to leave, like the prodigal son. Or, like the older brother, when the prodigal’s father throws a party upon the younger son’s return, everyone is at God’s ‘party,’ though some create a ‘hell’ for themselves because they allow envy to get in the way of experiencing the Father’s love.
Ted’s doing exactly the same thing: Our ‘ignorance’ of ‘who we are’ is ‘keeping us in darkness.’
But that’s not the most startling thing. He goes on to say who we are is The Light.
You don’t have a light. You ARE the light.
Ted rips this from Luke 16:8, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Context is key. Just like Mr. Bell can offer a plausible twist to parables and other verses to support his universalism, so does Ted.
The context of Luke is the testimony of the believer. If we turn to John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Again in John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
John the Baptist was sent as a forerunner to testify to the ‘light that shines in the darkness.’ John 1:5-8.
Ted and Rob’s message to the world is the same: We’re ignorant of who we are and we need to simply ‘wake up.’ In fact, that’s the title of Ted’s e-book promo for his Forgotten Way study. Once we let go of our “self-limiting beliefs,” we will be free to experience God the way we are meant to.
This message is appealing because it comes packaged in terms our culture loves. It’s a ‘cleanse,’ as if we need to clean out the toxins that have polluted us. Evidently, orthodox theology is one of those toxins!
It’s easy! 12 days, or 20, or 30, or, gasp, 40. Those are always the quick 12-step-program words that promise we’ll be kicked into high spiritual gear!
Do this study and in 20 days you’ll be experiencing heaven on earth, here and now!
What if you could take a simple spiritual cleanse to free you from all the negative thoughts and beliefs that are keeping you from experiencing life to the fullest?–Ted Dekker
Sign me up! I don’t want to wait! I want my milk and cookies now!
It also appeals to us because we all crave acceptance, but we loath repentance. We desire love, but hate truth that allows intimacy.
Ted and Rob’s version of the gospel offers a mirage of love. It’s actually more like infatuation, or puppy love. It’s self-centered and experience-based. It sits and dreams of an image of our ‘loved one,’ but knows that when we get to know the actual person, things will fall apart.
Hence the term “fall out of love.”
I thank God that His version of love is not this insipid, gooey Valentine’s Day box of chocolate love. God didn’t send us a glittery, cheesy card with Hallmark sentiments.
No, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ who had to bear the weight of our sinful rebellion against the demands of God’s Righteousness. It was a burden you and I could not carry or pay. Not in a thousand lifetimes could we compensate for the offense against an eternal God.
Puppy love knows nothing of the demands of true Love. Puppy love doesn’t look at our sinfulness and die to redeem us from it!
This is why it can be so sugary-sweet and then so desperately empty. It’s the donut compared to the true meal. We may prefer the pastry, but our bodies will waste away.
True Love required a heavy price. True Love depended on God, not us. For He loved us while we were still in open rebellion to Him. Romans 5:8.
Love demands we turn from our sin and make Jesus our Lord because he bought us on the cross. Love will then show itself in our obedience to Him, as our Lord.
Dekker references “radical love,” as evidence that we’ve found our true identity as “the light.” His version of love, however, doesn’t cross paths with obedience. It simply “holds no account of wrong,” and is the genial non-judgmental acceptance of everyone.
This is where heresy gets it’s power. It sometimes has 90% truth to it. It’s true that we must forgive those who sin against us. We are to turn the other cheek. We are to go two miles when someone compels us to go one. We are to love our enemies. We are to do good to those who hurt us and despitefully use us.
But, how are we to love them? Though we don’t strike back, but turn the other cheek, we should wonder, why do they keep striking us? Why would they be enemies to us if we go extra miles and love them?
Because, what we love more than the acceptance of our fellow man is the acceptance of God. And God calls us to run the race, put to death the things of the flesh, and grow the fruit of the spirit through obedience to Him.
Paul compared his spiritual life to an athlete in severe training, working his body so that he’d find favor from God at the end of his course. He’d rather die than deny his Lord through disobedience or hypocrisy.
We are to hold every thought captive to God. Each attitude must be passed under God’s gaze to burn away our self-life (pride, selfishness, greed, envy, etc.).
The Christian life is not about letting go our ignorance or our ‘self-limiting beliefs.’ It’s about putting to death the works of the flesh.
Apart from Christ, and His life within us, we most certainly are not the light.
God has impossible demands that no one can meet! God wants perfection, but that’s not me. I’m tired of all the judgment and the rules. I can’t do anything right, so I guess I’m just going to unplug and do my own thing!
That’s the response many have to Christianity. And it happens because they have not seen the beauty of the Gospel, which is filled with Grace from an incredibly loving God. Continue reading →