Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"The Bible does NOT teach Socialism!"

Jesus said, "I will build my CHURCH!" (Matthew 16:18).  He said, " ... the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for MANY" (Matthew 20:28).  Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples (of Jesus) of all nations, baptizing them INTO (into a relationship with) 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).

According to Ephesians 1:20-23, God "seated Him (Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the Messiah, the Savior and Lord of those who believe in Him) at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as Head over all things TO THE CHURCH, which is HIS Body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

Last Saturday, June 30th, a full-page article was placed in a local newspaper, signed by more than sixty "elder" retired clergy and educators who had gotten together and written a "Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis."  They declared the belief that "the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake."  What followed was an attack on President Trump and those who may support him or his policies (though neither he nor his followers were mentioned directly).  It was what was presented as the role of the Church that disturbs me the greatest, the idea that the Bible promotes what can only be labeled as "socialism," the establishment of a rule of government called "democracy" where "mob rule" establishes policy and where there is no unchangeable standard of right and wrong.  What makes this all the more disturbing is that it is those who claim to know Christ and to believe in the Bible who are promoting a society where most of the Bible is ignored!

There is not room in this somewhat brief blog post to address all the inaccuracies and and twisted Bible verses in the article, but let me point out a few.  The first is the basis for the rest:  the idea that "The church's role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ."  A verse that was quoted was John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  First of all, Jesus was talking to those who were His disciples, and secondly, nowhere in the Bible are we told that our mission as disciples of Jesus is to change the world; in fact, God tells us the world will get worse before Jesus returns and that His people will be persecuted.  The Bible says that a "counterfeit gospel" will continue to attract followers, but we who are truly disciples of Jesus must teach all that HE has commanded.

The article refers to Galatians 3:28, a very popular and often misinterpreted verse of Scripture today, in support of the teaching that the entire human race is one in Christ:  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  Of course, verse 29 is left out:  "And IF you are Christ's, THEN you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (the promise that "whoever calls on (believes in) the name of the Lord (Jesus Christ) shall be saved" (Romans 10:13).  The role of the Church, the true and one Body of Christ that is made up of every true believer, those who have been born again by His Spirit ... the role of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel, calling some out of darkness and confirming the judgment of God regarding those who reject His offer of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ.  We will NOT change the world!  This world and all who do not know Jesus Christ are destined for God's judgment.  That is why, in love, we proclaim Jesus and the cross, calling people to repentance and faith as the only way to be saved from the judgment to come.  This is our task, this is our role.

In addition to that, we are called to be salt and light, not by telling everyone, "God loves you," but by calling them to confess their sin, repent and believe in Jesus Christ.  God says, "take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).  That is part of the role of the Church in society.  Telling people who have not repented and believed that God's loves them and that they are "children of God" in their present state of rebellion is a lie and it leaves people in their state of deception and spiritual death and darkness.  That is NOT love!

The article calls for racial justice and that is a biblical principle.  It calls for respect and equality for all races and for men and women alike.  These things are good and right.  It calls for justice for the poor and vulnerable and for strangers, and once again, God's Word speaks of the treatment of others as a testimony to who we are as followers of the Christ.  This, however, is where the authors go astray from sound biblical teaching once again.  No mention is made of the most vulnerable, the unborn, who are killed by the millions in our nation.  Instead, the clear reference is to the present "system" in our nation that oppresses people of different races by denying healthcare to the poor and cutting taxes for the rich.  These are slanted views which, if spoken by individuals, they have the right to say, but in speaking for the Church are inappropriate and lack accuracy and biblical support when declaring that "budgets are moral documents."

It is said that, "Protecting the poor is a central commitment of Christian discipleship, to which 2,000 verses in the Bible attest."  What is the Church called to do for the poor?  What does it mean to BE poor?  There are a lot of reasons for poverty and the Church is called to touch the lives of people with the Gospel and to lead people to Christ.  As people come to Christ they find new meaning, new purpose, new direction and along with that comes new life and a new family (the Church) and new opportunities.  The article confuses the role of the Church with the role of the government and in so doing promotes a type of "democracy" that leans toward and actually promotes socialism.  The whole point of Acts 2-4 was that IN THE CHURCH there were none that had needs because they shared with one another.  This is where the "love one another" comes into focus.  It is the work of the Spirit in the children of God who are disciples of Jesus Christ.  The Church is called to be an "oasis" in the midst of the desert of human misery and spiritual death.  Here is where you find "living water" and "bread from heaven."  Here is where you find Jesus.  The world can't be and won't be changed without believing in and confessing Jesus as Savior and Lord!!

Christians can and should be involved in the political arena, seeking to promote godliness and truth ... GOD's truth.  It IS the role of the Church to speak, but we must be sure that what we speak is what God has revealed in His Word as truth.  It IS the role of our government to protect its citizens and to promote justice.  The current debate about immigration is another example where choosing a few verses and making them fit what you want to say does not rightly present God's truth.  Leaders in the Church must be careful how we apply God's Word to our present situation and circumstances.  The authors of the article declare, "We reject domination rather than stewardship of the earth's resources, toward genuine global development that brings human flourishing for all of God's children."  This is a dangerous statement, even though it sounds appealing to many.  When the true "Antichrist" comes, he would have no trouble signing on to the idea that we all just need to get along ... just leave out the cross, repentance and forgiveness.  Just make Christianity one of many "good" religions and Jesus one of many "good teachers."

Quoting the Bible, quoting Jesus, talking about the ills of society and the leaders of our government, but not offering Christ and the new heaven and earth is NOT the message of the Bible.  It is NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Preaching the Gospel and applying the truth of the Lordship of Christ as disciples of Jesus is our true calling.  Apart from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ there will be no "new world."  The problems in our society are many.  Christians are called to be salt and light and to influence our culture for good.  We do that best when we fulfill our calling to preach the Gospel and to call people to be disciples of Jesus Christ, to acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord, and to obey ALL that He teaches in His Word.

I call those who signed on to this letter to consider our calling, to be engaged in the lives of those who need Jesus Christ, as all of Jesus' disciples are called to do, and to preach the Word rather than misapply a few verses to make political points.  Interestingly, I will be preaching on what it means to "love our neighbors" this Sunday!  I pray for wisdom to speak what God reveals in His Word ... nothing more ... nothing less.  May God alone, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the one true God, our Creator, "who loved the world in this, that He gave His only Son, that WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM should not perish but have eternal life" ... may HE be praised by those who know Him and who love Him, for it is by His grace alone that we have been saved and that we have a message to proclaim:  the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  May we be about our Father's business!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Christians and "public" education ...

"Hear, O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ... You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the people around you - for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God - lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 6:4-9,14-15).

There is currently a debate in our community about whether a class on sexuality should include "gender fluidity" and training the children to be sensitive and kind to those who have "gender dysphoria" (confusion), or who identify as LGBTQ.  What seems to be missed by nearly all those discussing what should be included in such a class is the fact that for Christians there is only one source for sexual education of any kind and that is God's Word, the Bible.

The verses above are quoted from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, written by Moses as God spoke to him, but the principle revealed is true for all generations until Jesus comes:  Those who know the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 6:10-12) are responsible to teach their children the law of God as it is applied to the New Testament people of God, the Church.  While we cannot hold those outside the people of God accountable to God (God will ultimately do that Himself), WE are responsible for the spiritual instruction of our children.

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are instructed to "bring them (our children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  Because public education is funded through tax dollars, the children of Christians are continually being confronted with teaching that is contrary to God's Word, from evolution to sexuality, from civic responsibility (or irresponsibility) to stewardship of the planet, etc.  People are being treated as equal to, or in some cases less than, animals.  Government is being portrayed as society's "savior," rather than Jesus Christ, and "religion" IS being taught ... the religion where man is "god."  The public schools of 2018 are not the public schools of 1958 or 1968 ... or even of 1998!!

I applaud Christians who are trying to "take a stand" against the onslaught of public opinion and government interference in the lives of families and communities, but the laws of our nation stand opposed to the teaching called for in God's Word.  People don't need to be taught simply to "Be Nice!"  People need to repent, confess their sins and believe in Jesus Christ, and that is the task not of the schools but of the true Church!  And teaching our children is the responsibility of Christian parents and the community of Christian parents, the Church.

Truly "Christian" education can only truly be done by parents and the community of believers, and it should not be so expensive that many who may want such an education for their children cannot afford it.  This is the conversation Christians should be having.  We are the only ones who can have it, for we are the only ones who acknowledge the authority of God's Word and the truth it proclaims.  It is one thing to be "conservatives," but it is another to be unashamed to take the name, "Christian," and to teach our children what it means to be the light and salt of the earth as disciples of Jesus Christ.

And by the way, the "real world" is NOT what you see around you!  The REAL world is God's world, where Jesus Christ reigns and love for God, our Creator, the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, guides our words and our actions.  It is a world unknown by most, where love means speaking truth that sets people free from the sinful nature that holds them in bondage to SELF.  This is the world our children need to learn about and experience as they grow up, not the artificial world portrayed in commercials and movies and textbooks written by those who do not know God.

"Rise up, O men of God!  Have done with lesser things; Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings!  Rise up, O men of God!  The Church for you doth wait; her strength unequal to her task, rise up and make her great!  Lift high the cross of Christ!  Tread where His feet have trod; As brothers of the Son of Man, rise up, O men of God!"

Men and women of God, rise up and answer God's call!  May it not be said in the church, "In those days there was no king in Israel (in the Church). Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).  We have work to do under the banner of Christ.  Nothing less will do.

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen!"  (Ephesians 3:20-21).

To anyone who may want to enter into further conversation concerning the education of your children and how we move forward toward a greater degree of faithfulness and obedience to God in this all important area, you may email me at pastorsteve@lighthouse-ministries.org and I will be happy to include you in any further discussion.  May God grant wisdom and courage to His people in these days!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Stand firm!"

"Therefore, my beloved brothers (and sisters), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain!"  - I Corinthians 15:58

I have been thinking for a while that I need to revive my blogposts as we continue to see the world around us spiraling out-of-control ... out of OUR control ... and as people move farther and farther away from the truth of God's Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Today is the day!!

The verse above speaks a word of encouragement to those who are being faced with the daily struggles of life and especially to those who are engaged in the spiritual battle for truth, for hope, for peace, for joy, for LIFE!!  This is not a game we are playing or something you and I can do "part-time."  As soldiers in Christ's army we wage war every day against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms and we must put on all the armor God puts at our disposal (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Discouragement is a temptation that must be met with faith based upon the truth.  Yesterday morning I sent the verse above to my two grandsons who are serving at camp this week.  I encouraged them to memorize it.  By the end of the day I needed to read and trust these words for myself.  Receiving some news that disturbed my soul, my spirit was down and I thought of how so many people say they are "depressed."  But while I let myself go there for a moment, I realized that what I am really feeling is more anger ... an anger that arises out of a deep sadness when relationships are severed that I was counting on being solid and steadfast.

Then I remembered these words, spoken to those who are "beloved" by God Himself.  Paul had just finished speaking about the resurrection of the body and our victory over the grave.  He says in verse 57:  "But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"  I have that victory, and if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ you have that victory!  Nothing can take that away.

It is in that context that Paul writes, "Therefore, my beloved brothers (and sisters ... in Christ), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

Why does he say that?  Because sometimes it is going to FEEL like it is in vain, and during those moments, those periods of time, you and I who know the KING who is seated at the Father's right hand must remember that He is at work in us and through us for His glory.  It is the LORD whom we serve!

There is a hymn that asks, "Who is on the Lord's side?"  So long as God gives me breath I will say, "I am!!"  I pray that you will join me!!