“But Jesus Hung Out With Sinners”

Very often these days, professing Christians will defend their affirmation of the LBGTQ community, cohabitation, casual use of recreational drugs or other sinful practices by arguing that many friends of Jesus lived in openly sinful lifestyles. They strengthen their case by adding that He reserved His harshest words for members of the religious establishment. Their hope is to shame us into affirming sinful behaviors, implying that Christlike love would never so much as suggest the idea of repentance from desires that feel so natural. Indeed, they demand that we can show Christ’s love only by condoning those desires and their consequent actions.

Their strategy usually works because we know that the Pharisees delighted in calling Jesus out for dining with sinners and tax collectors. We certainly don’t want anyone to equate us with the self-righteous Pharisees! So we hem and haw, trying to find ways to soften our stance (or, more accurately, protect our reputations). After all, our critics rightly say that Jesus hung out with sinners.

So we must agree with them to some degree. But then we must ask them whether or not Jesus actually gave His approval to the sin of the people in His company. If so, He compromised His Father’s righteous standards, giving us license to disregard everything He taught about holiness. If our critics maintain that He really did lend approval to the sin of those at table with Him, we should open our Bibles to Matthew 9 to provide a little context to Jesus’ actions.

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Having Jesus Fit Our Expectations

Once again, there’s another “evangelistic” campaign floating around which emphasizes God’s love at the expense of mentioning topics like sin, wrath and judgment. I choose not to name this latest movement primarily because it will most likely fade away quickly and be replaced by a repackaged version of the same basic error. Frankly, this emphasis is nothing new; in my over 50 years as a Christian, I’ve seen it crop up numberless times. (I also prefer not to give this campaign publicity.)

Scripture gives us good reason to trust that Jesus understands everything we experience as human beings, and therefore sympathizes with our struggles. A wonderful passage in Hebrews assures us of His ability to empathize with our suffering.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~~Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB95)

This passage fills us with comfort, as well it should! We all have times — often protracted times, actually — when troubles lead us into the temptations of anxiety, self-pity and despair. In such times, we crave assurance that Jesus stands beside us, giving us far more empathy than our friends and family ever could. So we rejoice that we have such a faithful and understanding Friend Who willingly goes through our trials with us. And if we don’t rejoice in His empathy, we should! Dear sisters in Christ, please never forget how deeply He cares, even when it seems as if nothing will ever be right again.

At the same time, focusing too much on the Lord’s compassion has a serious drawback that causes a skewed perception of Him. Speaking from both personal experience and observations of some of the ways my friends have dealt with struggles, I firmly believe that we often emphasize His compassion so much that we forget His holiness.

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A TULIP Repost: Talking About The Gospel Ain’t Necessarily Explaining The Gospel

Originally published July 27, 2021:

Several years ago, John and I sat in an adult Sunday School class where the teacher asked if anyone could explain the Gospel. The church heavily emphasized evangelism, and sponsored a food pantry for the specific purpose of sharing the Gospel along with groceries. They also regularly visited a local nursing home as an evangelistic outreach. The wall of that Sunday School classroom sported a poster detailed the Romans Road. And those who had gone through the membership class had been required to share the Gospel with a friend or relative outside the church.

You would think people in that class would be stepping all over each other to answer the teacher’s question.

The silence was awkward, if not embarrassing. Finally someone answered, correctly using 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as the basis for her response. The teacher expressed his relief that somebody knew the answer, though later he confessed to me his discouragement and frustration over the obvious confusion people exhibited when he asked a question that he assumed each of us could readily answer.

Sometimes I wonder whether or not most evangelicals could explain the Gospel. Frankly, I seriously doubt they could. Popular teachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore have mangled it so badly with false teaching and worldly additives that few professing Christians remember what the Bible says.

I’ve included pages entitled Statement Of Faith and What Is The Gospel, Anyway on this little website, and I pray you’ll look at them once in a while. Before ladies can develop discernment, or even grow in doctrine, we need to understand the Gospel basics.

In What Is The Gospel, Anyway I wrote:

In order to understand the Good News of the Gospel, we must first understand the bad news that all human beings (except Jesus) are sinners by nature and by choice (Romans 3:10-20, Ephesians 2:1-3). As such, every person rightfully deserves to spend eternity in hell (Revelation 20:15).

God, to rescue us from His own wrath, came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ and shed His innocent blood on the cross to atone for the sins of all who trust in Him (1 John 4:9-10, John 3:16). But He rose again, displaying His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).

The Lord calls us to respond to His death, burial and resurrection by turning from sin (Acts 2:38) and by placing our faith in Him (Romans 10:9). Jesus bore all of God’s wrath on the cross so that we could be considered righteous (Romans 5:6-11).

Once someone becomes a Christian, we can expand on the Gospel by teaching the doctrines of election, the Incarnation and so forth, helping her grow in her application of the Gospel. We can join her in studying the variety of implications involved in receiving the Gospel, sharing our wonder at God’s incredible grace. Truly, the Gospel launches innumerable topics to explore and apply!

Sadly, we can often get so caught up in the glorious ramifications of the Gospel that we lose sight of the Gospel itself. We mention it on social media and in conversations rather casually, without considering whether or not our readers and hearers understand what we mean. I know that I refer to it in nearly every article on this blog, but I seldom take time to make sure my readers know what I’m talking about.

Of course I can’t explain the Gospel in every post I write. Especially if I link to every Scripture that teaches it. Most of the time, I need to operate on the assumption that my readers know the Gospel themselves and can pull up their big girl panties. And that’s usually true.

But I get emails notifying me of new readers all the time. Occasionally, these new readers are clearly not believers, and I suspect some might be false converts. These women may have never heard a solid presentation of the Gospel, particularly if they follow people like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore. They may need help understanding their need for salvation, and what the Lord has done in order to provide that salvation. Consequently, it doesn’t hurt to go back and reiterate the Gospel from time to time.

Romans 1:16, the theme verse for this blog, calls the Gospel “the power of God to salvation.” With that being the case, Christians had better know what the Gospel really is and how to articulate it accurately. All sorts of people make reference to it — including false teachers. Good discernment, as well as good evangelism, therefore depends on understanding it well enough to explain it to other people. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to bring sinful souls to new life in Him.

Talking about the Gospel is wonderful. All of us should do it more often. But in so doing, all of us must explain it now and then.

Learning From Interacting With Critics Of Gabe Hughes

Pastor Gabe Hughes recently posted an item on Twitter that resulted in a temporary (I hope) suspension from the platform. Here’s a screenshot of his “offensive” Tweet:

The WWUTT account posted the screenshot to inform Gabe’s followers of the ban. Many comments ensued to express support for Gabe and disgust at Twitter’s censorship. Of course, I agree with those comments, and pray that they will encourage him. Obviously he wrote it to highlight the spiritual pandemic that has infected Western culture for the last several decades — a pandemic that even mature Christians ignore. Kudos to Gabe for risking his Twitter account in order to speak truth!

One comment, however, accused Pastor Gabe of violating (or deliberately ignoring) Twitter’s Terms of Service. Her accusation intrigued me, particularly since I sometimes post tweets standing against most of those sins. I wondered how much freedom Twitter gives Christians to express Biblical points of view. Her response didn’t exactly surprise me (given her profile), but it reminded me that people who defend LBGTQ tenets don’t always use good logic in their argumentation.

Consider this screenshot that she sent to me:

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Talking About The Gospel Ain’t Necessarily Explaining The Gospel

Several years ago, John and I sat in an adult Sunday School class where the teacher asked if anyone could explain the Gospel. The church heavily emphasized evangelism, and sponsored a food pantry for the specific purpose of sharing the Gospel along with groceries. They also regularly visited a local nursing home as an evangelistic outreach. The wall of that Sunday School classroom sported a poster detailed the Romans Road. And those who had gone through the membership class had been required to share the Gospel with a friend or relative outside the church.

You would think people in that class would be stepping all over each other to answer the teacher’s question.

The silence was awkward, if not embarrassing. Finally someone answered, correctly using 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as the basis for her response. The teacher expressed his relief that somebody knew the answer, though later he confessed to me his discouragement and frustration over the obvious confusion people exhibited when he asked a question that he assumed each of us could readily answer.

Sometimes I wonder whether or not most evangelicals could explain the Gospel. Frankly, I seriously doubt they could. Popular teachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore have mangled it so badly with false teaching and worldly additives that few professing Christians remember what the Bible says.

I’ve included pages entitled Statement Of Faith and What Is The Gospel, Anyway on this little website, and I pray you’ll look at them once in a while. Before ladies can develop discernment, or even grow in doctrine, we need to understand the Gospel basics.

In What Is The Gospel, Anyway I wrote:

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The Fourth Spiritual Law Has The Wrong Emphasis

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If you’ve missed my earlier articles examining The Four Spiritual Laws, you can find them here, here and here. Although I don’t consider this tract to be false doctrine, and I gratefully acknowledge that God has used it in evangelism for at least half a century, I believe it gives an inadequate explanation of the Gospel. Therefore I’ve been taking you through all four laws, encouraging you to evaluate them Biblically.

Today we look at the final Law. It reads: “We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.” Okay, that’s probably a good starting place. The wording is technically correct. I’d even say that the writers used John 1:12 and Ephesians 2:8-9 appropriately. And I’m pleased that they recommend reading John 3:1-8.

If they had then moved into a discussion of responding to the Lord with faith and repentance (Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9), things would have been hunky-dorey. But the writers chose to quote Revelation 3:20 — a verse written to Christians who had lost their zeal for the Lord.

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The Third Spiritual Law: Right, But Incomplete

This is the third Tuesday I’ve written about The Four Spiritual Laws, a popular evangelism tool that Christians have used over the past 50 years. This tract doesn’t contain false teaching per se, and it can be helpful in presenting the Gospel. So I don’t condemn anybody who uses it to open a conversation with an unbeliever.

But as I’ve demonstrated here and here, The Four Spiritual Laws fall short of giving a fully orbed explanation of why people need Christ. In many respects, it offers a man-centered theology in place of a theology that revolves around the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve been writing this short series to help you develop a more complete understanding of the Gospel that you can in turn utilize in witnessing to others.

The Third Spiritual Law states that “Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him alone can we know God personally and experience His love.” It quotes Romans 5:8, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and John 14:6 to substantiate its point.

I’d agree with most of this section, and I think the writers chose their Scriptures well. Nothing in this section falls outside the bounds of orthodoxy.

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Do The Four Spiritual Laws Explain Why Sin Separates Us From God?

Last Tuesday I started writing about the Four Spiritual Laws, a tract that has been used in evangelism for decades. On the whole, the principles in this tract present the Gospel fairly adequately, so I wouldn’t categorize it exactly as false teaching. God may have used it to bring some of you to faith in Jesus Christ, and I don’t want to disparage that blessing. Nevertheless, I would say that this tract does give an inadequate presentation of the Gospel.

Actually, I’d guess that most of us came to Christ though inadequate presentations of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit works though His Word even when people mishandle His Word. Isn’t it marvelous that He uses our imperfections to accomplish His perfect work of saving His elect?

Acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s power and grace to work though flawed presentations of the Gospel doesn’t mean that we should use those means once we grow in doctrinal understanding. Nor does it mean that we shouldn’t examine the tools we use in evangelism. For that reason, we have good reason to question the statements we find in the Four Spiritual Laws to determine if they offer the best Gospel presentation. And the second Spiritual Law most assuredly ought to be questioned.

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The Four Spiritual Laws Say That God Created You To Have A Personal Relationship With Him — Is That True?

If you’ve been an evangelical Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of an evangelism tool called “The Four Spiritual Laws” John and I were even in a church that used this tool in its New Members Class (our present church does not use it, thankfully).

I want to write a few posts over the next few weeks going over these Spiritual Laws. While they do present the Gospel on a surface level that can be beneficial in witnessing to people, they fall short of offering a robust picture of our need for salvation and the Lord’s sufficiency in effecting that salvation. I commend the writers who developed these Spiritual Laws for their zeal in reaching out to the lost, but I believe we must hold their tract up to Scripture to determine its faithfulness to sound doctrine.

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Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

Originally posted February 17, 2017:

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Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days.  I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that   many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

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