Oh I Assure You, Christ’s Literal Resurrection Matters

Romans 10 9For reasons I really can’t recall, I decided I’d judged the Presbyterian church (PCUSA) that I’d grown up in a bit harshly since becoming a Christian. So on Easter Sunday 1975, I returned, hoping to settle back in and make it once again my church home. Its proximity to my house enabled me to drive my motorized wheelchair to services, thus eliminating the ongoing struggle to procure transportation.

Being PCUSA, the church tried to be innovative even as it retained a certain degree of liturgical order.  That Easter Sunday, for instance, the pastor and the seminary student who did his internship at the church staged a rehearsed debate in place of the sermon. The question up for debate: Was Christ’s resurrection literal or figurative?

I don’t remember the arguments on either side, nor can I tell you if either man bothered to substantiate their points with Scripture. But I most definitely remember the pastor walking front and center stage at the end to offer the ultimate conclusion that he wanted us to draw.

Whether the resurrection was literal or figurative, he informed us, didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Christ lived in our hearts.

The minute he gave the benediction, I spun my wheelchair around and headed home without speaking to anyone. I was far too angry to exchange pleasantries with people. The mishandling of God’s Word and the denigration of Christ’s resurrection infuriated me.

43 years later, it still infuriates me!

The literal, bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. 1 Corinthians 15 details its critical importance to every believer.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ~~1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (ESV)

A figurative resurrection of Christ would mean that heaven is equally figurative, and thus following the Lord is, in the end, pretty much inconsequential. We might as well live according to our own desires if we can interpret the resurrection any way we see fit. I mean, what’s the point of forsaking sin and denying self if there’s no hope of eternal life with Christ?

Praise the Lord, He did rise physically from the dead, with a glorified body that His eleven disciples literally handled (Luke 24:36-43, 1 John 1:1). Each of those men, as well as countless men and women who believed their preaching, suffered persecution and often martyrdom for proclaiming the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Really, would anyone willingly face death for something figurative?

I don’t regret leaving that PCUSA church after that rehearsed debate in 1975. I only regret my cowardly failure to tell them why I withdrew my membership. I wish I’d had the intestinal fortitude to declare to them that the literal, bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ matters very much. That their eternal position absolutely depended on whether or not they believed in it.

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The Tragedy Of The Entertaining Church

Powerful Word“Show people that Christians are just like  everyone else.”

“If we have non-threatening activities like movie nights, people will get comfortable enough with us that they’ll want to come to church.”

“Unless we have games and refreshments, kids won’t come to youth group.”

I heard all these comments, and more, from a church I used to attend, usually in connection with evangelism and church growth strategies.  We want to attract people to the Lord, not scare them away from Him, the leadership of the church reasoned. For a while, they even made sense. Why not make visitors comfortable before hitting them with the Bible?

Sometimes the promoters of such ideas supported them with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Never mind that this passage, in context, refers to restricting one’s Christian liberties to avoid offending people with anything but the Gospel. But in his next epistle to that same church, Paul made it clear that presenting the Gospel would, in fact, offend those who would not receive salvation.

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. ~~2 Corinthians 2:15-17 (ESV)

Churches, including youth groups, act deceptively when they advertise themselves as being cool, hip and in touch with the world, only to slip Jesus in there when they can do it inconspicuously. They know that a blatant bait-and-switch will expose them, so they have to continue making Scripture palatable. Sermons include stand-up comedy, movie clips and props rather than verse-by-verse exposition of the text, knowing that the folks they attract through entertainment require continuing entertainment in order to keep them coming.

Contrast that mindset with Paul’s command to Timothy.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

God’s church can, and should, be overflowing with joy. Fellowship halls should ring with laughter, and youth groups should include extra activities outside of Bible Study hours. As someone known for practical jokes, I’m hardly adverse to having fun at appropriate moments.

But when we use fun as an evangelism tool, and especially when we blur the lines between Christians and the world, we tend to obscure the Gospel. After all, the call to repentance can’t be slipped in between funny stories or during a game of Pictionary if we expect non-Christians to take their sin seriously.

Churches must preach the Word, even if so doing makes people uncomfortable. In fact, we want people to feel uncomfortable about their sin in hopes that they will then desire the Savior. Preaching a compromised gospel that elevates human comfort over the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ may fill churches, but it won’t save souls.

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The Unusual American Tolerance Of Christian Values

ConstitutionIf you take the Bible seriously, people have most likely branded you as a narrow-minded bigot. That accusation hurts, doesn’t it? After all,  we live in a culture that celebrates the tolerance of sin and false religion, but is markedly intolerant of Biblical Christianity. Astonishingly, many American Christians are surprised by this animosity. They forget that Jesus told His disciples point blank that the world would reject us because it rejects Him.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~~John 15:18-19 (ESV)

To understand why American Christians struggle with the current hostility towards Christianity, we should briefly look back on our history. New England was first settled by Puritans, who sought to establish a land that held to Biblical precepts. 150 years later, people already deviated from Puritan doctrine, but they continued to adhere to many Christian principles when framing our new nation. John Adams famously declared:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

The 19th Century further eroded Christianity in the United States with the advent of liberal theology and cults like Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism. Yet Americans still largely embraced Christian values and revered the Bible at least as a moral standard. Though the first half of the 20th Century brought a little more spiritual erosion, open hostility towards Christianity only gained momentum after the 1960s.

The momentum accelerated in our present century, and pretty much doubled when the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states.  Older Christians, remembering days when America still respected Christian values to a certain extent, feel puzzled by recent challenges to religious liberties.

Although America’s Christian foundations began crumbling even before the Declaration of Independence was written, most Americans regarded Biblical principles as noble and desirable until the last decade. Therefore the open hatred of Christianity shocks us.

We’re shocked because our American experience insulates us from knowing how Biblical Christians have suffered persecution throughout history. My 2017 Tuesday posts on the Protestant Reformation give a small glimpse into some of that persecution. If we understood that Christians have been hated throughout the 2000 years since our Lord’s crucifixion, maybe we’d realize that God mercifully gave us 300 years of tolerance before allowing us to suffer for His sake.

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Saturday Sampler: January 14 — January 20

Bell Sampler

The age of feminism seduces Christian women into thinking we have to perform monumental tasks for God, according to Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. She writes Ladies, no job is too menial and no sphere is to small to make a huge difference as an encouragement to those of us who feel unnoticed and obscure.

To help us understand the importance of patience, Clint Archer posts Waiting for God? Oh. in The Cripplegate. The English major in me appreciates Archer’s allusion to the play, Waiting for Godot, but I appreciate even more the Biblical application he brings out in this devotional piece. Each of us should take this message to heart.

What do you think The Easiest Sin to Justify is? I used to justify this one all the time, so I believe Tim Challies hits the nail on the head. See if you agree.

Once again, Leslie A of Growing 4 Life graces us with her wisdom in Do I Need a Special Experience in Order to Know God? It’s shameful that evangelicals still need teaching on this matter, but praise the Lord for people like Leslie who continually proclaim the truth and remain faithful to Scripture!

If, like me, you wondered if Hollywood’s protest against sexual harassment at the Golden Globes was disingenuous, Brett McCracken’s Will #MeToo Cause Hollywood to Rethink its Views on Sex in The Gospel Coalition Blog will confirm your suspicions. But it doesn’t just throw stones at the entertainment industry; it also challenges Christians to accept responsibility.

Guest posting for Unlocking the Bible rather than her own blog, Lara d’Entremont addresses the typical decline in maintaining New Year’s resolutions her article, Change of Plan: To Change Every Day. She strikes at the heart of Christian living, using Scripture to illustrate the practical principles she proposes.

Although Michelle Lesley repeats Answering the Opposition – Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections in Discipleship for Christian Women, reading it again sure doesn’t hurt! So many of the objections she addresses betray a lack of properly understanding Scripture in its context. This issue accentuates the critical importance of knowing God’s Word thoroughly.

Al Mohler’s article, Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is), raises a point that all too often gets overlooked. Praise God that Mohler brings it to our attention, handling it with balance and fidelity to Scripture.

Quoting the heartbreaking experience of a feminist who aborted her baby, Denny Burk writes A feminist describes her abortion… and sadness to remind us that the unborn aren’t the only victims of this horrible practice. What a needless tragedy.

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Saturday Sampler: October 29 — November 5

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An essay by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word reveals One Temptation of Digital Searching that had never occurred to me. His admonition might spare you from misinterpreting God’s Word.

I enjoy pretty much everything Candi Finch writes on Biblical Woman, but Meet Katie Luther, One of the Protestant Reformation’s Leading Ladies has to be my all-time favorite piece I’ve read of hers. Once again,  we see that history can not only inspiring, but downright fun! I dare you to get through this piece without cracking a smile.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us The Cry of the Reformation: Jesus is our Sufficient Savior!  His article goes to the heart of the Reformation, directing us  back to the Lord Jesus Christ as all a sinner ever needs.

What should 21st Century evangelicals learn from the Reformers’ cry of Sola Scriptura?Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder answers that question with What is Sola Scriptura Protecting Us Against? More Than You Think. This article taught me a few things that deepen my appreciation for this doctrine of grace.

On her blog,  The End Time, Elizabeth Prata analyzes the state of present-day evangelicalism against the backdrop of the Reformation. Reformation Day 500 and counting! affirms the sad reality that the Reformation is far from over. Her essay will enhance your conviction that we absolutely must stand on God’s Word, using it as an instrument of discernment.

Reprising an article from Tabletalk Magazine (which I read all the time), the blog from Ligonier features The Holy Spirit’s Ministry by Sinclair  Ferguson. If you struggle with the idea that some of the Spirit’s gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era, this piece may help you.

I’ve definitely sinned in my attempts to perform discernment ministry. So Lara d’Entremont’s blog post in Renewed in Truth Discipleship, Where Discernment Goes Wrong, rightly convicted me. Please take a look at the post yourselves and see whether or not the Lord would have you reconsider your approach to discernment.

Erin Benziger once again correctly uses Scripture to expose a sin that all of us fall into — usually without realizing it. In Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Envy on Do Not Be Surprised, she illustrates the dangerous potential in this seemingly innocuous sin.

I’m including a second article from The Cripplegate because Jesse Johnson’s Semper Reformanda? addresses seven serious problems in 21st Century evangelical churches. My regular readers will notice that some of his concerns echo issues that I’ve been writing about for years. Please take a look at this thought-provoking blog post.

Commenting on events in the news, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day concludes that Sin makes people stupid, and explains the world we live in. Her essay matches the power of its title!

I struggle with sinful, self-centered anger.  But Michelle Lesley reminds of 6 Reasons to Recapture Righteous Anger. She makes very interesting and unexpected observations that most Christians overlook.

As someone who has been severely disabled since birth, I read Tim Challies’ essay,  No Better (Or Worse) Time To Be Disabled with tremendous interest. Although he specifies people with intellectual disabilities, don’t think for a moment that these ideas couldn’t eventually carry over to anyone with severe birth defects.

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How Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Almost Torpedoed My Christianity

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Taken at the Dreamland Wax Museum in Boston

Last week I included Leslie A’s blog post, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism: America’s New Religion in my Saturday Sampler collection. I’d seen this term before, most notably in Michael Horton’s book, Christless Christianity. Horton’s book sort of reminded me of how my involvement in Christian pop-psychology eroded my theology over the years, but reading Leslie’s post really alerted me to the fact that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism poses a serious problem in evangelical circles.

To explain Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, let me borrow from Leslie, who in turn borrowed from Wikipedia:

There are five main beliefs of MTD–

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

(from this Wikipedia Article)

While I probably would have intellectually disagreed with pretty much all of those tenets when MTD influenced my thinking, on a practical level I lived out those basic attitudes. The church and ministry I belonged to at the time used Scripture, yes, but often we used it to buttress psychological or mystical ideas rather than evaluating those ideas through the lens of sound doctrine.

I hasten to say that some of us in that group were genuinely saved. I believe I was. Sadly, the overwhelming prevalence of psychological ideology distracted us from properly interpreting and applying God’s Word to our lives. Despite our insistence that we believed the Bible, we in fact followed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in how we ministered to each other. Slowly, at least in my personal life, fundamental Christian doctrines took a back seat to the “deeper ministry” of Christian pop-psychology.

During the height of my deception, I had conversations with two non-Christians who used the same psychological terminology that we had been using in the counseling ministry I worked for. Additionally, I watched Oprah Winfrey on my days off, intrigued that she also used the same psychological jargon. I found myself entertaining the unbiblical idea that, even through someone didn’t acknowledge Christ, they might know Him through pop-psychology.

Mercifully, the Holy Spirit never let me fully embrace such blasphemous notions, but I relate my experience here to augment what Leslie wrote last week. Bible-believing Christians must vigilantly guard against Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, recognizing how subtly it blends in with popular trends in evangelical thought. I anticipate writing more about this topic in future articles, as I believe it’s a top threat to Biblical Christianity. Thankfully, the Lord has power to rescue people as He rescued me.

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Saturday Sampler: August 13 — August 19

Birds SamplerElizabeth Prata gives us tiny glimpses into why The Bible is so amazing in The End Time. What a wonderful encouragement to be in God’s Word regularly!

I implore you to go to excatholic4christ to read Tom’s post, An evangelical writes to “Your Holiness,” the pope. Incidents like the one he reports show me why we need education on the Protestant Reformation.

For a better understanding of the theological deterioration of evangelicals, visit Leslie A.’s blog, Growing 4 Life and read Moralistic Therapeutic Deism: America’s New Religion. This blog post explains a lot about why we have drifted away from Biblical Christianity. Leslie also offers a Biblical response to this escalating problem.

Iceland boasts that 100% of women who test positive for carrying unborn children with  Down Syndrome choose to abort. Writing in adayinhiscourt, John Ellis repudiates Iceland’s Genocide of Babies with Down Syndrome to remind us that abortion can never be justified. As someone actually living with severe birth defects, I find the practice of aborting disabled babies thoroughly reprehensible!

Lara d’Entremont of Renewed in Truth Discipleship recently asked several Christian bloggers how they schedule their personal Bible Study time. She compiles their responses in How Crazy Busy Women Make Time For God’s Word as an encouragement to us. You’ll find several practical ideas here to jumpstart your own time in Scripture.

Modesty involves external obedience, certainly, but take a look at Sunny Shell’s blog post, Our External Sensuality Reveals Our Internal Depravity in Abandoned to Christ. A good reminder during hot August weather.

If Lara’s post didn’t give you enough ideas for your time in God’s Word, check out One Degree to Another for Scott Slayton’s 4 Biblical Reading Strategies for Reading Plan Quitters. I found some things that I might try.

Once we read God’s Word, of course, we gain the responsibility to actually obey it. In  Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways To Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture, Michelle Lesley tells it like it is. Her blog post may not be comfortable reading, but it definitely says things all of us need to hear. Please make this one a high priority.

Writing for Bible Thinking Woman, Kesha Griffin lists 5 Benefits For Bible Thinking Women. I haven’t fully vetted this blog yet, but Kesha writes this particular essay from a solid Biblical standpoint, giving me hope that the rest of this website proves equally solid.

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