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Love, Christianity, Jesus and Salvation

It seems like Christianity and Jesus are increasingly under attack. What's going on? What we'll be looking at is what happens when Christians use human wisdom to interpret the Bible, twisting scripture away from its intended message. This blog is dedicated to using Scripture itself to interpret and help us understand Scripture. You are welcome to add your comments and thoughts. Other viewpoints are welcome. Disagreements are welcome.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

#4 - Love The World, You're Not A Christian - 1st John

The fourth characteristic of a non- Christian is loving the world. (See previous post.)

#4 - "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world." 1 John 2:13,14

In his book, "Manifesto For A Revolution, The Kingdom of God On Earth" Alex Robertson explains what the Bible means when it uses the word "world".

"The devil is never to be underestimated. He is the master of fraud and subversion. All earthly fraud and subversion pays homage to him. As the devil is 'the prince of this world', his false kingdom is also of this world. It involves wealth, power, status and glory in this world--all that the devil has to offer. The true kingdom, as Jesus said, is 'not of this world'.

But is Jesus' kingdom not coming to earth? Yes! He didn't say it wasn't coming to this earth, he said it was 'not of this world.' The earth and the world are very different in the Bible. The earth means the physical creation; the world refers to a spiritual system. God is the king of the earth, but the 'prince of this world' is the devil. The earth is the Lord's, but Satan is 'the God of this world.' (John 12:31, 1 Corinthians 10:26; 2 Corinthians 4:4)"

The things of this world include our culture, the wisdom of mankind, and other religions. Many people claim to be Christians, yet they place culture in authority over God's word. An example of love for the world is point number two of the eight points of Progressive Christianity:

"Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God's realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us."

This expresses the "truth" of our culture. It is called post modernism and involves the belief that each person can have their own beliefs and that all beliefs are equally true. You can have your truth and I can have my own, different truth--and both "truths" are equally true. According to 1st John those who believe this are most likely not Christian.

On the other hand God says there is one truth:

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:12

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Friday, September 21, 2007

UM Nexus - Blaming Our Ugliness On God (Again)

I previous commented on an article called "Blaming Our Ugliness On God". I was unable to provide a link to that article because the magazine that published it had it in a members only section. This week the article was reprinted in another publication and is now available online. You can read it in the UM Nexus.

Previously I used the article to illustrate a few points about a United Methodist Church. The following examines the complete article: Blaming Our Ugliness on God by Scott Campbell.

=========================

"Do not conform any longer to to the pattern of this world [our culture], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." - Romans 12:2

Mr. Campbell discusses the fact that Scripture was used to support evil such as apartheid in South Africa and slavery in American, and rightly condemns that practice. Historically both apartheid and slavery in America were cultural practices (things that people desired to do) that were then justified through the faulty use of Scripture. In both of these examples culture was used to give meaning to Scripture. This is called isogesis, which is reading into the text the meaning we desire the text to have.

With isogesis we put our human wisdom above the authority of God, and that is wrong.

"There is a way that seems right to man, but the end is death." - Proverbs 14:12

Mr. Campbell then later states, "It is curious however, how quickly such ironclad injunctions [Scripture as the source of knowledge] seem to lose their power when culture leaves religious law behind..."

He now calls for our understanding of what Scripture means, as expressed in church law and creeds, to be guided by our culture, the very thing he previously condemns.

Church law, doctrine and creeds can be flawed should they in any way contradict Scripture. After all they are created by fallen people. However, when in agreement with Scripture they provide a tool that summarizes Scripture so that it may easily be remembered and applied in our everyday lives. Mr. Campbell presents no evidence that the church law, doctrine and creeds he refers to in any way contradict Scripture.

The main point of Mr. Campbell's commentary is that certain classes of people should not be disqualified from ministry. He then proceeds to misrepresent Scripture and the practices of conservative churches.

For example, he implies that conservative churches exclude women from ministry. He has apparently never spoken to leaders of conservative churches. Conservative churches do not exclude women from ministry and in no place does the Bible say that women are to be excluded from ministry. Although Mr. Campbell does not provide Scriptural references, I assume he is referring to 1 Timothy 2:12, which states: "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man..."

Based on the context, the Biblical prohibition given here is that a woman can not be in authority over a man concerning spiritual matters. Paul provides Scriptural support for this based in Genesis chapter three.

This does not exclude women from ministry. It does mean a woman may not pastor a church that has men in it, as the pastor is in spiritual authority over the congregation. However, there are hundreds of other ministries women may be a part of and lead. For example, if a woman feels called to the pastorate, she should lead a church that specifically and exclusively serves women and children. Women are Biblically involved in missions, as worship leaders, in social ministries, teaching other women, church administration and any ministry that does not place her in a position of spiritual authority over a man.

Mr. Campbell claims conservatives are hypocritical in their interpretation of the Bible because they do not enforce a literal injunction against women speaking in church. I assume he is referring to 1 Corinthians 14:34. However, when read in its context, this verse refers to people who are being disruptive in church. The actual injunction is against speaking out so as to interrupt a church service in a disruptive manner. The Bible does not prohibit women from speaking in church. In fact this same chapter Paul encourages everyone, including women, to speak in tongues and to prophecy in church, both of which involve speaking in church.

Mr. Campbell brings up the issue of sexual orientation and serving God. The real issue here concerns whether or not someone is a Christian. Before we are saved, before someone becomes a Christian, we are an enemies of God (Romans 5:10). An enemy of God can not serve God... not because they are prohibited from serving God, but because it is impossible for an enemy of God to serve God. Why is that? It is rooted in who we are and what makes a person a Christian.

Who are we? We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). We God's image bearers. Through the church we represent who God is to the universe (Ephesians 3:10).

Who is a Christian? Someone who has repented and is trusting in Jesus Christ for their salvation (Mark 1:15)

Is someone who believes in Jesus Christ a Christian? Not necessarily. Even demons believe in God and shutter. (James 2:19)

Is someone who calls Jesus Christ Lord a Christian? Not necessarily. Not everyone who calls Jesus "Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21)

To be a Christian we must repent, which means to turn away from sin (turn away from disobeying God), and we must trust that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sin. This does not mean we stop sinning. It does mean we resist sinning; that although we may fall into sin, we no longer willfully dive into sin. Whether your willful sin involves a sexual sin, or another type of sin, until that sin is addressed and repentance is seen, you are not qualified for ministry nor will you enter the kingdom of heaven. (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)

What is offensive to God is sin. It is so offensive that it keeps us totally and completely separated from God. Nothing can overcome our sin except Jesus Christ. Only by turning away from sin (repentance) and toward Jesus Christ can we escape the consequences of sin.

When we embrace sin, as God's image bearers we are representing God as embracing sin. That is the ultimate evil. That is why sin is so offensive to God.

What about love? The Bible equates love and obedience to God as being one and the same thing (see John chapter 14). Biblical love is an action, and that action is obedience to God. If we love the worldly system, love our culture and human wisdom, then the love of God is not in us (1 John 2:15). But if we are living to obey God, striving to obey all of God's commandments not just those we choose to obey, then we have love in us (1 John 2:3-6)

Love is conforming ourselves to the character of God. God's laws show us the character of God. If we do not desire to be conformed to the character of God, we are not loving God. As His image bearers, if we do not desire to be conformed to the character of God, we are misrepresenting God, making us enemies of God and unable to serve God.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Why Talk About Progressive Christianity

For the past two weeks I've been talking about my experiences with progressive Christianity in Massachusetts. This web site and blog are written for Christians. AS Christians we ted to live in an insulated world with little exposure to non-Christian thinking. I wrote about progressive Christianity because it provides an excellent example of how the meaning of the Bible can be twisted to serve man's desires instead of being the Word of God.

One of the things I found interesting are progressive Christian's attitudes toward learning something new about scripture. For example, the pastor I met said, "I understand you and I have very different views. Don't expect that you are going to change my views."

In other words, she was telling me that no matter what I said or showed her, she was closed to any possibilities other than what she already believed. I've encountered this attitude on a regular basis when talking with liberal (progressive) "Christians".

What type of attitude do I typically see in a Christian?

A Christian might say, "I have solid beliefs and I don't expect they will change. However, if it can be shown from scripture where I am wrong, I will change what I believe." In other words, a Christian puts God's word above their own ability to understand scripture, instead of putting their beliefs above God's word. We are imperfect and only God and God's word is perfect.

This does not mean we change direction every time we learn something new about the Bible. Sometimes it is easy to see an error in how we were thinking. Sometimes a new understanding of a passage of scripture must be carefully considered, prayed about and studied before we change what we believe. Often times the new view of scripture that was presented to us is invalid.

I've even heard well-known theologians say this. In spite of a lifetime of studying, teaching and learning about the Bible, they still put themselves under the authority of scripture. They are willing to change their beliefs if they are shown from scripture they are wrong.

My point is that scripture is always in authority over us.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

UMC & Progressive Christianity - Article Index

New England, and Massachusetts in particular, seems to be the source of a new twisting of Christianity into something totally unChristian--"Progressive Christianity". Both words, "Progressive" and "Christianity" are misleading as this movement is neither.

The past eight posts have been based on observations made during visits to a Massachusetts United Methodist Church that was embracing "Progressive Christianity". This post provides an index to those posts. Each topic below is a link. Click on it to see the article.


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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Worshipping The god of Inclusiveness

This is the the third part of a three part post. I've been talking about how the United Methodist Church not believing in the inerrant and infallibility of the Bible has let to a practice of using changing human culture as the basis to interpret scripture, and this has led to the separation of love from obedience (to God).

This brings us to the final point, the heresy that is driving United Methodists away from God. The worshipping of the god of inclusiveness. Everything I've observed in the United Methodist Church, and in the articles in the Progressive Christian Magazine, and in talking with practicing United Methodists... their beliefs and how they live out their faith is based not on the Bible, but on inclusiveness.

Love is defined not as obedience to God, but as inclusiveness.

Inclusiveness is the god of the United Methodist Church (or at least the god of many of the churches within the UMC).

In an article ("Blaming Our Ugliness on God") in the current issue of Progressive Christian Magazine, the Rev. Scott Campbell states: "The religious right has been on a campaign to belittle and ridicule the notion of inclusiveness, insisting that inclusion is not a doctrine, as if somehow that makes it less worthy or less linked to Christ."

Let's see if I understand the last part of what he is saying... if inclusion is not a doctrine taught by the Bible, we should still link the doctrine of inclusion to Christ. He is saying that our own human ideas are in authority over God. If we think it is a good idea, then we can make it a part of Christ. We decide what Christ's message is, instead of believing the Bible. This is what is called making god in your own image.

Looking over my past six posts we can see that the foundational doctrine that is driving un-Biblical practices in the United Methodist Church is the doctrine of inclusiveness. Everything is filtered through the doctrine of inclusiveness. Inclusiveness trumps everything else, including the Bible, the church's own Book of Discipline, the teaching of Martin Luther and John Wesley... everything.

What does the Bible say about inclusiveness? To start I researched (in the KJV) the words: include, inclusive and inclusiveness. None of those words are ever used in the Bible... anywhere. The Bible never talks about inclusiveness. It's a big book, with lots of words. But these words are never used.

Of course, that doesn't mean the principle of inclusiveness isn't taught in the Bible. So let's find out. Does the Bible teach the principle of inclusiveness?

Acts 4:12 says: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

So salvation is very exclusive. It is through Jesus Christ alone.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. " (Matthew 7:21)

The kingdom of heaven is very exclusive. Only those who obey God will enter the kingdom.

We saw in a previous post that the Lord's Supper is very exclusive. It is for believers only, and only those believers who are coming to the table in a worthy manner. (1 Corinthians 11:26-29)

Sin cuts us off from God. Isaiah 59:2 tells us: "Your iniquities have separated you from your God." Our sin divides humanity into two groups, those who are separated from God and believers who are no longer condemned by their sin (Romans 8:1) and thus have Jesus Christ living in them (Galatians 2:20). Each group is exclusive of the other. You can not be in both groups, and you must be in one or the other. They are exclusive.

God excludes some people from certain activities. Women may not teach men (1 Timothy 2:12). Only believers may be in ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-9). Those who embrace sin are not believers (Acts 3:19, 26:20, Luke 13:3).

Christianity is not inclusive. God has set boundaries and limits.

There is one aspect of Christianity that is inclusive. Salvation through God's grace is available to all. It does not matter where you live, what culture you are in, who you are, or how much you have opposed God (sinned) in the past. Everyone who repents (turns away from sinning) and trust Jesus Christ as their Savior is saved.

What principle about inclusiveness do we get from the Bible? Salvation is open to all (the opportunity is inclusive), but only those who repent and trust Christ are saved (salvation is very exclusive). That's it.

If there is a doctrine of inclusiveness, that doctrine is that we (believers) should be sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3) with everyone... no exceptions. Are you doing that? Or are you instead worshipping the false "god" of inclusiveness and spending your time making sinners feel good about their sin? That's all that worldly inclusiveness accomplishes. It is a very unloving attitude to have.

If you truly love your neighbor, show that love by warning them about sin and eternal hell.

The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon said: "Have you no wish for other to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that."

Jonathan Edwards said: "The only way we can know whether we are sinning is by knowing His Moral Law."

George Whitefield said: - "First, then, before you can speak peace to your hearts, you must be made to see, made to feel, made to weep over, made to bewail, your actual transgressions against the Law of God."

The Bible says: "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murders, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? " - Romans 15:14

Christians need to go out and tell people, tell all the nations of the world, the good news about sin and Jesus Christ. That is practicing inclusiveness!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Blaming Our Ugliness on God?

"Ignorance of the nature and design of the Law is at the bottom of most religious mistakes." - John Newton (who wrote the song "Amazing Grace")

Today I'll continue looking at the Progressive Christianity Magazine article (current issue) titled "Blaming Our Ugliness on God" by The Rev. Scott Campbell. My purpose is to shine a light on the most significant problem the United Methodist Church faces. The Rev. Campbell's article gives us the perfect example of that problem.

In yesterday's post we saw that Rev. Campbell believes we should be "personally accountable for our decisions and actions" instead of basing them on "Scripture, canon law and books of church order." So if we are not to base our decisions and actions on Scripture, what should we base them on? The answer, according to Rev. Campbell, is that the power of culture guides us. Speaking of the Bible's moral law concerning women and homosexuals in ministry he writes:

"Some will no doubt claim that Scripture is the source of the prejudices in question. It is curious however, how quickly such ironclad injunctions seem to lose their power when culture leaves religious law behind."

This gets right to the problem. He is stating that culture is in authority over God. That God's word must be interpreted, not through Scripture, but through our culture.

Who creates culture? People do. Do people have authority over God? No!

The Rev. Campbell is falling into the same trap Satan used to tempt Eve into sin in the Garden of Eden. Satan planted doubt that God's word was true (don't trust Scripture). He led Eve to change God's word (modify God's word based on your circumstances). And then led her to believe she could be equal to God and become a god herself (have authority to determine what is right and wrong). Might Satan be at work here? Martin Luther said:

"Satan, the god of all dissension stirs up daily new sects. And last of all which of all others I should never have foreseen or once suspected, he has raised up a sect such as teach that men should not be terrified by the law, but gently exhorted by the preaching of the grace [mercy] of Christ."

In his article the Rev. Campbell further clarifies his thoughts by writing: "I believe it is offensive to God to offload our own fears and prejudices onto God. In so doing we misrepresent God to the world. Instead of proclaiming a message that conveys the wideness of God's mercy, we tell a tale of a God who is frightened and limited..."

It sounds like the Rev. Campbell is preaching the message Martin Luther says comes from Satan.

One problem the United Methodist Church faces is that they do not believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. The Book of Discipline (UMC Book of doctrine and rules) states that the Bible is sufficient for our salvation and that the moral law in the Bible should be obeyed. But, how do you know what the moral is, if you do not have the infallible and inerrant word of God to reveal the moral law? Do we use culture, which changes over time and is different around the world, to reveal moral law? Under no circumstances! That makes no sense. You would then be basing God's moral law on a foundation of sand.

The other "pillar" progressives use to support using culture to interpret Scripture is that by doing so we are, in the Rev. Campbell's words, following God's "mandate of living out Christ's inclusive love." The two key words are "love" and "inclusive".

What is Christian love? John Wesley said: "Before I can preach love, mercy and grace I must preach sin, law and judgment."

The Rev. Campbell is trying to separate love from God's law. But according to John Wesley God's law comes before love. You can not love without the law. Why? Because God's law describes God. It describes His character. It describes who He is. If you take away God's law, you no longer have God and you are worshipping a pagan idol you have created to serve you.

As much as the Rev. Campbell hates to turn to Scripture for guidance, let's see what Scripture says about the relationship between the law and love. This is 1 Peter 1:22

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply."

Peter is saying that obeying God (the truth) creates sincere love.

Keep in mind that love is not a feeling, it is an action. If we live in obedience to God, our actions toward others will be loving actions.

John, who is known for writing about love, says in 1 John 2:3-6

"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, I know him, but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him. Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."

Here again we see that it is obedience to God's word that defines a Christian. Remember, who Jesus was. He was without sin. He always obeyed the Father.

I've heard United Methodists say that because the great commandment (Mark 12:29-31) says to love God and love your neighbor, that this is how we obey God... by loving others. My question is, how do you do that? What exactly does loving God and loving others look like? 2 John 6 tells us:

"I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands."

Biblical love is not a feeling. The Greek word used in the New Testament for "love" is agape. It literally means to love with your actions. What are the actions? Obedience to God's word.

You can't know about love unless you are obeying God. You can't obey God unless you are loving. They are intertwined so tightly they can not be separated. The problem is that some United Methodist Churches force them apart, throw away God's word (law), and try to retain what they define as God's love. That doesn't work.

My next post will talk about inclusiveness.

Jonathan Edwards - "The only way we can know whether we are sinning is by knowing His Moral Law."


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