Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Judging All Things

The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. – 1 Corinthians 2:15
I often, when I open air preach, include a segment on judging. As a blood-bought, sanctified, set-apart priest of Jesus Christ, the Christian should not preach from a “holier-than-thou” platform of self-righteousness, but must remember that he is actually holier-than-most-of-his-audience, for Christ says, “You are holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) Because the minister of Jesus Christ bears the light of the Judge, he is sure to be seen as judging his audience, and rightly so, because we all judge, all the time.

I was recently judged and called platitudinous; maybe I am, and one of my remarks to that effect goes like this, “We all judge all the time, for example, he’s tall, she’s pretty, the preacher guy yelling at us is fat and stupid. It is impossible not to judge, just by you finding me judgmental is you judging that I’m judgmental. Here is where you’ve secured your judgment, for Christ says, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged! For by the same judgment you measure others, you shall be judged!’”

It is to this effect that the Apostle Paul makes one of his most audacious claims, stating, “If we judge ourselves rightly, we will not be judged.” (1 Corinthians 11:31) Is recognizing our rebellion toward God, and our iniquity concerning his standards, the magic way to clemency with God? Of course not, a criminal who stands before a judge and declares his guilt will only save the prosecution time and effort, and move the trial more quickly towards sentencing. The reason that Paul can say that ‘if we judge ourselves rightly we won’t be judged’ is because having judged ourselves as rebels towards God, desperately in need of forgiveness and salvation, we will seek the Man who is both just and justifier, who came into the world to die for sinners, and who grants forgiveness to everyone who draws near to him in faith with a contrite spirit. Judge yourself in need of rescue, judge Christ to be the Risen Saviour, and you shall not be judged.

Having then the massive weight of his own sin removed, the saint is then more than capable of helping to point out the sin in other’s lives (Matthew 7:3-5). This spiritual person judges all things, because his judgment was met on Calvary’s cross.

Of course then, the one being judged cries out! “Only God can judge me!” Indeed, only God can judge you permanently, but that has not saved you, for Paul continues the thought in 1 Corinthians 2:16, “We have the mind of Christ.” We are privy to the standard of judgment that God will use, we are ministers and priests of the Most High, we strive to see sinners judge themselves as fallen and in need of Christ, and so judge them to be sinners, using the standard of the perfect law to show their despondent state. Your ultimate Judge calls you to repent, for he has fixed a day in which to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he has appointed by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31). The spiritual person likewise calls you to repent, seeing the danger that your soul is in for your warfare against Heaven.

And the Apostle Paul says this relates to both those inside and outside of the church, leaving final judgment to those outside. There is a great error within the church today that the Christian ought never judge anyone at all, especially within the church. The belief is that a profession of faith ought to be enough to declare someone a Christian; this mistake is destroying ministries, churches, and individuals, because there is a definite call to judge within church matters that may lead to someone’s condemnation.

The judgmentalism that ought to be scorned is judging someone and calling them a Christian or not because of what they believe within Christianity. After all, many can preach the true gospel while being not a Christian (Philippians 1:15-18, Romans 10:18), but this does not mean they are a Christian. Similarly, it cannot be judged someone’s standing with God on whether or not they believe in the truth of a young earth. Neither can a person who is totally wrong concerning baby-wetting and believers-baptism be condemned on that belief alone.

In the Air Force our aircraft have what is called a MESL (pronounced Measle), which is the Mission Essential Subsystem List and an MEL, which is a Minimum Equipment List. Both are vital to safe and effective operations of an aircraft. For example, on these lists for every single one of our aircraft is a UHF radio, if an aircraft does not have, or has an inoperative, radio, then it is forbidden to fly. You can inspect an aircraft according to this list and determine it is safe for flight and ready to accomplish its mission. If one is missing, the aircraft is grounded. Many in Christianity have begun to treat doctrine like check marks on a MESL, stating, well he believes in the virgin birth, that’s good, he believes in expository preaching and the inerrancy of scripture, and of course he believes that Jesus is the only way to the Father, therefore based on these three, he must be a Christian.

That is not at all the way which the Bible tells us to judge someone. James explicitly says, “You believe that God is one, and you do well…” (James 2:19), but he does not declare this person to be a believer, instead he says, “but even the demons believe-and tremble.” The judging comes from fruit, or works borne out of faith; you don’t look at a tree, examine the wood, determine the height, width, canopy, and locale and declare it to be a peach tree, you look at the fruit and can accurately and definitely declare a tree producing peaches to be a peach tree, and not an apple tree.

So beloved, as you go into the church and seek to determine whether someone is a Christian or not, don’t look at their list of orthodoxy (though when they are unorthodox attempt to convert them to the truth), rather look to their fruit. A sexually immoral person should be considered to be outside of the faith and is not to be gently prodded to reconsider their beliefs, but commanded to repent and be converted. Conversely, a person who lacks a bit of generosity should not be condemned, but exhorted to give since Christ first gave himself. Remember that a person does not become a Christian because they believe a list of essential doctrines, they become a Christian when they are born of the Spirit, transformed into a new creature by Jesus Christ himself. It is extremely evident when a person is still in their flesh, and learning to judge rightly will allow for a healthy, Spirit-filled church, the evil purged and the good embraced.

Be not deceived, for many will claim the name of Christ, but without fruit of the Spirit, they are merely hirelings that will flee when danger approaches or money dries up, they have not been converted and they are still in their sins. Nothing is to be gained from tolerating or following such worthless shepherds.

Dear Christian, you are appointed to judge the world, even angels, how much then should you be striving to be accurate in your judgments? Do not judge by yourself, use the mind of Christ, read his Word, love his law, call unbelievers to judge themselves rightly and seek the Saviour who was judged for them. Judge the one who claims the name of brother but who is indulging the thoughts of the flesh, for by doing so you may save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Judge not their words just for orthodoxy, look at motives and the fruit they are bearing. In all things, remember that nothing you have was not received, neither gifts, salvation, nor sanctification, so be giving all glory to Jesus Christ, who though he was blameless stood condemned, so that he can present his church holy and blameless before himself on the final day.

Judge yourself rightly, knowing that apart from the grace of Christ Jesus, the judgment and condemnation of God would still be upon you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our Selfless Self-Centered God

Introduction


In my review of David Platt’s first book, Radical, I noted some fatal flaws in an outright dangerous book. I felt that Radical strayed far from Platt’s beliefs and actions, and was inconsistent with his philosophy of missions and ecclesiology (how he does church). I would not be exaggerating one bit to say I hated Radical and was seriously worried about the future of David Platt’s ministry direction and his disciples.


It is, then, with great joy, that he has released his newest book, Radical Together. This book recants several mistakes of Radical and addresses several points that were addressed in critique of his book. At location[1] 654-2180 he says, “I began sensing a tendency in our people to define holiness by how much we do for God. Amid all our talk of radical obedience, we were losing sight of gospel grace.” In another place he says, “I get frightened when I think about Radical in [a legalist’s] hands.” (loc. 396)


While I sent Dr. Platt two e-mails about this book, the first my critique, and second a plea to reconsider his humanistic leaning, I never received a reply. As a lightly-read mostly unknown bivocational volunteer associate pastor, I didn’t expect a response, but it is nice in Radical Together that there is some evidence that Platt read my e-mails. I began my critique with 1 Peter 2:9, and early in the book (loc. 143) Platt introduces the purpose of his book with 1 Peter 2:9; later in the book he quotes a story from Paris Reidhead’s sermon against humanism (loc. 1517), which I posted both in my review and sent in my e-mail. Whether these are coincidences or not, I am quite glad that Platt is making strides in Radical Together to correct the mistakes he published in Radical.


Having read Radical Together, I am now much more comfortable with Platt’s ministry and theology, and am glad for the work he is doing both abroad and locally. I am glad for his emphasis on the church body, the Bible, and local missions and discipleship. Unfortunately Radical Together still has some serious mistakes concerning humanism, and just a touch of mysticism, though both are considerably better than Radical. It is also a bit light on Jesus (not on God, but on the cross of Christ), and tends to make mankind more a victim of sin than a practitioner of it.


This review will focus on three major topics in Radical Together, starting with Platt’s best point, Ecclesiastical Accountability, then moving to a major improvement in Platt’s writing, concerning Mysticism, and will conclude with a look at Platt's humanism. In my prior review I mentioned that Radical was horrendously written with almost no continuity; Radical Together is written considerably better, definitely with more movement. As the reader will see later in this review though, from topic to topic there are some major contradictions in Platt’s writing from chapter to chapter. What is important in this point is that his writing and theology have improved drastically from Radical to Radical Together. By far the best improvement is in how he presents the believers role in a church body.


Ecclesiastical Accountability


In my original review I made the point that Platt presented the individual Christian as one “who saves the world of their own accord,” Platt agrees with this individualistic assessment, stating, “In my first book, Radical, I explored how the biblical gospel affects individual Christian lives.” (loc. 99) In Radical Together Platt focuses much more on the role of the church in missions and the role of the individual in the church. This is obviously his main point, as the title attests, that Christians ought to be together with other believers in order to form a working body. The introduction of Radical Together points out that Christians drastically decrease their effect when they “journey alone.” (loc. 99)


One of my major contentions with Radical was that, “the local church is overlooked”, in Radical Together Platt puts a much better emphasis on local missions and the local church, giving a multitude of examples of how his church ministers in Birmingham’s poorest communities (loc. 315), adopts children both locally and abroad (loc. 492), and focuses on God-centered worship (loc. 1489). Platt shares a story (loc. 1489) of a young man who was called to repentance by seeing the church worship a holy and righteous God who is both just and justifier. It is a powerful call to the church to focus on making disciples of Christ rather than trying to meet their earthly and/or sinful desires; Platt doesn’t explicitly quote Matthew 6:34, but no doubt he would give a hearty amen to it, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”


In order to seek first the kingdom of God in everything, Platt calls the church to focus much more on people than performances, places, programs, or professionals (chapter 4). This call requires looking at what the church is doing, and instead of asking, What is wrong with what we are doing? it is better to ask, What is right with it? (loc. 236) This question leads to doing away with things that are not inherently wrong, but which are not using the resources and people of God to their highest and best usefulness.


There is a wonderful movement within Christendom recently to call for greater church oversight of evangelists, missionaries, and small group leaders; not telling them what to do or how to do it, but ensuring they are orthodox and striving for holiness. There are rogue evangelists and missionaries operating every-which-where preaching every sort of heresy, and so every call for better oversight is wonderful, and Platt’s book does so with tact and biblical support.


Churches and church-members who are encumbered by things that are not “wrong” but are also not right will be challenged and improved by taking Radical Together seriously. However, Platt’s ecclesiastical call is not all good.


Ecclesiastical Errors


Another of my greatest contentions with Radical was that David Platt was forcing his ministry focus on everyone, I put it this way,

This all plays out most damnably in Platt’s application, that this radical lifestyle should be true of everyone. What makes him think that someone who won’t volunteer at the homeless shelter in Birmingham will sell their Mercedes and volunteer at the homeless shelter in Mozambique? Why does David Platt’s ‘thing’ have to be my ‘thing’? Are not some called to be evangelists, others pastors, some teachers?

Platt has somewhat improved on this point, but not completely, he points at many ways in which his flock are ministering for Christ, but he continues to perpetuate his error of projecting his own desires on the whole church, stating,

So for you and me not to be intentionally engaged in taking the gospel to unreached people groups is disobedience to the command of Christ. Our churches are in the wrong before God if we are not prioritizing the spread of the gospel to every people group. (loc. 1178)

This error continues to think that the goal of Christianity is to save one person from every nation, tribe, and tongue, and not to call all saints to immersion in Christ. I’m sure Platt would disagree with the following ludicrous statement, “Because Anglo-Saxons, Pontians, and Afrikaners have seen someone repent and come to Christ, missions to these people groups should cease.” But the way he has made his call to world evangelization makes it seem like it is more important to call uncalled peoples to repentance than it is to call everyone to repentance.


Platt seems to misunderstand that the Lamb’s Book of Life, penned before eternity began, includes a certain number of names of people who will certainly come to repentance (Revelation 13:8, 2 Peter 3:9). Radical Together contains far fewer heresies (please note that not all heresy is damnable to the preacher) than Radical, but probably the one that bothered me the most was “What we need to understand is that Jesus did not command us simply to take the gospel to as many individual people as we can.” (loc. 1152) I refute that, even the "simply", because Christ commanded his followers to go and compel everyone they met to come in (Matthew 22:9), Christ cares and prayed for each individual saint (John 17:20), therefore the church must be in the business of spreading the gospel in their hometown, in the surrounding area, to the end of the country, and even to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).


David Platt’s fruit speaks for itself, I love him as a brother; even so, I must make a harsh statement. These errors would be easily avoided through a cursory study of the Book of Acts or the doctrine of predestination, or just letting the Bible speak instead of forcing a hermeneutic of radical world evangelization on every passage.


Mysticism Revisited


Evangelicalism has many great enemies, both external and internal, and one of the most dangerous I see is a slippery slope towards extrabiblical revelation, or operating off of "feelings", or "callings", or "hearing from God in prayer". David Platt's first book was bursting with mysticism, David Platt's second book is almost devoid of it.


There is only one blatant example of mysticism in the book, and it is very oddly placed and seemingly out of context since it is never expanded upon. Platt, when speaking of cutting "not-right" programs within the church, gives a list of very good questions, then states mystically, "And then wait for God to answer." (loc. 185) Platt gives no indication how to hear from God, how he may answer, or how to know that it is God actually answering. This is one of Platt's only single sentence paragraphs in the book, and I have to wonder if it was a point he meant to expand upon. Whatever the reason for this sentence is entirely a mystery to me, and I am glad that it was the only blatant example of a dangerous heresy infecting Evangelicalism.


Not long after that statement Dr. Platt dives into a beautiful defense of the sufficiency of scripture. He starts by attacking ideas that the Bible is insufficient, then states that an effective church must, "be competent to communicate and faithful to follow the Word of God." (loc. 592) Platt makes a lengthy defense for holding to the Bible, rejecting unbiblical ideas that the Bible cannot address modern congregations, and calling more churches to preach the Word instead of trying to be innovative. He makes a cutting statement that is sure to wound many pastors and teachers operating today, "Even among those who stand by the spoken word, many lack confidence in the sufficiency of God's Word." (loc. 672)


I hope and pray that this is the future of Dr. Platt's ministry, rejecting mysticism and holding fast to the revealed Word of God in the Bible. It is, after all, the Word of Eternal Life, by which faith comes to men by which they may be saved by the grace of the Resurrected Christ (John 6:68, Romans 10:17, Ephesians 2:8-9). Platt somewhere claims that this view is by no means new, and I readily affirm that statement, holding to scripture alone is an essential and I am glad he is gravitating towards that belief.


How then, does Platt make such mistakes concerning certain doctrines? I believe it is because of his extrabiblical exaltation of the salvation of men over the glory of God. He asks early in the book for the reader to be willing to look at the Word and the world with a "fresh, honest, and open perspective." (loc. 116) This unfortunately implies that in the past the church has failed, has stagnated, has corrupted, and has become intolerant to the Word; this may certainly be true in many so-called modern churches, but it unfortunately rejects millennia of Christ-exalting missions. What Platt wants us to be open to is not a better Christianity, it is called humanism.


Platt's Great Heresy: Humanism


I am not a textual critic, I don't claim to know for sure what an author was thinking when they wrote a book, but within Radical Together there is such a radical contradiction between the synergism of the beginning parts of the book and the monergism of the latter parts that something major must have happened to Platt in the middle of the book. For that reason, I must break this section into two parts, the first dealing with Platt's heresy, and the second with Platt's orthodox views.


Humanism states that the chief end of God is the happiness of man, that God is doing everything toward mankind towards their greatest good, desiring them to reach a state of eternal bliss, even to the detriment of himself. Platt is right in many places to state, "We are selfless followers of a self-centered God." (locs. 87, 129, 565, 1434, 1653, et al) However, as the title of my review is meant to convey, God is God-centered, but that does not require God to be selfish, afterall, in Philippians 2 we see that Christ was selfless, he poured himself out, he died on a cross counting others as worth more than himself. His selflessness led to something amazing, his exaltation, as God has given him a name above every name. The biblical position is that God is explicitly using men to glorify himself; I have not had the opportunity to speak with Platt on this or any other topic, but I expect we would disagree greatly on this topic.


On location 398, Platt warns legalists reading his book that it is impossible for them to be good enough to be right before God. While this is true in our current inherited depravity, it is not entirely a true statement. The Bible teaches throughout its pages that a perfect person who abstains from evil and does what is right will stand before God blameless and accepted (Psalm 24:3-5, Galatians 5:3, for example). There are two ways to Heaven presented in scripture, one, the way which Jesus attained Heaven, by being totally righteous, and two, the only way by which men may be saved, the righteousness of Christ attributed to them, their sinfulness having been attributed to him. Dear reader, I am not sure that I can fully convince you of the dangers of humanism, often Christianity and humanism seem indistinguishable, but I assure you they are polar opposites, and presenting Christ as merely a justifier without showing him to be just as well is a great error, he is not just redeemer, he is also righteous. He does not merely try to save people, he perfects them in a single sacrifice.


Where humanism becomes most dangerous, in my opinion, is that it presents God as having done everything he possible can to save someone, and is desperately hoping that they will complete what is lacking in his effort. Modern Christianity (not Platt) puts it this way, “Accept Jesus,” “Ask God into your heart,” “Give your life to Christ,” "Surrender to God," etc etc. It makes man sovereign over God, and in it the name of God is blasphemed among the nations.


Let me convince you that this is Platt’s belief, he says, “Until they get a right understanding of the gospel, they will never be a part of accomplishing the purpose of God.” (loc. 390) Elsewhere he says, “I am convinced that in the church we can actually prevent God’s people from accomplishing God’s purpose. If we are not careful, our activities in the church can hinder the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.” (loc. 116) This can be lumped into a heresy called Synergism that God is working with man, both for salvation and for his purposes. Christ states explicitly that he is building his church (Matthew 16:18), Peter asks, “Who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17) Christ doesn’t work WITH us, he works THROUGH us (Ephesians 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, et al), so to think that we can impede the progress of the kingdom is foolish, and shows a deeper problem.


The Bible describes mankind as worthless (Romans 3:12), but Platt says, “[the local and the foreigner] are equally valued by God and equally lost without God.” (loc. 1266) Platt writes a nice piece of prose from location 1493 to 1511 on why we ought to be motivated by seeing people rejecting God to their own detriment to take the truth to them. As nicely as it is written, it is utterly humanism because it assumes that the animistic tribes are looking for the Creator, the Mohamadian factions are looking for a graceful God, and the followers of Buddha are desiring a better prophet. This thinking was directly refuted by Paris Reidhead, by experience, in his sermon, “10 Shekels and a Shirt.” The unbeliever is hostile in their mind towards God, with their mind set on the flesh it is impossible for them to seek God. The Christian is not doing them a favor by taking the gospel to them, the Christian is actually waging spiritual warfare on their soul, calling them to commit treason with the world and turn to their greatest enemy, who is God, for grace and mercy.


Platt frequently points the purpose of the gospel at the glory of God, but in effect he is still striving to see the happiness of man perfected in God. The Christian is called by Platt to save animists (all things, living and dead, have souls) from idols in Africa (loc. 1502), and calls the American materialist to trade their possessions for God (loc. 194). The man in Matthew 22:1-14 who came into the party for personal gain was rejected by the King, it is imperative that we focus on Christ’s glory and not the eternal happiness of men, for the glory of Christ as the end goal will result in the eternal happiness of men, but the eternal happiness of men as the end goal will never reach that goal.


An important point against humanism is that if Christ never saved another person ever, he would still be glorified for his past work of grace and for his current work of justice. Platt overwhelmingly made salvation a contingent to success in Radical, and unfortunately continues that motive in Radical Together, stating, “It is worth it for billions of people who do not yet know that Jesus is the grave-conquering, life-giving, all-satisfying King.” (loc. 150, emphasis mine) This humanistic belief leads to a direct contradiction of scripture in Platt’s recent book. Jesus said, “Pray for laborers…for the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:2) Platt on the other hand, assuming the church is working with Christ instead of him working in the church, says, “We will always have enough people.” (loc. 1067) It was without surprise when Platt prints a misinterpretation of 2 Peter 3:9, quoting a missionary, “God is not willing that any should perish, and neither am I. He wants all people to know him, and that’s why I am going.” (loc. 1537) This humanistic doctrine blasphemes God, making him impotent to save everyone whom he desires to save, making humanity in charge, and it impugns faithful ministers who have very small, or even non-existent, conversion rates (think Noah and Jeremiah for example).


Humanism is dangerous, it has cost at least one man his soul (Matthew 22:13), it will undoubtedly cost many others theirs, it presents God as imperfect and incapable of accomplishing his will, it demeans his sovereignty, and it discourages missionaries who do not see mass conversions. Christ knows exactly who he is praying for, he knows exactly how it will be accomplished, and he knows that it will be perfect (John 6:44, 10:28-29, 17:20). God is willing that many shall perish, since many do perish, he is as glorified through demonstrating his wrath on a reprobate as he is in lavishing his grace on a saint.


Humanism is to be rejected in total, it is not to be dabbled in, it is not to be perpetuated. I sincerely pray that Dr. Platt will soon repent fully of following this man-centered error.


Rejecting Humanism?


Late in the book, Dr. Platt rants AGAINST humanism; I do not know whether or not he realizes how much the rest of the book contradicts his tirade, but it does give me great hope that he will soon be Christocentric instead of anthropocentric. At location 1678 he states,

God does not need me.
God does not need my church.
God does not need you.
God does not need your church.
God does not need our conferences, conventions, plans, programs, budgets, buildings, or missions agencies….
…all the stuff we have created could turn to dust, and God could still make a great name for himself among the nations.

Elsewhere Platt describes a man telling communists that if he is forbidden to speak, then rocks would preach (loc. 1028). Platt understands, at least a little, that God is not synergistic (working with us), but monergistic (working all things by himself), and I look forward to a day when Platt writes a book from the monergistic side of missions and ecclesiology.


Conclusion


Jesus told Peter that if Peter loved him, he ought to tend and feed Christ’s flock (John 21:15-17). Radical Together has done a much better job than Radical towards this goal, recognizing that the church is the way in which Christ is accomplishing his goals. Overall I was edified by the call for the church to work together, for Platt's adherence to the Bible as the final rule of faith and practice, and in his later refutation of man-centered missions.


Radical Together is sure to produce more gospel-centered and graceful ministers than Radical, I am pleased with the direction of Platt's ministry and am hoping that his next book will have nothing radically wrong with it. I pray that he, and you dear reader, will see the dangers of mysticism and humanism and reject both outright. I pray that we can stand together and pray, "May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of his suffering." (loc. 1517, Revelation 5:12)


David Platt's church is a model of both local and overseas missions, and I hope that by his example many churches will engage the world, strengthened and upheld by Jesus Christ himself. We have such a great and lasting promise from God that he will not lose even a single one of his saints, not willing that even one should perish, and that when the gospel of the kingdom is preached in every nation, every saint reaching repentance, then the end will come. So let us go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in to honor the One who was dead, but yet lives, who is always making intercession for his saints.



[1] All citations are Kindle locations; in order to convert these to page numbers, the reader ought to divide roughly by 16.7.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Redeeming the Time

One of my favorite teachers growing up was my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Sanchez. Mr. Sanchez was unabashedly religious, I cannot judge his message because I was unregenerate then and for more than a decade later, but I do remember him openly speaking about his Baptist church and the conversion of his Jewish wife to Christianity. What I do remember is that he loved life and loved his students. I don’t remember anything explicitly that I learned in fourth grade, except for this one thing, a quote Mr. Sanchez quoted often,


“Anything Worth Doing, is Worth Doing Well.”


I would credit this one statement above anything else I learned in school as making me the person I was and even am. This statement carried me through nearly straight A’s in high school, it made me a competent mechanic by sixteen, it allowed me to have some hotrod cars and motorcycles, and it carried me into the Air Force where I was able to do some amazing things. I must note that while this statement drove my adolescence, it was also greatly reinforced by the work-ethic of my father who lived this statement out in his own life.


Where this statement fails, is that it doesn’t give any objectivity towards what is worth doing. I took this motto and pointed it as much at sin as I did towards vocation. I know by experience as well as instruction that the Apostle Paul is correct when he says, “The age is evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Now that I have met the Ancient of Days, the Sovereign of History, I am much more concerned with doing everything worth doing well. And this is magnified all the more by how evil the age is, which Paul tells us to watch how we operate in the world,


Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16


I am certainly a great sinner in this area, that though I use a lot of my time wisely, I also squander just as much of it. Recently this has been my great point of conviction and an item that I am working to correct. For one example, I have been working on my doctorate now for six months, and have yet to finish the first class. I recently, with the grace of the Seminary, reordered my plan of completion and hopefully will, along with this command in Ephesians, make the best use of my time.


Do not confuse this with busyness though, we are not to just use our time, but to use our time for the best purposes, making the light of Christ visible as we have been called to awake and rise from the dead. The current age is evil, I notice in many areas that people are able to surround themselves in all sorts of activities that are certainly not their best use of time. Phil Johnson recently made an amazing point on why Open-Air Preaching is so obnoxious to the culture, “People have always been offended by it, because it tends to confront them with the truths they least want to think about at precisely the moment they are trying to do something to avoid thinking about things like eternity and accountability to God.” I believe it is exceedingly prevalent in our culture to cocoon ourselves into activity so we don’t need to stop and think about whether we’re being good stewards of our time, afterall, when I was even more guilty of this sin than I am now, I could think, I did so much surely it had to have been worthwhile.


But that is not at all a biblical viewpoint. In fact, at least two different biblical examples point to people who were doing a whole lot, but weren’t well received by Jesus; for sake of brevity I’ll only give you the addresses (Matthew 7:21-23, Revelation 2:19-20).


How then do we redeem the time? The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to Corinth, gives the best advice in this battle for our usefulness, explaining that we ought to do just what he does, “we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This requires more thinking, it requires knowing why we are doing things, it requires us considering whether things are sinful, righteous, or even indifferent. Stopping to think seems like such a waste of time in our fast moving culture, if you don’t think so, turn on a TV or Radio, they are experts at removing dead air, making sure you never have to think about what you’re seeing or hearing. This impacted me recently as I was watching an interesting show in the History Channel, which I intended to think about after it was over, but the very next show enthralled me so much that I completely forgot about the last show. It was not I who had captured my thoughts, but by the media which I was watching.


Therefore, we must think more on our actions, we must be considering where our affections are pointed, we must strive to point every thought towards obedience in love towards Christ. The Bible is more than clear in many places that sin starts in the heart. Murder doesn’t just happen, it is born in disdain, moves to dislike, towards hatred, and finally manifests itself in action. So then must our love begin in our thoughts, taken captive to Christ, and pointed outwards for good in action. Jesus says that out of our mouths, our hearts profess.


Before conversion our curse words and insulting speech show a sick and sinful heart, after conversion we are privileged even to preach the words of eternal life. We can even look at our words to determine the affections of our hearts, as Jesus said, “on the day of judgment people will give account for every idle word they speak…” (Matthew 12:36). I have so much work to do, such an idol to kill in my time wasting; taking every thought captive to obedience to Christ.


But I give thanks to God, who sent his Son, who made the absolute perfect use of his time, who never spoke an idle or careless word, was the epitome of obedience to his Father, and yet who died in my place to redeem me from this present evil age, who was raised and makes the Christian’s labor never in vain. So then, please join me in repenting of idleness, of time wasting, of careless thoughts, and so much useless action.


Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. - Colossians 3:17,23-24


Let us press forward towards Christ, repenting of every sin which weighs us down. Let us walk wisely in the light. Let us forever remember that we have only one life, and it will soon be past, and only what is done for Christ will last.


Let us redeem the time, for the days are evil.