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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Disappearing Bible

Introduction

The year is 2,347BC, the ground is still soggy, but plants are starting to spring up left and right, grass is thriving in the new topsoil, and little baby animals frolic in the bright sun. New mountains rise majestically above the plain, in the far distance a thunderclap announces a rain storm, which quickly gives way to a perfect rainbow.

In a tent supported by gopher wood scaffolding, a wise old man studies the scriptures with his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. He ensures they are well versed in the Genesis event, in the fall of mankind, the promise of a Redeemer born of woman, the increasing reprobation of mankind and of warnings ignored, the call to their father to build an ark in the midst of dry land, and the wrath of God coming when no-one on earth expected it. Above all, they knew that God was a gracious God and one who kept covenant with all those who trust in him. From these three men, all of the people of the whole earth were dispersed (Genesis 9:18-19).

The Bible Lost

The year today is AD2011, over 4,300 years have elapsed since that faithful man Noah instructed his sons in the scriptures. Then they went out throughout the whole earth, splashed to the four corners of the compass with their languages confused. Today you can go throughout this terrestrial ball and find people who today have utterly no recollection of the God who deluged the world in wrath, but chose to save just eight of their ancestors. Today legends and traditions and mysteries abound of a monotheistic Creator God who accepts atonement, who flooded the earth, and/or who is the first cause and self-existent one, but the details are lost, his name is veiled, his character is blurred, his communication is less than a memory, and his salvation is unknown.

How can there be so many nations, tribes, and tongues who descended from Shem, Ham, and Japheth who are ignorant of the God of their forefathers? Was it because God forgot them? No, for he promises to save a saint from every one of these peoples, even writing his first Gospel accounts to them, Matthew to the Semites, Mark to the Hamites, and Luke to the Japhethites. Then it must have been that the knowledge of God was lost by some hapless teachers in the past, those who felt that transmitting the Word of the Living God, the very words of eternal life, was not important, and by so doing condemned both themselves, and their hearers.

Not Many of You Should Become Teachers

Jesus tells us that the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. An ancestor of every person on that broad way at some time in the past knew how to find the narrow path, but failed to teach it. They led their entire progeny down the wrong road and great will be their destruction.

This is why James, the brother of Jesus, says so emphatically, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1) One bad teacher can condemn an entire church, an entire city, an entire people group. There is no more overpaid or overappreciated person than the one who teaches little ones to sin by ignoring the Bible. Truly Jesus was clear when he said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

The teacher who fails to teach the Bible, or fails to teach it faithfully, is setting themselves up for a great fall, and are doing immense damage not only to themselves but also to the souls of those whom they teach and those whom those will teach and so on.

You Ought to Be Teachers

The Apostle says to the Hebrews, “by this time you ought to be teachers”, speaking to a group of Christians who had been saved for some time, who had heard much truth and been instructed in the basics of the faith (Hebrews 5:12-6:3).

I am finding a sad trend in my area of people who read their Bibles, but don’t take them seriously and who certainly don’t tell others about what they’ve read. They read their Bibles through such a lens of tradition that they are not transformed or even interested in being transformed. They read verses like Matthew 22:7, Hebrews 1:9, and Revelation 14:10-11 and refuse to believe that God hates anyone or that Hell is eternal conscious torment inflicted by him. Others claim that free-will is the running theme of the New Testament, yet don’t realize that the word is never used in the New Testament, or that the Bible is violently against the concept. Others read the Bible to find the promises of health, wealth, and happiness, or trying to puff up their own self-esteem by overemphasizing their worthiness to save. They are much more interested in what the Bible means to them, than what the Bible actually means.

I am not lying one bit to say that these genuinely read their Bibles often. One recent conversation I had was with a young lady, a homosexual and communist advocate, who is on a strict reading plan of a chapter a night. But they perish for lack of knowledge, no-one has ever taught them how to read their Bibles or what the main theme is, no-one has ever confronted them in their errors.

Beloved, if you are a Christian, if you know what the Bible says, and you know how to rightly exegete a passage, declaring what the original author intended, then you ought to be a teacher. If you can’t do all of those things, then you ought not be a teacher, you should run from that role. Dan Phillips, author of the excellent book, The World-Tilting Gospel, gives the best advice, “Scripture meant one thing before you were born, means the same now, and will mean the same, should you die. Preach that meaning.

Strive to Speak For God

Perhaps, dear Christian, you do not feel called to teach, or you do not feel equipped, or you just plain don’t want to. Then I call you to submit to the command of the Bible, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1) Prophesy in the Old Testament occasionally dealt with new revelation, but more often than not was an exhortation to love God and love your neighbor, repenting of sin. Prophesy in the church deals exclusively with speaking for God out of the closed canon of the scriptures. When you quote John 3:16 or Romans 5:8, you become a prophet, because you are speaking for God.

Not only so, but as a herald and priest of the King (1 Peter 2:9), you ought to love to proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of the darkness into his glorious light. You are commanded to strive for the ability to speak for God faithfully and with love.

And beloved, in so doing, you will perpetuate the words of eternal life, your students and hearers won’t be left in the dark as to who God is, what he demands of humanity, and how he is saving a remnant from every nation, tribe, and tongue by sending his Son to be the propitiation for their sins. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Conclusion

Your church, your city, your people group is potentially only one generation away from complete spiritual darkness, all you have to do is fail to teach the Bible. If you claim to be a teacher in any capacity, then for the love of Christ and his church, teach that he has made himself known and can be known in perfect fellowship through the power of his resurrection revealed in the inerrant and infallible words of the Bible. Please do not face a stricter judgment by failing to teach the love of Christ, but open up your Bible and proclaim it in Spirit and in truth, living it in deed and in truth.

In an age when Bibles are available in every hotel, at every book store, in any library, for free at any festival, online in every translation and with an overabundance of explanatory notes, handheld in most phones, the Bible is being lost to future generations for lack of solid teaching. I beg you to not be guilty of condemning future generations by not caring enough about God’s Word or the message of the Word Incarnate to teach it faithfully and put your love into action.

Beloved, preach your Bible, declare the truth of Christ and him crucified, stand on the firm foundation of scripture; I pray you will, and I pray that the audacious words of Paul will be true of you, “Devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teachingPractice these things, immerse yourself in themPersist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:13,15,16)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Practical Atheists

There is an inevitable awkwardness coming in my life when I will run into people who really don’t like me. It’s unavoidable, it will happen at a supermarket, or a gas station, or a restaurant; it’s a peril of advocating “local” churches, where members don’t have to drive an hour to get to church, and where fellow members are also neighbors.

I’m not too worried about this point, in fact, let me quote a secular sitcom,
“I hate drama!” [pause]
“No you don’t, you love drama.”
“I know; you’re right! I love drama!”
But something struck me recently, that there is one place I am safe from such awkwardness, where I can be sure not to run into certain people. That place is anywhere where ministry can be done, anywhere where people can be talked to about the gospel. They have told their Father that they will go to the nations and publish the peace of the gospel, but then have not (Matthew 21:30). It reminded me of some very harsh verses, verses like,
“They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.” (Titus 1:16)
and,
Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…’” (Mark 7:6, Isaiah 29:13)
There is a very unfortunate theology ingrained in the church today of a people who fail to learn or love, but simply take the name of Christ without considering any of its implications. I thought long and hard on Hebrews 12:14 this morning, which calls Christians to strive to be set-apart, for without holiness, no-one will see the Lord. This is not works-righteous, it is a way to test ourselves, if we have no desire for holiness, it is most likely because we are not holy as Christ as holy, for he states very clearly, “You shall be holy, as I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) It’s not works-righteous at all, it is a joy to be set-apart for the gospel, but so many are failing to strive for holiness, and are perfectly content living a worldly life while naming the name of Jesus Christ.

It is not nominally atheistic, indeed, many proclaim Christ to be God, but practically it is exactly atheism, because the life which most of the professing church lives today would be no different if tomorrow Christianity were to vanish from the face of the earth. How is it that Paul could wish an imprecation on himself, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:16) and yet most of the church today would say the opposite, “Woe to me if I would offend someone with intolerance or exclusivity or the cross of Christ.” Though their beliefs may be orthodox, their lives betray their beliefs.

A mere glance at any ministry opportunity in the area shows a field white for harvest, a people who are exceptionally far from Christ, who are without hope and without God in the world, a nation of idol worshippers and mammon lovers, worshippers of their bellies and sundry lusts. I lamented recently looking at a set of mammoth bleachers filled with people, thinking that with only fifty Christians we could have witnessed to all of these people in a matter of hours; but in scanning for Christians doing the will of their Father, three were found. The church was absent in its commission.

Beloved, if this is you, I pray that you are insulted. There is a very real call in Christianity to act as a priest of God, to minister in his name, to do something to proclaim his kingdom and the great love by which he loved us. I pray my attitude has not insulted you, but the words which I have conveyed. Let me quote a Psalm that hopefully will cut you to the heart; nothing is added or removed, this is God speaking to you:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.

The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the LORD?

There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
You would shame the plans of the poor,
But the LORD is his refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. – Psalm 14:1-7
So many professing Christians are still in this unregenerate state; all true Christians at one time were in this state, but they have been washed, justified, and sanctified by Jesus Christ. They have been made to bear fruit through his life, and to love one another through his Spirit; they will never fall.

Notice that it doesn’t say they believe there is no God, but that they say there is no God. There is a difference, a person can utter the name of Christ and still live like Christ is neither Sovereign nor Judge. A person can believe that mankind is in desperate danger and in need of redemption, but a life that never does anything about it is proclaiming peace when there is no peace. Many study the Word of God, believing everything it says, but by failing to be doers of the Word, they make it just a book-club and a hobby.

Beloved, the Bible exhorts you to study and work that you may not be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15); you may believe it, but if you don’t act on it, Christ threatens to remove the light from you (Revelation 2:5). This weekend myself and a small group of laborers will be going out into the harvest, we will be at a football game one night, a concert the next, and a festival the last; we will be calling as many as we can find to come into the kingdom to honor the Son. I unfortunately do not expect to see many, if any, other Christians doing the same.

Those who it would be very awkward to run into at the supermarket are among the top list of those I do not expect to encounter living their faith. But if they were to be proclaiming Christ with their life instead of just with their lips, and I were to run into them, then that inevitable meeting would certainly be much less awkward.

So, dear reader, how about you? Will you name the name of Christ only to be called a fool, a fraud, and a hypocrite? Or will you live a life worthy of his call, studying yourself approved, a workman who needs not to be ashamed? Will you be a practical atheist, one who claims to know the true God, but who lives like God has lain dead in a tomb for 2,000 years?

The call is clear, if you love Christ, you will obey his commandments. You will go into the highways and the hedges, you will go into the hospitals and the prisons, you will love the unlovable, and preach the gospel to all.

If you won’t, then I echo the sentiments of both Christ in Matthew 23 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:

Woe to you. Woe to you, indeed.