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Contending for the Faith in a Day of Pervasive Accommodation

Continuing our series on “10 Challenges Facing the Church in the 21st Century.”

1. Addressing Post-modern American with the authentic Gospel.

2. Cultivating a people of truth in a culture of relativism.

3. Preaching the unchanging Word in a time of increasing flux.

4. Recovering Biblical worship against a world sold on entertainment

stand-firmThis week: 5. Contending for the faith in a day of pervasive accommodation.

We live in a day, sadly, when the faith of the Christian church has been mixed and mingled with all sorts of “other gospels” which Paul said was no gospel at all (Gal. 1:6-7). Whether it be through novels, television programs, magazines, or just friends “ideas” all kinds of false philosophy are entering into the church. I have often been accused (not at Grace, of course) of being too hard nosed when it comes to doctrine. I’ve been asked before, “why do you insist that everything be theologically and biblically correct?” It is almost like, for some in the church today, that a little bit of error is alright as long as everything is “mostly” right.

How would you feel if your water company sent you a letter and said “our filtration system is not working completely right at this time, but we are happy to tell you that your drinking water only contains 10% of sewage from our treatment plant. But hey, it’s 90% pure.” You would be outraged, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Well false teaching, no matter how small, is the sewage that will destroy the church if it is left unchecked.

That’s why I warn against TV preachers that distort and dilute the truth of God’s word; even call them by name. That’s why I can’t endorse books, no matter how much they are “only a story” if they distort the truth about God. I heard of a church in northern Kentucky that is using the current best seller The Shack as a study for their women’s Bible study. I almost flipped out. Is God really a black woman? Is there no problem with that? Is God really three people in such as way that they can manifest themselves at the same time with no unity, in a visible manner? I know that God is spirit and as such is neither male nor female, as we think of gender, but He choose to reveal Himself, in His holy word, as Father. We must maintain that expression.

I have a friend who has had to resign his church because he wouldn’t let a play be done this Christmas that was completely un-Biblical. Was it cute? Yes. Was it entertaining? I suppose so. But it distorted the message of God’s word. Again, sewage in the water of truth. We have already talked about the danger of entertainment. And when the entertainment violates truth it can be deadly.

Jude in his little epistle toward the end of the New Testament said in verse 3, “ . . . I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” That expresses my feelings completely toward the church in the 21st century. I find myself appealing in every way that we stand firm and hold fast to the faith that has been delivered in God’s word. There are too many who are ready and willing to accommodate false ideas and teaching in our day.

So I guess I will just continue on being “hard nosed” when it comes to things that pertain to the Gospel and to God’s word. And I pray that Grace Baptist Church will not surrender one inch in the battle for truth in Somerset.

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Recovering Biblical Worship Against a World Sold on Entertainment

worshipContinuing our series on “10 Challenges Facing the Church in the 21st Century.” We’ve already looked at :

1. Addressing Post-modern American with the authentic Gospel.
2. Cultivating a people of truth in a culture of relativism.
3. Preaching the unchanging Word in a time of increasing flux.

And now today: 4. Recovering Biblical worship against a world sold on entertainment.

In 1986 Neil Postman wrote a book entitled, Amusing Ourselves to Death. It was published just two years after 1984 which was the title of Orwell’s novel. Postman looked at the American culture and gave an analysis in which he saw everything based on entertainment or amusement. He spoke about Orwell’s dark vision as compared to Aldous Huxley’s in Brave New World. Postman said:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies . . .”

There is no doubt that in 21st century America we have fallen prey to Huxley’s vision in a very tragic way. We seek to only be entertained, and that entertainment must be continuous. The real tragedy is that this attitude has infiltrated the church in a major way. It is all about “me” in so many of our churches. Make “me” happy or else I will go somewhere that they will. Lost is the concept that it is not about “me” but it is all about Jesus Christ.

Postman mentioned something that took place in 1985 where many celebrities gathered in a tribute to comedian George Burns for surviving 80 years in show business. Shecky Green, Red Buttons, Milton Berle, and others were joined by Billy Graham for this tribute. Postman tells this about the evening:

“The Reverend Graham exchanged one-liners with Burns about making preparations for Eternity. Although the Bible makes no mention of it, the Reverend Graham assured the audience that God loves those who make people laugh. It was an honest mistake. He merely mistook NBC for God.”

Sadly, in many church contexts there is more of an entertainment mentality than a worship attitude. Make me feel good, make me happy, wow me with something different and unusual, and the list can go on and on. When I come to church I want to see and hear something that I can find no place else. Something that nothing the entertainment media can give me. I want to have an encounter with the God of Truth. I want to “hear” from Him from His holy word. I want to express to Him my gratitude for all that He has done to bring about my salvation in the cross of Christ.

Corporate worship is the most exciting thing in the world . . . when we approach it properly. Of course, we can worship God individually throughout the week, but when we come together on Sunday there is nothing individual about it. It is the Body of Christ gathered with one purpose in mind, or it should be, and that is to worship — To declare the goodness, the grace, the glory of the living God in Jesus Christ, our Lord. To gaze into His face as we “see” Him high and lifted up.

When we seek entertainment, we are lowering God to our level. We “make” God too small in our estimation. David said in Psalm 96:5-7 — “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary . . .Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.” Our God is a great God, a big God, the true God . . . Let us forget about entertainment and worship Him in a manner that is worthy of His greatness.

Blaspheming God!!

The very words should strike fear in our hearts. But do we ever stop and consider if that might be a problem? I remember in 1998 hearing John Piper preach the annual preaching lectures at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. One of his sermons that week was, How Not to Blaspheme God in the Pulpit.” (Click the link to listen)  It was one of the most penetrating sermons I have ever heard and I listen to it at least once a year.

Being a preacher myself, this is a question I ask myself regularly. My greatest fear is to not declare the glory of God in all its beauty and majesty when I preach.

I fear that a trend in our country today is to “dumb-down” God, to bring Him down to our level and to make Him dependent on us rather than us on Him. Mega-churches with their desire to reach great numbers and offend the least amount of people’s sensitivities (read that sins) dare not speak of God ‘s sovereignty and Christ’s Lordship, but paint Him as a buddy who only exists to make us happy. That is blasphemy!!

I remember reading something that Richard John Neuhaus wrote in First Things back in December of 1991 that dealt with this very issue. He was relating something he had read in The New York Review of Books about Albert Einstein’s view of organized religion. Here is what Neuhaus wrote:

• Discussing a number of books on cosmology in The New York Review of Books, Daniel Kevles quotes Charles Misner, a specialist in general relativity theory: “I do see the design of the universe as essentially a religious question. That is, one should have some kind of respect and awe for the whole business. . . . It’s very magnificent and shouldn’t be taken for granted. In fact, I believe that is why Einstein had so little use for organized religion, although he strikes me as a basically very religious man. He must have looked at what the preachers said about God and felt that they were blaspheming. He had seen much more majesty than they had ever imagined, and they were just not talking about the real thing. My guess is that he simply felt the religions he’d run across did not have proper respect . . . for the Author of the universe.” You might want to pass that on to your preacher. If you’re the preacher, you might want to give some thought to repenting. As might we all.” (Emphasis mine)

May we forever exalt the true nature of our Sovereign, Holy, Magnificent God. Sola Deo Gloria!! To God alone be the glory!!

Preaching the Unchanging Word in a time of increasing flux

Here we go again considering the “10 Challenges Facing the Church in the 21st Century.”

1) Addressing Post-modern Americans with the authentic Gospel.

2) Cultivating a people of truth in a culture of relativism.

And now — 3) Preaching the unchanging word in a time ofbible-glasses increasing flux.

We live in a day that almost worships the idea of “change.” If you followed the presidential race, that is just about all that you have heard from both sides: “We must have change.” Sometimes change is good. Many times people just cry for it instead of thinking through the issues. One thing is for sure, change is coming and only time will tell if it is for the better or worse. Sadly we no longer consider what our fundamental, foundational issues really are. To change, just for the sake of change, is quite foolish indeed.

But a part of the relativistic/post-modern age in which we live is the idea that there are no eternal truths; no fixed realities; no established issues worth dying for. Everything changes and to our generation that is just OK. In many areas of life that may not really matter. But when it comes to all that is revealed in God’s word it matters much.

Our churches across the nation are suffering because of the crisis of “changeitis” — holding nothing close as eternal truth. It has crept into the pulpits where there is only a type of pop psychology being taught and preached. One of the most critical missing elements from many pulpits is the cry of ‘thus says the Lord!” Some turn God’s commands into so many suggestions; His instruction in righteousness as something from the dark ages and certainly not for today. It is a sad thing but we live in a generation of spiritual and Biblical illiteracy in so many ways.

In spite of all this, God has given us His unchangeable word . . . The Bible . . . The word of truth . . . That which Paul says is “inspired (literally ‘God breathed’) by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” We must be a people who look to God’s word for counsel and direction, not the latest fad or CNN, MSNBC, or FOX. The stock market may crash, but the word of God stands. The form of government in our nation may change, but the word of God is unshakeable. We must be a people who believe, live, and proclaim God’s holy, inerrant, infallible, trustworthy, and authoritative word.

We have to realize that this makes us look really strange to the world around us. As Al Mohler said in 2000, and it is still true today, “These days, this means confronting, not only a secular world, but a market driven, hyper-consumer sensitive church with the reality that it is the task of preaching the unchanging Word that is the central criterion of ministry, even, and especially in a time of flux.” Change means that there are no “hooks” on which to hang on when things get rough. We must show the church and the world that the word of God is all we need for security in times like these.

10 Challenges Facing the Church in the 21st Century

Back in April, 2000, I attended a Trustee Meeting at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Back then I was a trustee from Florida, not Kentucky. During that meeting Dr. Mohler, in his address to the trustees talked about “10 Challenges Facing the Church in the 21st Century.” It was prophetic back then and was right on target as to what the church must give itself to if it wants to be a voice for the Gospel in our generation.

As I reflected on these “10 Challenges”, which I haven’t read in more than eight years, I couldn’t help but notice that they reflect exactly what we are trying to do at Grace Baptist Church. We are committed to the authentic Gospel, to truth, to recovering Biblical worship and a focus on missions from Somerset and to the world. I couldn’t help but notice while reading #9 that we are involved in the study of Christian disciplines in our adult Sunday School classes this quarter; and #8 reflects our desire to save and strengthen the family.

1. Addressing Post-modern Americans with the authentic Gospel

2. Cultivating a people of truth in a culture of relativism.

3. Preaching the unchanging word in a time of increasing flux.

4. Recovering Biblical worship against a world sold on entertainment.

5. Contending for the faith in a day of pervasive accommodation.

6. The challenge of being the children of light in the midst of the children of darkness.

7. Challenging a new generation of leadership in ministry.

8. Salvaging the family from cultural destruction.

9. Living the Christian disciplines in an era of “do-it-yourself” spirituality.

10. Building a missiology worldview that is centered in the glory of God.

May God strengthen His church to stand firm in this day and seek to face these challenges with the truth of God’s Word. In my weekly Grace Notes article I have been expounding on these each week. I will probably post some of those here in days to come.

For an analysis of today’s cultural situation that the church is facing, I recommend Dr. Mohler’s book Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth.