Trim The Fat

Many medical authorities are asserting that Americans have a definite obesity problem. We Americans are quite simply among the most overweight people groups on the planet. Along with this excessive weight comes increased risk of disease. Diabetes, hypertension, and cancer are just a few diseases that may be triggered by “a bulging belly.” I think that perhaps we who make up the “American Church” also suffer from an obesity problem and that rampant false doctrines, heretical teachings, immorality within the leadership, etc… are the diseases this obesity has produced and perpetuated. 

Here in America we are inundated with Christian programming, Christian radio, Christian Bookstores, mega-churches, how to do this & how to be that instructional teachings, and all of this has served to produce an overweight, self-indulgent body more concerned with her own glory and beauty than that of the Lord who purchased her with His own blood. We have fed to the point that we have come to resemble the “fat cows of Bashan” spoken of by the prophet Amos. 

All of this “feeding” has produced a people who worship the way God makes us feel instead of worshiping God Himself. We scramble to and fro to find the preacher with the “fresh word”, the worship leader with the “heavy anointing”, and we feed upon that which only makes us fat and diseased. We have ceased to eat the “true Bread which came down from heaven” and crave the “raisin cakes” of our own idolatry instead. Sure, we are to come together, be built up, be encouraged in the Lord, exercise our gifts for the building up of the church; but, that’s not where it ends.

The Church is not designed to be a “social club” comprised of people who have received their “get out of hell free cards” and now, while waiting to be raptured out of here, indulge themselves in an endless feeding frenzy. No, we are called to the work of ministry. There is a world filled with people who need to hear of the love of God that is only found in Jesus. There is a hurt and desperate world (not to mention those who fill the pews) waiting for someone to minister to them. Can we not push ourselves away from the “table” long enough to feed someone else?

Just like the physical body has to have exercise and proper diet to combat obesity, the church must also utilize these elements in a spiritual fashion. Hebrews 12 tells us, “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Perhaps the sin which so easily entangles the American church is the sin of gluttony, and this constant feeding has produced an over weight body wrought with disease. 

Let us pray that the Lord will grant us mercy, that we may again fix our eyes solely upon Him, that we may be filled “with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit [instead of fat] in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” 

“You give them something to eat.”

If you read Who, me? (Equipped for Ministry) you remember I was talking about how all who are in Christ are called to ministry and that it is not just the job of the “professionals.” According to Ephesians 4 it is the job of the “professionals” to equip the saints so that they themselves can do the work of ministry. The cool thing is, Jesus already knows how he wants to use you. He knows what He wants to accomplish through you. Let’s check out John 6.

“Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, ‘Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?’ He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, ‘Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!’ Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. ‘There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?’ ‘Tell everyone to sit down,’ Jesus said.” (John 6: 3-10)

 There’s a lot we can learn from this story, but for now; let’s just look at this one aspect : Here, in John 6, Jesus knew what He was going to do. He is asking Phillip how they would feed the people, but He already knew what He was going to do. Jesus may bring you into a situation where you cannot possibly meet the need in and of yourself. Like the disciples you may look out and say, “Lord, we need to send these folks away so they can get something to eat…” and He replies, “No, you feed them.” You look around and it seems impossible, the need is to great, but He knows what he’s going to do. He is teaching us that it is through our relationship with him that we will be used to meet the need of those he brings into our lives.

You see part of equipping Phillip,the rest of the disciples, and you and me for that matter is deliberately putting us in a situation in which we are insufficient within ourselves to minister.  We begin to learn to trust in Jesus’ ability, in his sufficiency. We come to the place when we realize that it is only that which flows out of our union with Christ that will glorify God and meet the need. We look around and see so much hurt, so much pain, so much need, and we say, “Lord, help them. I can’t do anything.” BUT HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO!!  And he wants to use you!

As it is with all true ministry,this feeding of the 5,000 would glorify Jesus and show the crowd who he was, and; that’s what you are called to do- show those he brings to you who He is. You may not be called to stand behind a pulpit or travel to Haiti or write books or make cds, but; you are most definitely called to show others who Jesus is. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:10 that “you are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand for you to walk in.”

Yes my friend, if you are a disciple of Jesus; you are called to do ministry. But, don’t you worry; the Lord is in control and He already knows what He wants to do through you.  Oh, I almost forgot; don’t be surprised if it seems impossible.

House on the Risen Son (Doing)

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the flood waters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built.  But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:46-49)

In our previous segments we’ve talked about coming to Jesus. We’ve looked at how he desires us to be hearing him speak. Now, we want to look at a third aspect of  the wise builder: doing. So many today shout “legalism” or “Pharisee” anytime they are told they must obey or do something. We are sometimes sold an imitation gospel here in the USA, one that says all you have to do is come, ask Jesus in your heart, and then; you’ll prosper, achieve your divine destiny, etc… However, Jesus assures us that unless we do something about what we hear as we are coming to him, we are building on unstable ground.

Here, in Luke 6 this doing, the third leg on our tripod, has the same connotations as coming and hearing- it’s a continuous doing.  I want to keep repeating this: coming, hearing, and doing are continuous, a right now ongoing thing. Jesus said his disciples are not just the ones who hear his word but do it. It is those who are coming, are hearing, and finally, are doing that are his disciples. Remember he asked, “Why do you call me Lord and don’t obey me?” You see, when you study the Bible you find out that “being” and “doing” are always linked. If you really are what you say you are you will do his word and not just hear it. Jesus says he who keeps my word, continues in my word, who obeys and does my word; this one is my disciple. None of us are perfect my brothers & sisters, but the New Testament clearly teaches that a disciple is one who is doing the word.

 James 1:22 tells us that the  one who hears and does not do is deceived. Remember how I said that the Greek, here in our Luke 6 text, showed that this coming, hearing, and doing, was something we did ourselves, for ourselves? Well this being deceived is the same type of word. The one who is merely going to the Bible, hearing the words of the Lord, and not doing them, are right now, present tense, walking in deception which they have brought upon themselves. You know, some people enjoy hearing the word of the Lord. Some people enjoy being convicted. I think of Herod who was moved when he would listen to John the Baptist  preach, but; he never did anything about it!!  I want to drive this home: Jesus is telling us that as disciples we must be coming to Him for the word, continuously hearing His word, and continuously doing His word. Pastor Dennis Hall mentions that Christ, while on earth, enjoyed constant communion with the Father as he continuously sought him in times of isolated intimacy. Jesus continuously came to the Father, heard him speak, and then did what he said. And so it is with us- You can’t only come, you have to hear. You can’t only hear you have to do. (One thing we need to remember is that unless this doing flows out of  the intimacy of coming to him we can easily wind up wind up like the Pharisees.)

Let’s come to Jesus and put into practice the things we hear from him. As we do, we will dig deep and build our house on the risen Son of God.

House on the Risen Son

By now every one knows about how the “housing bubble” burst here, in America. But what we don’t hear a lot about are the spiritual houses collapsing around us everyday.  Luke 6:46-49 has this to say:

46 So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.

 If we look closely at this passage from Luke, a couple of obvious things stand out: coming, hearing, and doing. I like how the scriptures  point out  the way Jesus would wait upon the Father, continuously seeking Him, and hearing from Him as to what to do and what to say. We find that Jesus said, “I’m never alone because I always do that which pleases the Father.” Jesus continuously came to the Father, he continuously listened to the Father’s words, and finally; he always did what the Father showed him. Jesus’ relationship with the Father had the same characteristics he talks about in our section out of Luke 6. If we are to avoid a housing collapse in our lives we need to understand  what Jesus was talking about in regards to this Coming, Hearing, and Doing. Let’s look first at the Coming.

As most of  you know, our English New Testaments were translated from Greek manuscripts, and sometimes looking at a verse as it is written in the Greek will bring out aspects of the verse we might otherwise miss. In the case of our passages out of Luke 6, the original Greek brings out clearly that the coming to him Jesus has in mind is a continuous coming to him. The Greek reads, πᾶς ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρός με or,  “Everyone who is coming to me” Just as Jesus went continually before the Father, so we must continually come to Christ. So many refer back to the time they came to Christ, “Yeah, 20 years ago I got saved…” But are we coming to him today?  Jesus said that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the Father. Our relationship with Jesus must be an on going, right now, present tense relationship. Remember during their time in the wilderness, after the Exodus, the children of Israel were to gather fresh manna every morning. In Moses’ tabernacle, fresh bread was placed upon the table of show bread every Sabbath. It was not allowed to get stale. Brothers and sisters our coming to Christ must be continuous. There is fresh bread but we must come!

The Greek also depicts this coming as something that we do. It carries the aspect of the subject (us) doing something intentionally, with his own benefit in mind. (We Americans ought to be good at this: “What am I going to get out of this?”) This is an intentional coming to Christ on our part. So often we think that we are just going to magically grow in Christ through some kind of osmosis, but; Jesus is saying here in Luke 6 that it is you and I who are to come to him on purpose, continually. Let me ask you to think for a moment… What do you continuously run to? We intentionally go to the TV, the computer, our entertainment,  our families, and the list goes on and on, but; do we intentionally turn aside and draw near to hear God speak to us?  We ask God for his grace for this and that, but; what about asking him for the grace to seek his face. Grace is not solely for when we mess up.  Grace is the power of the kingdom! Let’s ask him for the grace to seek his face.

We also need to see here in Luke 6 that Jesus said we are to be continuously coming to HIM, hearing Him, and doing His word. It’s all in Him! So many of us spend our time running here and there, looking for the latest word from this one or that one, and; Jesus wants us to be coming to him, and hearing his words.  Intimacy with Christ is the key thing here. Let me tell you something, “God is not hiding out in the Bible.” Now understand me, the Bible is the inspired word of God profitable for teaching, correction, reproof and training in righteousness, so that you and I can be adequate and equipped for every good work; but the only way we can properly understand this book is through relationship with Christ. This is what Jesus told the Jews in John 5:39, 40, “You search the scriptures but you don’t see that they speak of me, and you are unwilling to come to me that you may have life.” This book speaks of him! The Bible is not intended to be worshiped or as some kind of magic book with spells in it that will magically give us eternal life- No!! This book is to bring us to Jesus. We can read this book every day (the Jews had most of it memorized, and oh yeah, the devil can quote it too), but if we are not continually coming to Christ, they are merely words on a page.

Here is  the best part of all: Even though our passage tells us that our continuous coming to Christ is something we do ourselves, he is the one that makes first contact!  Remember  the story of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9? Remember he was the crippled son of Jonathan who David sought out to show mercy and kindness to? (See our post Mephibosheth Saith)  Like David, your King is seeking you out, he will carry you into his presence himself, and he will make the way. Mephibosheth was not seeking David, David sought him. And Jesus is seeking you!

The first step in building a House on the Risen Son is a continual coming to Jesus!

(Next time we’ll look into the hearing part.)

Examine Yourselves (part 7)

     If you haven’t read parts 1-6 of this series I encourage you to do so. We have explored certain “myths” surrounding the concept of salvation and have come to understand that in order for one to truly “be saved,” there must be repentance and faith. Last time we looked at what repentance means sola scriptura ( by scripture alone), now; let’s take a look at what it means to have true saving faith.

         The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 12:6). If it is impossible to please God without it, we must make it a priority to know what faith is. The Bible tells us that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). So, if faith is the vehicle through which we are saved, we must understand just what faith is; in particular, saving faith. What is saving faith?

        “Saving faith may be defined as a response to God’s call by the acceptance of Christ with the total person- that is, assured conviction of the truth of the gospel, and with trustful reliance on God in Christ for salvation, together with a genuine commitment to Christ and to his service.”[1]  This saving faith can be distinguished into three aspects: knowledge, assent, and trust.[2]

            1) We must be aware of what we are to believe.

            2) We must whole heartedly agree with the gospel.

            3) We must trust with our entire being.

 All of that may sound kind of mechanical and static, so; let’s see if we can bring it to life with the following example:

        Someone has told the story of the man who was walking back and forth across Niagara falls on a tightrope. Well, he walked across the falls a couple of times and the people were all amazed. Returning from  the other side for the final time, he turned an asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can walk across the falls blind folded?” Every one responded with cheers, “We know you can, let’s see it!” He then proceeded to ask that a wheelbarrow be brought up to the platform. He turned to the crowd and said, “Let’s see who truly believes I can do it. Will some one come up and climb into the wheelbarrow and let me push you across as I walk the falls?” There’s a big difference in saying you believe and getting in the wheelbarrow. If you’re going to get in the wheelbarrow, you definitely need to be aware of what/who you’re putting you faith in, you’re gonna have to wholeheartedly agree that the man’s words are true (i.e. his claim that he can get both you and he across blindfolded), and you are most definitely going to trust with your entire being.

            Misunderstanding saving faith can be dangerous. The Bible clearly teaches we’re saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.[3] The argument by many is that since salvation is through faith alone, there is no need for any works. However, the book of James reveals that it is the presence of corresponding works which qualifies saving faith (James 2:14-26). James points out that Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac revealed that he was indeed in possession of saving faith.  “Lip service, with no manifestation of the fruit of faith is not saving faith.’[4]


         We have discussed the fact that salvation is not simply a self-help tool designed to make me the best me I can be. We’ve discovered that salvation isn’t merely keeping a list of do’s & don’ts. We’ve examined the fact that the presence of the miraculous is not proof- positive of communion with Christ. In part four we saw that mere mental assent to the facts concerning Jesus does not mean one is in communion with Christ. And finally, in part five we came to our last “Myth Buster” and found that nowhere in the Bible is someone inquiring as to how one is born again told to just “ask Jesus to come into your heart.”

We have come to understand that true salvation involves repentance and faith. An exploration of the meaning of faith and repentance should serve to further the already present witness of the Holy Spirit that we are indeed the children of God, or else, convince us that our conversion experience is altogether lacking or perhaps disingenuous. And finally,we have learned that salvation is not a one time event, something we did a long time ago; it is an ongoing, right now, present tense relationship with Jesus.

We have entitled this series Examine Yourselves, so; let’s examine ourselves. While this is by no means a definitive list,based on what we’ve learned; I’ve created a list of questions that will at least help us begin to examine ourselves:

1) Has my life truly changed direction?

2) Have I turned away from sin and towards God; and, am I continuing to do so?

3) Has my outlook on life as well as my behavior truly changed?

4) Do I have sincere remorse over my sin?

5) Am I presently looking to God and relying on Christ to keep me free from the dominion of sin?

6) Do I truly believe that Christ came, incarnate God (God in the flesh), and died for my sins and rose again from the dead?

7) Am I “in the wheel barrow” so to speak? (Remember the story above.)

8) Is my life marked by a continued commitment to service, and works which bear evidence of the reality of my faith?

Well, that’s it for the Examine Yourselves series. “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13)

                1. Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved By Grace, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 140.

            2. Ibid., 140-143.

            3. Tim Riter, Twelve Lies You Hear In church, (USA- David C. Cook Publishing, 2004), 18.

4. R. C. Sproul, Essential truths of The Christian Faith, (USA- Tyndale House Publishers, 1998), 187.

Postmodern Reflections (part 3)

(As I have studied the Emergent/Postmodern Movement, another book I sought to have prayerful, objective interaction with was, D.A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. What follows are various reflections I had during this interaction.)

The emergence of the Emergent/Postmodern Movement (EPM)  is perhaps the most significant event the ecclesia has witnessed in recent history. It is the opinion of this writer that the the EPM may very well be a precursor to the faithless, spiritually apostate, adulterous church which will emerge into prominent significance as eschatology is ultimately realized. It is therefore of the utmost importance that those within the ecclesia (the Church) be “conversant” with this movement and gain an understanding as to its implications.

As this writer has immersed himself in the study of the EPM, he has discovered that the premise on which the movement is founded is predicated on the fact that the world has evolved from a modern to a postmodern society, and conversely; the church must change with the times.  A big part of the way times have changed is the way we understand truth. This writer finds himself in agreement with D.A. Carson as he states in his book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement an Its Implications:

“The fundamental issue in the move from modernism to postmodernism is epistemology– i. e., how we know things, or think we know things. Modernism is often pictured as pursuing truth, absolutism, linear thinking, rationalism, certainty, the cerebral as opposed to the affective- which in turn breeds arrogance, inflexibility, a lust to be right, the desire to control. Postmodernism, by contrast, recognizes how much of what we “know” is shaped by the culture in which we live, is controlled by emotions and aesthetics and heritage, and in fact can only be intelligently held as part of a common tradition, without overbearing claims to being true or right. Modernism tries to find unquestioned foundations on which to build the edifice of knowledge and then proceeds with methodological rigor; postmodernism denies that such foundations exist (it is “antifoundational”) and insists that we come to “know” things in many ways, not a few of them lacking in rigor. Modernism is hard-edged and, in the domain of religion, focuses on truth versus error, right belief, confessionalism; postmodernism is gentle and, in the domain of religion, focuses on relationships, love, shared tradition, integrity in discussion.”[1]

While this writer would agree that postmodernism has definitely replaced the modernistic paradigm which has been prevalent, it is postmodern epistemology that reveals the apostate characteristics which lurk in the heart of the EPM. As Carson points out in his book the danger that presents itself to those involved in the EPM is that of becoming submerged in the surrounding culture to the point of hopeless compromise.[2] EP epistemology is derived from the surrounding culture and its cries for reformation are directly related to its understanding of postmodernism.[3] In other words, the tendency in the EPM is to reject any absolute “truth statements,” and all of theology therefore becomes a subjective narrative in which each individual must find his place. Those within the EPM place a great deal of credence upon tolerance (with the exception of those who disagree with them), hesitating to call anyone wrong. Their preaching and Bible study reflect the importance they place upon the “life-narrative”[4] which conversely emerges from their epistemology.

In his book, Carson applauds those within the EPM for their desire and ability to read the surrounding culture. “Just as the apostle understood that his moves from culture to culture brought implications for how he went about his preaching (even though his constant resolution was to preach Christ crucified, I Corinthians 2:1-5[5]), and just as thoughtful missionaries learn the same lesson as they step from one culture into another, so also must the church of God when it stays home and the culture in which it is embedded changes. That is something the [EPM] understands.”[6]

This writer recognizes, along with Carson, that the EPM does indeed perceive the surrounding culture with far more clarity than many who make up the traditional church, but while the cultural comprehension of the EPM promotes a much needed desire for change and reevaluation; it often appears that the EPM is more in love with the deconstruction of the instituional church than it is with the One who said he would construct his church.

“One of the striking commonalities among its [Emergent] leaders is the high number of them who come from immensely conservative or even fundamental backgrounds. When they describe the kinds of churches from which they spring, a very high percentage of them have emerged from a tradition that is substantially separated from the culture. These churches often lay considerable emphasis on getting certain doctrine, often cast in the fundamentalist mode, nicely constructed and confessed. The passage of time has moved these churches farther and farther from the very different directions being pursued by the broader culture, and sensitive and concerned individuals within such traditions finally make a break, not least for the gospel’s sake. It becomes a mark of freedom to have a glass of wine and watch some movies that our former ecclesiastical friends wouldn’t approve.”[7]

Carson points out that those within the  EPM insist that those who are traditionally evangelical are “hard-nosed and inflexible because it constantly thinks in truth-categories and does not perceive the legitimate place of experience- not least the fact that the personal experience of the knower plays a part in what he or she thinks is the truth.”[8] This writer has always considered himself somewhat off the beaten path of what may be labeled traditional western Christianity; however, even one who questions the long held traditions of the modern ecclesia, most assuredly understands that while strict adherence to the historical-grammatical hermeneutical method of biblical interpretation warrants renewed discussion, experience alone cannot be counted upon as the ultimate criteria whereby biblical truths are interpreted. Carson rightly points out that:

“Of course, truth and experience do not have exactly the same sort of footing. Truth itself, rightly understood, may correct experience, but not the other way around. On the other hand, experience may prompt us to revise our previous understanding of the truth. Truth in the Bible is often propositional (though it is often more than that), but mere knowledge of merely propositional truth does not necessarily save us: just ask the Devil himself. Both truth and experience, wrongly functioning in our lives, can be corrupting; our memories of experiences may easily become idolatrous, making it necessary to turn our backs on some of these memories (Philippians 3:13-14), and knowledge may become that which puffs up while love builds up (I Corinthians 8:1).”[9]

Indeed as Carson points out in his commentary on II Peter 1:1-21 our experience must be: grounded in God’s transforming power, attested by spiritual growth and productivity, and attested by our unflagging perseverance.[10]

Carson explains that those in the EPM claim that Christian leaders have to recognize that changes in the culture signify that a new church is emerging, and that there must be a willingness to leave behind forms of thought and modes of expression that no longer communicate to this emerging generation.[11] This writer would agree that Christian leaders must adapt to cultural change as to the modes of communicating the gospel; however, it appears that many within the ranks of the EPM have allowed changes within culture to blind them to the reality that the gospel itself does not change, but creates its own relevance within whatever culture it is preached.

“So which shall we choose? Experience or truth? The left wing of an airplane, or the right? Study or service? Evangelism or discipleship? The front wheels of a car, or the rear? Subjective knowledge or objective knowledge? Faith or obedience? Damn all false antitheses to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ. The truth is that Jesus Christ is Lord of all- of the truth and of our experience. The Bible insists that we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.”[12]

            1. D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan, 2005), 27.

2. Ibid., 44.

3. Ibid., 42, 43.

4. Ibid., 26-31.

                5. This is where those within the Emergent movement diverge from Christianity. They have ceased preaching Christ crucified and opted instead for a “gospel” of cultural relevance.

6. D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan, 2005), 47.

7. Ibid., 86.

                8. Ibid., 218.

9. Ibid., 219.

            10. Ibid., 219-229.

11. Ibid., 12.

12. Ibid., 234.