Consistent Inconsistency – Part 2

There are issues or practices that exist in many evangelical churches. Many are valid, while others are merely the status quo. This means the existing state of affairs. When I pastored in England, there was a saying that summed this up quite nicely. “We have been doing this since the year dot.” Making this statement referenced the reality that nobody knew how or when an issue or practice started, but it has always been that way. Therefore, we have no plans on changing what we are doing.

In the last article, we addressed three items in particular 1) the KJV-only position, 2) the rapture, and 3) The role of supporting missions.

My post is not written with a desire is to belittle a specific person who holds to a KJV-only or rapture position, nor even undermine the role of missions in a local church. My concern is to point out the inconsistencies of holding to a particular position or belief if it is not based solely on Scripture. In fact, I have friends and family who hold to both of these positions and seem to have no issue with the way that churches support missions.

My concern is the lack of fellowship and the vitriol that exists between those who claim the name of Christ. Again, before anybody questions my doctrinal position, I want to add that I have NEVER wavered on the foundational truths of Scripture. What I have changed is where I stand on positions that are not 100% clear. Some of my beliefs have been subjective at best, while others have been refined and clarified through the years.

Through the years, I have learned that some of my convictions are actually nothing more than preferences. I often heard a conviction is something a person would be willing to die for, but a preference does not hold the same value. Sadly though, I have seen many preferences become a “hill to die on” instead of remaining a preference.

But are preferences really as important as some make them out to be? Let me give a follow up example. The use of the KJV is a preference, and not a conviction. If a person were to threaten a person who holds to a KJV-only with harm if they did not read or teach one service from another version, there would be no hesitation at all. They would use the other version. That is another level of inconsistency.

Anytime the status quo changes, one of two things tends to happen. 1) People tend to ask questions and search for the truth, or 2) people get angry and upset. When they get upset, they then tend to abandon all reason. As humans, we do not like to be wrong. To find out we have been wrong in an area requires having humility before God. Yet, some are not willing to be taught.

However, there is another level to the inconsistencies found in many churches. As a pastor, the role of the shepherd is to help guide the sheep. He is tasked with the solemn responsibility of using the time afforded him to minister the Word of God. This teaching is to be such that it helps the hearers strive to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ today than they were last week.

In addition, pastors are to encourage the listener to be followers of Christ, NOT followers of the latest fads or trends in Christian circles. Pastors are NOT called to be little dictators, but to point only to Christ. As the apostle Paul stated so well in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

During my 50 years of life, I have heard “sermons” preached about long hair on men, women wearing trousers, the dangers of Christian Contemporary Music, and a myriad of other preferences. These were a waste of time and only serve to show the lack of preparation time that was spent before the Lord in order to preach the truth. Pastors who do this are failing in their calling.

Pastors and elders, if our goal every week is to stand in the pulpit and harp on preferences, we are demeaning our calling. Time is short and we must be good stewards of our time.

Consider this – Every week consists of 168 hours, and if the average listener comes to a service but once a week, that means that as ministers or teachers of God’s Holy Word that we only have but 30-60 minutes to point them to Christ. To do otherwise is to be inconsistent with the duties of a shepherd.

Do we fully understand this? If people ask those in fellowship what your church believes, the answer they are prepared to give is telling on the sad demise of Biblical truth being preached and taught throughout much of western Christianity.

Many times, the situation would sound like this.

Speaker 1 – “What do you believe?”

Speaker 2 – “Well, I believe what my church believes.”

Speaker 1 – “Tell me what your church believes then.”

Speaker 2 – “My church believes what my pastor believes.”

Speaker 1 – “Please tell me, what does your pastor believe?”

Speaker 2 – “Oh that’s easy, my pastor believes what I believe!”

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This is the Biblical standard. 

Is there any wonder why people are so willing to hop from one church to another? Maybe it is because too many pastors are interested in building personal kingdoms and keeping them staffed then they are in preparing hearts for eternity!

Pastors, elders, teachers, and churches, please consider these things –

  1. This world is NOT our home. We are only strangers passing through from that which is temporal and will fade away to that land where eternity reigns.
  2. EVERY believer is to be accountable to one another. This means that pastors and teachers are to be held to God’s standard, not self-made standards. If a pastor or teacher is teaching from the book of Second Preferences or the book of Third Do-it-my-way-or-the-highway, then they have failed.
  3. Pastors and teachers – You are NOT called to build your own kingdom. It is the kingdom of Christ. He is the One Who died for sins. He is the One Who keeps His people secure. He is the One Who justifies the sinner, redeems them, and sets their feet on the Solid Rock. He is the Bridegroom Who is coming again for those who are true believers. “Well done!” is not something we will ever hear if Christ is NOT only prominent but preeminent in every aspect of our ministry.
  4. As a family, if you are choosing to listen to teaching that does not rest solely on the pages of Scripture, then you are NOT leading your family in the way of truth. You are doing nothing more than taking them to a buffet full of nothing but junk food and expecting your family to grow healthy in the ways of Christ. It will not happen. One day you will wake up and may find that your children do not care for church or the things of God. Why should they think any differently when all they may have seen was hypocrisy and inconsistencies that do not line up with the same Scripture that we, as parents, claimed to be the ONLY rule of faith and practice?

More thoughts to come –

Having A Tender Heart

As I’ve gone through my life I’ve found many times that my heart has been hardened against the things of the Lord. Before the Lord drew me to Himself, my conscience was pretty much hard and cold except every once in a while. Then, I would have a glimpse of what would happen if I continued on the path I was traveling.

After salvation, I was still quite a bit like a worldling in most everything. As I watched my husband and learned a lot from him, who’d been saved for awhile, I began slowly changing in areas. He read a lot of theological books and I wanted to learn so I began reading them. There were many times I stopped reading, struggled for awhile and then grow hard and cold again. The Lord sent trials my way and I’d realize how cold I’d gotten. I had been so immersed in my own self that I never even saw what had happened and the stagnation within my own life. My heart was no longer tender towards the Lord and it would take awhile to return to tenderness towards the Lord.

Many churches we went to made a call for the conscience but not a call that would bring my heart to a tenderness towards the Lord. It was normally done to make me feel guilty over something I was doing (or not doing) that would prove to the leadership that I wasn’t spiritual enough. Some of the things were valid points but most weren’t.

heart

Sadly, a lot of churches and even believers can be very dictatorial over what is spiritual and what isn’t. We find, in evangelicalism, that rules or the lack thereof seems to take precedence over Biblical truth. So many churches that claim to be preaching the truth only tend to preach a portion of it. It’s easy to add a little error to truth but a little error makes the truth nonexistent.

The example Mark Anthony Escalera used about the barrel of apples is prime. If you have a barrel of apples and one is poisoned how will you know which one to choose? You might grab the first one and it could be clear of the poison but how will you know? Eventually you will grab the wrong one and pay the price.

So, how do you know which church has the poison, the error mixed in with the truth, and which doesn’t? Well, the Word of God is there for our learning and, as we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Lord, we will have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14. The Word of God has both truth and principles to follow in our lives. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” The Holy Spirit makes it plain to us.

The poison can apply to either churches that add extra to God’s Word or say that God’s Word is irrelevant and you can do whatever you want or that all roads lead to heaven. As we study God’s Word regularly and feast on His truth, let us be mindful to exercise our senses to discern good and evil. So many are headed in a direction that goes contrary to God’s Word because they refuse to read and refuse to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such areas as is important for their walk with the Lord. May we be of that number who “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

As we journey in this life towards the next, our hearts need to be tender towards the Lord. The strength of tenderness towards the Lord is where our relationship with Him grows. As we desire to do His will as well as do it, our hearts are exercised in obedience towards Him. Next time you visit a church the questions should not be — What can I get out of this? Or…is the music my style? Do they have great programs here? How long do services last!

Instead, ask these questions, Is this church teaching the Word of God in its entirety? Am I seeing the sin within my life and being convicted of it? Am I becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Word of God? Am I able to discern if the leaders are teaching truth or error? May each of us be always tender towards the Lord.

A New Direction

Street SignHaving been the head administrator for the last several months, I have been blessed to work with some truly wonderful brethren and to interact with a great many of our readers personally. Having been here for nearly two years, I believe that many of the articles we have written have truly been beneficial and God honoring. And I believe those articles have helped many readers to understand the holy nature of God better, causing them to glorify the Lord. With that being said, I have also had the opportunity to be moderator of the comments and the interactions we have with our readers. I have seen the reactions that some of the things we have written cause, not all of the reactions we have received have been pleasant, or even God honoring. In fact, there have often been times where things have gotten downright snarky.

Now, I have never been one who feels that Christians should cower in a corner and not stand up for the truth. I believe that we must stand and proclaim the only truth there is, the word of God. If we were to fail to proclaim the truth for fear of how we would be received, we would be sinning against God Himself. We must not, in fact cannot, compromise the truth of the gospel. However, in standing up for the truth, it is possible for us to be so caustic or arrogant in what we say that we can do just as much damage as we hope to defend against. I fear that in our efforts to defend the solid truths of the gospel, we as a blog, have crossed that line on more than one occasion. The result has been that we have engendered a spirit of divisiveness and even bitterness among ourselves and our readers. For this, I must sincerely apologize.

As Christians we are called to proclaim the truth of the gospel to a lost and dying world. And we are to do so with all the love and compassion we can possibly show. We are heralds of the true and living gospel, proclaiming salvation through Christ alone. We are also called to use our gifts to edify and strengthen the body of Christ. To build it up for good works that glorify our Savior. If we fail to obey these commands from our Lord, we are indeed in sin. Many times throughout the run of this blog, various authors have attempted to make the call for all of us to eliminate the sometimes caustic and arrogant attacks we level at each other. There have been pleas to speak the truth in love and compassion, both to the lost and the saved who frequent our pages. Yet, I continue to see the end result of that which we have posted. I have seen the arguing and spitefulness we have been responsible for. Thus, we have failed to heed our own call.

Now, in fairness to my gifted pool of contributors, I know that the proclamation and defense of the truth will always have its detractors. There will be no end of those who wish to argue and pervert the truth. Therefore, now matter how much love and compassion we write with, there will be those who seek to stir up strife for their own gain. It is not those who concern me. It is those with whom we are true brethren, those with whom we may disagree but are yet in the faith, that we have sometimes eviscerated with our words that I am compelled to apologize to, and ask forgiveness from. While none of us have ever set out to purposefully harm our brethren, our desire to defend the theologies we are passionate about has sometimes been misplaced. As lead administrator, it is my duty to keep this matter in check. I have failed in this and ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt.

One reason I believe that much of this is has occurred is that we are part of that blogosphere that is known as “discernment” ministry. We have long tried to warn believers that there are enemies in the camp. However, in our zeal to defend the bride of Christ, we have sometimes gone after even true brethren for even perceived minor wrongdoings. This has created that spirit of divisiveness and bitterness I mentioned above. While we are supposed to defend the truth of God’s word, we are also to evidence our faith by how we love the brethren. But we when have wrongly taken them to task, what we have actually shown is that we are very good at eating our own.

To that end, I want to say that as head administrator, I am changing the direction of DefCon. I want to take us out of the discernment arena and get us back into the gospel arena. Henceforth, our articles will focus on those things that teach and edify the body, rather than be a constant barrage of what is bad in Christendom. We will seek to teach and expound, building up the body to magnify God and do good works. We will write about how Christians should interact in this world from a gospel centered worldview, about the absolute need to be busy proclaiming the gospel, on things which educate them on areas of biblical parenting, relationships, etc. Along the way, it may be necessary to warn our readers against obvious goats in the camp. We will write about these assaults on the gospel, but no longer will it be our sole focus.

With this new direction will come new responsibilities for us as writers. We must keep our motivations and feelings in check. We must balance our passion for the truth with our need to love our brethren, and even our enemies. We must strive to honor God and His word above all else. I ask our readers to pray for us during this time of transition. Petition God that we would be honest, faithful and true to His word. That we would be a blessing to Him and not a curse. I also ask that you would stand with us, continue to read and comment on our articles. Be encouraging where we are getting it right, and call us, lovingly, into account when we blow it.

Defending Contending has been a blessing to a great many people over the years. As the broken and busted vessel that God has blessed to run it, I desire to see it be an even greater blessing in years to come. I thank you all for your continued prayers and support. May God bless us as we seek this new direction for His glory.

“Daddy, I Don’t Think God is Real!”

I had what was perhaps the most interesting theological conversation I’ve ever had last night, and it was with my seven year old son. It started with overhearing him tell his younger brother that they had to be “normal” by obeying us parents and to quit “acting up.” When I asked what he meant by “normal” my son explained that being obedient was normal, disobedience was not. I told him that, while we were teaching he and his brother to be obedient, to do so all day every day was not possible. In fact, what is normal is to be disobedient. That was why we spend time teaching them about Jesus Christ. That only by submitting to Him, in repentance and faith, would God make us a new creation that desires to obey Him. That was when the conversation got interesting. My seven year old son looked at me and said, “I don’t know if I believe in God, I think He’s made up.”

Like many parents would understandably feel at that point, there was a moment of panic that set in. “I have a seven year old atheist!!” ran through my mind. But what followed was a series of questions from my wife and I that patiently and lovingly asked why he felt that way and trying to explain, biblically why we could believe God was real and why we could trust his promises. In the end, this conversation only lasted about fifteen minutes and, while we could see his young mind was still trying to process what we said, we could tell he was really considering it. It was perhaps my proudest moment as a father. Not because I skillfully answered his questions, trust me, I’m not that smart. But because my son, at seven years old was wrestling with the hard questions of faith and was seeking genuine answers. He wasn’t just blindly accepting what mom and dad said, he wanted real life explanations that made sense. And it was the blessing of God to allow my wife and I to be the ones to explain it to him.

Now there is a very real reason why I have relayed this touching family moment. It was only a few months ago that I had picked my kids up in Sunday School one day. As I entered the class, I overheard the teachers leading the children through a “sinner’s prayer” and welcoming them to the Christian family. While this post is not intended to decry Sunday Schools in general, I remember the sense of genuine concern I had over this. Christians are not made because someone lead another in a prayer or had them sign a card. People become Christians because they have been humbled by the understanding of their wretched sinfulness and, in repentance and faith, turn to the only possible means of salvation, Jesus Christ. While a later conversation with the Sunday School teacher addressed this issue, I could not help but think of it again last night.

In our current evangelical culture, my kids would have been declared saved and no one would have ever been allowed to question that. Never mind we are repeatedly called in Scripture to examine ourselves and see if we are in the faith. Never mind the parable of the sowers which describes what false converts look like. None of those things are considered, only that they said the sinners prayer. Yet, last night in my son, I saw the doubts and questions often used by many to deny the existence of God. While this is not proof of a definitive lack of salvation, neither should it ignored as a possible indication he has not yet been made new. In most churches and Sunday Schools today, these serious and reasonable questions go unanswered. Many times, churches erroneously assume young kids simply can’t understand these big concepts. They teach them Bible stories and figure that is enough. But even well meaning churches, who teach solid biblical truths, only have a couple hours per week to teach the answers these kids desperately need. A couple hours against a full week of secular humanist onslaught is often simply not enough.

So what is the answer? In a word, us. We parents are the ones God has assigned over our children. He has given the responsibility and the authority to raise them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It our duty, not our option, to be the primary source of biblical instruction in their lives. It is we, not school, not friends, and certainly not television, that should be forming the worldview that they will one day live by. And that worldview should be grounded solely in the good news of the gospel. That means we, as parents, must be prepared to answer some of the hardest questions we will ever encounter. That means we need to know our Bibles. That means we need to understand at least a basic level of apologetics. It means we have to understand the difference between the unbiblical concepts of evolution and the Bible’s teaching on Creation. It means we cannot be lazy. It means we have to work hard. It means giving up our time and our pursuits so that we can train up our children to love the Lord and commit their lives to Him.

Some may see this as an overwhelming task. They may think, “I’m just not smart enough,” or “I’m not equipped to teach like that.” If you have children, God has equipped you to teach. The Bible never attempts to persuade us that teaching our kids might be a good idea. It commands us to. And if you have commanded, you have been equipped. If you don’t feel intellectually capable, change it. The resources out there to provide Christians with this ability are numerous. Ministries such as Answers in Genesis and CARM exist for the express purpose of providing apologetics training. Numerous sound biblical preachers such as John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, and Voddie Baucham have websites and audio messages that can assist you as you study the bible. But the single most important things you can do are pray, read your bible and spend time with your kids talking about the things of God.

Truly we parents have no greater ministry than the training up of our children to fear and love the Lord. This is not anyone else’s responsibility, it is ours. Let us not abdicate it to anyone or anything else. Oh, and the second proudest moment of being a parent happened to me this morning. My son came up to me and said, “Now I know God exists, because if he didn’t I wouldn’t be here.” Excuse me, I think I have some grit in my eyes I need to wipe away, because I can’t explain these tears any other way.