Monday, September 21, 2009

Evangelize or Proslytize

I posted this some time ago but in light of some things I've encountered recently ,I'm re-posting.

It always interests me how words are used.

The devil seems to take great pleasure in taking perfectly good words and twisting and manipulating them till they are defiled . Take for instance the word gay. It used to mean happy and light -hearted until the militant homosexual lobby took it hostage and returned it to the English language as something corrupt.

Or consider the term fundamental. That once meant basic , solid , foundational. Anyone in any trade or occupation would not have considered it an insult to be someone who knew and built on the fundamentals.... but apply that term to believers and what should really be a compliment becomes an insult. Oh, he/she is a fundamentalist..You can almost see the sneer on the persons face as I write these words.

And so it is when a christian seeks to explain their faith to someone ; what the Bible would term evangelism gets converted to proselytizing.....and yet in this particular issue there may well be grounds for criticism. Here's some thoughts on the matter.

Evangelism is a good and holy term. It's what every Christian has been commanded to do and yet more than that it's the delight of every true believers heart. Surfers talk about surfing ; sports fans speak about their sport and grandparents never miss an opportunity to pull out their photos and wax long and lyrically about their grandkids. How much more the follower of Jesus. We know where we were headed and who rescued us. We see the incredible answers to prayer He grants us . We experience the light He shines on His holy book to speak to our needs and we just want to talk about Him.

In the scriptures Jesus often ,after performing a miracle for someone, would command them not to speak to others... but they always did, and perhaps He understood for their is no record of Him chastising them for their disobedience in this matter.

In my experience once a person truly is regenerated , once they have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ, their is a burning desire to confess Him before men and seek to lead others to Him. What is really a Holy Spirit empowered desire the Bible calls evangelism.

Then there are those with the spiritual gift of evangelism ; a high and holy calling, and how we need today those with the gift of preaching the true gospel with power and authority.

And yet proselytizing is something entirely different.

Jesus , speaking to the Pharisees , said they travel over land and sea to make a single convert and yet when they do , they make him twice as much a son of Hell! You see the religious leaders of Jesus day were doing what many do today ;they were proselytizing rather than evangelizing. Their desire was not to bring men to the Living God , but instead to win them to their cause . Their desire was not the glory of God or the salvation of lost sinners ;it was to increase their power base.

Today their is much that goes on that reflects this Pharisaical tendency. Instead of reaching out with the eternal gospel and pointing sinners to the only Saviour ;there are many who preach "Come to my church,we're cool ,relevant , on the cutting edge "And all the while people are falling into a Christless eternity with their only hope falsely resting on their church attendance rather than the Lamb of God.

Proselytizing still earns the rebuke of the Lord of Glory and true evangelism still earns his commendation.

On that great day when we stand before Him to whom we must give account; many who attended the "best " church in town , tithed, touched not the Lord's anointed, were tolerant, did all their Pastor said will hear the fearfull words from Jesus mouth "I never knew you".

Proselytizing is a carnal , self -serving activity of pride and arrogance . Evangelism is a Spirit empowered means of winning the lost .

Proselytizing panders to the egos of men. Evangelism focuses on the majesty of God.

Proselytizing is seeker-friendly. Evangelism is God friendly.

Proselytizing builds the kingdoms of men. Evangelism furthers the Kingdom of God.

Proselytizers usually persecute those who evangelize.

Proselytizing is to get them in. But evangelism is to call them out .

Proselytizing is an unclean pragmatism but those who preach truth have a holy dogmatism.

Behold the Lamb of God

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Book of Books

What's your view of the Bible?

A dusty old relic of a bygone age ?

An irrelevant mish mash of ancient myths?

I heard one "preacher" describe it as a bag of seed .Is that what it is ?

The bible describes it self as the Divinely inspired word of God . It is called a fire , a sword , a light , the truth that when heard and believed births eternal life. It claims it is eternal, unchanging supernatural. It tells us all we need to know regarding the Living God , His ways and His will. It also tells us about humanity and their ways and will. It instructs us for this life and prepares us for the next. And millions of believers down through the centuries can validate it's power in their lives.

This Book of Books is not our object of worship but it does define who the object of our worship is. Men have dedicated their lives and men have given their lives that we might be able to hold in our hand the very words of God.

God himself has intervened through the millenia to preserve this faithful witness of His person , His power and His priorities. Evil men and wicked spirits have and continue to attack , dilute and pollute Holy Scripture... and God has pronounced the most fearful curses on those who would presume to do so .

Of course the power and promises of Holy Writ can only be appropriated when it is read.It can do nothing for the man who keeps it in his bookshelf It may look impressive on the coffee table but it's only in opening it , reading it and reading it well is the power of it released.

Some thoughts on reading this amazing book :

The old saints used to speak of reading the Bible on their knees ; not necessarily literally , but with an attitude of devotion. The scriptures contain all kinds of interesting facts but our purpose is to discover God and not to win a bible trivia competition. The book is factual ,scientifically , historically, psychologically ,economically but the focus of our quest is theological : the most exciting and important study that men can devote themselves to ...the study of God.

There are those who read scripture as though it's a collection of unconnected texts...but of course it's not . Some individual scriptures may well capture the intent of a passage but that's not always the case , and I have heard many a message based on a proof-text that actually went against what scripture says.(I remember hearing a clever and charismatic preacher expound on Rom 14:17 ...for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking to demonstrate that we need be care full what we eat and drink ! The context of that verse of course says the exact opposite) The bible needs to be read and it needs to be read rightly.

Finally ,(for the purpose of this blog) it needs to be incorporated into our lives. The commands obeyed, the promises apprehended and the priorities of God to direct our own priorities.The successful Christian will have a biblical world view. The pressure to conform to the godless thinking of this world can only be resisted as we allow the Holy Spirit to internalize His word in us that we may live effective and fruitfull lives as we hold out the word of life to a lost and darkened generation.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Baal Worship (in the modern church)

It has often been noted that the devil is a duplicator and not a creator . It stands to reason that any form of false and idolatrous religion that the devil can foist upon the human race will have superficial similarities with the worship of the one true God. And the ancient serpent is very religious . He has invented multitudes of religions that play on the fears and lusts of humanity.God on the other hand speaks to men in relational terms rather than religious ;Father, Husband, friend . Even enemy is in a sense a relational term.

In the time of the ancient Israelites , of all the various demon/gods the people of God were ensnared by, the ancient pagan deity(small "d") of baal was perhaps the hardest to dislodge.

Baal when translated into English means lord , master or owner and it would seem that the Jews of old often mixed and confused the worship of Yahweh and baal. The reader will remember the great prophet Elijah standing up to the prophets of baal and dramatically defeating them . Prior to this he had challenged the people"How long will you falter between two opinions. ?If Yahweh is God ,follow Him;but if Baal,follow him.

One reason I believe this worship of Baal became so entrenched was the confusion of terminology.Some were saying Lord and meaning Baal and others could say Lord and mean Yahweh.

This is particularly relevant in the day in which we live. There are those who are identified with the church of Jesus, they use similar terminology saying Lord,Lord and yet they know not and are not known by the God of the Bible Mt 7:21.

In our confused age we have 'christian" leaders signing documents that identify the Holy One of Israel with other gods . We have trendy pontificators authoritatively waxing loud and long of a god of their own making using holy terminology to present an unholy worship of the contemporary Baal.

One of the attractions or seductive lures of the worship of Baal was and is the inability to clearly define who or what the object of worship is like .Baal worship evolved ,linked up with other deities, morphed into different images and refused to be pinned down to a specific definition.( pre-modern- post-modernism .)

The God of the Bible on the other hand is very specific about who He is and what He considers acceptable worship.

Today there are religious celebrities who tell us that God has now changed His mind about certain practices that He once considered sinful. Of course they must be speaking of another god for the God of the bible is not double- minded ;nor is He forgetful.

Scripture puts it like this "the grass withers , the flower fades away but the word of the Lord endures forever"

This is another attraction of Baal. He does not condemn the sins of the flesh that we so enjoy , he celebrates them. Every form of hedonism is not just to be indulged in but actually becomes an integral part of the worship experience.Ritual prostitution sodomy drunkenness and debauchery all sanctified and embraced as "worship". I wonder how far off we are in sections of the contemporary church before we see these manifestations of Baal ism.

A paradoxical aspect of baalic worship is the requirements for sacrifice. Baal was supposed to be the god of fertility and provision. If the worshipper could sacrifice sufficiently , he would be guaranteed success and prosperity .Sound familiar?

Jesus on the other hand demonstrates our God as a Heavenly Father who will willingly and freely give to His children whatever they need and far more besides .Our God dosn't harrass His people to sacrifice for Him to notice their plight. On the contrary He sacrificed for us!

Some forms of Baal worship required the sacrifice of children; a demonic couterfeit of the Living God who gave His Son for us!

Baalism was a terrible evil which Yahweh condemned and which condemned it's practioners to bondage, loss and eternal regret .Modern or postmodern Baalism has the same consequences.

The call of Elijah echoes through the centuries to our day "How long christian will you falter between two opinions If the God of the Bible is God ;the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob , the God of the Apostles and prophets ;then worship Him , but if the god of the heretics is god ,the god of postmodern confusion , the god of seed faith prosperity the god made in the image of man, the god of an earthly shack rather a than heavenly throne, then worship him. But be warned the consequences of ancient Baal worship will come to those in the contemporary church who abandon the self revelation of the Most High God.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Temples , tithes and titles

Scripture records for us man's first attempt at organized religion in direct disobedience to YHWH's clear and specific command. In Gen:11 we read the account of the building (attempted) of the tower of Babel. God had said "Be fruitfull , multiply and fill the earth "Gen:9.1 In blatant rebellion men said Gen: 11.4 "Come , let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens ; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroard over the face of the whole earth."

Ever since there have been those who have manifested the Babel spirit in their desire to settle down , build a tower and make a name for themselves.

It is interesting how those who claim the name of the LORD so consistently do the exact opposite of what the Lord of Glory has instructed.

Jesus said "Go into all the world. "We try to figure out how to get them to come.
Jesus said"Call no man Father, Rabbi, Teacher etc". We have most of christendom calling men Father Pastor Doctor and Reverend etc.
Jesus said Make disciples baptising them in the Name of the Father , Son and Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything He has commanded. Instead we tell people to repeat a prayer and them pronounce them heaven bound.

Today we have new "converts " who know all about tithing and nothing about the ten commandments.

I believe a large part of the problem is men under the influence of the Babel spirit. Sadly ;no, tragically many church leaders have succumbed to the allure of settling down,building towers and making names for themselves. The symptoms of this spiritual sickness are an inordinate passion (lust )to build a monument to themselves, being adament about their right to a title and a heavy handed preaching of the unscriptural doctrine of tithing , which is nothing more than a modern temple tax.

The church building or a religious organization is not the temple; the body of believers is.
The only titles that matter are the titles of the Most High God and the only giving that He sanctions is Spirit -led , free will and for the glory of His Name alone .

Beware of those whose ministry is focussed on temples , tithes and titles.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Vision,Purpose or Agenda

When I first commenced my church experience 25 years or so ago,"vision"was the in word. You had to have a vision and if you didn't have one you had to get one. I heard it preached more than once "if you don't have a vision then your vision is to get a vision". sometimes it seemed though that having a vision meant thinking of a number and doubling it. Every church and church department needed a vision statement , many churches had vision month and many preachers preached pretty well nothing but vision.

In fact this is still true in many places. although perhaps purpose has become the in word.
Every vision preacher quoted Pro. 29:18 or at least part of it "without a vision people perish"they therefore had a biblical mandate for their emphasis.

One problem; That verse was not talking about vision the way the preacher was.In fact the NKJV renders it this way "Where there is no revelation the people cast off restraint;But happy is he who keeps the law. See, the vision the preacher was so authoritively expounding on is just a secular /new age business management technique .It is simply not biblical that a vision is a godly , Christ honouring principle at all .(Necessarilly).

The thing is people will always have an agenda , which is just another word for vision or purpose. And agenda is amoral. Hitler had a vision to promote himself and to destroy anyone who got in the way. His vision statement was clear, his purpose defined but his agenda was ungodly , cruel , selfish and wicked.

I heard one well-known preacher testify publicly that the key to his successfull family life was vision. Well... to me that sounds close to blasphemous. Vision is not our god , God (Yahweh) is our God! If this vision concept is so important , why didn't our God speak of it more often and more clearly.

Of course Christians may well get a burden from the Lord to tackle some task .They may be called to sow their lives into an area of ministry or mission, but this is far removed from some nebulous vision disconnected from our relationship to the Lord.
I heard a preacher say once "your vision is to obey your God".That makes sense to me.

Jesus' vision is to draw men to Himself and then train and equip them to go and be used to draw more men to himself. Having the biggest church or ministry in town to glorify some frail human doesn't seem to fit.

In chapter 6 of Isaiah we have his record of a true vision from God ; and it was a vision of God.
That vision threw him to his knees in adoration , repentance and godly fear and it may be well to filter any "vision" we have through the biblical record of Isaiah.

His vision did not promote him, but the Living God.

He was not promised success and huge numbers but the opposite.

He delighted in the opportunity to serve his Saviour, whom he saw high and lifted up.

He realised his total impotence to accomplish anything of eternal value without the call, power and anointing of God.

Indeed he knew without a revelation of God the people cast off restraint.

May we be so wise.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Where it all went wrong.

Genesis is an incredible (and perhaps neglected )book.
Here we find the beginnings of all things that pertain to the human condition ; creation, humanity , marriage and family,the self revelation of God ,Satan and of course sin.
Some interesting points to consider in the first few chapters in the book of Genesis.

Provision or Prohibition

God in His generous grace supplied every thing that man needed,not just for life but for enjoyment of life .In the New Testament we find that every good and perfect gift comes from our Creator. It seems to be such an obvious truth that we humans tend to focus on the prohibitions rather than the far more obvious provisions of our great God.
Incredibly in the midst of a perfect enviroment with incredible abundance and perfect health and relationships , Eve was so easily beguiled to look longingly at the one thing that God had denied access to. How normal this is today .
We Christians are continually reminded in the scriptures to be thankfull. Apart from anything else this actually helps to protect us from temptation.

Postmodern Proposition

The postmodern mindset is not so modern afterall. The devil's very first strategy against man was to say 'did God say?' and this hasn't changed today. The secularist repeats the ancient refrain,"did God really say?'.The religionist quotes his tradition or his human hero or his own confused religious thoughts and never considers that he is challenging the throne of God. And of course the most dangerous of all the liberal "christian", who proclaims loud and long a knowledge of God while simultaneously denying the clear words of the One he claims to worship.Far better to be an unbeliever than to declare allegiance to the Sovereign of the universe and resist ,reject or rewrite His words.
The ancient serpent phrased his diabolical question to focus the woman on the one thing that had been withheld from them but her reply at first glance seems to be loyal to the truth.Her answer ; "God has said we must not eat of the tree "(so far so good)"nor must we touch it" Uh oh. Where did God say you shouldn't touch the tree Eve? For every one who takes away from God's word there is probably two who add to it and the result is the same; defeat.
In the visible church today I would venture the opinion that people adding to God's holy word is a greater problem than those denying it.
Every time a preacher tells God's people they must not drink, play cards or see movies they're adding to God's word. Each time a tithing teacher hammers the people of God with promises of riches or warnings of curses he is adding to the word of God; and whenever some trendy tolerant teller of tall tales pronounces that what was sin previously is now accepted , they are adding to the word of God. The results of these irreverencies are deception , delusion and defeat.
It really should be obvious that the God of truth says what He means and means what he says.
It also should be painfully obvious that when reading the holy scriptures, we need to believe what we read and not read what we believe.
Eve found out the hard way the results of adding to God's word .
Scripture records God coming to the garden and crying out Adam ,where are you? Perhaps as we read the account of Eve's temptation we could ask the same question; Adam where are you?
Adam was called to be her shepherd , her protector her defender and yet it seems he stood by negligent ,uncaring and uninvolved untill his wife offerred him a bite of the forbidden fruit and then incredibly; he eats!Why ?

Peacemaker or Peacekeeper

I believe Adam's response is so relevant to our day. He had a clear choice ,stand for truth or fall for evil. It seems he was more concerned with unity than reality, tolerance than truth. How true of so many today. While there are still those who are laying down their lives for Christ ,there are others to whom the thought of being out of the in-crowd is too much to bear.This , of course is what the Bible calls the fear of man ; and it languishes under the curse of the Almighty.
I think it was Martin Luther who said "I would rather be divided in truth than united in error".
How we need that stout hearted faith today.
The Lord Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers" He did not say "Blessed are the peacekeepers" Peacekeeping is a passive, cowardly act of self-preservation. Peacekeeping is silent in the face of evil,it is a smiling ,genial compromising wickedness . Peacekeepers sit when they should stand , they back down when they should move forward they strengthen the hands of the wicked and discourage the righteous. The heroes of faith through scripture and history did not fall into this category. Peacemakers on the other hand confront, challenge and defeat evil.
Adam chose to be a peacekeeper and we are still paying the consequences. The second Adam came as a peacemaker. Our great Redeemer, Jesus ,the strong Son of God did not negotiate with our enemy ,but stood immoveable in the face of every thing the evil one could throw, replied with the sword of the Spirit, and through His sacrificial death and resurrection conquered sin ,death and the devil.
The first Adam's peacekeeping surrender led to death and separation from God ;the Second Adam's peacemaking victory led to life, liberty and reconciliation with God.

Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord 1 Cor. 15:58