One aspect of the Christian walk that I have often heard people talk about, but I find most professed Christians are sadly unprepared for. Unfortunately, we really don’t realize just how real the spiritual war is until we are put to the test.
For many, 2020 has been (pardon the term) the “year from hell”. The entire world has now experienced the first significant pandemic in most people’s lifetime. We began with what we know were lies from the country where the virus originated, and have seen a battle between credentialed experts on whether we would see millions of deaths in the US, or if it would more resemble a bad flu season. We’ve seen a virus become quickly the most political virus in all of history. And caught in the middle of it all are churches and their pastors. Our kids have been deprived of so very much, and are now missing the important camps and activities that often are their only escape from lives that are often quite difficult. We now are seeing churches with splits forming over opinions regarding how this virus should be addressed. In the public square, we see professed Christians attacking one-another over the wearing of masks, of closing or reopening churches for worship, or even how many people we might “allow” into worship services. I have witnessed very public abuses of Scripture to justify unbiblical viewpoints as well as biblical viewpoints pushed using worldly standards. Many pastors that I am connected to have expressed similar battles and frustration and sadly, growing heartache. Indeed, the most heart-crushing reality of pastoral ministry today, beyond trying to comfort those most affected by this virus, is figuring out just HOW to minister in this environment.
For other churches, while having some issues related to COVID, have been separated by the politics of the current version of #BlackLivesMatter – from a church planter friend who’s ministry is basically near ground zero in Minneapolis, MN, (link to facebook fundraiser page) to churches that are now having to confront actual racial issues within their own membership – more heartache on top of the very well-publicized destruction and hate. Even more disturbing is the growth of so-called “woke” churches and theology, that employs Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality to systematically destroy the gospel from within. This is becoming another wedge in not just local churches, but denominations as the Social Justice false gospel replaces the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Divisions and heartache…
On a more personal level, after the sudden onset of illness and the death of my mother in April, handling the insanity of probate of her estate, and now my father who’s health has been in decline for several years and is now down to managing comfort as there is nothing left to “fix”, my own life has been turned upside-down. Each day goes by and the urge to just throw up my hands and give up grows stronger. But I know this is not God’s game plan. But for biblical Christians, we do know who’s game plan involves confusion, division, and anything possible to obscure or completely cover the gospel – Satan. And that brings us back to the title of this post and a bit of Scripture.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12
Every battle we are facing as individuals, as cities, states, and a nation – whether over a virus, race, destruction of history, divisions in churches, or the political headache and corruption that has become so evident – while carried out by people, is actually the work of the father of lies and division – Satan. The devil. Beelzebul. The false accuser – and we who may not be really prepared to battle in this spiritual war – either caught unaware or simply not properly equipped, are easily drawn into the wrong side in the battle. And the very first error we usually make in fighting this spiritual battle that is very much going on in our world today: misidentifying the real enemy. As the verse from Ephesians above clearly reminds us – the REAL enemy is not one-another. Even when we mess up and say things or take actions that are wrong, even when people can even act with what seems to be hate and violence – the REAL enemy is found in the rulers, powers, word forces of this darkness – the SPIRITUAL forces of wickedness. Our real enemies are spiritual enemies – and Paul went on to address this – we are given the battle plan for the believer:
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…
In Ephesians 6:13-19, at its core, tells us that God has provided the weapons to fight this spiritual battle – both defensive and offensive weapons!
- Girded your loins with the TRUTH
- Breastplate (of Righteousness)
- Boots of the Gospel of Peace (the real, Biblical gospel)
- Shield (of Faith)
- Helmet of Salvation
- Sword of the Spirit
And notice – all of these armaments have to be picked up and put to use. It is like having an unloaded firearm in your safe as a “home defense weapon”. It does you no good if it’s not at the ready! Likewise, all of these arms provided by God are of no use if not taken up and put to use. We must regularly practice with them as well.
Paul began with girding our loins with TRUTH – yet we live in a world that makes truth into something subjective – something that is up to the individual. But the Word of God itself is the TRUTH and is ALWAYS true – what God says is good is good. What God has said is bad is bad. Scripture leaves very little room for anything grey – and certainly no room for relative morality. In fact – that is the rest of verse 14 –
The Breastplate of righteousness – Which begins and ends with the righteousness of Christ – but in living lives that reflect the righteousness of Christ – based on the Word of God – when we walk by what God has said is good and bad – and when we take a firm stand on that – true righteousness – our hearts are protected – we are not so conflicted and divided at the core –
Boots of the Gospel of Peace – we often do not think of boots, especially in the context of battle, as instruments of peace – but the concept is quite simple here – we must have something solid as a foundation. In athletics and in work – the right footwear is important to our ability to stay in the work at hand. Those of us who have done real work with the wrong shoes know exactly what this can be like. In the case of our equipping for the spiritual war that we ARE involved in – is having a solid foundation – that we might not be tripped up – and that is the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. One that isn’t carried away by cultural norms and expectations – a gospel that reflects the understanding of the utter sinfulness of mankind – our inability to “fix” that ourselves – but instead requires the supernatural actions of God in the great exchange of our sins for Christ’s righteousness – all by the grace of God. A false or weak gospel is no foundation for us to stand.
Helmet of Salvation – when one is truly, soundly saved – with the right understanding of the gospel – with the heart for righteousness and truth – the helmet of salvation – the knowledge of our security in Christ Jesus – because HE has paid it all – and it is in the power of HIS resurrection by which we stand redeemed – that our minds – our thinking can be confident.
And the Sword of the Spirit – the NASB intentionally capitalizes “Spirit” here because we are dealing with wielding the power of the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power we are given! A power that is based on being actively filled by the Holy Spirit in walking WITH the Spirit day-by-day. When we practice the presence of the Lord in our lives – We are, as Kyle Idleman wrote in his “Not a Fan” book, empowered in ways that we cannot be by our own power. What is interesting – the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives is described as “fruits of the Spirit by Paul elsewhere – with the chief fruit being… Love.
Then the repeated weapon that many miss in this passage – prayer. Prayers and petitions before God’s throne. We cannot confuse the sovereignty with God with being unable to bring about change by our prayers! Moses prayed for the Hebrew people – time after time God changed His actions based on the fervent prayers of righteous men on behalf of themselves and others. Prayer is one of the two most powerful tools given by God – if we genuinely believe in the power of prayer!
So – if you are really a Christian – whether or not you are a member of the church I pastor today, member of another church – or are seeking where the Lord would lead you to be an active part of a church body – please join me in praying that we would take seriously the very real spiritual battle all around us. Pray that we would see the REAL enemy, the devil – not our neighbors whom we are suppose to love. That we would not view one-another, especially within churches, as the enemy, and that we would truly take up the FULL armor of God and be not only “at the ready”, but willing to STAND for truth, for Love, for the Gospel – for the Kingdom of God!
Humanity – all of us – were created in the Image of God (Imago Dei). We all have marred that image by sin – the fundamental problem of the world. Every last one of us bears that disease. For some, it is demonstrated in fornication or other sexual immoralities, for some – covetousness and stealing. or any other many names we give to the expression of sin – including the various forms of hate.
Because we are utterly contaminated by sin, we are unable to do anything about our ugly, wicked state. In fact, left to our own nature – “there are none righteous, no not one – none seek after God”. We are spiritually dead. And guess what – spiritually dead people act like spiritually dead people and many do REALLY bad things. Indeed – the current ugliness is actually one of the oldest problems mankind has been guilty of – one that goes all the way back to Cain and Abel – HATE.
That leaves us with a conundrum – we are lost in our sin – condemned and fully deserving of the full wrath of God that will be poured out on ALL unrighteousness of man. But God…God, in His perfect, sinless Son, took on my sins, bearing the shame, and gave His life to redeem me, that I would no longer bear the shame and reproach I deserve. And in that death, Jesus broke the chains of sin that so surely bound us to our sin (including hate). But for WHO did Jesus make this incredible atonement for? ALL who would believe…of every nation, tribe, peoples, and tongues –
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” ~REVELATION 7:9 & 10
You see – our current “sin of the day” is HATE.
We’ve labeled it as the misnomer of “racism” – but there is but one race, the Human Race. But there is still ungodly, unbiblical hate based on any outward condition or appearance. Hate is the exact opposite of what Jesus came and perfectly modeled. And the answer to HATE – is to answer it with love. To confront ANYTHING people use to divide with truth – beginning with the foundation of the Gospel.
Jesus didn’t come to save one particular ethnicity. He came to redeem a people from ALL people groups and ethnicities. He came to conquer sin and death. Through His own death, HE demonstrated the very same kind of love His people are commanded to show to all the rest of the Image Bearers of God – of all nations, tribes, and tongues! A love that knows no skin color or background. A love that isn’t conditioned on others believing as we do (though there is a biblical “preference” for the brethren), looking like we do – etc. The Gospel is the Answer. God’s Word gives us the details, the hows, and the whys.
Do you think your church is biblically-solid and that it could never succumb to modernistic adulteration of God’s Word? You might want to think again.
Just a few months ago, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to recognize and implement “Critical Race Theory” and “Intersectionality” as valid measures and procedures for measuring the denomination’s “progress”. For more detailed definitions and explanation of these two terms, click the links above, but in short – Critical Race Theory basically defines racism as solely committed by white people towards other races, that it is always systemic and always about power. Critical Race Theory when applied to churches is an assumption that churches are equally systematically racist if they are “white”. It is a parallel to the ancient cult of Gnosticism that assumed that everything physical is, by nature, evil and everything spirit is good, but in this case – if it is white, it is systematically evil and racist.
Intersectionality deals with gender and gender roles. Those who follow intersectionality despise complimentarianism and reject biblical gender roles.
These two ideologies are a part of the bigger cancer of the Social Justice Movement, one that is at its foundation, a false gospel. The Social Justice movement can take many forms, but nearly all reject biblical absolutes, diminish or even redefine sin. From “Christians” who are “pro-choice” regarding abortion, to those who support homosexual “marriage” on one end, to those who simply inject race and gender into every discussion, promoting “Justice” as the real purpose of the gospel. Many large, modern “churches” promote easy-believism for the sake of numbers, while rejecting the call to abhor sin. You generally will not hear Social Justice preachers call listeners to meaningful repentance, nor will you hear them condemn those who proclaim heresies. And the sad reality is – Social Justice #WOKE theology is rooted in Marxism, and is actually quite UNjust.
The reality is – all of these concepts and views fall under the trendy #WOKE mantra. If your pastor refuses to call sin, sin – if you have a woman who preaches or is the “pastor”, your church might be #WOKE. If your denomination is constantly apologizing for the past sins of previous generations – it might be #WOKE. If your church’s leadership refuses to call out those who are promoting and teaching heresies – they may be #WOKE. If the same people in leadership speak more of being “gentle” or the need to “tone it down” when others are addressing these falsehoods and heresies – they might be #WOKE. If your leadership is calling for reparations for past injustices of a nation, they might be @WOKE. If your preacher constantly refers to the Gospel Coalition as a trustworthy source of biblical teaching – yep: #WOKE. If your church, pastor, or leadership consider Beth Moore to be a solid biblical teacher worthy of praise – they might be #woke.
And it is this last example that brings me to the latest Social Justice blow-up. At a recent biblical conference, Dr. John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church was ask (in the context of the above Social Justice issues – particularly intersectionality and Beth Moore’s promotion of women preachers – including bragging on her own pulpit-envy), Dr. MacArthur said that “Beth Moore needs to go home”. This has caused a giant uproar among those who hold to these Social Justice/#WOKE views. These purveyors of false gospels are attacking Dr. MacArthur as “unqualified”, and some even are calling him a heretic. Dr. MacArthur is among the most sound biblical expositors of our time who has dedicated a very long career teaching, discipling, and proclaiming the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a biblical responsibility of Christians, especially leaders, to protect the sheep by identifying and calling out false teachers. Indeed, Paul wrote to the Roman church specifically on this matter:
“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them”. (Romans 16:17)
Simply put, we are to exercise discernment and stand for truth and abhor evil. Those in the Social Justice #WOKE vein are more concerned with numbers (and usually money). I rejoice when churches grow rapidly because of the Holy Spirit’s movement to create transformed, repentant people who love the LORD with all their heart, soul, and mind! But when growth is measured simply by bodies in the chairs (worship attendance), and sacrifices genuine heart change – there is a problem.
Christianity of today, particularly in the United States, has presented a rather weak gospel for decades, but the current #WOKE trends under the guise of Social Justice are throwing the sin-hating, repentance-bringing, heart changing gospel completely under the bus. The Southern Baptist Convention is teetering on the brink of a massive meltdown because of it – but don’t for a moment think your “conservative little denomination” is immune. I sadly have witnessed the tumors of the Social Justice movement beginning to grow in my own denomination, the Baptist Missionary Association. When respected leaders and church planters begin promoting the very tenants of #WOKE theology, and calling out genuine men of God for speaking truth – we have a very serious problem.
So what is the answer? The same that spawned Martin Luther to pen his 95 Theses: seeking what Scripture really says and taking a stand on that, not on people’s feelings. Gospel ministry is not about popularity or making friends, it is about seeking lives changed by the transforming power of the gospel! Don’t be afraid to call out those who teach another gospel (Paul said they should be accursed! (Galatians 1:9). But above all – do not let it go unaddressed! Speak up. Call them to repentance. Point them to Scripture.
RACE – a term that teeters on the edge of being classified as a “four-letter word” in many circles. A term that really doesn’t mean what it has been made out to mean. Just like so many other terms in human language (especially the English language) that have been adultuerated, redefined, and bent to fit political and sociological agendas, the term “race” simply is not what you may think.
And among all settings where “race”, regardless of how you define it, should matter the least – Christianity, the term is again blowing up people and churches. And yet again, it is because so many have a completely erronious udnerstanding of the term.
Se let us take a look at God’s Word. After all, as one who holds to Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone for basis of faith, doctrine, and theology).
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”Genesis 1:26-28 NASB
Let US make man in OUR image – Us being plural (the very first clear, inarguable statement of the Triune God) , yet a singular image. One image – and “make man” being a general term that actually applies to mankind – all of humanity. THE Image of God (Imago Dei). All of mankind, because the first man (and woman) were made in the image of God, is also made in the image of God. Further – how man different species of man did God make? Absurd question? Not at all – God made man and woman. Period. All of humanity in a single exemplar pair. Even modern science, with the advanced DNA sequencing and comparison ultimatley comes ot the same conclusion – all of mankind are of a single species – a single “kind”. What did Adam and Even look like? It is doubtful we will ever figure that out in this lifetime. But that is truly irrelevant – as we all come through/from that first couple (our family tree further returns to a single line through Noah as well!).
But let us return to the discussion at hand. There are several, some well-known, folks in the Christian/Evangelical circus who have begun abusing the whole “race” label. This goes beyond what the nefarious characters like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton – two of the most famous race-baiting for agenda promoters of my lifetime. I’m referring to Thabiti Anyabwile (real name is Ron Burns), who formerly had my respect for writing some biblically-sound materials on church membership as well as several other encouraging and true resources. Yet Mr. Thabiti has chosen a different path – one of promoting division among races, who has attacked “multi-cultural” churches, not based necessarily on the doctrinal and theological issues often found is such churches, but for trying to make black church members into what many of his mindset refer to as “Oreos” – black on the outside, white on the inside. He has decried (along side others of similar broken and racist views), that white people have coopted Christianity and made it a “white man’s religion”. He has called out Christians to essentially throw away commentaries and theological works by White men and find Black theologians to follow and learn from. He has joined with such race-hustlers as Kyle J. Howard (a close friend of Beth Moore, who radically endorses him, by the way) who is a self-appointed Preacher, Bible Teacher, Racial Trauma Counselor, etc.. in calling for radical reparations for all of the Black race – and even saying that there can be no reconciliation between black and whites in “the church” until all White Evangelicals” take ownership of their complicity in the injustices against the black race and reparations are paid based.
But the problem isn’t just one-sided. For FAR too long, professed Christians, including many of the “Baptist” pursuasion HAVE held race as a component of their theology and doctrins. Lest we forget, those old family Bibles with all the beautiful paintings of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed “Jesus” or the similarly European-depicted David (or most all biblical characters). These images became the building blocks of race-based thought in churches. And divides have festered like gangreen in a jungle-wound. And the problem isn’t helped when people further attempt to swing the pendulum the other direction and claim (as the Black Hebrew Israelites do) that all authentic biblical characters (other than the bad guys) are of the dark-as-the-night “black race”. (*could this be a part of why God commanded His people to NOT make graven images of anything in Heaven, in Earth, or below the earth?)
And contrary to what I believe are well-intentioned movements to racially-integrate churches (the current multi-cultural church planting efforts), I see more damage being done to theology and doctrine in the scramble. And it all goes back to a broken concept of RACE.
You see, when the Bible makes use of the Greek term γένος, it isn’t referring to races – different kinds of people. It is a reference to ethnicity, nationality, family lines. There are not different kinds of human beings – because we are all – regardless of location of birth, quantity (or lack) of melanin in our skin, or the circumstances of our birth – we are all of ONE Race – the Human Race. And we know this, not only from the ceation account found in Genesis, but more imprtantly, from the New Testament statements on the matter, with Paul referencing thsoe who are regenerated and born-again as those Christians:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28 NASB
…but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.Romans 2:10-11 NASB
God is not a discriminator based on anything but the heart, not because of some spiritual blinders, but because HE created us – all of us, in HIS image, through Adam – all unique, yet all of one Human Race. Yes, He has allowed, even brought about, differences in skin color (all amazingly adapted to the areas He sent people after the tower of Babel rebellion.
Even with different languages (many of which have yet to even be discovered, much less have Jesus named), an amazing myriad of skin colors, and other physical attributes – we all remain linked by DNA – and by Jesus’ own label of NEIGHBOR!
In setting up Jesus’ parable of the so-called “Good Samaritan”, He was asked by a lawyer what was required to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ response was to go to the Law that this lawyer was so intimately aquainted with – law briefly summarized concludes with “love your neighbor as yourself”. The Lawyer’s question then was “who is my neighbor”. The answer would have been as startling today as it would be to both sides in the evil “race” battles:
The Samaritan – a man who, by cultural standards, was expected to HATE this Jewish man. They were like cats and dogs – both viewed each other as the scum of the earth (despite the fact there was little visual difference between them). They hated each other because they saw each other as different races, not of the single Human Race. Yet this particular Samaratin saw, not a “Jewish dog”, but a human being in need of help. He looked beyond any superficial ethnic difference to the man who needed saving.
If we want genuine “racial reconciliation” – it isn’t going to come because of some kind of reparations paid for evils that others may or may not have suffered. Reconcilliation will not happen by the continued pointing out of differences between “races” – as this simply perpetuates the myth of race. Genuine unity as the Human Race will only come when we truly understand God’s perspective – from the Greator who created us all in HIS Imago Dei – and realize – regardless of the color of our skin – we are all sinners who are desperately without hope – doomed to receive the due wrath of a Holy and perfectly-righteous God – who even HE sees beyond the exterior to see the needy humanity – and reaches down to save those He will by the power of Jesus’ blood – regenerating hearts, not based on ethnicity or any perceived qaulity in us – but by His perfect love, by His perfect Grace – and all for HIS glory alone!
It isn’t often that I get the privilege of doing an early review of an audio recording. Even more rare that it is of a new solo project from a friend and dear brother in Christ (and fellow pastor). But in this case, I get the joy of doing both, and boy what a wonderful experience this one was!
Wade Lentz, who has some fun history singing with various quartets, is releasing his first solo project titled Send the Light. As a bass myself, I always enjoy hearing a solid, skilled bass taking the lead, so when Wade offered the opportunity to get an advance listen – I jumped on the opportunity.
While I have heard hints of Wade’s voice in a few informal settings, this was my first time hearing him really opening up his pipes – and man does he have some! Send The Light is a complilation of mostly hymns and Southern Gospel classics. The styles reflect a range from acapella on There Is a Fountain, to the blues-infused What A Wonderful World, sung as a duet with his also talented wife Amanda.
Though I very much enjoyed the above mentioned rendition of What a Wonderful World, my favorites on this CD include the Gold City classic Turn Your Back, and I’ve Been With Jesus (reminicent of The Cathedrals’ version of this classic and fun song). But in all honesty, I enjoyed this entire project, and found none of the choices to be out-of-place. Each seemes to feature a slightly different character of Wade’s many vocal skills, all while never covering the genuine, underlying joy in the subject matter.
All-in-all, if you enjoy classic quartet singing and Southern Gospel music, you will truly be blessed by this CD. But… and this is a big one – if you are like me and a fan of hearing a bassist take the lead – then you will get a little piece of heaven in Send The Light, the first solo project from Brother Wade Lentz!
*I have not been compensated in any way for this review, other than the privelige of hearing it before the general public!
Everyone has a point of view – Fact.
And everyone filters their life experiences and observations through their point of view or perspective – and this is where the term “presupposition” comes in. A presupposition is one’s beginning point – it is an assumption or set of assumptions that may or may not be backed with evidence. Presuppositions can be helpful, or in the case of many in our nation today – can be a major component of growing divisions, hate, and even violence.
In the world of theology, we often defend our viewpoint or even our entire faith system with what is called presuppositional apologetics, that is – defending our faith based on a pre-established and “assumed” foundation. Unfortunately, using presuppositional techniques to defend the Christian faith tends to fall a bit flat in the face of those most often being answered, as they do not hold the same presuppositions. For example, I build my typical defense on my own absolute assurance that the Bible is the Word of God, inerrant and unchanging. For those who absolutely deny this about the Bible – it makes a very poor and unconvincing starting point indeed!
My theology is centered on the John 1:1 statement that The Word (aka – Jesus) IS God. Indeed, it is very difficult to make an argument for the efficacy of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross if He wasn’t really God in the flesh.
In the secular world (and in some churches… but this is a whole other discussion and can of worms), many people view their neighbor through a set of presuppositions (assumptions). For some, they have a racially intolerant set of presuppositions. In the history of our nation, we see entire sets of laws, regulations, and general treatment of people groups based on a flawed and unjust set of presuppositions. Why is it that young black men were sometimes beaten or even lynched by hateful mobs based solely on a single, unverified accusation? Stories like that of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was lynched in 1955 after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her. No proof, no evidence. But the mob who brutally sought “justice” accepted the accusation as the truth specifically because of their erroneous presupposition that black males are criminals.
Our presuppositions are sometimes developed by our own study, growth, and experiences, while others develop from their environment – in the case of racial presuppositions – they are often the product of parents and those they choose to be around. When you add in what has been experienced – we become pragmatic – our own experience just MUST be a universal experience – and therefore taints everything we see. I remember vividly to this day my mom being mugged by an African-American man when I was still an elementary student. And I confess, that jaded my view of black men for a time. Thankfully, my mom had a far different view – and made it clear that I could not and must not judge all black men by the actions of this one brutal criminal.
Presuppositions, fueled by those filled with hate, politics, and the media are dividing our nation along with many different lines. Those who have been brought up and/or immersed in bias and hate tend to accept as fact the narrative being pushed from every corner. We see some who insist that White Men are the “devil” and are responsible for the world’s problems. Therefore, those who buy this presupposition then view all news with an expectation that White Males (aka – the “privileged” class) are always to be blamed. This carries over to the accusations of racism. When your presupposition is that racism can only be perpetrated by whites and that the victims of racism can only be Black (or more broadly, non-whites) – then you turn a blind eye to a major portion of the actual racist behaviors and troubles happening in our nation. Add to this the widespread propaganda of the #BlackLivesMatter movement – that (whether intentionally or not) promote a presupposition of a single racial group to have more value than others, and we further bend the public presuppositions and actually FEED hate and divisions.
The answer is startlingly simple: View all people with this Presupposition:
You see, Scripture clearly says that mankind was made in the Image of God. That is all of mankind – all nations, tribes, tongues. We all are image-bearers of the Creator. And while individuals do act contrary to their Creator and His character, we all are touched by sin, we still have value as image bearers. Judge each individual by the content of their character, not the color of their skin (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.).
More recently, we have seen a literal disgusting circus fed by other twisted presuppositions. Judge Brett Kavanaugh stands as the latest nominee for a vacant seat on the United States Supreme Court. By all measures and his record, he is imminently qualified, has lived a life and served a career with integrity. He has been honest in admitting his alcohol consumption in high school. Yet this man stands accused of ugly violent behavior against a woman when he was 17 years old. Accusations made some 36 years after the alleged crime. And many in the public sphere have been more than willing to accept the accusations, despite vast holes and inconsistencies. Why? Because of faulty presuppositions: That a privileged white boy from a well-off family, who was a student (and apparently an outstanding student and athlete) at a prestigious private school, who liked to drink absolutely MUST have committed the alleged crime. That is just what rich, white boys do – and “always” get away with it. We have a collision of class warfare, class jealousy, and a massive #metoo movement that presumes women are always the victim and that any doubts about the validity of a woman’s accusations against a man are nothing but #misogynistic #womanhating efforts to shame the #victim.
There is a similar issue that happened just a few years ago when the #Ferguson Missouri riots were going on as a (purported) response to the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson Police officer. The narrative followed the presupposition that police nationwide were engaged in an “open season on black men”, as originally proclaimed by US Representative Hank Johnson (D- Georgia). When you believe in such a presupposition, you will be a willing participant in the supposed response. Closer to home here in Arkansas, Judge Wendell Griffen of the Sixth Judicial Circuit (and infamous anti-death penalty protestor while having an active death penalty case before his bench) began issuing very aggressive support for the rioters – actually justifying their actions because of Hank Johnson’s proclamation! One would think a judge would be willing to actually see what the evidence would say as opposed to jumping on the racial and anti-police bandwagon absent any meaningful evidence. But for Judge Griffen, his racial presuppositions trump truth and evidence. And he willingly became another part of the division in this nation.
So what is the answer? I’ve already given it to you – viewing our neighbors as being image bearers of God. Quit basing our judgment on skin color, economic background, or whether one is male/female. Begin with the evidence. Be willing to withhold judgment until the fog of the event or circumstances can settle a bit.
Filter what you hear, even if it comes through your favorite media outlet or your best friend, through a presupposition of that Image-bearer lense and seek the truth, not assumed guilt simply because of race (or more recently – because of gender). Quit swallowing the vitriol being spewed from every angle.
And let us look at what the Bible says about our differences – and the “great equalizer”:
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -Galatians 3:27-28
Only in Jesus do we really begin to see each other as God sees us. Further, when we are In Christ, as new creations – we can set aside our former selves, our previous flawed and sinful presuppositions, and begin to see our neighbor through a new lens – as a person and soul – that has value and who is, at the core, in need of the same salvation we need.
And after all – who is the author of confusion and hate? Satan.
XIV. Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
We believe that the Christian baptism is the immersion in water of a believer, into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost; to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in the crucified, buried and risen Saviour, with its effect, in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life; that it is prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation, and to the Lord’s Supper; in which the members of the church by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; preceded always by solemn self-examination.
Acts 8:36-39; Matt. 3:5-6; John 3:22-23; John 4:12; Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:12; Acts 16:32-34; Acts 18:8; Acts 10:47-48; Gal.3:26-28; Rom.6:4; Col. 2:12; I Peter 3:20-21; Acts 22:16; Acts 2:41-42; I Cor. 11:26; Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; I Cor.11:28; I Cor. 5:1-8; I Cor. 10:3-32; I Cor. 11:17-32; John 6:26
The New Hampshire Confession of Faith is a beautiful document that is the original foundational statement of faith the church association I am a part of rests. it does a beautiful job of describing baptism. This document itself finds its origins in Scripture (of course), as well as a preceding Confession which is somewhat more detailed and the one to which I prefer to fall back on – the Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, as it holds more details. The chapter on Baptism is as follows:
Chapter 29 Of Baptism
1 Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.(Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4)
2 Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance. (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37; 2:41; 8:12; 18:8)
3 The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19-20; Act 8:38)
4 Immersion, or dipping of the person fin water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance. (Mat 3:16; John 3:23)
I bring this up because of an all too common issue that comes up from time to time in ministry: Those who make professions of faith, especially at a very young age, that might not have been genuine professions at the time. But because of “our” relatively modern methodology of “get them to say a prayer and dunk ’em” has led to many false assurances of salvation, and ultimately spiritually dead church members. In his book Death To Life, Allen Nelson IV refers to these folks as the walking dead. The startlingly sad reality is that there are (and have long been) those who – as he put it:
We would be stunned at how many people have a date written down in their bible but not their name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Even more alarming is how many of these people might be pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, or other prominent leaders within the church. Just because people feel saved, doesn’t mean they are saved. (From Death To Life: How Salvation Works, Chapter 2, p. 19)
This is a reminder of why I am so thankful for several brethren the LORD placed in my path as I began ministry. One that really sticks out in my heart on the issue of salvation and baptism is Bro. Harrel Herring. Bro. Harrel’s real burden and passion was for not just professions of faith – but for genuine conversion. His own testimony was one oft-heard – having “walked the aisle” when his brother did, and an evangelist who asked all the wrong questions and offered raving, yet false, assurance of salvation. Bro. Harrel knew at the time he wasn’t genuinely saved – but who was he to question or argue the
point as a youngster? But Harrel knew what the problem was and did indeed come to
genuine repentance and saving faith. But this experience planted in him the passion he spent much of the rest of his life trying to help other to avoid false professions and to find real, saving faith. Indeed, I first met Bro. Harrel at Budd Creek Baptist Camp during the BMA of Arkansas week back in 2006. At camp, Bro. Harrel had the privilege of meeting with each young person who made a profession, to ask the right questions to at least have some basis for recording decisions. He also gave out copies of a booklet he had put together specifically for new believers titled Starting My Life With Christ. I still have a handful of copies and find it quite useful!
The problem Brother Herring was trying to address is a real one. Every church I have been a part of in my walk since conversion has had more than one similar illustration – someone who made a profession, but then at some point later determined that it was not a genuine conversion and came to Christ afterward. Unfortunately, there are those in churches who never do realize their repeating of a “sinners prayer” was nothing more than the “vain repitition” Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:7! They are, as Allen Nelson labeled them – The Walking Dead.
But God is indeed full of Amazing Grace! And He does still call many from that spiritually dead state to new life! He is indeed faithful to call ALL who are His to repentance. And the responsibility of those He does call out of that dead state is to, as those lowly fishermen Jesus called in Galilee did – drop your nets and follow Him!
And one of the first steps one called to new life to take is baptism. Even if you were dunked in a pond, creek, pool, or “official” church baptistry – if it was on a false profession – it was nothing more than getting wet. It was not a genuine act of obedience in faith. Therein lies the rub for many – whether it is pride or shame, some who realize their old profession was without merit find it difficult to publicly proclaim their newfound salvation for fear of shame or for their position. And many shudder at the thought of submitting themselves for “re-baptism” (a misnomer if the first was not scriptural). Sadly, some never make known their latter genuine conversion for fear of what others will think. And this is what brings me to the impetus for today’s entry:
As both a father and a pastor, I am always extremely concerned about the possibility of pressuring a young person, particularly my own daughters, into a “decision” that is not God-initiated, and preceded and empowered by the Holy Spirit and HIS complete work in salvation. In this case, my youngest daughter, Selah, made a profession several years ago while I was still in my first pastorate (Park View Baptist Church, North Little Rock). She followed on the heels of her older sister. Both had been immersed in the gospel from birth (or before if you consider in-vitro time in church!). Both had received the benefit of not only their mom and me trying our best to speak and demonstrate the gospel, but a church with many caring souls who also poured into them the words of Life. So when Selah came to me and said she had asked Jesus into her heart, she had all the right answers, to the right questions (as Bro. Harrel would put it). Selah is sharp and while casual observation might lead you to believe she is paying zero attention – she soaks in what is going on around her in an amazing way. So – after several of us visited with her, she submitted herself to be baptized.
Yet far too often, we saw signs that gave her mom and I serious pause regarding her actually having seen genuine regeneration. Some of her actions going way beyond “childhood indiscretions” or “immaturity”. Six months ago, Diana and I both voiced concern about Selah’s spiritual condition and began praying in earnest for answers, guidance, and for God to truly work in her.
On Wednesday evening, July 18, those of us at Ozark Baptist Encampment, Week 1, those of us at camp knew something was up. But when I got the message that I was needed at our girl’s cabin at nearly 10:30PM, I knew something was serious. Selah was afraid that I would be mad if she told me – but she knew without a doubt that when she made her “profession of faith” several years ago – it wasn’t real – she just did what she knew the rest of us wanted – and what got her positive attention. There were signs this time of genuine contrite heart and very heavy conviction.
And the Sunday after camp, Selah came before First Baptist Church and confessed before the entire assembly of what had happened, including her false profession years ago, and submitting herself humbly for baptism! I am pleased to announce that on Sunday, August 19, I get to genuinely baptize my precious daughter! And don’t ever doubt my joy and thanksgiving that God didn’t just leave her to her own case of The Walking Dead! And don’t ever doubt the power of God to call His own unto repentance and genuine salvation!
And preachers – never tire of preaching the gospel, the whole gospel, the saving gospel always!
As the pastor of a relatively small church who is always looking at the condition of not only the congregation I lead, but to investigate the history of churches that have seen divisions, splits, and much more. Since long before I was ever called to ministry, I have “suffered” from a constant yearning to know “why” and “how”. It is just part of my core being.
As a pastor, I try to grasp the whys and whats of a church’s history – why people join or leave a church, why young people (as much are wringing their hands today over) seem to be leaving churches in alarming numbers, and even why a church might split. Part of that ongoing series of quests is a look at the problem of swollen church membership rolls – that often include names that possibly no current member even knows the identity of! I believe one of the core problems (or diseases) responsible for a lot of these symptoms and issues is a spiritual issue – and in many cases, the problem is unregenerate church membership.
Bear with me for a bit – as this will take a few steps to explain. You see, Jesus assembled His church – that first local church (as Christ’s Church is nearly always referred to) in Israel – a “church” that moved around following Him until He returned to His rightful place in Heaven. That church settled in Jerusalem where it gained the respect – dare say even admiration from their neighbors (Acts 2:47 records that they had favor with all the people). What inspired this period of favor (that also appears to have drawn people to Christ – and thus to be saved?) – the relationship these members of that first church had with each other – they were:
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ACTS 2:44-47)
Quite simply, their love for one another was such that they made sure everyone in need had their needs met (through sacrificial giving), worshipped God gladly and sincerely, and were day-by-day (regularly, even daily meeting together including fo worship). This early church was demonstrating what Jesus identified as one of the biggest of hallmarks of being a genuine Christ-follower:
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
The word love here comes from the same Greek word (ἀγάπη – agapaō the same self-scarificing love Jesus demonstrated on behalf of His sheep on the cross! And this is the exact same term translated as love in the source passage for my tltle today:
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:14)
This is the same love that Peter wrote of in 1 Peter 4:8 to the church under great persecution: Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
I have long chewed on the concept of “love covers a multitude of sins”. A genuine, personal, self-sacrificing love for your brothers & sisters in Christ overcomes/covers more sins than we can comprehend – just as Jesus’ perfect demonstration of this same kind of self-sacrificing love covered 100% of the sins of every person who would ever trust Jesus alone for Salvation – His sheep. We are called, time and again, to have and to demonstrate self-sacrificing love, beginning with our “brethren”. It is this same love that drives a God-called pastor to fulfill the charge Paul had for Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2) to be ready in and out of season to REPROVE, REBUKE, EXHORT. Indeed, anyone claiming to be a pastor who is unwilling to reprove (put to the proof – point out error based on proof), rebuke – to boldly address, call out, to put/shut down errors, and to exhort – to call to action/correction – literally to plead with urgency for change. A pastor who loves his (Christ’s) people is willing to stand on Scripture and to take the steps necessary to correct those in error (sin, as well as doctirnal/theological errors).
And out of love for Christ and love for their brethren (including such a pastor), born-again church members should desire and even be glad to receive such correction with a right attitude.
Likewise – even a pastor with the best of intentions can make an error, and should have such a love that he can take correction with gladness.
Within the local church – genuine, intentional discipleship begins when members have this same self-sacrificing love tha they are willing to invest of themselves and their time to walk side-by-side with fellow believers to teach, lead, and help mature those believers.
It is the same kind of unselfish love that will draw together a local church as nothing else will – and will actually attract those around them who need to experience that same kind of love.
And it is this same love that will lead the born-again to regularly assemble together to worship God, to grow spriritually, and to edify their brethren – and lead you to not forsake the assembling together (Hebrews 10:25).
Which brings us full circle to the title verse – and the sobering reality penned by John under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 John – that we boil down as beign able to identify thsoe who are not abiding in life (Christ) by their lack of love for the brethren.
Do you love your fellow Christians? Does that love cover a “multitude of sins” – aka when they mess up, as humans do? Do you desire to be WITH Christians – beginning with the regular meetings for corporate worship as the local church, but also that you would spend a significant portion of your life with fellow chrisitans sacrificially giving to them of your time and self (disicpleship)? Does the church you are a member of have a pastor who loves you enough to be willing to deal with the real and hard issues and to reprove, rebuke, exhort the body to follow Scirpture?
Or do you abide in death?