Defection to the World
There is no excuse for the widespread defection of Christians to the world that is becoming so prevalent these days. Christians of every sort are abandoning traditional enclaves and bastions of spirituality in a vain attempt to allegedly engage the culture and impact it for the cause of Christ. Consider the following:
- John C. Maxwell has abandoned the ministry and is now a business consultant on leadership issues. He is claiming to apply Christian principles to solving business problems. He even has a web site, www.Injoy.com, and a business book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
- Bruce Wilkinson, while he wasn’t a Pharisee, did a marvelous work with his Walk Through the Bible series. Since then, he has become a fixture of the New York Times Bestseller list with such books as Secrets of the Vine and the phenomenally successful The Prayer of Jabez.
- Christian musicians like Sandy Patti and Amy Grant have become widely accepted in popular music circles. Other so called Christian groups like Jars of Clay, DC Talk, and Sixpence None the Richer are not only getting air play on secular stations but are finding their way onto the soundtracks of godless Hollywood blockbusters.
These are simply the most prominent examples of a more widespread epidemic that has taken Christians by storm. I am talking about the supposed need to “engage” the culture. I have even heard the average Christian in the pew voice a desire to “impact the wider culture with the transforming message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” These well meaning but misguided people are casting pearls before swine and giving that which is holy to dogs. To be perfectly honest, I question the genuineness of their faith and their true motivations.
It is not the business of Pharisees to “impact the wider culture” but to safeguard the doctrinal purity and maintain the exceptionally high standards of personal holiness found in the sanctified Christian life. Our job is not to engage the world in a dialogue about the merits of the gospel but to condemn the world. Our method is to convict the lost of their sinful ways by our separated lifestyle and godly conversation; not coddle them with a softhearted gospel of forgiveness and hope.
The good news of the gospel is that we are privileged to belong to an enlightened elite of spiritually stratified saints, not the spokesmen for a popular message that appeals to the lowliest sinner wallowing in the degradation of their own wickedness. We are called to be separate from the world, not to impact it and certainly not to transform it.
He told them still another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.
Matthew 13:33 (NIV)
A cocky young Christian who had the effrontery to believe that he had caught me in an error attempted to chastise me last week. I made the statement, “I am proud to be a Pharisee” in the course of one of my sermons on denominational purity. He accused me of committing the sin of pride in making such an allegedly boastful statement. The fallacy of such an accusation can be illustrated by another of my famous quotes: A man once asked me, “Brother Gamaliel, if you weren’t a Pharisee, what would you be?” and I replied, “I’d be ashamed.”
That’s right. I’d be ashamed to be any other denomination than a Pharisee. The apostle Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel, nor should we be ashamed that our denomination is the sole guardian of the pure, undiluted, uncontaminated gospel of Christ. So if the apostle Paul was not ashamed then he must have been proud to be the one entrusted by God with the gospel to the Gentiles and so should we. We have every right to be proud of a number of things:
- Our denominational affiliation
- Our personal holiness
- Our Godly character
- Our stand against sin
- Our spiritual attainment and accomplishments
- Our higher plateau of spiritual maturity
- Our thorough, complete and nearly infallible knowledge of Biblical truth
- Our ability to rightly divide the Word of Truth
- Our divine responsibility to confront, convince, condemn and constructively criticize others
Pride of self would clearly be a sin but taking justifiable pride in God is surely beyond blame. Certainly there can be no sin in taking pride in one’s own relationship to God. When we were sinners we had nothing to take pride in and nothing in which to boast. But now that we are in Christ, we have very right to brag about what God is able to do now that he has saved us. Of course not of the glory for our godly accomplishments goes to us for that would be a sin. But I can proudly stand up and brag on all the things I am doing now that I am one of God's childen.
Best of all, I can be proud that I am not like other men are - blasphemers, unregenerate, ungrateful and generally despicable in the sight of God. Remember, the opposite of pride is not humility as some suppose. The opposite of pride is shame and we, as Pharisees have nothing to be ashamed about.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who . . . made himself nothing . . . he humbled himself . . .
Philippians 2: 5-8 (NIV)
Hate the Sin but Love the Sinner
Much has been said over the years of “loving the sinner but hating the sin.” While this sentimental cliché may have some popular appeal, we need to recognize that this phrase is based on some awfully poor theology. I agree that we should love sinners but I only agree to the point that we only have to love the same sinners that God loves.
It is a mistake of modern softheaded and softhearted thinking to believe that God loves everybody. There are some clear cases of people God hates and it is clear that God would never fault us for hating the same vile, ungodly sinners that He hates. To be perfectly honest, it is our responsibility to hate homosexuals, dope addicts, drunks, smokers, the Hollywood crowd and anybody that refuses to boycott Disney.
So whom should we love? Why the sheep of His pasture of course! Jesus knows whom His sheep are. Those sheep are the ones that the Father has committed into His hand and they are easily identified by the fact that they behave like sheep. Our job is to make sure we distinguish the sheep from the goats that would attempt to run with God’s flock. It is our God-given responsibility as undershepherds to cull them out. Just because they attend church doesn’t make them a sheep any more than my going to McDonald’s makes me a hamburger.
No, we are called to separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats, the leaven from the lump. If anything, the best way for us to love the sheep of God’s pasture is for us to hate the goats and keep them out of the field. Protecting and providing for the sheep is the proper job of the pastor and hating sinners both in and out of the fold is part of that protective posture.
Our Lord tells us that he will leave the 99 in the wilderness to find the lost sheep. But we never see him wasting one second of His precious time on the goats. Nor should we. The parable also makes very clear that the 99 were left in the wilderness and not in the fold. If we recall the Shepherd’s Psalm correctly, it is not only the staff but also the rod that comforts. One of our jobs as Pharisees is to use that rod to drive the sheep back into the fold while our Savior tenderly searches for the lost one. It is not until that lost sheep is found (by the Lord, I might add and not us) that we can tend to him. This means that loving the sheep is conditional on their being well behaved and willing to remain with the flock. So where can we possibly find time to love goats when there is so much work involved in loving the sheep?
We know that no chastening is pleasant while it is happening but it is also a sign of love. And we can take no more loving action than helping sheep to know when they have left the Path of Righteousness and bring them back into the way. They may not enjoy our chastening hand, but they will thank us in the end. True love takes courage and fortitude. Some get discouraged when they see those whom they thought were sheep leave the fold under the rod of rebuke but we should console ourselves that “if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” If they can’t take the chastisement, then they likely weren’t true sheep in the first place, only goats wearing a wool coat.
To return to our subject, it is not only important that we let the sinner know that we love him but also make it powerfully evident that we hate his sin. After all, our goal is to get them to hate their sin just as much as we (and God) hate it. Otherwise, they will come to believe that we tolerate sin in the name of loving the sinner. Our enthusiasm at condemning personal sin should go a long way to disabusing them of this notion.
“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34b-35 (NIV)
I am becoming increasingly disturbed by the alarming lack of spirituality in the worship practices of contemporary Christians. I attribute this to a lack of adherence to the Word of God. In churches that have tossed aside the Authorized Version (The Word of God) in favor of the modern mistranslations, it should come as no surprise that other heinous practices are thriving. One of the most destructive things I’ve seen is a loss of due respect and reverence for the person of God. How do I know this is so? It is because I have heard so few people using “thee” and “thou” in their prayers.
Some would consider this petty and insignificant but I am certain it is precisely this level of attention to detail that separates the truly Spiritual Christian from the Carnal Christian. Today’s Christians have an informal, intimate familiarity with God as if He were their best buddy. They view God as a pal, not as a potentate; more as kin than as King. Instead of being intimate, they should be intimidated; conventional instead of conversational; reverent instead of relaxed; holy instead of homey.
It is this lack of due reverence that has led to the general decline of spirituality among professing Christians today. And this explains the lack of true Christian experience in these shallow professing Christians. It is clear that God does not hear the prayers of the irreverent and disrespectful. This explains why you see all the expressions “brokenness” during prayer or emotional display that threatens the formality of our worship services.
In order to recapture the solemnity that God requires, we should encourage the use of King James style English during prayer. The use of “thee,” “thou,” “ye,” and ending verbs with –est (knowest, doest, etc.) are all signs of an elevated approach to prayer. Why should we go to such trouble? For the following reasons:
- It sets our spiritual language apart from our ordinary way of speaking so we can speak in a holy language, rather than a fleshly one.
- It advertises to others that we are speaking to a high and holy God, not a familiar friend.
- It reproves the carnal Christians for their casual intimacy and teaches them to revere God from a distance, as we ought to do.
- It emphasizes the depth of our personal spiritual commitment to all things holy in contrast to their lack of dedication.
Our prayer should demonstrate to others how holy and separate we can be in our relationship to God. We should advertise how remote and inaccessible God is to the common, carnal Christian instead of encouraging their irreverent behavior.
Our proper relationship to God should be seen as supplicants seeking the favor of a distant deity, not constant companions of a compassionate caregiver. It is no wonder that we see so little holiness in the lives of God’s children today. There is no fear, no terror, no awe-inspired dread for the mighty power of the One who is able to cast soul and body into hell. All this focus on the love of God has removed the fear of God. So why should we be surprised if we see the loss of holiness as a natural result of the loss of fear?
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I John 4:17, 18 (NIV)
Full Time Christian Service
In response to last week’s column, a student says that if we tithe our time then how can we ever be in Full-Time Christian Service? This young man misses the whole point of the distinction between the truly dedicated Spiritual Christians and the second class nominal Christians.
Let me state first of all that I am in Full-Time Christian Service. Others in this category include pastors, missionaries, Christian schoolteachers and some Christian musicians. And that is pretty much it. Everyone else may do some service here and there but they are certainly not in Full-Time Christian Service. This is what distinguishes first class Christians from second class Christians.
Some would ask, “What is the difference between a Christian schoolteacher in a Christian school and a Christian schoolteacher in a public school? Aren’t they both doing the same thing? Aren’t they both in Full-Time Christian Service if they maintain a Christian testimony?” To which I have to say, how absurd! One might as well compare a mission doctor in the darkest of Africa in Full-Time Christian Service with a professing Christian cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills. The first is in business for the Lord, the second is in business for himself.
This is the essence of Full-Time Christian Service - a dedication solely to the Lord and not worldly things. A Christian schoolteacher is working for the Lord, not a paycheck while the public schoolteacher who is a Christian is working for the paycheck and not the Lord. If it were not for this distinction, how could we justify the abysmally low salaries we pay Christian schoolteachers?
And this brings me to the heresy of “Workplace Ministry.” There is a movement afoot to rally all Christians in the workplace to treat their vocations as a “ministry” instead of just a job or a profession. This trend threatens to displace those like myself who are truly in Full-Time Christian Service with a host of pretenders. Imagine the preposterous idea of everyone from corporate executives to shop floor workers “dedicating their work to the Lord.” If that were to happen, how could we possibly distinguish Spiritual Christians from Carnal Christians? The next thing you know, people will say there’s no difference between doing work and doing ministry!
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
Colossians 3:17, 23-24 (NIV)