Friday, September 27, 2002
Taking a Stand
In this column, I have accused many of compromising with the world. I would like to take time in today’s Newsletter to emphasize the need for true Pharisees to Take A Stand. Some have asked me exactly what I mean by “taking a stand.” Simply put, I mean that we should be known for our doctrinal and personal position on issues of spiritual significance.
Some people think that the true Pharisee is known by his actions. While actions may be an indication of an attempt to be a Pharisee, and they certainly are an indication of who is not a Pharisee, they are no guarantee of the genuineness of the Pharisee’s profession. True spirituality comes from within and need not manifest itself in any outward behavior. To judge someone by their behavior is to be carnal in our discernment.
A Pharisee should be known first of all for what he is against. We are against sins like murder, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, abortion and all of the lewdness and carnality that goes on in the world. We are against the appearance of evil whether it is in music, culture, literature or the popular media. We are against doctrinal error and people who fail to hold to the true Word of God by reading the wrong version of the Bible. We could go on and on with the list of things that we are against but that would be unbalanced without a list of things we are for.
We stand for Truth. We stand for Spirituality. We stand for the Word of God. We stand for Righteousness, Godliness, Holiness, Purity and all things honoring to our Savior. That is why we oppose all denominations that are not Pharisees because they stand for none of these things. They may claim to stand for the same things we stand for, but that is part of their deception. Who would follow a denomination that claims to be teaching lies?
Some would ask, “but what do you do that gives evidence of taking a stand?” First of all, let me say that a performance-based religion is totally misguided. We are not going to be judged by our works in heaven but by the condition of our hearts. Any attempt to lower true spirituality to something so crass as doing good works is teaching another salvation other than the one taught in the Bible. But beyond that, we preach. Taking a Stand for the Truth means that we proclaim the Word from the pulpits of our churches. We castigate and vilify the unrepentant, unholy and unworthy. We point people to the Truth. We are not so lowly as to get involved in a boycott, rally or march for a cause because we are too spiritual for such carnal, fleshly means. We proclaim the timeless Word of God. If that is not enough, then no additional effort on our part would ever suffice to make a difference.
Others argue that we only preach in our churches, so what good does it do to take a stand in front of those who already believe and practice as we do. There are any number of reasons including watching over the flock that God has entrusted to our care and protecting it from error and impurity. The other is that we could not possibly preach anywhere other than a Pharisee church lest we be perceived to endorse false religion. And finally, through the use of e-mail, the Internet and the World Wide Web, we are able to Take A Stand where anyone can read it.
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV)
Friday, September 20, 2002
End Times Theology
Normally I don’t use these columns to share my own personal doubts and misgivings but there is an issue that I feel I must get off my chest. Please bear with me as I share my deeply felt ambivalence. My greatest fear, as you know, is that of making a mistake. While I have no documentation that I have actually been wrong about any Christian doctrine, I fear that I may be holding at least one truth in error and this causes me grave concern.
What is the basis for such a fear? It is the phenomenal popularity of the Left Behind series of books. This series of books represents a conflict between two of my most deeply held beliefs. The first belief I hold to be true is that of Dispensational Premillennialism including the existence of a pre-Tribulation rapture. The second belief is that if a doctrine is popular, it must be by definition in error. I operate under the dictum that if it is Truth it is not popular and if it is popular it is not Truth.
I suppose I can draw consolation from the fact that the truth of Dispensational Premillennialism was not discovered and made popular until the publications of John Darby and the C. I. Schofield Reference Bible. That means that the truth had remained hidden for nearly 1800 years and wasn’t discovered until fairly recently. Prior to that, no one believed anything close to what we believe today about the Tribulation, Rapture and Millennium. So I suppose I can rest assured that even though it is wildly popular today, it is a recent popularity rather than a sustained popular error. An example of the latter would be the belief that all the redeemed are part of the true church. This is clearly a long-standing popular error.
On the other hand, the widespread popularity of Dispensational Premillennialism causes me a significant amount of discomfort. I am instinctively inclined to mistrust anything that has popular appeal. Generally the masses cannot be trusted to believe the truth because they are so easily deluded. The implication of this fact is that I have been duped along with the masses into believing something that isn’t true. While this is highly improbable, it nevertheless does cause me concern.
My only hope is that since it is possible to be correct on Dispensational Premillennialism and still not be correct on matters essential to salvation, then Satan is perfectly content to let people believe the truth regarding the Lord’s return since they aren’t going to be in the rapture anyway. Otherwise I would be forced to conclude that I am wrong about my beliefs about the Rapture, Tribulation and the Millennium and I know that can’t possibly be the case. After all, the signs of the times don’t lie.
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.
Friday, September 13, 2002
I have been criticized for a lack of social activism. Some have even accused me of being insensitive to the needs of hurting people. Nothing could be further from the truth for I have a heart of charity befitting any truly Spiritual Christian. I do feel, however, that I am seriously misunderstood.
First of all, as wise stewards of the limited resources that God has entrusted into our care we need to exercise spiritual discernment with regard to the poor. There are two distinct classes of poor. Some are poor because the circumstances of life have worked against them and brought them into their low estate. These are the poor who deserve our sympathy, our love and concern and we should lift them up in prayer before a generous and gracious God. On the other hand, there is a sizeable contingent of poor who are lazy, irresponsible and downright contemptible. These poor are undeserving of our sympathy, our prayers and certainly our financial support.
It is a sad fact of life that if we give our financial support to these sorts of folks, we are actually subsidizing sin. We cannot afford to waste the scant resources that God has given us in irresponsible support of iniquity. Let me ask you this, have you ever offered work to those who stand on the street corner with their “Will work for food” signs? Well I have. I have handed job applications to these lazy shiftless folks, only to see them standing there the next day with the same sign. If they really wanted to work, there are jobs aplenty out there for them.
But even the deserving poor need something other than our money. Which will benefit them more - bread for life or the Bread of Life? Should we give them the filthy lucre of this world, which will only profit them in this lifetime, or should we give them the gospel message of Jesus Christ, which will profit them for all eternity? In the eternal scheme of things, which is more important clothing and shelter that will perish with this life or a robe of righteousness and a heavenly mansion that will never perish?
No, I am not socially irresponsible and insensitive. I prefer to spend my time emphasizing the important things of life, the eternal verities of sin, salvation and sanctification. I do no service to my fellow man if I provide him with the things of this life and then fail to provide him with the gospel message. I much prefer to cover him over with the truth of God’s word and the prayer of faith. How much more socially responsible can one be?
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? . . Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
James 2:14-16 (NIV)
Friday, September 06, 2002
The Lure of Lucre
The carnality of the modern Christian seems to know no bounds. This is seen today in their evil pursuit of money. This has caused modern Christians to shun the godly virtue of poverty. Too few people today fail to see the intrinsic holiness and spirituality of poverty.
One of the signs of the compromising trend with the world is the rise of so-called Christian stewardship ministries. These supposed ministries attempt to spiritualize the ungodly use of money under the guise of wisely using the resources God has entrusted to our care. These purveyors of platitudes even go so far as to give investment advice to Christians and urge them to manage their wealth in a morally responsible manner.
They miss the essential point that any Christian who has accumulated enough wealth to worry about where he should invest it is clearly in possession of more money than is spiritually justifiable. As a Spiritual Christian, any interest in money matters should be soundly condemned and so-called stewardship ministries castigated on every occasion.
Poverty is a virtuous sign of holiness because it renounces our affiliation with the world. Those who are godly and spiritual are not people of means but people who are of mean stature. Even Paul says that not many mighty, not many noble, not many of high reputation are called. One of the defining characteristics of a truly spiritual Christianity is a devotion to purity of motives that is uncomplicated by financial concerns.
Wealth is a sign of worldly success. One cannot be successful in this world unless there has been a fundamental compromise with the world. Christians are not called to be successful; they are called to be faithful. Any Christian who is successful in worldly pursuits is without question one who has compromised principle for a paycheck, Christianity for cash, Godliness for gain.
Some ask, “How much wealth is too much?” This is a fairly easy question to answer since anybody who has more money that I do is a carnal Christian and anyone who has less than I do is a spiritual Christian. Some would imply that my lifestyle is indicative of a high level of wealth compared to Christians living in a third world county. Well, we’re not in a third world country, are we? So we should not measure our spirituality by the standards of others and any attempt to make me feel guilty because of my lifestyle by comparing me to poor Christians overseas are certainly not appreciated.
The spiritual Christian is in pursuit of a heavenly reward, not an earthly one. We need to focus our attention on the world to come, not the world we are in. Anything else is a failure to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.
For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Luke 16:8, 9 (NIV)