Friday, June 28, 2002
A young Pharisee pastor has asked if I would address the issue of restoring backslidden or fallen sinners back into the fellowship. He was wondering if it was right for us to set conditions for their acceptance.
This question is succinctly answered in Luke 3:8 where John the Baptist tells the crowd to “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance . . .” If the Bible mandates a demonstration of fruits as evidence of repentance, how can we demand anything less?
If we want to maintain our reputation for spirituality and holiness, we must practice a zero tolerance for Sin. Keep in mind that I am not talking about minor peccadilloes but real sinful Sin. I am the first to admit that none of us is perfect and we would be hypocrites to make such a claim. However, it is important that we make a distinction between minor, insignificant sins and really big Sins. I commit sins (for which I seek the Lord’s forgiveness daily) but I would never conceive of committing a Sin. I am too far along in my spiritual maturity to succumb to any of the major Sins.
We need to realize that some sins are so bad, so egregious, so intolerable that we cannot overlook or countenance them without compromising our stand on holiness. These include the vile sins of murder, sexual excess or perversion of any sort, divorce and remarriage, imbibing of alcoholic beverages, smoking, dancing, attending movies and the like.
Some object to such a hard line stand and say that Christ’s blood covers all sins; past, present and future. While this is true, we can forgive wayward Pharisees without fellowshipping with them. We don’t condemn them; but we don’t consort with them either. Just because we tolerate them does not mean that we have to talk to them.
And of course restoration is our ultimate goal. If the repentant sinner evidences a true change of heart by a blameless and holy life for a sufficient length of time, we would naturally allow them back into our fellowship on a conditional basis.
They would be allowed to attend worship services and financially support the ministry but I would strongly advise against trusting them with any sort of real responsibility. After all, they may not even be true Pharisees. It is very possible that they have not truly repented and are simply pretending to be spiritual until the next time they fall into sin! We may give restored Pharisees a second chance as good Christians but I would never give anyone a third chance.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
II Corinthians 5:19-20 (NIV)
Friday, June 21, 2002
Pandering to Youth
I am gravely disturbed by an alarming trend I am seeing in our churches. It is spreading its contagion at a staggering rate. It is one of the most dangerous and divisive practices I have ever seen because it has the potential to destroy everything that we as Pharisees stand for.
That vicious trend capturing our churches is the practice of creating a climate that appeals to youth. Some churches have even dedicated whole services to what they call “Contemporary” worship in a misguided attempt to supposedly reach young people with the gospel. I believe this blatant pandering to youth will only lead to the ruin of our churches.
I am convinced that this sends a wrong message to young people today. By pandering to their “culture” we are stamping our approval on it and making it look like the gospel is a universal message intended for anybody regardless of their outward appearance. In essence we are saying that God is pleased with modern music, modern translations, young people’s clothing styles, tattoos and all the rest.
Instead of trying to make worship services that conform to the youth culture of today, we should make young people conform to the traditions that we have worked so hard to maintain over the years. If they truly want to be spiritual, then they should seek to be more like us instead of us trying to be more like them.
Some argue that young people have special needs and that our churches should accommodate our worship to meet those needs. I maintain that their needs are no different than anyone else’s. It is just as important for them to live an outwardly holy separated life as it is for any of us. They certainly can’t do that with:
· Body piercing or extra holes in their ears and noses
· Wild spiky hair styles with garish colors
· Outlandish clothing styles
· Modern music
We should put our best efforts forward to make young people more like us rather than us being more like them. Otherwise they will never learn to develop the same attitudes and standards that we have worked so hard to establish regarding personal holiness.
As for those who refuse to conform to our high standards of purity and spirituality, we may safely say that they went out from us because they were not of us for if they had been of us they would have continued with us. In other words, if they were really and truly spiritual Christians, then they would want to be just like us.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
I Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
Friday, June 14, 2002
The Madness of Modern Music
Apparently a comment I made in last week’s newsletter has prompted a question from one of my students. He wanted to know how I could make the generalized statement that music that was 25 years old was godly music since this would clearly allow some of the early “Gospel Rock” songs into the category of godly music.
I apologize for any misunderstanding this statement caused. It is true that there are some unacceptable music styles that would fall within this time frame. It is also true that if we take away their rock beat and worldly looking singers, many of these songs pass rather well as spiritual songs today. Carnal fleshly songs, like carnal fleshly people can become spiritual if we dress them up properly.
This leads to the thorny problem of determining which music is spiritual and which is carnal. There are two ways to go about making this determination and I hope to help you find the path to spirituality through today’s column.
The first way is to make up a bunch of reasons why any given piece of modern music should be classified as worldly instead of spiritual. These include any or all of the following disqualifiers:
· The choice of worldly instruments instead of godly ones
· The use of worldly tunes or music styles like rock, punk, grunge, rock-a-billy, metal, rap, country-pop, or anything closely resembling a modern style.
· Any music that has a noticeable “beat” that excites the flesh
· Anything that appeals to teen-agers or people under the age of 30
· Anything that is too loud, rhythmic and upbeat
· Any music that is guilty by its association with worldly-looking singers that don’t fit our high spiritual standards of conduct, dress and grooming
This is by no means a comprehensive list of criteria but it is enough to give the serious Pharisee grounds for disqualifying a host of songs, genres and styles as being decidedly worldly and unspiritual.
However, this list is susceptible to hair-splitting arguments about the fine points of interpretation of each. For example, how “upbeat” is too “upbeat” to be spiritual. These arguments only lead to division and that is why I prefer the second, more effective criteria for assessing the spirituality and worldliness of modern music.
The simplest way to evaluate music for its spiritual content is to ask, “Does Gamaliel like it?” If it is a musical style that I prefer, then it is spiritual. If I don’t like it, then it is worldly. This eliminates much of the hair-splitting for it is clearly self-evident that I am a spiritual person with a high degree of discernment and that I would never tolerate a worldly music style. Therefore, my preference is the best guide.
So if you want to know if a particular piece of music is acceptable for worship or not, simply ask, “What would Gamaliel do?” As always, let the conscience of the most spiritual among us be our guide.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:19, 20 (NIV)
Friday, June 07, 2002
Which Church is the True Church?
The question comes up quite frequently, even though the answer is obvious to me, as to which is the True Church. I believe some students raise this question simply for argument’s sake rather than for a sincere inquiry as to the merits of the question. I fear they only want to “prove” that they are members of the correct denomination.
The answer to this is so patently obvious that I hesitate to answer it. Simply put, it is the church that I attend, the Pharisee Church. Clearly, I would only attend a True Church, so all one has to do to detect a True Church is to find one with me in it. And if you can’t find one with me in it, then find a Pharisee Church that is identical to mine.
“But there are so many different kinds of Pharisee Churches; how can we know which is the right one?” This is a fair question because not everyone that wears the name “Pharisee” is a true Pharisee Church. Here are a few things to look for as identifying marks:
· The music style is the same as the one I prefer – the music must be at least 25 years out of style to be spiritually acceptable
· A building that is constructed along conventional lines – no modern innovations, house churches or cell churches
· The Bible version is the same as the one I use
· Everyone dresses and looks like good Christian people - not like a bunch of freaks with tattoos and body piercings, gaudy hair and so forth
· The order of worship is similar to the one we use at our church
· The preaching style closely resembles mine
· The sermons agree with my theology in every jot and tittle
Any deviation from the above is proof of worldliness and carnality. I will devote a good deal of attention in these newsletters to proper doctrine but suffice to say that any church that does not resemble mine is not a True Church.
Contentious students argue that our religion is not bound by culture and should have a variety of expressions based on the context into which the Gospel is spoken. They maintain that there should be a wide variety of worship styles and expressions.
These poor deluded souls clearly misunderstand the Biblical teaching of unity. Unity means an unwavering conformity to generally accepted norms and traditions. Anything that deviates from established religious convention is an attempt to let the world creep in to worship and should be avoided. God never called us to innovate. He called us to be true to our traditions.
So if you want to be a True Church, all you have to do is be just like me. Anything that differs from me in the slightest degree has abandoned the faith once delivered to the saints and should be avoided. Simple question. Simple answer.
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
Titus 3:9 (NIV)