Friday, April 23, 2004
I confess that I found myself in a pickle this week. I wanted a column where Gamaliel responded to his detractors who accused him of being a "Pharisee." Since he already wears the name with pride, I had to substitute a competing sect's name so the column would make sense. You and I know that "Sadducee" in the passage below means "Pharisee" in the common sense of how we use it today. I hope I don't confuse too many of you, so sit back and enjoy this week's missive.
I have been getting a great deal of hate e-mail lately. I don't know where these people are coming from but they accuse me of being legalistic and even go so far as to call me a "Sadducee" because of my preaching on godliness and holiness. As everyone knows, the Sadducees were a Jewish sect during the time of Christ who were opposed to the teachings of Jesus and made up the bulk of the Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus to death. Jesus reserved some of his harshest words for them and it upsets me that people would accuse our good Pharisee church of being a bunch of Sadducees.
What most people who accuse us of being Sadducee zealots do not realize is that the error of Sadduceeism was not their zeal for the Word of God. In point of fact, they had no zeal for God's word. Rather, they were zealous for their interpretation of God's word. They sought to elevate and promote the cause of their own self-righteousness by interpreting the Bible to suit themselves rather than trying to find out what God really wanted and imposing that on others like we do. They wanted to set up their own religious system that allowed them to bind heavy burdens of their own making on others while trumpeting their own piety. Those of us who are genuine Pharisee believers would never stoop so low as to supplant Biblical truth with personal preference. We would never elevate Pharisee tradition and opinion over the Word of God. And we would never presume to proclaim our own piety over the worldliness of the masses.
What we really need to understand is that Jesus did not rebuke the Sadducees for their zeal in upholding the details of the law. As a matter of fact he actually praised them for doing this in Matthew 23:23. The things Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for include:
- Replacing the word of God with their own traditions (Matthew 15:1-9). Our particular branch of the Pharisee church has no traditions like the mainline denominations so we cannot supplant the word of God with those of our own making. Sure, we have some customs and things that are unique to our expression of the faith, but we would never elevate them to the level of traditions that are on par or above the Bible. The Bible promotes godly dress and the fact that we preach what godly dress is, doesn't mean we have created a "tradition" in the traditional sense. It is not a "tradition" of Pharisee churches to abstain from alcohol but a practice.
- Perverting the gospel (Matthew 12:22-24). Good Pharisees that we are, we would never add or subtract anything from the simple gospel of grace of Jesus Christ. All of the rules and conditions that we discuss in church are simply evidence that the gospel really "took" in particular individuals. We don't say that you have to live a perfect life to be saved, but we do say that if you are saved, you will endeavor - and to a great extent succeed - in leading a perfect life.
- Being self-righteous (Luke 18:9-14). We are far from self-righteous. All of our perfection, good works, conformity with the Word of God and general goodness are a result of the grace of God. We can't take any credit for the nearly sinless lives that we lead. The high standards that we maintain in living lives that are better than anyone else's are purely a result of the action of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. It is not that we live better lives because we are so good in our own selves but we have a better faith than anyone else that allows God to work in and through us in a tremendous way that is far superior to what worldly people live. And of course, all that glory goes back to God, not ourselves anyway.
- Gross hypocrisy (Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1). It is a deceptive slander to label Pharisees like us who love Jesus, honor the Bible and humble ourselves as "a bunch of Sadducees." A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something they are not. Those of us who are true Pharisees cannot be guilty of hypocrisy because we really are godly, righteous, holy, pure and reverent at all times. It is only the one who pretends to be such but doesn't live up the standards we live up to who are hypocrites.
So Christians who stand for the Bible, including the smallest details of the word of God, who have the holy boldness to preach against error and call it what it is, who have the convictions of an Old Testament prophet, who have the courage to speak out against the moral lassitude of our day and the excesses of our permissive society are often labeled "Sadducees." But the fact remains, that God did not come to call sinners into heaven but to take the Righteous home to be with him. The best thing I can do is maintain a Biblical Pharisee position and thank God that we are not like other men, including the publicans around us.
Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?"
Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
John 9:39-41 (NIV)
Friday, April 16, 2004
I was startled this week to discover that there are Christians
who are getting involved in the environmental movement. I have no idea where they are getting the idea from that this is a godly pursuit but I am sure it is not from the Bible. I fear that these soft-hearted, mushy-headed do-gooder wannabes are well meaning in their deluded state but they certainly have no Christian foundation for their actions.
The most dangerous aspect to this affectation is the spirit of compromise that permeates the whole endeavor. In order for a Christian to pursue the environmental agenda he has to associate with a lot of unsavory unspiritual characters. The environmental movement is filled with heathens of all sorts. There are nature-loving tree huggers, feminists, evolutionists, anarchists and Democrats in the movement. Why on earth a Christian who values their walk with the Lord would want to associate with such folks is beyond me. Even worse than that, environmental activism is getting to be a popular theme among so-called "Emerging" or "Postmodern" Christian writers as Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo. That should be reason enough to stay away from the environmental movement.
Aside from associating with non-Christians and heretics, there are plenty of other reasons why we shouldn't be involved with environmentalists. Mainly, it's not our responsibility. God put Adam in the garden to "keep and dress it" in the book of Genesis. Since the fall, our mandate has not changed. The world exists for our pleasure and its purpose is to nourish and care for us. The earth is for our pleasure; we are not for the earth's pleasure. We are not supposed to take care of nature because it is supposed to take care of us. The earth serves man, not the other way around.
Even more dangerous than that, environmentalism is a dilution of our purpose on earth. God sent his Son to die for the world - not the earth. Romans 8 tells us that the whole creation is groaning in travail because of its awful condition, yet we don't see Jesus dying to redeem it. Instead, Peter tells us that one day the elements are going to melt with a fervent heat. Why would we waste time trying to save the earth when it's going to all burn up anyway? No, the environment is not an issue we should waste our time on because it distracts from what we should be doing. All our time should be devoted to studying the Bible, reading and teaching doctrine. Anything else is just a minor detail and a fool's errand.
Be warned, however, that environmentalists will try to use every slick trick they can think of to persuade you to join their cause. There is no emotional ploy they won't pull, no manipulative method they won't try. This is proof that the environmentalist movement is not of God because you would never see these tactics used in sound Pharisee churches.
• Guilt - Environmentalists will try to make you think that you are personally guilty for everything that is wrong with the world today. They realize that you didn't cause all the evil but they will point to the life of excess that you lead as proof that you are exploiting the world for sinful personal gain.
• Fear - Environmentalists will try to convince you that something awful is going to happen to you if you don't join their cause. They say you will die of cancer or heart disease or lung disease or brain damage from all the troubling things that people are doing to the environment and that your only salvation lies in joining their movement. In fact, they are so exclusive as to believe that the ONLY way to salvation is by joining their cause.
• Doomsday - One of their favorite tactics is to play the TEOTWAWKI card. For those of you not aware of the latest acronyms it is "The End Of The World As We Know It." Environmentalists will try to convince you that the end of the world is right around the corner and the destruction of our planet is only a matter of a few years away. They won't set any date for the destruction, claiming that no one can know for sure, but they are certain that it is soon and we all better get ready.
• Globalism - This one isn't as big as it used to be but there are still some environmentalists out there who believe in some vast conspiracy that is seeking to rule the world. For some reason they make a connection between their belief system and the notion that there is going to be a one-world government and a one-world economy that will make slaves of us all. This was a popular theme of science fiction books and movies like Soylent Green, Logan's Run, and George Orwell's 1984 which isn't nearly as popular as it was before the mid-1980's. Still, there are plenty of people who take a post-apocalyptic scenario and exploit it for personal gain like the makers of The Matrix movies.
Don't let them deceive you. Stay faithful to your Pharisee church where we would never try to make people feel guilty, predict dire consequences for failing to adopt our worldview, warn of an immanent impending world-wide disaster and try to convince people of a coming one-world government.
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
Psalm 24:1-2 (NIV)
Saturday, April 10, 2004
I continue to get more and more upset with the number of folks who are jumping on the Ten Commandments bandwagon. Every good Pharisee knows that we should not be joining this attempt to compromise the principles of the Word of God under a misguided attempt to "bring back" the Ten Commandments. There are so many reasons why spiritual Christians should avoid joining the cause to re-post the Ten Commandments that it would take a book to contain them all. However, I will attempt to give you the highlights in this week’s column.
The Ten Commandments Movement is a Smoke Screen for Rampant Ecumenicalism
This cause like many seemingly well-intentioned efforts to improve the moral climate of our country is really just an attempt to unify all of the various denominations under a single banner. Just look at who is involved – Baptists, Catholics, Assemblies of God, Churches of Christ, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists – everyone except the Unitarians. It makes no difference what doctrinal beliefs you hold. As long as you support the Ten Commandments, that is all that matters to this movement. This is like so many other ecumenical movements such as Promise Keepers, The Moral Majority, The Pro-Life Movement, and many others. All of them seek to unite diverse doctrines under one unifying banner or another, which is an abomination to God.
The Bible plainly states that we should "mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them," in Romans 16:17. So we should avoid those who seek to unite all faiths under a single, unified cause because they are really causing division by sowing false doctrine. No matter how many they attract or how great their following, when we separate ourselves from them we are being obedient to our biblical mandate to avoid them. When we divide ourselves from them we are not causing the divisions but are only responding to the division that they have created by holding to false doctrine. Clearly, it is they who are the ones holding to the false doctrines, not us.
The Ten Commandments Movement Misses the Source of Apostasy
Many people think that what is hurting this country is principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places. They think they can remedy these “evils” by “getting back to the Bible” through posting of the Ten Commandments.
They could not be more wrong.
The real source of evil in our society today is the spirit of compromise and apostasy that exists in America’s churches. We have houses of “worship” that not only fail to preach against the evils of rock & roll, they actually incorporate it into their services along with all the attendant worldly instruments like guitars and drums. It is compromise with the world that is ruining society, not the lack of the Ten Commandments and I have proof. Nowhere in our church do we have them posted and we are the most spiritual bunch of True Christians I know. So if we can be spiritual without the Ten Commandments, why would we think that posting them in government offices (of all places) would make corrupt officials spiritual?
The Ten Commandments Movement is Fighting the Wrong BattleThe weapons of our warfare as saints in God’s Kingdom are spiritual, not carnal. The posting of God’s Law is a carnal act since it is not a spiritual weapon. The arena of the battle is the wrong one as well. The New Testament nowhere commands us to be politically active, particularly pastors. Paul certainly spent no time in his ministry trying to "bring the Roman empire back to God." Instead, like all the apostles, he devoted all his time "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4)
The sorry state of affairs in our country today does not require more Culture Warriors campaigning for the Ten Commandments (after all we have a Constitution to rule the government). What we should promote is a call to more prayer meetings, for genuine repentance from sins, for abandoning of heresies, for righteous living, for separation from the world and, most of all, for bold preaching like mine. If people would simply heed the Bible and follow the principles of 2 Chronicles 7:14 by leaving their wicked ways, humble themselves, pray and seek God's face, then God would hear from heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land. Until America does that, then posting of the Ten Commandments won't do anyone any good.
The Ten Commandments Movement is Applying the Wrong Remedy
The Law of Moses is a Jewish Law and was given to a Jewish leader to guide God's Chosen People. The Ten Commandments have no application in our modern society because we are a Gentile nation founded on New Testament principles. This is not to say that we are a Christian nation because we are not. We never have been and we never will. Yes, there were Biblical principles involved in our founding but there were also principles of Enlightenment philosophy and Natural Science and even elements of paganism from Plato's Republic.
Besides, we have no business trying to build a country for God. Nowhere does the Bible direct us to build a "Christian nation." There is no commission for nation building in the New Testament, only a commission to build churches. So if we are trying to build a country instead of a church, we are really in rebellion against God's plan.
I realize this may sound harsh to some people but that is only because they can't stand good sound preaching. If they could, then they would not be cozying up to heretics to get the Ten Commandments posted. They would recognize that apostasy comes from a lack of separated righteous living and that fighting for the Ten Commandments is really a secular enterprise instead of a Spiritual one. And finally, if they could stand biblical preaching, then they wouldn't waste so much time trying to build up this country when what they need to do is spend more time in church, putting their money in the offering plate where it belongs instead of political action committees and causes.
Sing praises to the LORD , enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
Psalm 9:11 (NIV)
Saturday, April 03, 2004
Faithful readers, I apologize for not posting last week but I was out of town on business and unable to get to the mailing list. This week I have decided to give Gamaliel another week off and let him enjoy his much needed rest. He works very hard keeping the world safe for Pharisees and it is only fair to let him get a little relaxation from time to time. This week I was hoping to continue the theme of the decline of contemporary Christian music with a particular focus on Christian artists who leave Christian music altogether and "cross over" to the secular side. Unfortunately, Diotrephes, one of Gamaliel's deacons, decided to tackle a slightly different topic. I hope you don't mind.
Howdy, folks, I'm deacon Diotrephes and I'm filling in for our good Pastor Gamaliel this week. Rick has asked me to take a stab at dealing with "cross-over Christians." You know them. These are the folks who have left the faith, they've abandoned the flock, and they've gone over to the "other side" as it were. They are no longer sold out for Jesus and are flagrantly looking to make money any way they can. They are no longer serving God but they are serving themselves and their own interests. Let me give you an example.
Bob, one of my former buddies, used to be one of the finest Christian bricklayers I knew. He was a great all around guy. He started out small in the masonry business building an occasional church here and a parsonage there. He wasn't getting rich but he was serving God, doing what he was called to do in life. But then what do you think happened? He found out that his skills were in demand and that he could make more money and be more famous in the secular world than he could in the sacred. Oh, it didn't happen all at once, it just came on him gradually. Here's his story.
At first Bob was content to build churches and parsonages but then he began to slip away. What really started him down the slippery slope was a church that asked him to build an annex. Bob rationalized it away. He said, "Well, it belongs to the church so it must be OK." What he didn't realize was that there were no worship services in the annex. While the building belonged to the church, it was used for a mixed purpose. Some spiritual things were done there like carry-in dinners and wedding receptions but the church also used it for carnal things such as community meetings, so-called "outreach" ministries which were really nothing more than social gatherings and eventually the church let the community use the annex as a polling place. This just goes to prove the point that once we start down the path to carnality, there is no telling where we'll end up.
But how did this affect Bob, you ask? Surely Bob was serving God by working for the church even if the church went secular with the building. That's just what Bob tried to tell himself. He explained to himself that he couldn't control the actions of others and it was between them and God what use they put his buildings to. Well, this was just a sop that he threw his conscience as he continued down the ruinous path to perdition. He had no sooner gotten used to the idea that it was perfectly all right for him to build annexes than another church came up and asked him if he would build a recreation center. You and I know what his answer should have been but Bob was so blinded by greed and his compromise with the world that he accepted the job readily.
It was then that he faced his greatest danger. Recreation centers don't go up cheap. Bob made a lot of money off the rec center and was getting used to his high-end lifestyle. The next thing he toyed with was the idea that he needed to branch out, to expand his opportunities, to build more things (and make more money). So he started laying bricks on Christian schools. Some of you might still think that Bob was in full time Christian ministry because he was doing Christian schools after all but from there it was just a short hop to hospitals and then to secular schools. Once that began, the floodgates let loose, Bob lost all his standards and was just as likely to build one thing as another with no regard at all for maintaining Christian separation.
The last I heard, he was getting ready to build a bar.
Who would have thought that that is where Bob would end up - a servant of Satan? I believe it is our solemn duty as Christians to maintain our separated existence from the world. We are supposed to be in the world but we aren't supposed to be of it. If Bob had truly been a Christian bricklayer, he would have dedicated himself to a lifetime of Christian service building only things that honored and glorified the Lord. Instead he went after the highest bidder and built whatever building he was asked to build with no regard for decency, morality or the value of his Christian testimony. He was no longer taking a stand for Christ and with that the reputation of all Christians is harmed because of the compromise of the few like Bob. I don't know what this world is coming to. Bob tried to tell me that as long as he was doing a good job and honoring the Lord with his labor, it was all right for him to build whatever he wants. You and I both know that is so much hogwash.
The next thing you know we'll hear about Christian musicians leaving the faith and "crossing over" to perform secular music instead of singing only the sacred tunes we hold dear. Once that happens, we might as well mark it down that America has sunk into apostasy.
There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.
Deuteronomy 12:7 (NIV)