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Gamaliel's Desk
Friday, October 22, 2004
The Joy of Judging

An anonymous “drive by poster” with a fake e-mail address dropped this bomb on my Pharisee Phundamentals discussion group with a comment that the article applied to all of us on the list and we needed to “get a clue”. We commonly get hate e-mails from those who live guilty lives of sin, compromise, debauchery, unholiness and general disobedience to God’s word. They drop into our group, criticize us and drop out. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why. I suppose it provides them with some sort of catharsis or smug superiority that allows them to continue a life mired in sin without feeling the need to repent. Aside from that, I feel the need to address the article since it raised such a ruckus in the group.

Let me say first of all that the article appeared in that bastion of liberalized watered-down lukewarm lameness, Christianity Today, which may be “today” but hardly reflects the true nature of Christ, True Christians or True Christianity. How can a magazine promoting Harry Potter as the next best thing to the Chronicles of Narnia call itself Christian? Granted, C. S. Lewis was only a nominal Christian and was no fundamentalist or Pharisee but at least his books attempt to portray Christian ideals. To promote the reading of Harry Potter by the young is grossly irresponsible, and in my opinion, anti-Christian. So the fact that this article appeared in CT is proof to me that the magazine has no merit whatsoever. But because there are weak, unlearned and perhaps well meaning Christians who do read the magazine, I feel I must engage the discussion here since my replies to the drive by message poster keep getting bounced.

The premise of the article is that the author gets angry at himself for getting angry at Christians for getting angry at the world. This is a mark of his personal insecurity, lack of confidence and vacillation about his own convictions. He seems to confuse two concepts that are clearly distinct - the concept of judgmentalism and the concept of discernment or good judgment. This is a common fault in our “politically correct” and “postmodern” times where all viewpoints are supposed to be valid and it’s wrong to rain on other people’s parades. I call this being wishy-washy or lacking conviction. Let me state for the record that Christians are called upon to be discerning and exercise good judgment. God calls us to judge the spirits and see whether they are of God. We are to judge righteous judgment. We are to judge the fruits of teachers to see if they are of God. Those who quote Matthew 7:1 out of context are the ones who are the real hypocrites because they, like the author of the editorial, are judging me for judging righteously.

Let me explain what I mean by judgmentalism. It is any time anyone finds any fault with me. People who criticize me are practicing censoriousness and are being hyper-critical as well as hypo-critical. I am a man of God, duly called, ordained, sanctified and set apart for God’s service. As David would not lift his hand against God’s anointed, I am exempt from judgment because the anointing of God rests on my holy brow. Some would call me arrogant for making such an assertion and they would be right if it were not for one thing. I did not take this honor upon myself. It was placed on me by God. I did not call myself into the ministry but I have been called by God. And yes, I know that there are many who make this claim and pastor godless non-Pharisee churches but you can rest assured that they are deceivers while I am telling you the honest truth.

Judgmentalism also extends to my church. Many are critical of the Pharisee denomination, individual Pharisee churches and Pharisee pastors. I have to admit that sometimes I engage in criticism of them as well but I do it from the position of an insider. I love the Pharisee denomination and I love my church so if I offer anything in criticism, it is not to judge but to chasten as a loving parent. Everything I say is for the good of the church and their pastors. The reprobate, apostate non-Pharisee critics are mounting a judgmental attack from the outside, criticizing us out of fear and ignorance and generally exercising their lack of discernment against us. They do more to display their unbelief and vile condition before God than they do to provide an honest critique. The only purpose their comments serve is to give notice that they are not of the household of faith for if they had been of us, they would have stayed with us, but they went out from us because they had no part in God’s favor as we do.

Good judgment on the other hand, rests on the firm foundation of discernment. Discernment is the ability to tell one thing from another, to distinguish Truth from Falsehood, to tell right from wrong and black from white. The author of the article claims that hypocrisy starts when people think they are experts. What he fails to realize is that only an ignorant person, reveling in their ignorance and taking pride in their inability to know anything for certain would make such a statement. Those of us who really are experts in discerning truth from error feel no such irresolution about stating what we know for certain. Good judgment demands certain knowledge of truth from error and I happen to possess it. To say otherwise is to practice judgmentalism rather than good judgment and they are deceiving themselves if they think failing to judge is good judgment.


Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
Romans 13:14 (NIV)

Saturday, October 16, 2004
Cultural Relevance

One of the biggest lies to come out of what is being called the “Emergent Church” movement is the notion that the church must be “culturally relevant” if it wants to reach our postmodern generation. Their argument is that as the culture changes we need to adapt our methods of presenting the gospel and even our language to reach a generation of people who are unfamiliar with the Evangelical Christian subculture. This is an extension of the work pioneered by the likes of Francis Schaeffer and his L’Abris Fellowship who tried to reach long-haired hippie-style “Jesus People” with his watered-down version of the gospel. Schaeffer taught that we need to engage the culture by understanding where it is coming from and pointing out where it is going. Unfortunately, he never identified the destination as “Hell in a hand basket.” Some misguided and impressionable preachers took these ideas to heart like Bill Hybels of Willow Creek who helped create the “seeker-sensitive” church model and Rick Warren who pioneered his Purpose Driven™ model of the church. Since that time, cultural drift continues to shunt America from being a culture that valued Christian separation to one the late Mike Yaconelli has written about that tries to keep pace with this changing culture.

The notion that we need to respond to the culture around us is a heresy that is designed to foster compromise of the truth. Let me state first of all that this idea is exactly backwards from the facts. The True Church has never been influenced by the culture. The True Church should be influencing the culture by setting standards of holiness, good conduct, deportment and acceptable behavior. It is our God-given task to be the arbiters of Biblical interpretation with an eye to practical application. We are to be salt and light in a sin-darkened world, not “culturally relevant” as some have proclaimed. For us to allow the church to be influenced by the culture is to allow error and impurity to tarnish Christ’s spotless bride.

I have heard people tell me that we are already products of our culture. The language and methods that we use in communicating the gospel are already shaped by the culture in which we were raised. This is a deception from the devil. Our critics point to things like the altar call and the style of our music as inventions that have only come into the church in the past two hundred years or less. They say that the language we use in our services was heavily influenced by the culture of the post-war Baby Boom. I want to make it absolutely clear that our church is in no way influenced by the culture we are in and we do not hold to any beliefs that are strictly of cultural origin. At best we are “culturally neutral” in our Pharisee churches.

For example, total abstinence from alcoholic beverages is a timeless Biblical truth, not a cultural norm. The Prohibition Movement in America did not create or foster this doctrinal position as some suppose. It was merely an attempt by Christians to influence the country for good. The fact that so-called Christians in other countries enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage only proves that they have abandoned the faith once delivered to the saints. Their lack of standards cannot be proved to be a testimony to the notion that consumption of alcoholic beverages is biblically acceptable. This evil is so pernicious that there are even Christians in our country who feel perfectly free to imbibe of spirits despite their claim to being saved.

Those who say that the Bible endorses consumption of alcohol as a beverage misunderstand Paul’s directive to Timothy. He was not saying that alcoholic consumption was permissible. He was advising young Timothy on a medical matter. Folks were so backward in ancient times that they did not have access to medicine like we have today. Paul’s advice was a prescription since wine was the only medicine available at that time. We should no more consider Paul’s advice a license to drink any more than a doctor’s prescription today is a license to take illegal drugs. They also claim that Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana but we all know that the wine he made was non-alcoholic, non-intoxicating wine that was better than anything they had ever tasted before.

Other matters where we have not wavered are in our musical tastes. We listen to the same songs that the church has listened to down through the ages. Our songs cross cultural barriers and come from a wide range of cultural milieus as well as racial and ethnic traditions. We sing the songs of the Wesley brothers from England and timeless songs from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. We even have a hymn or two from Germany and Finland in addition to our traditional American songs. So we are clearly racially and ethnically diverse in our Pharisee churches. This broad diversity of our cultural heritage helps us to transcend cultural boundaries and reach out to white people all over the English-speaking world regardless of ethnic origin or cultural background.

An even more pernicious error is adopting items from the surrounding culture into our worship. Some churches have gotten so bad about this that their music sounds like a popular radio station, their use of projectors looks like a movie house and their sermons sound more like motivational speeches than theological discourse. People aren’t even dressing for church any more like they used to. They look like they are dressed for a day at the park instead of a day of worship before an almighty God. How can people possibly offer up godly worship if they aren’t even dressed in their Sunday best? They may be pleased with themselves but I have no doubts that God is far from pleased with them. The last thing we should try to do is adopt the ways of our surrounding culture into how we conduct our worship services.

True Pharisee Churches today are uninfluenced by our surrounding culture. Our music, dress, conduct, language are all timeless verities of the truth contained in God’s word. We are not in the business of responding to the culture or trying to communicate to the culture. We are in the business of standing for the Truth of Pharisee culture in a sin darkened world. And if the surrounding culture considers us irrelevant, out of touch and out of step with their world, then that is their loss and is none of our concern. They are the ones accountable to God for failing to heed our message. Certainly we are not accountable for failing to communicate it in a way that they can understand. If their hearts were not so darkened by sin, then they would have no problems understanding us.

…as some of your own poets have said, “We are the offspring of God.”
Acts 14:28 (NIV)

Friday, October 08, 2004
Pharisee Taliban?

A supposed colleague of mine – a non-Pharisee pastor – sent me a link to a story on NPR’s All Things Considered program today. Before I go any further let me state that National Public Radio should just go ahead and change its name to National Liberal Radio. It is so blatantly anti-conservative that the only way I would have heard this story is to listen to it online. That’s why this “colleague” of mine sent an e-mail link to me. He knows I am too busy listening to Rush Limbaugh to tune in to ATC. The story he wanted me to listen to was titled “Afghan Women Prepare for First Vote in 30 Years” which was mildly interesting but that is not what made me hopping mad. Just take a look at this e-mail he sent me and guess why I am hopping mad.

-----Original Message-----
From: Pastor Sparks [mailto:friend4christ@firstchurch.org]
Sent: Friday, October 08, 2004 6:01 PM
To: Pastor GamalielSubject: Pharisee Taliban?

Hey, Pastor G.

I was listening to NPR on my way home from serving lunch at the homeless shelter downtown this afternoon and a story came on that made me think of you. I had to listen to the repeat broadcast of ATC because I only caught half of the story the first time around and thought they were doing an expose on your church. Ha, ha, just kidding. It turned out to be a report from Afghanistan on women getting the right to vote. If you go to NPR.org and click on All Things Considered for today’s show, you’ll find the piece I was talking about. When you get done, let me know what the difference is between a woman under the Taliban and a woman in a Pharisee church, OK?
Have a good weekend,

I am still seething as I write this column. If any of you managed to hear the story you will see why I am so offended. This “brother” had the temerity to accuse our Pharisee church of relegating women to second class status and treating them just as badly as the Taliban treated women. This is a gross mischaracterization and undermines the high view we take of women and the fact that we put them on a pedestal, rather than treat them as a footstool.

For instance, the Taliban requires women to dress in an extremely demeaning way by keeping them entirely hidden from view and any vestiges of their femininity completely covered. We of the Pharisee church would never do such a thing. Yes, we believe that women should dress modestly but we would never impose extreme fashion requirements on them. The Taliban required women to wear a burkha at all times. We only require women to wear a veil or head covering when they come to church. There are some extreme Christian denominations that impose rigorous headgear for women at all times, but the Pharisee church is nowhere near as stodgy as they are. The Taliban required women to wear extremely limited clothing. Good Pharisee women can dress any way they please as long as they dress modestly in accordance with the Bible and don’t wear that which “pertains to a man.” Godly Pharisee women dress to look like women and take great pleasure in not using gaudiness to draw attention to themselves. They avoid the over-application of cosmetics and jewelry as befits a humble servant of God.

What was most distressing about this story was the rise of women’s suffrage in Afghanistan and the fact that women might consider voting against the wishes of their husbands. Good Pharisee women would never be guilty of “canceling out” their husbands’ votes but would first of all seek the wisdom of their men in all matters political before going to cast their ballots. Some people erroneously think that we are oppressing women by expecting them to consult with their husbands before voting but this is merely prudence. There is a divine order in which God the Father rules over Jesus, Jesus rules the husband, and the husband rules the wife and children as God’s delegated authority. Think of it as an umbrella of authority and women need to be covered by their husbands’ umbrellas. This isn’t my idea. This is God’s plan for families as revealed in the word of God and Bill Gothard seminars, no matter what critics may say. And as the God-appointed ruler of my house, it is my responsibility to make decisions on the big issues of the family: politics, church attendance and family finances to name a few. This is not to say that my wife has no decision making power. She chooses what the kids wear to home school in the morning, what we eat for meals, what day to do the laundry, and other vital matters. It’s just that she leaves the big decisions up to me and I leave the domestic decisions up to her.

Some people, including Pastor Sparks, feel that this view is tyrannical and demeaning to women. What he doesn’t understand is that this Godly order is designed to protect the woman. Just look at the first time women had a chance to make a decision and see what happened. She chose to consign the human race to a fallen condition by eating the forbidden fruit. It is only be God’s grace that He finds Adam to be mostly at fault instead of Eve. With this kind of track record, it is in the woman’s best interest to let the man make all the big, spiritual decisions and let the woman make all the small, fleshly decisions. This divine order of the sexes is really for woman’s own good, even if they are too blind to see it.

Just think about it. Politics can be difficult to understand and confusing. The political dialogue is hard to follow and discernment is a key component required to comprehend what is going on. Why should godly men burden their women unnecessarily with political issues when these women would rather be at home raising their children and caring for the house? We free them up so they are not distracted from the thing they truly love – being a keeper at home. As a godly husband, this is a heavy burden, but it is one I am willing to bear and one that every Pharisee husband should be willing to bear. What kind of husbands would we be if we didn’t provide the necessary guidance to our wives so they would know how to dress, how to vote, how to raise the children and how to spend money? Women are thankful for husbands that have the courage to step in and take charge on these matters.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church…
Ephesians 5:28-29 (NIV)

Friday, October 01, 2004
The Crossover Compromise

I was showing a web article on so-called Christian crossover bands to a fellow Pharisee pastor and was startled to find that he was impressed with what the bands were doing and suggesting that maybe we’re being a little too hard on them. Granted, this pastor was very young in both age and in the ministry and has incorporated a great many modern innovations like using soundtracks for congregational singing. While this doesn’t automatically brand him as a hopeless compromiser with the world, it does cause me to regard him with a great deal of suspicion. After our recent conversation, I don’t know that I have the heart to call him a Pharisee pastor at all since he has fallen so far from the denominational tree.

One of the most important doctrines Pharisees stand for is the doctrine of Biblical Separation. The very notion of a “crossover Christian” is an abomination to God as a compromise with the world and should be rejected in all its forms. I mentioned this to the pastor and he dared to accuse me of hypocrisy. He said that we don’t make such demands of any other profession, so we have no business holding musicians to a standard we are unprepared to hold anyone else to. Well he is wrong on two counts.

First of all, there is a distinct difference between those people who live their lives for God in full time Christian service and those who live their lives for this world. To say that we don’t expect Christian truckers to haul only holy cargo or Christian salesmen to sell only Bibles or Christian CEOs to be the head of only Christian business concerns does not negate the teaching of Biblical Separation. Let me cite some clear examples:

So is it any wonder that I have no problem making a distinction between musicians who want to make a difference for God and musicians who simply want to make a living? It is pretty obvious that if I were to get out of the Fire Insurance business (helping folks escape eternal damnation) and went to work for State Farm or Allstate, I would be a sell-out to the world. I have no worldly ambition to make a name for myself. I don’t seek fame and notoriety. I am simply serving God.

The second reason for eschewing the notion of a crossover Christian is the mistaken belief that we can participate in the world without being of the world. Crossover Christians want the best of both worlds. They want to “make a difference for Christ” and “impact lives for eternity” while enjoying the fame and fortune of this world’s children. These are people who think that a Christian can be popular and wealthy and still be spiritual at the same time. Sadly, this is not the case. There are no examples in the Bible of Christians who enjoyed closeness to God and personal or financial success. The Levites were called to be separate and were forbidden an inheritance because God was their inheritance. If we are to enjoy the privileges of priesthood of the believer, we need to adhere to the same mentality. Anyone who thinks they can have financial freedom and popularity doesn’t understand that the way of the Godly Christian is hard, perilous, persecuted and unappreciated by the world. I would even go so far as to say that anyone who is experiencing financial and personal success while claiming to be a follower of Christ is really deluding himself.

When one compromises the word of God with the world, it is always the world that wins. The article makes my point:
"We kind of leave that open," Cordoba says. "We don't shy away from our faith, but, at the same time, we don't really think of ourselves as a hardcore ministry band, either. We're just trying to set a good example with our music."
Leaving a song's meaning up to listeners is the hallmark of this subtle new strain of Christian rock.
"This blurring of the lines between Christian and secular music is very significant," says Scott Veigel, program manager for WAY-FM. "These soldiers of faith are going out there saying, 'I certainly wear the clothes, but I don't want any boundaries on what I'm doing.'

This is clear proof that these Christian musicians, so called, have lost their reason for being. The article even says that the musicians care more about the music (if that’s what you want to call the noise they put out) than they do the message. What ever happened to the good old days when the message was what mattered, even when the music was unpopular with the world? That is the way things ought to be. Anything that has appeal for the world is not of God because only worldly music draws worldly people. Godly music draws only godly people. So crossover music that is popular is, by definition, ungodly and should hold no allure for spiritual Christians.

Finally, we need to be aware of how weak and tender a thing the Truth is. It is so delicate that it requires every effort on our part to keep it from being tainted, even a little bit. It is like a delicate orchid that only grows and blossoms when the conditions are just right. If we mix even the tiniest bit of error with the Truth then it isn’t 100% pure which makes it 100% wrong. Crossing over into the secular world destroys the power of the Word of God to speak and quenches the ability of the Holy Spirit to awaken the hearts of those who hear the “message” these bands put out. From my vantage point these bands would be better off singing the old hymns to the faithful who appreciate them than to sing their compromising corruption of the Truth to those who can’t discern it anyway.

Sing joyfully to the LORD , you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.

Psalm 33:1-3 (NIV)

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