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Gamaliel's Desk
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Clothesline Conformity

Pastor Gamaliel,

I received an article from David Cloud of the Fundamental Baptist Information Service called, "Trading Ashes for Beauty in Christian Dress." by David Kidd that I think hits the nail square on the head. The article is a composite description of Kidd's visit to a homeschool convention and his disappointment with the lax clothing standards evidenced by some Christian parents. He provides lengthy descriptions of the abominable styles that kids are wearing today and provides some much-needed commentary on the low state of Christianity today. It is an excellent article and I'd recommend you read it.

I had a similar experience to Kidd's and I would like to share some of my thoughts in parallel with his article. While Kidd attended homeschool conventions, I have been privileged to attend some pastors conferences lately and am just as shocked and appalled as Kidd by what I saw. Following, are Kidd's experiences followed by my own.

Kidd: I have visited many homeschool conventions… However, each event I attend…leaves me with burning questions: “What are we doing wrong?” “Why do so many of our young people look, act, and talk like the world?” “How can it be that we shelter our youth from public school influences, yet in language, appearance and conduct one could never tell them apart?

“How can it be?” I wondered. Here was a group of Christian homeschooling families. In addition to our common bond of faith in Jesus Christ, we also had a common bond of insulating our children from the worldly influences and a desire to raise a distinctive generation of Christian youth who will one day establish Godly homes of their own.

At least, that’s what everyone says.

In all of the preachers conferences I have attended, I find the same burning questions. "What are we doing wrong? Why do so many of our preachers and pastors look, act and talk like the world? How can it be that preachers, who are supposed to be set apart for God and sheltered from worldly influence are indistinguishable in language, appearance and conduct from the world?"

Kidd: Considering the standard of appearance and action, these (youth on the street) were no different than some in the group (of homeschoolers) I just left. Perhaps, like some in our gathering, their heart does not match the look they project, but that I could not tell from my mobile vantage point. I only know that they looked and acted the same.

When it becomes impossible on a city street to even guess which might be the lost sinner and which is probably the Christian teen, something has gone disastrously awry.

Let me tell you what I saw. At every single conference, I saw preachers – yes, preachers! – dressing just like the world. It was abominable. Why, this group of preachers was indistinguishable from any group of businessmen, politicians or lawyers. Every last one of them was dressed in a suit and looked fit to join the ranks of greedy robber barons, crooked politicians or lying lawyers. We could have droped the whole lot of them down in a joint session of congress or a meeting of the Trial Lawyers Association and we couldn't tell who was a man of God and who was a worldling, based solely on appearance.

And it wasn't just the dress, but their language as well. They were talking of budgets and attendance and expenses. Even more were talking about their church's Mission Statement and Vision, acting like the work of God was some sort of business enterprise that required a defining vision or purpose. I might as well have been at a trade show for all the spirituality that was in evidence. Some were off talking about pending legislation and how they had actually been testifying before state representatives. What concord has God with Belial in the halls of secular, godless, state government? I don't care what the cause or issue, any man of God should stay as far away from the secular trappings of government as he possibly can. They were absolutely shameless in their embracing of worldly dress, worldly conversation and worldly concerns.

It is bad enough that these supposedly godly leaders resemble the world by dressing like the world, talking like the world and acting like the world. It is clear evidence that they are comfortable in the world and are able to fit in without a single soul detecting that they are men of God. However, more disturbing than how well they fit in the world is how much of the world fits in with them. These men should be the most insulated from the world of any individuals on God's green earth, but here they were talking about every worldly concern possible. They talked about sports and their favorite teams and their favorite performers. They talked movies and what they had seen and what they liked and what they recommended(!) for their friends to watch. They talked books and popular literature and titles on the Best Seller list with a familiarity that was absolutely nauseating. They talked of government and politics and political action committees and issues and legislation as intimately as they did the Word of God.

I suppose that I should have been expected this, since pastors who dress up to resemble business tycoons are going to talk business. And pastors who dress like lawyers are going to talk litigation and the law. And pastors who dress like government officials are going to talk about politics. Why could they not dress instead like men of God and talk of godly things? Why were they so keen to look like other men their age? What evil spirit of compromise was possessing them to look and talk and sound like the world around them?

Kidd: “I do believe these people love the Lord.” “Why do so many of the children, and even some parents, look so much like the world?” “Where are the distinctive marks?” “Is it only a spirit of holiness we are after, or should there be a visible evidence of that inner spirit?” “Is purity and innocence an inner quality which may be disguised behind a worldly façade of popular fad and fashion?”

Yet today, the church and its Christian parents console themselves, mistakenly convinced that God does not care about outward appearance.

These pastors seem to think that God is only looking on their hearts and not their outward appearance. They are so wrong. How can preachers who look like lawyers, politicians and businessmen possibly convey a spirit of purity and innocence when they resemble the corruption that is in the world? These men should dress in a manner that gives visible evidence of their inward holiness. They should dress in a manner that is distinctive and separate from the world, not trying to resemble it. They should wear clothing that uniquely marks them as men set apart for a work to which God has called and sanctified them. And I am not talking about a fish pin or a tiny metal cross stuck on their lapel. They need to seriously dress according to the same standards as the people in the Bible dressed – in a manner that is as different their neighbors as they could be.

Kidd: I appeal to you for the sake of the heritage God has entrusted to you. Look at your children, especially your youth. Do they look different from the world? Look at the clothing of your daughters and ask yourself, “What message do the clothes she is wearing send?” Does your son look like an upright man of dignity and Christian character, or does he look like he stepped off the cover of a Backstreet Boys CD? What your children will be, they are now becoming.

And this is my appeal to pastors. I appeal to you to look to yourselves for the sake of the heritage God has entrusted into your care. Look at how you dress. Do you look different from the world? Look at your clothing and ask yourself, "What message do the clothes I am wearing send?" Do you look like a saint set apart for the godly business of your Heavenly Father? Or do you look like someone who stepped off the cover of GQ magazine? What you pastors will be, you are now becoming.

In His Service,

Deacon Diotrophese

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

I Samuel 16:8 (NIV)

Saturday, April 15, 2006
Autobiographical Moral Norms
People ask me why I am so hard on rock music and why I make such a big deal about the dangers of contemporary Christian music. Let me share my testimony and you will see why. During my 20's God saved me by his marvelous grace out of the rock & roll culture. I was as addicted to the music as I was addicted to the drugs, the sex, the lifestyle and the wantonness. The life that I lived then was a life of profligacy, debauchery and shame and I thank God that he had saved me out of it.

A few months after my salvation, the Lord began to deal with me about rock & roll. I had no trouble giving up the drugs, the sex and the lifestyle, but I loved the music. It had become a part of my life to the point where I was even in a rock & roll band. However, because we cannot serve two masters, I had to give up rock & roll to be able to devote my entire life to God's service. It was a choice I made and it was the right one. I have no doubt that God is the One who led me to give up rock & roll. Because it was God's will for my life to abstain form rock music, I believe it is God's will for everyone else's life as well. If anyone wants to be a True Follower of God, it is absolutely necessary for them to give it up – just like me. I am certain that rock & roll is evil and that God requires every believer to give it up.

Some say to me that it isn't the music itself that is bad but the lifestyle of those involved in it. I am here to tell you that it is impossible to separate the music from the lifestyle. Christians who claim to use their godless rock music to "worship" are just as ungodly as any unsaved rock musician is. Sure, they may go to church and they may not drink and smoke and do drugs. Nor do they live in wanton sexual promiscuity and debauchery, but these are only minor incidentals. It is clear from the clothes they wear, their jewelry, their tattoos (however godly they claim them to be), and their hair cuts that they are uninterested in the things of God. Young people ought not to be deceived because these groups pray on stage as part of the concert or give the plan of salvation or even have a time of commitment and worship during their performance. These are still not enough to set them apart from the world.

Others say that just because I had a problem with rock music doesn't mean that everyone has a problem with it. They point to the millions of Christian young people who listen to contemporary Christian rock who have never done drugs, never lost their virginity, and are faithful in church attendance. I am here to tell you that it is all a sham. No matter how righteous a person might be in other areas of their lives, if they permit even the tiniest amount of rock music to pollute their souls, they are guilty of breaking the whole law. Nor does it matter no matter how Christian the lyrics are, as long as they are listening to that rock beat, it is ungodly. Even the devil quoted scripture when he tempted Jesus, so godly lyrics don't make the music godly.

My primary purpose as a Pharisee pastor of one of God's Pharisee churches is to guard the flock from evil. God has allowed me to experience the ugly side of sin so I can prevent others from suffering the same sorrow and shame I have. My experience and God's call to the ministry give me the authority to discern right from wrong, not just for my life, but also the lives of everyone else. Simply put, my personal moral failures and weaknesses are a warning to all that they run the risk of falling into the same sins if they don't practice the same spiritual disciplines and personal separation that I practice.

Because I had a problem with certain sins in my past, I condemn everything associated with those sins. Some foolish critics point out that I don't preach against polyester leisure suits even though they were associated with the debauchery of disco. This is absolutely idiotic. When I was in Bible College during the 1970's, we all wore leisure suits and we did not frequent discos. Clearly, leisure suits are not associated with evil because I personally did not conduct myself in an evil way when I was wearing those clothes. To put it bluntly, my wearing of leisure suits in college sanctified them for God's use and it was a perversion of worldly people who used them to evil ends, not the evil of the suits themselves.

However, worldly Christians who feel that they can sanctify rock music for the cause of Christ are in grave error. Everything about rock and roll is wrong and immoral. They should take my word on that because I am a godly person, led by God and since He led me out of rock & roll; it is clearly His will that I should lead everyone else out of rock and roll. My spiritual experience forms the norm for how all godly people should live. If it is a godly practice for me to give up rock music, then it is a godly practice for everyone else, and if they don't live as I do then they are out of God's will.

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:18-23 (NIV)

Monday, April 10, 2006
Legalistic Hypocrites and Hypocritical Legalists
I don't know how many times I have been called a legalist simply because I believe in setting standards of decency and decorum for church attendees and workers. I am fed up with these slanderous and hypocritical accusations. Let me state for the record that I do not have a problem with legalism because I am not a legalist. And people who accuse me of such are hypocrites because they want to apply their standard of legalism to my expression of the Christian faith. What they really object to is how I tell them they are wrong for holding to the error of their ways, but they have no objection to telling me that I am wrong. If this is not the height of hypocrisy, I don't know what is. Truth be told, I never make personal, slanderous accusations about them. I only point out the Truth of God's Word, while they levy ad hominem attacks against me of a very personal nature even to the point of questioning my very salvation. Of course, most of my critics are unsaved to begin with, but if they were, I would never question their personal relationship to God as they do mine.

Let me start by making a comparison. I believe and practice that people who come to our church to serve and worship should dress like Christians. My critics say that I have set up a standard that is not biblical and so end up being a legalist. Well, let me ask this – would they allow someone to attend worship or serve in their church dressed in a bikini? If they wouldn't, then why not? I will tell you. It is because they have standards of dress for their worshippers and worship leaders. So, it is not a matter of my having standards, it is a matter that my standards do not suit them. Everybody has standards - minimum expectations of dress and behavior. It is clear that by comparing my standards to their standards that mine are higher. They admit this themselves. But for some reason, they view my higher standards as being "legalistic" but they don't view their standards which are much lower (and would have the same effect of denying a bikini-clad woman a place in the church choir) as being just as legalistic. If anything, they should be ashamed that they take such a low view of God and worship of Him as to allow clothes in the congregation that they would never allow in the workplace or school.

The error of their low form of legalism, which criticizes my high form of legalism, is that it allows them to offend those who are weaker in the faith and in so doing, to condemn them to God's displeasure. If someone sees them exercising their "Christian liberty" and decides, based on watching the Christian libertines, that they can exercise the same liberty, then the weaker brother is under the condemnation of God. These weak Christians are using substandard Christians as spiritual leaders to set the standard for their behavior before God. If leaders set a low standard, then their followers are going to miss out on God's good pleasure. Even worse, these weaker brethren are basing their decisions about practical spirituality on what they see others do, rather than on what they see God revealing through His Word. This is not of faith and therefore it is sin. Everyone should be using the Bible as their Sole Rule of Faith and Practice which, if properly read, understood and followed, will lead them to adopt the same standards we have adopted. So these lower level legalist brothers are twice condemned – once for practicing a low form of spirituality and once again for leading weaker Christians to join them in their shoddy, slovenly, sloppy practice of Christianity.

I believe that my critics have a lower form of spirituality because they lack the necessary personal resolve to abide by my higher standard of Christian conduct. They are tempted by the worldly allure of Contemporary Christian Music. They are drawn away of their own lusts and enticed to dress in immodest attire and excite the passions of others. They are attracted by the pride of life that craves peer acceptance in a sin-cursed world so they can be thought of as "cool" instead of Sold Out for Jesus. I am not tempted by any of these – the lust of the eyes (or ears), lust of the flesh or pride of life – because of my steadfast resolve to live a godly life. If they would simply devote themselves to living out the Gospel by applying higher standards to their lives, then they would enjoy God's favor like I do.

My critics would argue that I create extra-biblical standards but this is not true. First of all, there is no biblical standard that says people can't wear bikinis to church, yet they themselves don't allow such practice. So if the standard is extra-biblical for me, it is just as extra-biblical for them. The truth is that every standard we set is based on the Bible and biblical discernment that comes from rightly dividing the Word of God. The Bible doesn't list every possible sin which we could commit. Instead it gives us principles that apply to our daily lives across cultural boundaries. Modest dress is modest no matter what culture we are in. Godly music is honoring to God no matter what culture in which t is played. To the ignorant it may appear we are adding to the Bible but to the spiritually discerning, it is a godly interpretation of the rules set forth in the Bible.

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
Matthew 23:2-3 (NIV)

Sunday, April 09, 2006
Where Have All The Heroes Gone?
I received a letter in the mail a few weeks ago from a woman whose husband had been a long-time subscriber to my monthly newsletter, The Fundamental Pharisee. She noticed that I often quoted from the writers of old, divines of the past who were able to set down the truth once delivered to the saints. She suggested that I print the biographical information of the authors at the end of the article so my readers would learn more about the men who wrote the articles. I thought this might be a good idea until I got to the end of her letter where she said, "That way when people read your editorials, they can see how you praise the writers of the past who were great men of the denominations that you crucify today." She then went on to accuse me of hypocrisy for reading writers of the past who, if they were alive, would be the subject of the kind of harsh criticism I heap on heretical humanistic heathens in today's pulpits.

What this deluded woman does not know is that in the past denominations used to be much truer to the Biblical faith than they are today. In the past, many denominations held to the truths that have been historic Pharisee doctrines down through the ages. However, with the rise of so much apostasy and declension from the faith, there aren't any non-Pharisee churches today that retain even a little of their fathers' truth. They are so far off the mark that they should be ashamed to wear the name Christian. Most non-Pharisee denominations use worldly music in their "worship" services, read from modern per-versions of the Bible, dress so casually that they cannot possibly be in any state to worship and are so concerned with worldly popularity that they are designing their services to appeal to "seekers" rather than designing them to be appealing to God.

The sad truth about the writers of old is that that they are probably more popular in our day than they were in their own. There was just as much resistance against the truth in the old days as there is today. People rarely tolerated having their sins pointed out or their faults exposed so many of these great men of the faith were ignored, reviled or persecuted during their lives. Some were imprisoned, some were banished, some were killed for their strict attention to a faithful rendering of the word. How I wish that I could have lived during their day, for if I had been able to sit at their feet, I would have praised them for their steadfast devotion to the Truth of God's word.

Today, many have left the faith once delivered to the saints. All we can do is praise the accomplishments of our predecessors and admire their perseverance in the face of difficult circumstances and under hardship conditions. Oh, that we had such men today. There are a number of people on the radio and TV who sound good at first, but it doesn't take long to hear how they have slipped away from a strict adherence to the Word of God. Men like John MacArthur, John Piper, R. C. Sproul and many others seemed to start out well, but sooner or later departed into liberalism and softness toward the historic truths of Christianity. That is why I work so hard to expose their errors, their problems, their leaving of the faith. I support the work of those who publish the errors of those who would delude the sheep and long for more men of good faith as we had in the past.

"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs."
Luke 11:47-48 (NIV)

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