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Question #1:  My friends and I had this discussion on the phrase "purpose driven", such as Rick Warrens' purpose driven life. I often hear the phrase "Purpose Driven" all too often, what immediately comes to your mind when you hear this? Is this a biblical philosophy? If there is any phrase that I think would represent the church I think it would be "Performance Driven". Historically speaking, is the church focused more on behavior modification rather than discipleship? And it seems as if too many get so caught up in "doing for Christ" that they neglect or forget keeping Christ 1st in their lives. I think that's the reason as to why the scripture reminds us in so many ways to keep our attention on Jesus and that our actions should be motivated from our love of Him. I have noticed this with some of my friends at church. Perhaps we get so occupied doing this and that yet we neglect our personal growth in Christ, we have left our 1st love.  Many of us know others who have experienced this or have for ourselves, i.e., those who get so busy doing so much for the Lord that there was little or no time left for effective Bible studying or reading, no time for concerted prayer, no time to be still and listen to the Lord, and sometimes even no time to be in services. I think we have to be constantly on guard so that secondary things don't become first in our lives. What do you think?

Response #1:  I agree with you completely. My biggest problem with this sort of thing (i.e., "purpose driven"), is that it sounds good but it doesn't mean much of anything (at least to me). From what little I know and can tell, it is, as you say, a soft dogmatizing of "get out there and do something". Of course, God does have a purpose for us, individually and collectively. A great part of why we are studying the Bible is so that we may know what He truly wants us to do in all aspects of our lives. As I have often said, for believers, fulfilling that true underlying purpose means, essentially, "growing spiritually and helping others do the same". This does of course involve good defense (sanctification), but you can't win in the Christian life without good offense (all the things that go into spiritual growth). True production for the Lord is a result of the latter, not a means to it, and herein is where most of the "rah-rah" systems out there in the aether generally break down. If you are putting up houses for the poor for the wrong reason or from the wrong motivation, it isn't doing you much good at all. An unbeliever can devote his/her life to this sort of thing and it won't get them an inch closer to heaven. A believer can devote his/her life to this sort of thing and it certainly won't bring them an inch closer to Jesus. For spiritual growth and true production requires learning about Him and growing inside first (from which internal growth all true and truly godly external production comes). In short, most groups who preach versions of the social gospel have things exactly backwards as you point out. We may applaud their good works, but if they have done them out of false motivation (competition, working their way to heaven or temporal reward, pressure from guilt feeling, desire for approbation, etc.), it hasn't done them any good with the Lord. And such energetic activity certainly won't produce spiritual growth. That is to turn things completely around. Spiritual growth requires hearing, learning, believing, and applying the Word of God (see the link in Peter #13 "Listening" for the beginning of the process). We should all be "purpose driven" – if we understand that purpose in the way scripture truly teaches it: looking forward to our eternal rewards we need first to grow up spiritually ourselves, then help others grow by applying the spiritual gifts we have been given in the way that God wants us to apply them, primarily for the benefit of our fellow believes in Jesus Christ. Viewed in that light, it is easy to see how much work, toil, expense, and effort that claims to be for Christ will in the end be only so much wood, hay and stubble, because they have not been helpful for the edification of other believers, and have not been done from proper motivation in the energy of the Spirit, with the result that they have not produced much or even any personal spiritual growth, either for the do-gooder or his/her recipient. I certainly do not want to judge anyone in particular. Everyone has to look to their own motivations and purposes in the Christian life. But there is a right way to go about everything. Like Paul, we have to keep or eye on the ultimate goal, and keep marching toward it in the same correct way in which we have made it thus far:

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. So as many of us as are mature [believers], let us think in this way, and if you think at all in a different [incorrect] way, God will reveal that to you. But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way [in which you made it this far]!
Philippians 3:13-16

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  Someone had sent me this article and it saddens me how these charismatic people deceive others with their version of Christ or another Gospel. Here is the article:

"Oprah and Friends" To Teach Course on New Age Christ

Oprah Winfrey will be letting out all the stops on her XM Satellite Radio program this coming year. Beginning January 1, 2008, "Oprah & Friends" will offer a year-long course on the New Age teachings of A Course in Miracles. A lesson a day throughout the year will completely cover the 365 lessons from the Course in Miracles "Workbook."

For example, Lesson 29 asks you to go through your day affirming that "God is in everything I see."

Lesson 61 tells each person to repeat the affirmation "I am the light of the world."

Lesson 70 teaches the student to say and believe "My salvation comes from me."

By the end of the year, "Oprah & Friends" listeners will have completed all of the lessons laid out in the Course in Miracles Workbook.

Those who finish the Course will have a wholly redefined spiritual mindset—a New Age worldview that includes the belief that there is no sin, no evil, no devil, and that God is "in" everyone and everything.

A Course in Miracles teaches its students to rethink everything they believe about God and life. The Course Workbook bluntly states: "This is a course in mind training" and is dedicated to "thought reversal." Teaching A Course in Miracles will be Oprah's longtime friend and special XM Satellite Radio reporter Marianne Williamson—who also happens to be one of today's premier New Age leaders. She and Conversations with God author Neale Donald Walsch co-founded the American Renaissance Alliance in 1997, that later became the Global Renaissance Alliance of New Age leaders, that changed its name again in 2005 to the Peace Alliance. This Peace Alliance seeks to usher in an era of global peace founded on the principles of a New Age/New Spirituality that they are now referring to as a "civil rights movement for the soul." They all agree that the princip les of this New Age/New Spirituality are clearly articulated in A Course in Miracles—which is fast becoming the New Age Bible.

So what is A Course in Miracles and what does it teach? A Course in Miracles is allegedly "new revelation" from "Jesus" to help humanity work through these troubled times. This "Jesus"—who bears no doctrinal resemblance to the Bible's Jesus Christ—began delivering his channeled teachings in 1965 to a Columbia University Professor of Medical Psychology by the name of Helen Schucman. One day Schucman heard an "inner voice" stating, "This is a course in miracles. Please take notes." For seven years she diligently took spiritual dictation from this inner voice that described himself as "Jesus." A Course in Miracles was quietly published in 1975 by the Foundation for Inner Peace. For many years "the Course" was an underground cult classic for New Age seekers who studied "the Course" individually, with friends, or in small study groups.

Here are some quotes from the "Jesus" of A Course in Miracles:

* "There is no sin. . . "

* A "slain Christ has no meaning."

* "The journey to the cross should be the last 'useless journey."

* "Do not make the pathetic error of 'clinging to the old rugged cross.'"

* "The Name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol... It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray."

* "God is in everything I see."

* "The recognition of God is the recognition of yourself."

* "The oneness of the Creator and the creation is your wholeness, your sanity and your limitless power."

* "The Atonement is the final lesson he [man] need learn, for it teaches him that, never having sinned, he has no need of salvation."

Most Christians recognize that these teachings are the opposite of what the Bible teaches. At this critical time in the history o f the world, the New Gospel/New Spirituality is coming right at the world and the church with its New Age teachings and its New Age Peace Plan. But this New Age Peace Plan has at its deceptive core the bottom-line teaching from A Course in Miracles that "we are all one" because God is "in" everyone and everything. But our Bible is clear that we are not God (Ezekiel 28:2; Hosea 11:9).. And per Galatians 3:26-28, our only oneness is in Jesus Christ—not in ourselves as "God" and "Christ." What Oprah and Marianne Williamson and the world will learn one day is that humanity's only real and lasting peace is with the true Jesus Christ who is described and quoted in the Holy Bible (Romans 5:1).

Oprah Winfrey's misplaced faith in Marianne Williamson and the New Age teachings of A Course in Miracles is a sure sign of the times. But an even surer sign of the times is that most Christians are not taking heed to what is happening in the world and in the church. We are not contending for the faith as the Bible admonishes us to do (Jude 3). It is time for all of our Purpose-Driven and Emerging church pastors to address the real issue of the day. Our true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is being reinvented, redefined, and blasphemed right in front of our eyes and hardly anyone seems to notice or care. If we want the world to know who Jesus Christ is, we need to also warn them about who He is not. There is a false New Age "Christ" making huge inroads into the world and into the church. The Apostle Paul said that "it is a shame" we have to even talk about these things, but talk about them we m ust (Ephesians 5:12-16)

If people want to follow Oprah Winfrey and the New Age "Christ" of A Course in Miracles they certainly have that right. But let them be warned that the New Age "Christ" they are following is not the same Jesus Christ who is so clearly and authoritatively presented in the pages of the Bible.

I believe that the faithful Oprah followers will hang on every word of the teachings. This is scary stuff! Please warn your friends and family to stay away from Oprah's teachings. And let us all pray for Oprah. I think that she really thinks that she is helping people!"

What's your feedback regarding this article? I think it's disturbing.

Response #2:  This really is some weird stuff. If the "lessons" dictated to the woman in the article were not made up by her out of whole cloth, then we can be sure they are "doctrines of demons". This is the sort of cult platform that antichrist is bound to find most useful in the establishment of his new religion (where likewise there will be little distinction between religion and politics; see the link: "The Characteristics of [Antichrist's] New Religion" in CT #4). How we deal with this sort of thing is another question, however. There seems to be a hint in this article's conclusion that the author feels that high-powered and high-profile apologetics is the solution. Personally, my own feeling is as it has ever been, namely, that the best thing pastor/teachers can do is to teach the Bible in a doctrinally correct and substantive way. What Christians need is the truth, and lots of it. Fighting this battle on the outside is like trying to keep the outside of a cup clean in order to affect its contents. If a Christian is really looking for answers, help and support against the assaults of the devil's lies, that help ultimately has to come in the form of positive truth, spiritual food that a person can sink his/her teeth into, substantive truth that affects the inside thus strengthening and preparing the Christian for whatever God has for them and whatever the devil throws against them. So while I understand the occasional need for apologetics, that is not the solution to heretical teaching. The solution to heretical teaching is sound, orthodox, substantive, doctrinal teaching. It is surely a big part of the problem that this sort of teaching is not generally available (with fault lying on both the pastoral-supply and congregational-demand sides of the equation) that has led to so many weak and marginal Christians becoming vulnerable to this sort of tripe in the first place.

In the One who is the only way and the only Truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Would you explain for me Matthew 5:18. I have a friend who is SDA and says that this passage proves that we must celebrate a Saturday Sabbath. Also, are you familiar with David Martyn Lloyd-Jones and do you recommend his writings?

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Matthew 5:18 KJV

Response #3: 

It is certainly true that the written Word of God was ordained before time began and will not in any way be superseded or replaced or diminished as long as human history endures. Indeed, the angel tells Daniel in his preface to the contents of chapter eleven (Dan.10:21), "but I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth". This means that the Bible exists and existed before it was written; Daniel's chapter 11 which he would later pen and introduced by this verse existed even before He penned it – so fundamentally important is the Word of God. Now many people use the Bible to support all manner of erroneous false doctrines, but we are told to "rightly divide the Word of Truth" (2Tim.2:15). What that means is that the Bible has to be correctly read, correctly understood, correctly interpreted, and correctly taught.

I certainly understand the rhetorical point made by your SDA friend (coming from what he has been taught no doubt). The guilt-argument runs like this, of course: "Jesus said that anyone who breaks/looses a single one" of the Law's commandments will be "least in the kingdom of heaven"; the fourth commandment enjoins Sabbath worship; therefore if you do not go to church on Saturday, you are out of line." I emphasize the word "guilt" above because without that emotional spur we would be much more inclined to exercise some judgment in applying the Old Testament to today's New Testament grace regime. After all, the New Testament is just as much the "Book of Truth" as the Old, and in it we are emphatically told that the Law presented the realities of Christ in shadow form, but that now we have the revealed truth of Him who died for us (Col.2:17; Heb.8:5; 10:1), and we are to worship Him "in Spirit and in truth" (Jn.4:24). Clearly, we are no longer required to offer animal sacrifices, although there is quite a bit about that in the Law and these offerings are certainly not presented as optional. But now that we have Jesus Christ come in the flesh, all preoccupation with the shadows of the Law is not only misguided (the point of the book of Hebrews) but spiritually very damaging (the point of the book of Galatians). For example, there is no question but that circumcision is required by the Law, but Paul tells us in Galatians 5:4: "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (KJV). The implication here in the phrase "required to keep the whole law" is that otherwise there is no such requirement. This accords perfectly of course with the findings of the Jerusalem council in Acts which made it early church policy to relieve gentile believers of that and other legal burdens (note in Acts 15:24-29 there is no mention of Sabbath observance as something over which the gentiles need be concerned).

So whenever I hear this sort of guilt-argument it always occurs to me that the person using it in this fashion is being disingenuous. One could just as soon use "don't break any part of the Law" to demand circumcision or animal sacrifice or execution of all pagans, etc., etc. So the first part of my response to this is to note that apart from guilt, we would of course apply the same sort of test of interpretation to Sabbath worship as we do to every other part of the Law to see just how we are to understand this particular requirement of the Law as those who are now "under grace" rather than Law (Rom.6:14).

It is true that the ten commandments are special, but in a similar way the fourth commandment is special within the ten – it is, along with the fifth, the only positive command, and neither "remember" nor the negative portions within it have anything in particular to do with worship; rather, they stipulate how to treat slaves and draft animals in the Israelite agricultural economy. Without biblical guidance, it might be hard to see how to apply this to our day and age under the dispensation of grace, but it would still be a stretch to say that going to church on Sunday instead of Saturday is "breaking" this command (since as I say there is nothing to that effect in the command per se).

Happily, we do have biblical guidance. In Hebrews chapter 4 Paul makes it crystal clear that the shadow Sabbath of Old Testament ritual has now been replaced by the moment by moment continual Sabbath of the walk of faith: we rest in Jesus at all times, having ceased from our own works just as God ceased on the seventh day of re-creation (Heb.4:9-11). To ignore this chapter, these verses, and to misapply instead the fourth commandment using the old versus the new God-given interpretation really is "breaking the Law" and really does put a person in jeopardy of being "least in the Kingdom", because it compromises true spiritual growth by substituting legalism for grace, and that leaven will quickly leaven the whole lump. Note also that in Hebrews 4:12-13 Paul puts the capstone on the discussion by underlining the importance of the Word of God – and to ignore critical portions of the Bible in the way this person does is incredibly dangerous (there is much more about this issue at the following links: "Sabbath Questions", "Sabbath is observance no longer appropriate", "Sunday as the new Sabbath", and "what does "keeping the Sabbath" mean?").

As to Lloyd-Jones, I don't know much about him, except that he is admired in a number of traditions, charismatics included.

Nevertheless, Scripture teaches that anyone who is a believer by definition has the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:9; cf. Jn.14:17; 1Thes.4:8; 2Tim.1:14; Heb.6:4). The overtly miraculous manifestations of the Spirit's coming so familiar from the book of Acts are not always (and indeed I would argue infrequently now if genuinely ever) essential accompaniments of salvation. His is usually the "small still voice of power" that works behind the scenes. Please see "All things charismatic", and "An extended conversation on the baptism of the Spirit".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for your ministry, it is truly a benefit to my understanding.

I feel very frustrated and confused right now because as I begin to study the Word, the more I feel like I have no clue as to what the true Gospel is. I attend a "full gospel" non-denominational church, with some "word faith" beliefs and phraseology mixed in. When I brought my concerns to the pastor, I was told that full gospel meant teaching from genesis to revelation, reliance on the gifts, esp. tongues, fivefold ministry. I know that every book in the Bible points to Jesus Christ, but my understanding of what the Gospel is is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I understand that there is much information within my very simple synopsis, but my question is what is the idea behind Full Gospel denomination or doctrine?

Response #4: 

As to the gospel and its contents, the "good news" is the message that of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, the One who procured by His death on the cross in our place. It is simple enough to put into a single sentence, but complex enough never to get to the bottom of the wonders of it. Here is what I have written about that (in Peter #24: Contents of the Gospel):

Christ is the content of the "good news" (Greek euangelia), the fair tidings from God of deliverance from sin and death for all those who believe in His Son, and no other foundation for our faith is possible (1Cor.3:11). Having said this, we need to consider how much information or knowledge about Christ one needs to be saved in the first instance, since it is obvious that all of us who believe learned much more about our Savior after we put our faith in Him than we knew as we first became believers. Considering the example of Abraham again, our father in the faith did not know all that we now know about the incarnation of Christ, for many of the details of Jesus' taking on of true humanity to die in our stead were veiled from sight until they became historical reality (2Cor.3:12-18). But since the cross, Christ Himself, not the principle of God's sacrifice on our behalf (as it was in the Old Testament), is the clear issue in salvation, and therefore the Person and the work of Christ is what must be believed or acknowledged (Greek epignosis: not mere understanding but rather acceptance) in order to be saved. God the Father has made His Son, Jesus Christ the issue, and there is thus now no other means of deliverance (John 5:23; 12:44; 14:6; Acts 4:12).

This is a long way of saying that Jesus is "the good news". If we believe who He is, the Son of God, and what He has done, dying for us on the cross, then this active faith is the basis of God's considering us righteous and of giving us eternal life. Thus the "good news" can on the one hand be given as a very brief synopsis (deliverance from death, and eternal life through faith in the Son, His perfect person, human and divine, and His perfect work, dying for all of our sins on the cross), but it also comprises the entirety of all we can in this world know about Jesus and about the Bible which is the "Mind of Christ", the very thinking of Him who is the very "Word of God". So in one respect we received all the good news we needed to be saved in almost the blink of an eye, but in another respect we will never stop getting the good news (if we are willing to receive it), neither in this life or the life to come. For no one will ever be able to plumb all the depths and heights, the breadth and length of the wonder of Jesus Christ! And yet it is our duty and our privilege to learn as much about Him who is the very truth as we can here on earth – for truth understood and believed is the basis of all true spiritual growth and true spiritual production.

But as it is written: "What the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, and [what] has not entered the heart of man, [these are the very] things which God has prepared for those who love Him".
1st Corinthians 2:9

I do understand and share your frustration about groups and individuals who make this more complicated than it is. God knows who believes in Jesus, just as He knows who is genuinely trying to have a closer relationship with Jesus through the Word. I am very leery of groups which proclaim that they and no others have the "full gospel". The truth is very evident in the scriptures. If a group has "secret" information that is not clear from scripture, then it is more of a gnostic sect than a church. Obviously, I don't know enough about your church/group to render a judgment. I am aware, however, that there are any number of groups who call themselves "four square" or "fivefold" or "full" etc. who mean by this that they teach and practice the operational function of various gifts that are described mainly in the gospels and the book of Acts. My own personal feelings about this are well documented in various and sundry e-mails on the e-mail response page. I have absolutely no doubt, for example, that Jesus and later Peter and Paul had extensive and miraculous healing ministries. I firmly believe in the power of the Spirit to give that sort of miraculous gift of healing to a believer. What I do not believe is that a believer can take that honor on him or herself and say, "well, they did it in Acts, and I have faith, so I have the gift too and will heal in that same miraculous way". We don't get to decide what gifts we have. That is God's decision. The way I read scripture on this issue, most of the hyper-miraculous gifts that many of these groups emphasize were discontinued by God even while some of the apostles were still alive. They were necessary to start the Church under the difficult circumstances which obtained in the first century with no Church yet in place, but became less and less so as the faith spread, and, one could argue, became entirely unnecessary once we had the entire Bible.

Love never falls [into inactivity]. But whether [we are talking about gifts of] prophecy, they will cease, or about [gifts of] tongues, they will come to a stop, or [about the gift of] knowledge, it will be done away with. For when we exercise the gift of knowledge, its results are only partial. And when we exercise the gift of prophecy, its results are only partial. But when what is complete shall have come on the scene (i.e., the fully functioning Church with a complete Bible), all partial measures shall be done away with.
1st Corinthians 13:8-10

Given that we now have the truth of the Word more widely available than ever before, there is really very little need for such gifts. Why not keep giving them? I would argue because they have the potential of distracting people from concentrating on the truth of the Word of God. Being healed by someone else would be wonderful. Healing someone else would be wonderful. But neither one would necessarily produce any spiritual growth (whereas if such events caused a focus on more such events rather than on the scriptures it is easy to see how they could cause true growth, which is fundamentally dependent upon the truth of the Bible, to suffer). On the other hand, if we have faith in spite of the absence healing gifts, our faith is stronger as a result, not weaker (and of course God continues to heal directly). I think it is very clear that, in the case of most groups/churches which do make a point of emphasizing hyper-miraculous spiritual gifts and especially the groups/churches which make a point of differentiating themselves from others by their "special" focus and practice of these things, they inevitably put said "miracles" in front of the teaching of the Word. Of course, in this they are not terribly unique, since even though we have the Word more widely available than ever before in our time, the church-visible generally has never been more apathetic about it. Hence, this ministry in on the internet (see the link: in CT 2A: "Laodicea, the Era of Degeneration".

Thank you for your kind comments. I am truly happy to hear that you find this ministry helpful.

In our dear Lord Jesus, whom we are all here to please.

Bob L.


Question #5:
 

A friend of mine wrote this and wanted more feedback. It made me think of how I kind of behaved that way in the past.

"I recently was involved in something that I would like some Biblical feedback on. It involves our testimony, attitude, and actions in front of non-Christians or lost people. A couple of weeks I had to go to the post office to pick up some packages and there was another person who is a preacher that went with me too. When we arrived to pick up the packages we noticed these 2 Mormons in front of us receiving some things as well. One of them turned to me and said hello extending his hand for me to shake, so I shook his hand and said hello. The other person with me said in a very ugly tone that he was not going to shake the hand of a Mormon. I became extremely uncomfortable because the Mormon then asked me what I did and I had to tell him that I was a preacher along with the other gentleman. As we were waiting I talked to him for a few more minutes before they left. I was just trying to be nice to him since the Mormon initiated the conversation. Once myself and the other person get back in to my vehicle he makes the comment that if he had the opportunity to get that Mormon off alone that he would beat the devil out of him. I then asked him why he would do that citing that the Mormon had done nothing to us and that he was just trying to be friendly. He informed me that he did not care about any of that. I then said that with an attitude like that it would be difficult to see the Mormon come to trust Christ as Saviour. Then this person informed me that he was not interested in seeing a Mormon get saved. This really shocked me coming from the mouth of another preacher. I then told him that if he felt that way that we was in the wrong business. He then informed me that he guessed that he was in the wrong business then. He then made some comment about a Mormon is not going to get saved anyway and I told him that whether or not the guy got saved that his attitude was not very Christ-like. After I said this he got really angry and told me to pull the vehicle over and he was going to take a taxi back home. I did as he requested and pulled over and he got out and left. About a week later he told me that the reason that he did not want to shake the Mormon's hand is because he did not want people to think that he was yoked up with the Mormons.

I personally do not feel that this is behavior becoming of a person that holds the position of a preacher (I Timothy 3:1-7). From what I have read in the Bible about the way a Christian is to live their lives I cannot reconcile it with the behavior of this person due to the fact that this is just one example of it. I would appreciate any feedback, comments, or suggestions especially from the Scripture"

I clearly think that the person that tagged along with him displayed unchristlike behavior and hid his light from others. What do you think? Thanks!


Response #5:
 

Yes, it is very difficult to endorse what person #2 did or his attitude. I would think that we could stipulate that good manners and civility are not only not un-Christian, but that they ought to be our "default position" (e.g., Rom.12:9-21; Eph.4:29-5:7). We can be polite without endorsing someone else's beliefs. The apostles in the book of Acts were in constant contact with pagans (i.e., demon-worshiping idolaters) and unbelieving Jews. Yet we do not find them behaving towards them in a deliberately antagonist or confrontational way – except when the issue is the gospel. I think that this is one of those issues of application where the proper middle-ground lies somewhere between getting overly hostile on the one hand and caving into lies on the other (see the link: "Poles of Application" in Peter #17 and "The Conscience" in BB 3B):

Do not be overly righteous, and do not be overly wise - why should you ruin yourself? Do not be overly wicked and do not be a fool - why should you die before your time? The best thing for you [to do] is to lay firm hold on the former (i.e., wisdom and righteousness), while not completely releasing your hand from the latter, for the man who fears God will escape both [extremes].
Ecclesiastes 7:16-18

I think the goal in such situations should be on the one hand not to give the impression of condoning false doctrine (and this can be done in most cases, I believe, without being overtly and aggressively judgmental), but also while avoiding the extreme of completely alienating the other person with rude and impolite behavior – for of course our Lord did die for them and does want them to saved as well. Paul was "all things to all people" in order that he might "save some" (1Cor.9:22), yet he was also very careful never to compromise on the truth.

In the One who is well able to guide us through the most difficult straits with His good Spirit, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.


Question #6:

I am interested in a church which was part of the free Church of England and when they had gone off into ecumenism they became known as the evangelical connection of the free Church. They say they want to stay true to God's word. My problem is that like the episcopal's they follow a book of common prayer and they are all pre-chosen for every Sunday. Is it ritual reading prayer from a book and not from the heart? I am struggling to come to terms with that style of service, but coming from a Pentecostal background am I making such a massive issue over something trivial or not? Surely the most important aspect is preaching the truth from the pulpit and feeding the sheep the word of god and protecting them from error, could you offer any biblical advice on styles of worship or church service. Many thanks,


Response #6:
 

As to the particular form or denominations or details thereof you mention here, I have to confess a large amount of ignorance. Coming originally from the Presbyterian tradition, I am aware of the sort of things contained in common books of prayer and of course with ritualized orders of service. As you no doubt can tell from the writings posted to Ichthys, this sort of thing is in general something with which I am personally not particularly comfortable. When I was in seminary, I had a hard choice to make: persevere with the Presbyterians for the sake of a standard track of polity and employment, or go off on my own with nothing certain, but with no compromise in the pursuit of the truth. In the end, I realized that I personally would never be comfortable with a variety of things in that denomination precisely because they would contradict what I knew to be true. I rather suppose that if the only obstacle had been the requirement of a few minutes of ritual in an otherwise wide open opportunity for ministering the Word of God, my attitude would have been quite different. As it was, it became clear to me that in my particular "home" denomination most people weren't interested in in-depth Bible teaching and would be very resistant to any changes in "the way things have always been done". As I say, I know very little about either the C of E or the "free" version of it, so it is completely unclear to me whether or not the framework will permit doing what you very pithily and entirely correctly state to be the prime function of the pastor by whatever name: "the most important aspect is preaching the truth from the pulpit and feeding the sheep the word of God and protecting them from error". If God is calling you to this place in order to carry out this mission, I have no doubt but that He will also give you the means to overcome whatever ancillary obstacles may obtain. In your place, I think my prayer would be for the opportunity to pass me by if it is not of Him, but to fall into my lap if that was He where He wanted me to go. But I do have to say that in my observation, experience, and reading of scripture, the Lord usually gives us the spiritual common sense to figure out with the Spirit's help whether what we are contemplating is really good or not, and whether we desire it for the right reasons or not – that would be a good conclusion to come to before the fact. This is something that only you can figure out of course with God's help, but I will certainly say a prayer for you that the Lord may direct your heart into the right course with conviction and no regrets.

Best wishes in Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


Question #7:

Hi Doc!

Can you believe this? do Christians really lack this much discernment?

---"Hundreds queue for 'Erotic Church Service' [Excerpts]

'A female dancer dances in a skin coloured stocking in the middle of the church in front of the altar. She crawls about on the floor and wraps herself in a hanging down white cloth. Is this a blasphemous provocation, a scoffing at the Christian religion?

'No it is only one of the items on the agenda of the Protestant Church Assembly. The six-hundred-year-old church, the Church of the Carthusians in the south of Cologne has become the stage for an erotic church service. Nearly one thousand interested people waited outside the door of the former monastery, despite a thunderstorm- but in the end there was only room for four hundred people.

'For those who managed to get in, they had to take off their shoes on a white painted church interior. Above the entrance, there was the caption, "a warm welcome to the Vineyard of Love". The space between the benches had been overlaid with velvet and from the ceiling wine and rose leaves were strewn onto the spectators. A man came to the microphone and announced, This is an erotic church service, can you move a bit closer together, all of you. This was followed by saxophone music and dance.

'The vicar arrived in a black cassock and barefoot. He announced that eroticism and lust are not taboo areas pushed aside by God. In fact, "lust has to be lived out", said one man, who tempered his speech immediately, by saying, "we are of course today in this service only able to implement this in a limited manner".

Can anyone who truly says they follow Christ actually attend these services? I don't understand this? How can Christians attend these type of churches? What's going on these days?


Response #7:
 

I agree with you entirely. This sort of thing has being going on in different manifestations ever since the early Church, however (compare our Lord's castigation of the Nicolaitans in Rev.2:6; 2:15). As I have posited in Coming Tribulation part 4 in "Characteristics of the New Religion of Antichrist", it is probable that the beast's version of pseudo-Christianity will have something for everyone, extreme asceticism for those so inclined, but also extreme indulgence for those of the opposite tastes. As you so correctly put it, only those who completely lack discernment will be fooled into thinking any of this can truly be "of God". However, when it comes to the impulses of the sin nature, human beings are easily fooled, at least all those who are not being very careful to follow in Jesus' footsteps. On some level we all want to be told by someone in religious authority that what we ever we desire is "OK". So while I share your disgust, I would also say that in the fast approaching end times in particular the potential for Christians to fall away into even more extreme abuses than in this report will be immense – because they will have first fallen away from Christ entirely (see the link: "The Great Apostasy").

In the One whom we love more than anything in this vain world, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.
 

Question #8:

We have all followed the terrible events that happened last week to the Amish children. It seems beyond comprehension that the families of the slain children as well as the entire Amish community would reach out to the family of the killer. To see forgiveness put into practice is a rarity in our society. Who are these Amish and Mennonites? What is their doctrine? Do they follow the teachings of man or are they Biblically correct? I am really curious about them and want to know more about what they believe. Thank-you ahead of time for your response.


Response #8:
 

As to your question this is certainly a case of actions speaking louder than words, isn't it? For while the killer is dead and awaits final judgment in hell, his innocent family, left to pick up the pieces, is being helped by the very community he attacked. There are certainly many Christians who would not make such an effort. I can't say that they would be wrong – especially if related to the victims – but one cannot deny the effect that this gesture has had.

As to the beliefs of the Amish and Mennonites, apart from the obvious, they are much like those of main-line evangelical groups. The Amish are, for want of a better characterization, an offshoot of the Mennonites. Nowadays, it is only a minority of Mennonites who continue to practice extreme separation and a 17th century lifestyle. Most of the Mennonites in this country came over from Switzerland in the 18th century (like the Luginbills – and many of my extended kin still reside near the original "colony" in central Ohio). Menno Simons was the 16th century founder of the group. He was an Anabaptist, a reform movement like many of the Reformation movements, and opposed to most of the extreme Roman positions. Rejection of infant baptism, "magic" communion, and the whole gamut of works-not-grace teachings that characterize Catholicism are common between the Mennonite tradition and groups like the present day Baptists, Evangelical Free Church, and most of generic "mega-church" groups nowadays. To simplify, the two main places where the Amish and Mennonites are unique are 1) the archaic lifestyle the Amish and some Mennonites embrace, and 2) extreme separation from the world. This latter element is, theologically speaking, even more controversial than rejection of technology and most extra-church contact. For it involves the teaching of non-violence at all levels.

Much as I would concur that there is no such thing as a political solution and that only God can bring safety and security in this life, and much as I personally am troubled by the growing trend to political involvement by the church visible, still I cannot support the idea that someone who professes Jesus Christ would resist the state where the state is making demands that are not unbiblical. Where would any of us be, for example, if collectively we had no law and order whatsoever? I am happy to make the case that it is a Christian's duty to defend him/herself, his/her family, and his/her country as a matter of course. Certainly there are times and circumstances when this general principle should be applied delicately and may even be called into question in some circumstances, but to reject it out of hand stems, in my view, from a misreading of scripture. Since the state is God's representative for the maintenance of essential law and order (Rom.13:1-7; 1Pet.2:13-14), an umbrella of security without which we would not have much ability to pursue the truth of the Word, rejecting it as unnecessary seems to me to be a mistake (no state, no administration is perfect, but how much worse things would be in a "law of the jungle / state of nature" condition is plain to anyone who has read any history whatsoever). If Jesus were here, such a policy would indeed apply – for He would be administering justice to the world personally, directly, and immediately. As it is, the world still lies in the lap of the evil one (1Jn.5:19), and pretending this is not so is dangerous as well as unscriptural. Had the Amish school in question had an armed security guard and a telephone system in the building, it is more than likely that the situation would never even have occurred (but one never knows, of course).

Navigating the world is a challenging thing for all Christians. We are to avoid all extremes, neither turning to the left or the right as we follow our Lord up the high road to Zion. If we become too involved and too focused upon the world, we will lose our way, and if we neglect the responsibilities dictated by prudence, we likewise run spiritual risks. We are not "of the world" but we are still "in it" (1Jn.15:18-19; 1Cor.5:10). Learning how to balance this equation and doing so effectively as we grow spiritually and help others do likewise is in many respects the essence of the Christian way of life. We can't change the world, nor can we escape it. But with Jesus' help we can make our way through it in a way that honors Him and benefits His Church, our dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.


Question #9:

Thank-you for the information about the Mennonite/Amish religion. It would seem that it is a religion that is more legalistic than grace based? When I was in the Independent Fundamental Baptist church, the main theme was on how to dress properly. Only long skirts/dresses for women and suits and ties for men. The Amish/Mennonite seem to have a similar dress code, at least for the women. They are a close community and so their support system is outstanding. I was just awed by their gesture in reaching out to the family of the person that killed their children. There are very few churches in America today that would do such a thing. Oh how wonderful it would be to find a church of like-minded people that would give glory and honor to Christ like they did. I am rambling now mainly because I long for a group to fellowship with that have the kind of love shown by these extraordinary people. God bless,


Response #9:
 

You are certainly correct that there can be groups who mix legalism with good doctrine and proper application. I don't think it is possible to get around the fact that strict observance to a canon of behavioral norms which are not anywhere to be found in scripture is a real problem. Only God knows what is in the heart of any individual believer, but groups/teachings that focus on the outside of the cup instead of what is inside cannot help but put their followers at a severe spiritual disadvantage (to say the least).

In Jesus,

Bob L.


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