For various reasons, I am going to refrain from blogging for the foreseeable future. I would like to thank those who have followed this blog for all the thoughtful and encouraging comments and wish you all well.
(addendum12/8/11 – the thoughts below are directed more towards those who preach that the Christian or his or her finances are cursed if they do not give their church a tithe (Robert Morris, Perry Noble, sundry IFBers, etc). While I personally do not believe that tithing is required in the new covenant, I certainly do not disparage those who disagree and tithe out of love of God)
Let me offer as a prologue to this essay a bit of text from the Epistle to the Galatians.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Last Sunday, I made my third visit to a local church, one where I had previously enjoyed grace-centric preaching. However, what I heard on November 13 was not far removed from what I have heard so many times at the local mega-church. What I heard was proof-texting of Biblical text. What I am struck by is the massive lack of distinction between the Law and the Gospel offered freely to those not under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Law. When I hear tithing positively preached, I hear an attempt, ultimately doomed to failure, to mix oil and water; I see Moses dressed in a Jesus suit.
Among the oft-repeated rebuttals to grace givers, one heard in the aforementioned sermon, is that you should look to ten percent of the gross income as a starting point in ones giving. Now, when I hear silly distinctions being made between giving off the net or gross, of using the Law as a starting point of obedience, my mind immediately connects such to the well-intentioned but damning attitude of the first century religious elite of 2nd temple Judaism putting up extra-Biblical barriers around the Law so as to protect people from breaking the Law. Jesus was harsh in His rhetoric to those people.
As said in previous articles, the topic of tithing is not so much about financial stewardship or generosity, but absolutely about Romans 8:1, ‘There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” If you are in Christ, neither you nor your finances are cursed by lack of adherence to the Law of Moses. To assert such is to preach, as Paul affirms in the book of Galatians, another gospel.
If not by the tithe, then how should the redeemed give? By grace, as the Spirit leads the regenerate. To whom should we give? First, to those in the church who are in need. Second, to the true teachers and preachers for they are worthy of double honor. Third, charitably to those in the world. How much should we give? We should give sacrificially. We should also be content with what we have, not coveting the newest, latest, biggest, and best, being on guard because our hearts are idol factories. Too, sacrificial giving for one may be two percent, while another may be able to give 90 percent without sacrifice. Jesus cares more about the attitude of your heart rather than the percent of income given.
You know what? Each and every one of us in the church will fail to live up to the aforementioned standards to some degree. Left to my own devices, I will covet the next digital hand-held device though I do not need it. You will covet a newer, better automobile even though what you own is serviceable. There is grace through Christ for us as we struggle, sometimes failing, against the competing gods in our hearts, for there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. It is by grace that those idols will be torn down.
I will conclude with a short and far from exhaustive rebuttal to some common arguments regarding the tithe:
1. The tithe predates the Law. So does circumcision and animal sacrifice. Do you suggest a return to these types and shadows, also? Those who assert that the tithe is relevant for the church also mention Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20. Understand this is a tithe off the spoils of war, other peoples property. It was a unique event.
2. Jesus seems to affirm tithing in Matthew 23:23. Jesus is speaking prior to His crucifixion and resurrection to those still under the Law. Too, is this text more about the lack of mercy and justice on the part of the Pharisees?
3. The first ten percent is holy to the Lord. All that you think, do, give, earn, all that you are, should be holy and Christ-honoring. You were purchased at great price; you do not belong to yourself, but you are a bond-servant to Christ. You don’t get a pass for the remaining 90 percent. Also, there were three tithes in the Old Testament, not just one, totaling 23.3 percent. (One tithe was performed every third year). Too, in a culture that had and used money, tithing was rarely money. Some might find Deuteronomy 14:22-26 interesting as to how the tithe was sometimes used, especially those who think all should abstain from alcohol.
English Standard Version (ESV)
“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
Recall, too, the Jerusalem council in the Book of Acts, chapter 15 in which it was determined what parts of the Old Testament law converted Gentiles would be required to obey. Tithing is not mentioned.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. ” – Gal 2:21
If you give ten percent out of love for God, God bless you. If you give 10 percent because you think the Law requires it of you, think carefully about the Gospel and your understanding of it. You may be placing yourself under a curse by adding to the Gospel.
(addendum 6/3/2012 – Also, remember that the poor did not tithe, that those who practiced certain occupations did not tithe, carpenters and fishermen, for example. Too, when someone desired to use money rather than bring the tithe to Jerusalem, God required a 20% penalty added. God discouraged the tithing of money (Lev. 27:30-34)
While listening to a Christian talk radio host, a pastor and political pundit, on the way home from work last week, I heard something quite disturbing. Among the many eyebrow lifting statements made was that God surrenders some of His sovereignty so that we may be free moral agents. While I agree that we are responsible for our actions, to say that God can surrender even a bit of His sovereignty is akin to saying that God can surrender a bit of His holiness, a bit of His omnipotence, that God is changeable. If true, God ceases to be immutable God and becomes an object not worthy of worship. We may as well be deists or open theists, and perhaps that is the unconscious and default attitude of much of the church in America.
The effect of this errant theology, if embraced, is this: I cannot trust completely a God who is not absolutely sovereign over the created order, over His created moral agents. I cannot trust that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose if He allows created beings to thwart His plans. I lose any comfort and solace from God if I find myself suffering trial and tribulation if God is not sovereign, who is, as the saccharine sentiment goes, ‘too much a gentleman to intrude on our ‘free’ will’. I could entertain such a god when life goes well, when all I need is a god who acts to enhance an already nice life with motivational platitudes, but such a god who is even able to surrender even the smallest quantum of his sovereignty could not possibly be a mighty fortress in times of trouble. I need to know that God is in control even when immediate circumstances seem otherwise.
What amazes me is that so many cling to some notion of a ‘free will’ that God respects so much that He will not act against it when the Biblical witness is diametrically opposed to such a sentiment. Biblically, the unregenerate are not free, but are slaves to their fallen nature. Apart from the grace of God, humanity is as free to choose the triune God as a zebra is free to change it’s stripes. Follows is but a small handful of Biblical proclamations on the nature of God’s sovereign rule over His creation that the aforementioned pastor/pundit would do well to dwell upon:
Ps. 103:19 His Sovereignty rules over all.
Isaiah 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
Prov. 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
Ps. 135:6 Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in seas and in all deeps.
Pr. 16:4 The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Pr. 20:24 Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord; how then can man understand his way?
Pr. 21:1 The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes
Jn. 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.
Acts 13:48 And as many as had been appointed [ordained] to eternal life believed.
Evangelical culture warriors long for days gone by when America was a nation uniquely blessed by God. Many, especially in the Bible belt of the south, patriotically voice their pride in being a Christian American.
Beyond the oxymoronic concept of a ‘proud Christian’ and the counter-Christian synthesis of parochial nationalism and the Christian ethos of the redeemed as being citizens of another Kingdom, one not of this world, we may find, at times, a confusion of civic religion with authentic Christian faith in the rhetoric of the public square. We find at times, too, a core and deadly confusion of Law and Grace.
I believe that, to a substantial degree, the primary religion of America has always been one of moralism and patriotic hubris more than a humility-inducing love for the Gospel. Many pulpiteers and parishioners have waxed nostalgic for the days when prayers were recited in classrooms and the Ten Commandments were posted in public buildings. While I think the display of the Decalogue is a very good thing, my question would be this: What actually was the prevailing faith of those days?
I cannot help but think of the old song, The Last Kiss by Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. Follows is an excerpt:
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven
So I got to be good
So I can see my baby
When I leave this ol’ world”
This song, written in 1964, a vestige of waning ‘50’s sentimentality and idealized white-bread wholesomeness and innocence, encapsulates, I think, the overarching civic religion of evangelical America’s assumed golden years. Wrapping itself with Biblical language and allusions, we find a religion where ultimately we have to be good to get to heaven, obeying the Ten Commandments, so we can enjoy unending delights in the afterlife. Religion was, and most often is, defined as adherence to moralistic principles.
I believe much of the church of American history felt their call, and not entirely incorrectly, was to uphold ethical mandates and suppress the darker impulses of humanity. We were to shoulder the providential task of elevating the stature of America’s greatness on the world stage, of building a New Jerusalem, of realizing our God-ordained Manifest Destiny. I find it interesting that we could oft find, in America’s most recent evangelical Golden Age, the Ten Commands posted in court houses, but did one ever find the Gospel proclamation hung on a wall? I think that if you asked the typical man on the street in any American city, someone who probably was raised in a church, about the core of Christianity, you would receive a reply that implied Christianity was about performing good deeds and exhibiting moral behavior, essentially moral imperatives. The Gospel declarative would probably be absent. Sometimes I think the ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’ religious ethos of America’s golden years has more in common with Andrew Jackson that Christ.
I find so many ironies in the religious history of America. Many colonists and clergy thought it God’s will, even in light of Roman’s 13, that they secede from England over the issues of taxation without representation, but a following generation of clergy and parishioners thought it wrong that the South secede from the Union. The South, champions of state’s rights, with much of the southern clergy proclaiming to be Biblical literalists and using such to validate the supposed civil right to keep slaves, claimed a Biblical mandate to secede, and the North laid hold of a moral mandate, based both on Biblical and Enlightenment ideals, to abolish slavery and to maintain the integrity of the Union. Using Biblical proof-texts, two bitterly and diametrically opposed factions voiced ownership of God’s favor.
When we look at the documents that give foundation to the American experience, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence for example, we find ‘God’ words, but we do not find Christian words. We find flattened allusions to a God that could be honestly approved of by a Deist, by a Unitarian, or by an orthodox Christian. In fact, one of the observations by some clergy of the Confederate States was that the American Constitution was far too secular for a nation that declared itself to be ‘Christian.’
I think, too, of the first settlers from the new world, the Pilgrims, who, by virtue of being both early settlers from the Old World and being Christian, are used as rhetorical fodder by culture war pundits to bolster the claim, correct or not, that America was founded as a Christian nation. Persecuted Puritans from England, their practice of Christianity, their ethos, would probably not be recognized by the average church goer of today. While I do not infer that all their practices and attitudes were correct and all contemporary practices and attitudes are inferior, their focus, I think, on eternal things were a bit sharper than ours. One need only peruse the literature produced by the Puritans and compare it to what we find on the shelf of the typical American bookstore to discern their focus was far more Christ-centric than the human-centric ‘best-life-now’ fodder typically found on contemporary bookshelves. I think the Pilgrims, in their austere practices, understood more clearly than we that the human heart was an idol factory. For example, they did not celebrate Christmas or Easter, holidays not appointed in Scripture. Pilgrim pastor John Robinson taught that “It seems too much for any mortal man to appoint, or make an anniversary memorial” for Christ. Perhaps with some irony, only certain cults think in such terms, now.
Ultimately, it does not matter to me if America is or is not a self-identified ‘Christian’ nation. My only skin in this game is that history is being revised by both the secular and the religious to bolster sectarian arguments.
Sometimes I think the idealized America of many moralistic religious pundits is probably more dangerous for authentic Christianity than some alternatives. An America where the streets are safe from crime, where there is no poverty and prosperity is achieved by all, where America is the sole super-power, where the American churches are full every Sunday with people basking in the light of moral imperatives achieved, and there is, of course, a Christ of sorts there to help us, an America satisfied with herself would be a place Satan would approve just as easily he would a pagan nation. Perhaps persecuted Christians in hostile lands understand the need for a Savior more dearly and are more satisfied with Christ alone, with faith alone, with Grace alone. They have no need for nationalistic hubris.
The primary inspiration for this post is this: On the way home from work a few days ago, I was listening to the radio, listening to a Christian culture warrior, a talk show host. After bemoaning all the social ills du jour, as he always seems to do, and rallying the listeners to take America back by judicial means, he shilled for something called The Patriots Study Bible (available in a camo addition!)
Sometimes the church loves to engage errant syncretism and idolatry when she wraps the Cross with a flag. As an aside, in the few times I have listened to the aforementioned Christian talk show, I have never heard the Gospel proclaimed.
Some not-so-contemporary Christian music for your listening pleasure
From my reading “The Attributes of God” by the eminently quote-worthy A. W. Pink :
Before all else “In the beginning God” (Gen 1:1). There was a time, if “time” it could be called, when God, in the unity of His nature (though subsisting equally in three divine persons), dwelt all alone. “In the beginning God.” There was no heaven, where His glory is now particularly manifested. There was no earth to engage His attention. There were no angels to hymn His praises; no universe to be upheld by the word of His power. There was nothing, no one, but God; and that, not for a day, a year, or an age, but “from everlasting.” During eternity past, God was alone: self-contained, self-sufficient, self-satisfied; in need of nothing. Had a universe, had angels, had human beings been necessary to Him in any way, they also had been called into existence from all eternity. The creating of them when He did, added nothing to God essentially. He changes not (Mal 3:6), therefore His essential glory can be neither augmented nor diminished.
Pink, Arthur W. (2010-04-05). The Attributes of God (Kindle Locations 67-76). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
On September 11, I visited a church not far from my house. From the information on their website, I was aware that they aligned themselves with Rick Warren’s purpose driven paradigm. Given such, I went in with my discernment hat on.
Upon entrance, I was immediately welcomed warmly and sincerely. These people were not just volunteer ‘greeter bots’ assigned by some greeting team coordinator. There was a very real and tangible warmth to all those who spoke to me. I picked up a very attractive vibe from this smallish congregation.
In the meeting and greeting, I spoke to one gentleman who described the ethos of the church. He reiterated the websites affirmation that they were indeed a Purpose Driven Church and were aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention. He informed me that their music was contemporary, that they did not do hymns. In visiting other churches, I find it interesting how many almost define themselves by their preference to contemporary praise and worship music.
The ubiquitous video count-down timer did it’s declination to zero, prompting everyone to take a seat at one of the dozen or so round tables. There was a brief announcement, and next, the praise and worship set began. Following the three contemporary praise and worship songs, nicely performed and understated, the sermon started.
I came away from the sermon with mixed emotions, with some tensions. The framing metaphor for this sermon, the first of a series, was ‘The Plan’ that God has for your life. That well-known verse, Jeremiah 29:11,
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (ESV)
was the springboard for the speech, and quite frankly, it bothers me how pop evangelicalism sometimes misuses this verse, how it is so often taken out of proper context and applied as a kind of ‘health, wealth, and prosperity’ promise. It is with some contextual irony that Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. God’s plan apparently involved much anguish and suffering for Jeremiah.
The idea that God has a ‘plan’ for everyone was reinforced by the pastor asking the congregation to repeat after him that “God has a plan” for each of them. He mentioned the we may be struggling with financial difficulties, with problems in our marriage, with prodigal children, but we should not worry, because God has a Plan, and that plan, it was inferred, involved fixing those problems.
While listening to the pastor speak of God having a plan for our lives, I found myself thinking of the martyr Steven, of the hardships Paul experienced, of the hall of the heroes of the faith found in Hebrews 11 who were slain, who wandered about in animal skins, pariahs. I thought, too, of the sufferings of the Messiah, as the pastor continued to talk about The Plan. Sometimes His plan for your life means you are fed to the lions.
I have grave issues with this evangelical exhortation of “God has a wonderful plan for your live’ because His plan may not involve your marriage being fixed, it may not mean you will be free of financial difficulties in the here and now, that all your felt needs will be met. While God in His grace and glory does often give such gifts to His children, His plan may entail that your marriage and family may not flourish as you think it should. One need only read Matthew 10:21, Mark 13:12, and Luke 21:16 to see that being a Christian sometimes causes divisions within families. Quite honestly, I think God’s plan for our lives may involve no small amount of suffering on our part in order to bring us to a place where we find our ultimate satisfaction in knowing and being known by Christ, a satisfaction that will transcend circumstance.
The sermon moved on to the core text, the first 12 or so verses of Ephesians. The pastor essentially taught verse by verse through the text focusing on ‘who we are in Christ.’ He did a fairly good job with the metaphor of adoption and did not side-skirt the doctrine of election though I do not think he gave the doctrine the weight it was due in the context of the text. With no small irony, in light his affirmation of the doctrine of election, of adoption, as put forth in the preached text, he did use some ‘decisional regeneration‘ language later in his sermon.
In exegeting the texts, the pastor focused on the blessings we have in Christ, and he did a fairly good job, but the blessing mentioned in the text were not defined clearly in the sermon. I think illuminating the contrast between the heavenly gifts we are freely given with what we actually deserve from God, His wrath, would serve to more clearly define how we are actually blessed. Perhaps if he continues reading through Ephesians, chapter two will bring this contrast to the table. To reiterate, the nature of our blessings in Christ can only be apprehended if you understand what we actually deserve in light of our fallen nature and God’s perfect holiness.
In thinking more about ‘the plan’ for our lives so often spoken of, I think the New Testament text makes ‘the plan’ fairly clear. We are work honestly with our hands and minds, working for our employer as if for Christ, providing for our families and for those in need. We are to avoid silly, irreverent, and coarse speech. We are to care for strangers and sojourners,for widows and orphans, for the weak and needy.We are to love our spouses. We are to love those who hate us and do wrong to us. I could go on, but I hope my direction of thought is clear. I honestly do not see a call in the Biblical text to discern some personalized plan that God has dangling in front of us like a tease, somewhere just out of sight. I think losing ‘the plan’ metaphors and perhaps speaking more directly about God’s absolute sovereignty over all our circumstances, good or bad, and God’s trustworthiness and goodness therein would be more useful, Biblical, and encouraging.
Above and beyond the aforementioned concerns, I actually felt the pastor delivered a needed message of encouragement to this humble, warm, and friendly congregation. Again, I was inundated with a sense of welcome by these lovely people.
As an aside, I did see a copy of The Shack on one of the tables. I should probably avoid any of their small groups that may reading through that book. I would probably present a difficult test their graciousness ;-)
Some people follow sports, some follow reality television, some follow the news and the markets, while others, like myself, have in their quiver of interests more obscure fascinations. So….I still occasionally observe the going’s on of a growing ecclesiastic franchise that was fundamental in shaping, both for good and ill, my perspective of the church-scape of America.
Yes, I am again pontificating on the business-driven corporate culture of the megachurch, specifically as represented by NewSpring.
About once or twice a month, I make a point to visit Perry Noble’s blog, just to see which way the wind is blowing at that particular place. Just recently, I found this gem of insight, Two Types of Church Planters, wherein Noble, artificially and self-servingly I think, bifurcates church planters into two groups, those with The Victim Mentality and those with The Victory Mentality, a success-driven framework that would make any C.E.O., or L.Ron Hubbard for that matter, proud.
What I find in Noble’s post is an abject lack of anything resembling grace and humility, but more of an American and business-like ‘just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,’ attitude that stands in sharp contrast to the Christian ethos of generosity, humility, and mercy. Perry infers that he and his church did it, got successful without outside help or handouts, and it is inferred, so should you. Such attitudes are understandable because you generally do not expect quiet mercy and grace from a measurable-driven corporate entity, and that is exactly the foundation upon which so many American churches set themselves.
My overarching question to Perry is this: Good for you that you never had to humble yourself to ask for ‘hand-outs’ or discounts, but how did your acquire the funds to grow your church and to attend those ubiquitous ‘leadership’ conferences to begin with? I will tell you. You shilled for funds and then people gave you money in the form of tithes and donations. You did not design a product and sell it on the market to make a profit so as to use said profits to fund your excursions. So, how dare you chastise a poor, struggling church plant, essentially call them losers, that dares ask your multimillion dollar church for help. What one finds in Perry’s post is a breath-taking example of hypocrisy and pride. Quite frankly, I think a Divine favor has been set upon a church that they should not be able to attend one of Noble’s business/leadership seminars.
Ultimately, the hyper-focus on business-driven, and often narcissistic, leadership skills and the elevating of tangible measurables as an indicator of success leads a church to a place of arrogance and pride. The counting of ‘salivations’ is ultimately not the job of the church. Such is reserved by God for the angels on the day when wheat and chaff are separated. It may be bold hubris on the part of a church to take that task upon themselves so as to measure the success of their efforts and methods.
Further, the measuring of a persons righteousness by the percentage of their income given to a church is wrong on so many levels that I could exhaust hours on the subject, but so many churches do just that, teaching an errant doctrine of tithing, using inferred condemnation upon the already-redeemed Christian as a manipulative catalyst for giving in order to increase the bottom line of the business. Income is an easy measurable. Ask yourself this, if you attend NewSpring, how many times, in the course of a year, do you hear a message on tithing. When I attended, I would roughly estimate I heard a tithing message at least six times a year.
Sadly, many aspiring and eager church planters, seeing the growth, glamor, and success, seek in good intention to model their churches and methods after NewSpring, Elevation, and fellow travelers. (As an aside, if Elevation’s Code does not make the Christian nervous, make one squirm, over their somewhat cultic proclamations, especially that ‘pastor’s vision’ thing, nothing will. It deserves it’s own polemic post) Quite honestly, these franchises are not always wrong in all they do all the time. I believe you will find many therein who are fervent in their love for the Messiah. That all being said, one cannot give a pass to those who are fundamentally redefining the nature of the church. I think, on the day of Judgement, there will be some small church in some big city that never grew large numerically but was faithful in their selfless caring for one another, that did not compromise the Gospel, that did not sacrifice orthopraxy on the altar of pragmatism, that will be far more highly exalted in the Kingdom that some multi-campus megachurch video franchise that lost sight of the fact that the Messiah is our faithful Shepherd gently tending after His sheep rather than an example of cooperate American leadership.
In closure, it is so interesting that NewSpring has ‘ownership’ classes rather than membership classes wherein you can speak to other ‘owners’. More disturbing business-speak. I thought Jesus was the ‘owner’ of His bride.
On Free Will, by the same speaker, thinking my thoughts, but with more lucidity:
(a bit long for a YouTube, but worth the time spent in viewing it)
What should happen when one embraces the truth of Sovereign Grace is eventually an attitude of overarching humility and a destruction of prideful moralism. Without regard to the correctness of our Christian soteriology, we all still struggle with the bent of our old nature, though. I have collected all the swag, those metaphorical tee-shirts and bumper stickers, to know that such is true. I still have those struggles.
As an aside and in context to discussions that revolve around issues of free will, I really, intensely, dislike that “God does not want robots to love Him” thing. I have heard it too many times and from good people, but I know that conceit is sometimes driven by a prideful emotionalism that leads to errant, unbiblical conclusions. It ultimately leads to place where we find a needy God Who tries to make Himself attractive to us so as to woo us. We often find, too, a faux therapeutic gospel.
There is nothing attractive about the cross, that Roman torture and death machine. The foot of the cross is for rebels who hate the true God and have no place for Him, ultimately for you and me. It is only His sovereign grace and His ability to replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh that draws us to the beauty of the Messiah. Too, that door you hear about in altar calls upon which sad, patient Jesus is always plaintively knocking, hoping that somebody might open it for Him….it is not the door to the heart of the unregenerate, an evangelical call, but was the door to the church in first century Laodicea, a damaged, complacent, body of believers.
I think about the following, and quite popular, video, one I have watched and commented on before. I know that it has ministered to many people on some level, and I do not question the authenticity of their faith.
However, and without regard to how strongly this video tugs on ones emotional strings, I think it unbibically portrays fallen humanity more as victim than rebel, than sinner. I also find egregious error in its depiction of a god who waits helplessly on the sidelines for the victim to decide, or find within themselves the ability to reach out for help to Himself.
Also, that worried, hand-wringing portrayal of god is not the sovereign, settled, in-control of everything in the created order Triune God revealed in the Biblical texts. He does not struggle to draw His people too Himself. This portrayal of God in the following skit, comforting and approachable as he may seem, stands in sharp contrast to the completely sovereign God, the one who captured my own darkened heart and sin-bound will.
I do not need a God who simply throws me a rope and then struggles to clear a path for me so as to, when I finally make my way to him, simply dust me off and dance with me. None of that is the Gospel. I need a God who breaths life into me. Again, I am not merely a victim, but a perpetrator, and I need a sovereign Savior. I love Him, albeit so weakly, so falteringly in my humanity in contrast to which He is worthy, because He sovereignty drew me to himself when I was in death-bound rebellion against Him. If you think that makes me a robot, than so be it.
One more thought: How bold must someone be to portray God in a skit? I think of Peter who deemed himself unworthy to even be crucified in the same manner as our Messiah, asking instead to be crucified upside down.
In conclusion, here is some text from the same Gospel that gave us John 3:16:
John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.