Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘authority’

Bad Theology & Bitter Church People


Most of us roll our eyes at the first mention of theology; we make jokes about theologians chasing black cats in a dark room. But in fact, we are all theologians. Theology is simply what we believe about God. And while those ideas may be invisible or mysterious, they are so real that others can infer what we believe about the Almighty by watching the way we live. So try this on for size: bad theology is the reason many church people are grumpy on the outside and bitter on the inside.

For instance, take these three false and utterly un-biblical ideas about faith that are found everywhere in the church today.

  • Many church people believe God is obligated to keep us comfortable throughout all of life because of our faith, The most commonly heard response to tribulation is two words: why me.
  • There’s this widespread notion that we are entitled to understand the rationale for every painful thing God does because we have faith.  If I can’t figure out what God is doing, it can’t possibly make sense in Heaven!
  • And finally, we believe that faith guarantees we must always succeed in everything we touch.  Not even the shadow of failure can ever cross our lives! Everything I do has surely earned the blessings of God, right?

Now consider what the Sons of Korah said about true faith in Psalm 46.1 – 3.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.”

The psalmist doesn’t insist this life must be trouble free.  To the contrary, he finds strength and refuge in his God who is there for him when life is agonizing and threatening.  Likewise, he clings to no guarantee that the earth will never give way when the mountains are thrust into the sea.  That has already happened in the Bible… in the first book… to a godly man named Noah!  Rather, the boast of the writers of the psalms is that if the earth should fall away again or the mountains should be covered in water once more, they will not fear.  Rather, their faith in God’s strength will be constant.

We see life from a different point of view; one we did not derive from the pages of God’s Word.  We have made this false assumption that faith is the promise of constant comfort, complete understanding, and routine success.  When it doesn’t happen, we look for people to blame.  We point fingers at family and friends; at leaders at church or bad translations; at luck, and karma and a hundred other lame superstitions.  And we grow bitter. Callouses begin to form around the heart. Ultimately we have to blame God, like it or not.  Worship is no longer so interesting when our illusions have crashed to the ground; people who haven’t also lost all hope are a nuisance and a threat.

The same myths and lies that can sound so motivating on a cheery Sunday morning, like the heresy that God is compelled to bless token generosity by making you a millionaire, leave people disappointed and burned out when they crash and burn on blue Monday. And they will always disintegrate one way or another because they are promises God has never made.

Test your attitudes about faith and adversity.  When it seems an idea you had about God has left you in the lurch, sit down and find where you ever found that notion.  Is it a scriptural principle or just another cultural fantasy?  There’s a reason Proverbs 4:23 directs us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  It doesn’t mean be careful who you love.  It means be careful what you believe.  Insist on Truth.  Search the scriptures and pray.

Lift up the Cross!


True 2 the Gospel

In his new book, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, author Jason K. Stearns recounts the true story of a pygmy who was brought to the USA from the Central Congo in 1904.  The poor man, Ota Benga,  was displayed in a monkey house at the Bronx Zoo. Every day some 40,000 guests visited the exhibit, which also featured an orangutan in order to highlight the similarities between the small black man and the large ape.  When some Americans objected to the inhumanity and insensitivity of this humiliating spectacle, the influential New York Times responded with an arrogant editorial.  According to the editors, “Pygmies are very low on the human scale…The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.”

This sorry crime could be committed only because the diverse minds of science, American culture, and the church all came together as willing accomplices.   The elites of science and culture seized this opportunity to affirm Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Through the power of evolution and the ingenuity of liberal social policy, the dream of  a Super Race of human beings seemed much closer to becoming a reality.  (Adolph Hitler would soon champion this idea.) Sadly, the church was involved because Mr. Benga had been transported to the States by an American missionary returning from Africa.

The story of the pygmy in the monkey cage came to mind again this week as I read about the latest efforts of many Christians to win the respect of the culture.  Why do we behave as though every decree from the New York Times is somehow timeless and true?  Why are we so hell-bent on changing what we believe or how we operate simply because the lost world sees things differently?  Shouldn’t we expect unspiritual minds to operate differently from transformed ones?  Nevertheless, the race to fashion a trendy, more relevant church continues.

  • The doctrine of Hell is under fire from prominent church leaders who insist it is an affront and a stumbling block to thinking people in the secular realm.  How can they put their trust in a God who seems so vindictive and unmerciful?
  • Other authors and pastors argue that the theology of the cross must be adapted.  Educated men and women in our 21st Century culture are horrified at the idea of a God who set up a system of justice so barbaric that his son must be executed on a cross to advance some religious or philosophical ideal.
  • Needless to say, the authority of God’s Word is also under attack.  “Sensitive” Christians warn us that we tend to take the Bible much too seriously.  Why insist that it must be accurate in matters of history, science or mathematics when the spiritual message is all that really matters?  Why argue with scientists or historians when the Bible was written to  describe the Kingdom of Heaven rather than the processes of life on Earth?

There’s a reason Paul once wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16.)  He wrote those words because many in the Roman Church were apparently embarassed by the lack of sophistication of the Gospel.”  Thinking Romans were fairly certain that all roads lead to God.  The Gospel describes two roads: the broad highway to destruction and the narrow path of Jesus Christ.  Sophisticated pagans had a history of indiscriminate sexual adventure, while the Gospel encourages followers of Christ to flee sexual immorality.  Rome celebrated a god named Bacchus who lived for drunkeness and debauchery.  The Church celebrates a Savior who died to extend God’s grace and call human beings to holiness.  And amazingly, the Gospel that Paul refused to glamorize is still alive and well while the Roman Empire has been dead for centuries.

The fads and fashions of any age are fleeting at best and destructive at worst.  They are destined to fade.  Why would a believer suppose that the timeless Gospel should be updated in the interest of conventional wisdom that will be discarded as foolishness in twenty years or less?

Yes, the appeal to be accepted is powerful!  Apparently, the rush that comes from being embraced by the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, and scholars from well-known universities is absolutely euphoric.  But none of that emotional bling compares to Eternal Life.  Just one day in Heaven will make all that earthly glory look like faded tinsel from Chistmas 1965!  Only the pure and undiluted Gospel will ever get anyone to Heaven.  Let’s refuse to exchange the Gospel of Jesus Christ to win 15 minutes of acclaim in the eyes of a dying world.  The power of conventional wisdom will only lead me to a funeral.  The undiluted Gospel of Christ will get me into the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

I”ll take the pure Gospel every time.

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