What Is My Biggest Problem?

What is my biggest problem?

 

It’s not the government.

It’s not the economy.

It’s not other people.

It’s not a lack of opportunity.

It’s not my health.

It’s not my job.

 

My biggest problem is myself.

 

I am a sinner.

I’ve always been a sinner.

I will always be a sinner until the day I die.

I can’t change it by trying harder.

I can’t change it by being more religious.

I can’t change it by doing more good stuff.

There is nothing I can do to stop being a sinner.

It’s who I am.

 

Only Jesus can change me.

 

Only Jesus can fundamentally change who I am.

All I can do is trust Jesus.

All I can do is to quit trying to change myself,

And give my life to Jesus.

Give my sin to Jesus,

Give my will to Jesus,

Give my dreams and ambitions to Jesus,

Give everything to Jesus.

 

My biggest problem is myself.

And I cannot fix myself.

Only Jesus can fix me,

And all I can do is get out of the way

And trust and follow Jesus.

 

You are your own biggest problem.

And, only Jesus can fix you, too.

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Is Christianity a Religion?

Several weeks ago, I asked the question, “Is Atheism a Religion?” My conclusion was that “Atheism is not a religion, per se, but almost all Atheists practice a non-theistic kind of religion. Atheist religion is generally not an institutionalized system or organization, but usually more of a personal set of non-theistic religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”

Today I will tackle the question of whether Christianity is a religion. It is my contention that there are, in fact, two distinct forms of Christianity: one form that is a religion, not different from any other religion, and another that is much more than just a religion.

What is religion?

In order to answer the question, it is necessary to first define exactly what religion is.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, religion is:

1 a :  the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion>

b (1) :  the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) :  commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 :  a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 archaic :  scrupulous conformity :  conscientiousness

4 :  a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

In my discussion of Atheism, I identified 8 common traits of religions:

  1. Religions have narratives or texts.
  2. Religions have doctrines.
  3. Religions have faith.
  4. Religion is a source of purpose and meaning.
  5. Religions have rituals.
  6. Religions use symbols.
  7. Religion provides social construct.
  8. Religions proselytize.

Religion is both a set of beliefs about God and a set of practices based on those beliefs. The more religious a person is, the more fervently the set of beliefs and practices is followed.

Two kinds of Christianity

Here we come to the crux of the question: Is Christianity a religion, or is it something more?

I contend that there are, in fact, two distinct kinds of Christianity. There is a form of Christianity that is clearly religion. Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Protestantism, and Fundamentalism are all religions. They are all sets of beliefs with accompanying behaviors and practices. Even Christians who are not a part of any organized church or denomination ultimately have a religion. They have a personal set of beliefs and practices.

There is another form of Christianity, however, that goes far beyond the definition of a religion. Consider this passage from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John:

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

Verse 27 emphasizes the relationship between Jesus and His followers:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

This goes beyond simply knowing about Jesus; a true follower of Jesus Christ actually knows Him.

I know a lot about the President of the United States. I see him on television and in my Facebook newsfeed nearly every day. I know what he says, and who he is. However, I cannot say I know him. We’ve never even met in person, and even if we had, he wouldn’t remember me from any of the hundreds of thousands of other people he’s met. Compare that to the relationship I have with my wife and kids. I live with them, and I talk with them regularly. I actually know them quite well, and they know me quite well. We have individual, close connections .

So it is with those who truly follow Jesus. We don’t just know about Jesus, we know Him personally. He knows us personally. We don’t just follow a religion; we follow a person that we have actually met, with whom we have a personal relationship.

Consider also these verses from Matthew 7:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Notice that it isn’t the religious people that enter heaven – it’s those who do the will of the Father and whom Jesus knows. What is the “will of the Father?” In the context of the passage, it’s certainly not being religious. Jesus repeatedly saves his harshest criticism for the most religious people in His culture. The will of God is that people would know Him.

How are the two kinds of Christianity different from each other?

Let me give my answer from personal experience. I grew up as a religious Christian. I was in a church service nearly every Sunday. My entire family was active in the church; my dad sang in the choir, and my mom was the Sunday KnowtheAuthorSchool Superintendent. I was active in the youth group – president, my senior year – and went to church camp every summer. I knew a lot about the Bible, God, and Jesus. I participated in fundraisers to help the poor, vacation Bible school, and Bible study classes. Although I knew I did some bad things, I believed my goodness outweighed the bad. I believed, God is love; he accepts us as we are, warts and all.

However, as a college freshman, I realized that this wasn’t enough. Although I knew a lot about Jesus, I didn’t know Jesus. And, though I was mostly a good person, I still sinned, and sin separates us from God – it prevents us from knowing Him. I discovered that God is not only a God of love, He is also the God of holiness, justice, and truth. It was then that I changed from the first kind of religious Christianity to the second kind – relationship Christianity. I repented of my sin, and from trying to earn my way to Heaven. I acknowledged that Jesus is God; that He died for my sin, and rose again. And I committed my life to follow Him. God then did an amazing thing. He forgave my sin, and He restored my relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit tool up residence in my heart (2 Corinthians 1:22). I now not only knew about Jesus – I actually came to know Him in a personal way.

This is the difference between the two kinds of Christianity: The first is a religion, no different from any other religion. It has a holy book, doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, like any other religion. Religious Christianity provides social construct and purpose and meaning, as do all religions. Faithful religious Christians proselytize, as do the faithful from all other religions. And, like all other religions, religious Christianity does nothing to restore the relationship with God that has been lost because of human sin. It acknowledges that Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross, but does nothing to activate that forgiveness in anyone’s life. It’s sort of like starving to death while looking at a table full of food. Food does no good, unless one actually ingests it. That’s what relationship Christianity is all about: ingesting and applying the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ, and beginning a relationship with Him. Yes, those who have a relationship with Jesus also have the Bible, doctrine, and faith. Yes, our relationship with Jesus is the source of our social construct, purpose, and meaning. We proselytize, and although for many of us, rituals and symbols aren’t especially important, we still have them. The key difference is that these things aren’t the foundation – our relationship with Jesus is the foundation.

RelationshipnotreligionIs Christianity a religion? It depends on which kind of Christianity being discussed. It has been claimed that, “Christianity isn’t a religion – it’s a relationship.” I only partially agree with this. A better way of stating this would be, “True Christianity isn’t just a religion – it’s a relationship.” Much of what people know as Christianity is a religion, and is ultimately no different from any other religion. It makes people feel good, and act a certain way, but cannot restore a relationship with God. The other kind of Christianity is a relationship with God, through the blood of Jesus Christ. This second kind of Christianity still has most of the marks of religion, but is much, much more than just a religion. Religious Christianity is based on trying to make one’s self acceptable to God, which cannot be done, and ultimately leads to death and Hell. Relationship Christianity is based on what Jesus did, not what we do. We become acceptable before God because Jesus took our sin on Himself. Relationship Christianity restores our connection with our Creator, and leads to eternal life, not Hell.

Application

What difference does this make? It makes all the difference in the world! If you are a religious Christian – you have the doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, etc., but you don’t know Jesus personally – your sins are not forgiven, and you have not had your relationship with God restored. You are headed for Hell. You need to repent of your religiosity, acknowledge that you cannot make yourself acceptable to God, and receive forgiveness and restoration through Jesus Christ. Head knowledge is not the same as a relationship. Religion makes people feel good, but leads to Hell. Stop having faith in religion, and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If you profess another religion, or no religion at all, you also need Jesus. You may have a wonderful life, but in the end, you will spend eternity separated from God in Hell, unless you turn to Jesus.

jesus_talkingIf you know Jesus already, you probably already understand this distinction. Make sure you keep your heart and mind focused on Jesus, not on all the religious stuff that accompanies faith in Jesus. Sure, the “religious” stuff, like reading your Bible, trying to do what is right, giving to the poor, and regularly attending corporate worship are important, they are no substitute for developing your relationship with Jesus. When you share your faith in Jesus with others, they will often think Christianity is no different from any other religion. In a sense, they are right – most of what they have seen is the religious Christianity, not relationship Christianity. Make the distinction between Christianity the religion and Christianity the relationship. Both exist, but only one leads to eternal life.

One final thought: the two kinds of Christianity are usually mixed together in any given church or denomination. That is, in most solid, Bible-believing churches, there are some that don’t actually know Jesus, along with those that do. There are also Christians who truly know Jesus in some very religious churches. Knowing Jesus isn’t a matter of whether one belongs to the right or wrong denomination or church.

If you want to know more about knowing Jesus, leave a comment, or send me a message. I’d love to tell you more.

Thoughts about the Death of Robin Williams

Robin_Williams Over the last week, the evening news and social media have been filled with the sad details of the suicide of comedian Robin Williams. Williams, who had struggled with depression and substance abuse for years, hanged himself, and was found dead on August 11.

Social media has exploded with commentary on Williams’ life and death. Opinions have run the full gamut. Many of the comments blame his death on mental illness. Others call him a coward for killing himself.

What I’ve found interesting is the comments from self-proclaimed Christians.

Here is a sampling I gleaned from the Facebook page of a well-known Christian band:

Lisa B. wrote,

As a Christian myself I take great comfort knowing that Robin Williams is indeed in Heaven. He brought laughter, support and happiness to so many and now is his time to escape his hell of depression and live with The Lord. Any other Christians that would claim otherwise should be ashamed of themselves and take another good look at their lives. What makes them better than Robin Williams? That answer would be, absolutely nothing. Rest in Peace Mr. Williams and thanks for the joy you brought to my life.

Donovan E, wrote,

As a Christian, I have always been offended by this notion that someone goes to Hell for this or for that. If that is the case, we are all in trouble. It makes no sense to me for God to create us, just to destroy us in the after life. God is compassionate, and none of us are without some sort of sin, even on our death bed. Those like Robin with depression issues that they cannot overcome on this Earth, surely is at peace in the kingdom. Just my perspective.

Both Lisa and Donovan seem to be missing the entire point of the Gospel. It has nothing to do with being “better than” others, as Lisa suggests. Donovan was partially correct: none of us is without some sort of sin, and we are all in trouble. What both seem to be missing is the fact that God, being infinitely just, cannot simply overlook our sin. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God – hell. Jesus took the penalty for sin upon Himself, fulfilling the righteous judgment of God. Nothing we do can make us “good enough.” It is only through Jesus Christ that forgiveness can be obtained. The only thing we can do is to receive Christ as Savior. If we accept Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven. If we reject Jesus, we go to hell.

Robin Williams was well known for giving to a great number of good causes, often anonymously. He was, in human terms, a “good person.” However, in God’s terms, he was a sinner, as we all are. No amount of giving or good deeds can pay for our sin or get us into Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Unless Robin Williams repented of his sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior, he is in Hell. While I don’t claim to know what God might have done in Williams’ heart during his last days on earth, there is absolutely nothing to indicate he ever was saved. Williams sometimes openly mocked Jesus Christ and the Bible in his comedy routines. And, while I do think deathbed conversions can be genuine, it seems extremely unlikely that a person can become truly saved – and then immediately kill himself.

Bradley T. wrote,

It is such a tragedy that there are so called “Christians” that seem happy about declaring that Robin Williams went to hell. I am a follower of Christ, I know that I did not know the state of mind of Robin Williams, and knowing Jesus does not mean that you cannot still suffer from severe depression. In the end what matters is what was in his heart those last few minutes of his life. I pray for his family that God will give them peace and comfort during this time.

Melissa H. wrote,

What kind of Christian would take pleasure in someone’s eternal damnation?????? I pray that Robin found his peace deep in the arms of the Saviour…… SHAME ON YOU PEOPLE THAT PROCLAIM CHRIST AND WISH HELL ON ANYONE!!!!!!

One of the disturbing trends I’ve seen is a small minority of self-proclaimed Christians who seem to take pleasure from the fact that Robin Williams is most likely suffering in Hell. I’ve seen posts commenting that he “deserved” to be in Hell because he mocked God – implying that while Williams deserved Hell, the writer did not. It grieves me that Williams is, in all likelihood, in Hell. It grieves me that most people reject Jesus Christ and go to Hell. It grieves me that, because of my sin, I deserve Hell. I just thank God that, through His grace and mercy, He reached me with the truth of His forgiveness through the blood of Christ, and I received Jesus as Savior. It’s not because I’m better than anyone else, or that God loves me more; it’s because I responded to God’s offer of salvation, which He freely extends to all, yet most reject.

It’s a sick person who wishes for anyone to go to Hell.

robin-williams-God-Laugh

I saw a comment somewhere to the effect that Robin Williams is in Heaven, making God laugh. In all probability, Williams is not in Heaven. God is not laughing; He is weeping. Satan is the one who is laughing.

Michael M. wrote,

Don’t know if that would be technically correct or not; I have seen a couple of recent interviews where he referenced being thankful for “a loving God”. Perhaps he had found some level of connection…according to his level of understanding. I sure hope so. In any case, this sort of ‘speaking ill of the dead’…to the detriment of friends and family…is NOT a ‘Christian’ thing to do. If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut.

The answer is not being thankful for “a loving God,” nor in finding “some level of connection…according to his level of understanding.” The answer is repenting of sin and trusting Christ as Savior. The apostle Paul put it this way:

…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Belief is not simply an intellectual understanding. It involves commitment, repentance, and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. James 2:19 states that “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Demons are condemned to Hell, not because they lack intellectual understanding, but because they reject Jesus Christ. The same is true of people.

speaking-truth-loveOne thing Michael M. wrote that I wholeheartedly agree with: If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut. My fervent prayer is that anyone who reads this and doesn’t already know Jesus Christ as Savior will see this as a wake-up call to seek Jesus Christ, receive Him as Savior, and be saved. While Christians are commanded to preach the Gospel, we are also commanded to do so in love. Sometimes, the truth hurts. It hurts to realize I am a sinner. It hurts to know I deserve Hell. It hurts to discover there’s nothing I can do about it. It hurts to know that, in all likelihood, Robin Williams is in Hell, as will be most of the people I have known or admired. It hurts to know that God had to send His only begotten Son to die in my place. However, I fervently believe it is the truth. And, I love people enough to tell them the truth, not to make myself feel good, but in the hope that others will come to know Jesus Christ. If I didn’t love people, I wouldn’t care if they went to Hell. The most hateful thing I can imagine is to know the truth, and keep it to myself, not caring if others go to Hell, or not. To those who think you’re better than others, or that God loves you more: SHUT UP. You’re fools. Take the log out of your own eye, and quit trying to throw sawdust in the eyes of others.

Lastly, Troy S. wrote,

How about this for a thought! What if the way he died is a fail safe that God has in place for people who just can’t find him, but he still wants him as his own, so this unjust death so it may seem ,just means he is allowed to be with God eternally, but has to go out this way! I just don’t see a loving God giving up on his children so easily.

While I disagree with the notion that suicide is an automatic ticket to Hell, I also disagree with the notion that suicide might be an automatic ticket to Heaven. Neither concept is found in the Bible. The Bible is clear. Salvation is based on whether or not one has repented of sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior. Those that receive Christ go to Heaven; those who do not go to Hell.

My hope and prayer is that all of the discussion about the death of Robin Williams will cause some to seek the truth in Jesus Christ and be saved. I pray that other Christians will use Robin Williams’ death as an opening to share the Gospel and lead others to faith in Christ. I also pray that the hate-mongers and self-righteous legalist would just shut up, repent, and seek forgiveness.

The Ten Commandments

What are the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20:

  1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

  5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

  6. You shall not murder.

  7. You shall not commit adultery.

  8. You shall not steal.

  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

10CommandmentsThe Ten Commandments are only a small fraction of all of the commandments given in the Old Testament. In all, there are 613 commandments, covering topics including how to worship God, giving to the poor, sexual relationships, getting along with others, and many other things.

If we can’t keep them, why did God give them?

Contrary to what many people believe, the Ten Commandments are not a set of rules which, if followed, will gain a person entrance into heaven. Rather, they were given to make people realize they cannot possibly live up to God’s perfect standard.

The Apostle Paul said the following:

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (Romans 7:7-11).

Nobody can perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Rather than being a means of salvation, the Ten Commandments demonstrate that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and all need God’s mercy and grace, which only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Even with a cursory glance, it’s pretty obvious that nobody can keep all ten commandments perfectly. I don’t know anyone who never dishonored their parents a single time, never stole anything (not even a cookie or a pencil), and never lied – not even a “little white lie.” God doesn’t grade us on the curve. He demands a passing grade of a perfect 100%. As James wrote, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” The point of the Ten Commandments is to show us that none of us can live a sinless life. This is why we need a Savior. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

The Ten Commandments cannot save us. Only Jesus can save us.

10 Commandments

Lessons from the Phil Robertson / A&E Controversy

philUnless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, you’ve probably heard about the “indefinite suspension” of Phil Robertson from A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” television show over comments he made about homosexuals in an interview with GQ Magazine. Duck Dynasty supporters flooded social media sites with calls to boycott A&E. Cracker Barrel Restaurants began removing Duck Dynasty merchandise from its shelves, then reversed their decision following backlash from Duck Dynasty supporters. The saga continues as I write this.

Regardless of what Christians think about Duck Dynasty or Phil Robertson’s suspension, there are several things we can learn from the incident.

Christians should expect opposition when they stand up for Biblical Christianity.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

John 15:18-21

It really should come as no surprise that when a highly visible Christian publicly stands up for his or her faith in Jesus Christ, and takes a stand on Biblical values, that they will face intense opposition. Those who hate God also hate anyone who publicly proclaims the Gospel. They will watch for Christians to slip up, then pounce at the opportunity to attack. Phil Robertson is a godly man who takes God’s Word seriously, and is unashamed to bluntly speak his mind about his beliefs. Although his comments in the GQ article were rather crudely stated, they were based on his belief in the Bible. The truth is offensive to those who oppose it. Christians have been persecuted for their faith since Biblical times, and are increasingly persecuted today. This is precisely what Jesus told us would happen.

Christians should speak the truth despite opposition

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

When Christians proclaim God’s Word despite opposition, they are blessed by God. This does not necessarily mean they will be rewarded with material blessings in this life, however. As Christians, we understand that many – if not most – of God’s blessings will ultimately be received in Heaven. As Peter wrote:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

1 Peter 3:14-16

Phil Robertson is a self-proclaimed redneck. He lacks the background and knowledge to make eloquent theological statements or carefully devised arguments. However, he does not let this prevent him from proclaiming the Gospel. His redneck language is sometimes a bit crass, but Phil is sold out for Jesus, and shares the Gospel to the best of his ability at every opportunity. And, he knows his Bible, quoting or paraphrasing to answer those who ask about his faith. This is exactly what all Christians are called to do.

Those who speak of “tolerance” are often the most intolerant of all.

It strikes me as sadly ironic that those who demand tolerance of their views are often the least tolerant of opposing views. According to the Oxford Dictionary, to tolerate means to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.” Much of the LGBT community actively demands tolerance for their views and acceptance of their lifestyle, yet vehemently opposes anyone who disagrees with them. Christians are expected to tolerate homosexuality; yet, our belief – based on the clear teaching of the Bible – that homosexuality is sin cannot be tolerated. Disagreement is labeled “hateful,” and Christians are hated because they are alleged to be “haters.” The hypocrisy of those who preach “tolerance” is appalling, although Christians shouldn’t be surprised. Those who oppose God cannot have a logically consistent worldview, because their foundational beliefs do no correspond with reality.

Taking a stand for righteousness can make a difference in this world

crackerbarrelOne interesting side story revolves around Cracker Barrel restaurants. Shortly after A&E announced that Phil Robertson had been kicked off of Duck Dynasty, Cracker Barrel began removing Duck Dynasty merchandise from their stores. The backlash from Christians supporting Duck Dynasty was immediate and overwhelming. As a result, Cracker Barrel reversed their position, apologized, and restocked Duck Dynasty products, citing the letters, emails, and comments on social media as the reason. When Christians unite, we can make a difference. However, we also need to keep in mind that the battle is God’s, not ours, and that we need to focus on leading people to Christ, not on temporary issues like a television show. Christians need to have the same passion for sharing Jesus and defending the Gospel as we did for defending Phil Robertson. It is only by changing individuals’ hearts that we can turn the culture back to God.

The Parable of the Selfish Geneticist

science bibleOnce there was a geneticist who stumbled upon a series of genes responsible for human aging. He also discovered a method to turn those genes off, allowing people to live to fantastic ages of 1,000 years or more. However, being incredibly selfish, he told no one about his discovery; he kept the knowledge and the treatment to himself. Eventually, as others around him aged, yet he remained young, his secret was discovered. The selfish geneticist was condemned by all for his selfishness. They said, “Millions of lives have been needlessly lost, all because this selfish man kept the knowledge of how to prevent aging to himself, rather than telling the world about his fantastic discovery!” The selfish geneticist lived for more than another thousand years, guilt-ridden with the knowledge that he could have saved millions of lives, but didn’t.

A number of people have recently asked why I spend so much time and effort on Facebook and with this blog arguing for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Much like the selfish geneticist, I have discovered the reason people die. It would be selfish of me not to tell others about it.

What I have discovered is not new; I’m certainly not the only person who knows about it. In fact, it’s been known for thousands of years, and millions know about it today. The answer to eternal life isn’t something I figured out on my own through superior insight or intelligence; rather, it’s so simple a child can understand it: The reason all people die is because we all sin. The cure is forgiveness for sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. So simple, yet so profound.

Yet, there are many billions of people who either have never heard, or who refuse to listen. I believe with all my heart that when any person dies without first receiving Jesus Christ as Savior, they are destined for an eternity separated from God in Hell. Sin separates us from God, and there is nothing that any person can do on their own to remove sin from their lives. Only by entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ and having sin removed by His death on the cross can anyone avoid Hell.

This is why I am so passionate in my efforts to evangelize. I would be a hypocrite not to.

SpeakTheTruthMany people who read my blog and/or Facebook posts would argue that God does not exist, or that absolute spiritual truth either does not exist or is unknowable. Yet, I know God exists, because I know Him; He lives in me. I know absolute moral and spiritual truth exist, because God has shown them to me. It’s not because there’s anything special about me; God wants everyone to know Him and to know the truth. I argue for the absolute truth of the Bible, not to win an argument, or to try to make myself out as some sort of spiritual genius, but because I want to expose the lies people cling to that prevent them from coming to true faith in Jesus Christ.

God has blessed me with an analytical mind, so I tend to take a very analytical, logical approach to sharing and defending the Gospel. I realize that this approach isn’t for everyone; I often wish I was better at expressing myself in other ways. I’m working on it. But, since God has gifted me the way He has, I will continue to use what He has given me to try to help people understand that He exists, that He loves them, and that there is only one way to be reconciled to Him, through Jesus Christ.

I know why people die. I also know the cure. It’s not a genetic disorder; it’s a spiritual disorder. The cure is Jesus Christ. Of this I am absolutely convinced: Millions have died and continue to die, and will spend eternity apart from God, unless they turn from their sin and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What kind of horrible monster would I be if I kept this truth to myself?

Pushing People Out of the Church – Part 8

A while back, I read an article on Alternet.org, the anti-religion, left-wing, “news”-and-commentary website, entitled, “8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert — to Agnosticism or Atheism,” by skeptic Valerie Tarico.

Valerie Tarico

While I personally find most of the articles on this site to be little more than irrational liberal blathering, this article caught my interest, because it contains some truths that Christians need to understand.

Ultimately, those who reject Jesus Christ do so because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). Unfortunately, there are also many things that those in the church do to push people away. As Tarico states, “if you read ExChristian testimonials you will notice that quite often church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along.”

I’ve found that I can often learn a lot by listening to what skeptics say about their perceptions of Christianity. This series looks at the eight reasons Tarico highlights.

Reason #8: Intrusion

Australian comedian and atheist John Safran flew to Salt Lake City for a round of door-to-door devangelism after Mormons rang his doorbell one too many times on Saturday morning. More serious intrusions, in deeply personal beginning- and end-of-life decisions, for example, generate reactive anti-theism in people who mostly just want to live and let live.

Catholic and evangelical conservatives have made a high-stakes gamble that they can regain authoritarian control over their flocks and hold onto the next generation of believers (and tithers) by asserting orthodox dogmas, making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition. Their goal is a level of theological purity that will produce another Great Awakening based largely on the same dogmas as the last one. They hope to cleanse their membership of theological diversity, and assert top-down control of conscience questions, replenishing their membership with anti-feminist, pro-natalist policies and proselytizing in the Southern hemisphere. But the more they resort to strict authoritarianism, insularity and strict interpretation of Iron Age texts, the more people are wounded in the name of God and the more people are outraged. By making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition, they force at least some would-be believers to choose “nothing.” Anti-theists are all too glad to help.

Tarico starts off by making a good point: Barging in on people turns them off. Nobody likes having the Gospel – or anything else, for that matter – shoved down their throat. Nobody likes being intruded upon. This is a point that almost everyone would agree with.

She then does a bait-and-switch by equating “intrusion” with conservative Christianity. She asserts that Christian leaders who teach a literal Bible do in order to “assert top-down control” and “regain authoritarian control over their flocks.”

While it is true that some conservative churches are highly authoritarian and almost cultish in their control over their membership, this is neither Biblical nor typical. To imply that because some conservative churches are controlling, all conservative churches are controlling, is to commit the logical fallacy of the hasty generalization.

Tarico also begs the question when she argues that evangelical conservative Christians are wrong because we make Christianity an “all-or-nothing proposition.” She assumes absolute truth does not exist; therefore, Biblical Christianity is wrong, because it teaches absolute truth. This is nothing more than a circular argument. Her argument merely assumes what it is trying to prove.

Here’s the point: The Bible itself teaches that Jesus Christ is an “all-or-nothing proposition.” “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'” John 14:6. It’s not a matter of churches exerting “authoritarian control” or “top-down control.” It’s a matter of teaching the Truth. As the Apostle Peter, referring to Jesus, said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Sounds like an “all-or-nothing proposition” to me.

What Tarico is advocating is compromise. And while she is probably correct that compromise will gain and retain more converts, the question becomes, converts to what? If we teach and preach a compromised Gospel, it’s not Gospel at all. As Paul wrote:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9

When Tarico denounces “theological purity” and “strict interpretation,” she is denouncing the truth. She is absolutely correct when she states, “By making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition, they force at least some would-be believers to choose ‘nothing’.” What she doesn’t realize is, believing in “nothing” is no different than believing in a false gospel. Both lead to Hell; neither leads to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Too many churches preach a compromised, false gospel, and are filled with compromised, false Christians, who think they are headed for Heaven, but are bound for Hell. As Jesus said:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” Matthew 7:21-23.

Tarico makes 3 valid points:

  1. Nobody likes pushy people – especially pushy Christians.
  2. Authoritarian control has no place in the church, and
  3. Teaching the truth will turn people away.

The church should have nothing to do with the first two points, but must be uncompromising in its insistence on the truth. God’s truth leads to eternal life; falsehood leads to eternal death.

Tarico and other non-believers cannot understand the things of God, because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). Yet, they often provide insight that Christians can use to further the Kingdom of God and lead people to Jesus Christ. As we listen to what non-Christians say, we need to filter their words through the Word of God, and glean those things that can help us to reach them with the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ.