Friday, September 02, 2011


This is the final summer rerun. This one is from 2007. I'll put up a new post next week.

There is a sense in which our message is single in it's focus. It is the "gospel." If we should ever lose our focus on the gospel we will be compromised as christians and the "salt" will truly have lost it's savor, if not it's soul, and the"light" will have been put under a bushel, if not blown out. If any other single issue BECOMES our focus, it will be to the detriment of the gospel. Let me illustrate.

No one despises a callous, shallow approach to the issue of abortion more than do I. But in our zeal to correct the law, which needs correcting in my opinion, we may have become other issue oriented and even bed-fellows with a political party. It seems all too often that conservative christianity, in the mind of our culture at least, has become connected to the Republican party and it may be more than just perception. But if we are to remain truly biblical our concern would have as much to do with feeding the poor, clothing the naked, investing ourselves in the lives of those who are incarcerated and their families, as it does with the genuine evil of abortion. 

That is made clear from the text of the scriptures themselves. ["In as much as you've done it to these..."] In fact, if I understand the gospel correctly, Jesus came, did what He did, and was raised from the dead to redeem us so we can do, in the power of the Spirit, what we are to do. That will always entail a strategy of redemption from, sin, hatred, prejudice, poverty, hunger, and sickness as we are able to accomplish such things.

But to focus on one issue to the loss of our unique message of redemption would derail the purposes of God, from the human perspective at least, and deplete the power of our gospel. This would be so if our message were to even become solely one of clothing the naked, feeding hungry, or helping the sick. Those things are all the result of the gospel, not the message itself.

The same might be said for correct doctrine. When we focus on the foundational truths of the gospel, the nature of Christ, the truth of redemption by Grace through faith in the work of Christ and the integrity of the scripture which reveals that event,  we will be on track to accomplishing the Great Commission as given to the Church. But to be side-tracked into focusing on being correct/united in the truths of lesser consequence, good though they might be, would be, as the opening illustration shows, a genuine tragedy.

We would then be bed-fellows with people who agree with us and enemies to those who don't. We become, as I believe the Pharisees became, a party of people who struggled with gnats while swallowing camels and was of no real value to anyone. To become a group known for a demand that "all agree" or " we're right" on every detail of doctrine is a death blow to the gospel. Ask the people who knew the Pharisees.

It is the same thing as being known or inextricably linked to the Republican OR Democratic parties because of a single issue, even family values, it is a death blow to the gospel.

The "uniqueness" even "dividing" nature of our gospel message is, in and of itself, hard for this pluralistic society to stomach. And we certainly must never compromise our message no matter how divisive or difficult it is for some to hear. But to "divide," with a superiority or elitist attitude, from other christians, over the lesser issues of doctrine, is the atmosphere in which that death blow to the gospel is wielded.

It is the "gospel" that must be the "great divide", not PPL, baptism linked to eternal security, Calvinism, Arminianism, Eccesiology, dispensationalism, or even women teaching men. We can have our "positions" about each of these, and that's OK, but our dividing point should be the gospel message itself. Have we "lost the gospel"? You tell me.

Paul B.


Tom Parker said...


We have lost the "Gospel." There was a time in SB life that Godly men and women differed on certain items but agreed to disagree and yet worked together to see the lost won to the Lord.

Today for too many folks in SB life if you do not believe 100% what they believe, you are the enemy and they would not dream of cooperating with you.

Aussie John said...


What a delight to read this whole article! Yet sad memories are rekindled when I read, "But to "divide," with a superiority or elitist attitude, from other christians, over the lesser issues of doctrine, is the atmosphere in which that death blow to the gospel is wielded."

This very issue is widespread in this land. An outstretched hand of welcome has, in our experience, has that very taint to it.

From Baptists, "You believe in the Doctrines of Grace. Might be better if you went to the Presbyterians."

The Presbyterian,"Do you subscribe fully to the Westminster Confession and Covenant Theology?" No!I'm convinced of New Covenant Theology, and baptism by immersion."You would be more comfortable somewhere else!"

A house church, "I'm the teaching elder, and expect you to fully obey my teaching. The members have agreed that I have God's word for their needs."

Another group said that they believe all faiths lead to God and will not allow any thought of a narrow approach to salvation.

When we retired we moved away from the area in which we ministered. The above is typical of what we found where we are now. These days, our health doesn't allow us to travel, so we seek to minister to whomever comes across our path in our local area.

Paul Burleson said...


The first paragraph of your comment is certainly true from my past years in SBC life. Unfortunately, your second paragraph is true also.

Aussie J,

I read several years ago where someone said..."God often grows His choicest fruit in the shade."

That being true, and I think it may be, I look for a harvest to be coming from the shady place where you are at present with the heart you have.

I never cease to be amazed at how your comments are so rich.

Aussie John said...


Thanks Barnabus!

Christiane said...

I notice that this post was written in 2007,
but it would seem appropriate if written today, Paul.

The Gospel shines brighter in the darkness, I think, and as our American society becomes more divided and troubled,
the Gospel gives light in that darkness.

Forces grow in strength, and have given notice that 'social programs' are on the chopping block. And every time there is a chance, more and more must be 'cut' from that which shelters the vulnerable.

I saw myself a turning point . . . and I thought 'this is not the country I grew up in':
it was a video of a man who had forgotten to pay a tax for the nearby town to provide fire fighters.
The house he lived in was allowed to burn down, with his pets burning in side of it, while firefighters watched from the street, and did nothing . . . at the order of the town mayor who would not accept payment on the spot.

The only comfort for me . . . some of the fire fighters wept.

I love my country. I love the Gospel. But there is a 'darkness' in the land now. We need to pray for return of light.

Paul Burleson said...


I remember the incident of which you speak. It WAS a tragedy in more ways than one. I too believe there is a "darkness" in our land and a need to turn to the One who is Himself the Light. I'll join you in that prayer. Thanks so much for commenting.

Tom Parker said...


I said earlier:"Today for too many folks in SB life if you do not believe 100% what they believe, you are the enemy and they would not dream of cooperating with you."

Sincere question--Am I and others going to have to leave the SBC as I do not believe 100% of what these other folks believe?

Christiane said...


you can't 'react' to how you are treated or how you 'expect' to be treated,
if you are 'in Christ'.

There's a bit of Christian history from almost a thousand years ago that illustrates my point:

Picture it: Crusaders attacking Muslims in the Holy Land, and they said the 'blood ran in the streets'.
But a Christian man came alone and unarmed towards the Muslims and he wished them the Peace of God, and did not condemn them, and he was not afraid.
Instead of killing him, they were moved by his gentle fearlessness and he was taken to the Muslim leader, Saladin, who befriended this strange Christian man.

In time, Saladin gave this man the guardianship of the Christian holy sites, and so it has remained all these centuries until the present day: the man was Francis of Assisi, and the Franciscan Order has remained since that time, the formal guardians of many of the Holy Land Christian sites.

I suppose this seems a strange 'example' for me to give you. But when Christians were hated and being 'driven out' of Jerusalem,
one man was given a gift of trust by the Muslims and was made the acknowledged guardian of the holy land sites so dear to all Christian people.

Did Francis 'understand' that Christians were despised, and many returned that hatred against the Muslims? I don't know. He didn't act like he understood that at all.
He acted according to a very different understanding . . . and the Muslims responded to how he treated them by trusting him and respecting him.

People have to start somewhere. We can't always be 'leaving', Tom. Sometimes, we have to remain with people and be 'present' to them in a new way. 'Re-acting' doesn't work. The story of Francis and Saladdin shows it's possible to try a 'new way' in the midst of what seems hopeless and to make a lasting difference.

Johnny D. said...

" It seems all too often that conservative christianity, in the mind of our culture at least, has become connected to the Republican party and it may be more than just perception."

That is definitely the case. As you know, I recently came back to Christ. In my dealings with others while I was away, Christianity and Republican politics were seen as one and the same by the majority of folks on the left. Yes, it's anecdotal evidence, but I could cite numerous examples in my interactions with friends and acquaintances.

I believe that this is a mistake for the very reasons you pointed out.

I think that if we follow Christ as his disciples - doing the Scriptural things you mentioned above - we'll have success in winning souls for Christ.

Politics? What sort of involvement did Jesus have with politics? Any time Jesus came in contact with the political authorities of His day, He rebuked them and warned them. He never worked with them.

How about Paul? Paul wanted only one thing with the political authorities of his day - to preach the good news of Jesus. He went all the way to Rome to do it.

We are trading in a rich heritage for a political mess of pottage.

Paul Burleson said...


I appreciate your question. I don't doubt your sincere spirit in asking it. Christiane has given a good word I would think.

I would only add, because of my personal commitment to a standard of success that is identified by faithfulness to Christ as Lord, that unless you were to have the sense that He desired you to be in some differing situation, you would need only to remain where you are regardless.

Think of Philip who had left Jerusalem, and had gone to Samaria, where he performed many amazing things. (Acts 8:4-7). As a result of his ministry, many Samaritans were saved, including Simon the magician (8:9-13).

But he somehow knew he was ordered of His Lord to go to a lonely road near Gaza where, not known to him at the time, he would meet with one man, an Ethiopian, whom he would lead to faith in Christ.

We could discuss the ways of knowing we are hearing from the Lord some other time. My point is simply that Phillip did not fail to be where he believed he was ordered of the Lord regardless of circumstances present good or bad.

The condition of our assignment is not the primary cause for our decisions it seems to me. Rather just our knowledge of any assignment being from Him.

Paul Burleson said...

Johnny D.,

"We are trading in a rich heritage for a political mess of pottage."

A powerful and, unfortunately, correct statement IMHO.

Anonymous said...

The story of Francis of Assisi is great, but will the opposite have the same result?

I mean Francis put his life in the hands of the enemy (Muslim), but will the results be the same if Muslim’ lives are in their enemy’s hands (America) and when Muslims are treated with kindness, will they return the kindness?

Case in point.,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=7d86af9665111856&biw=1280&bih=841&bs=1

“Eleven percent of detainees released from Guantanamo Bay have rejoined the fight.”

Let’s substituted “jail” for Guantanamo Bay and I’ll show were I’m going with this.
Prisoners released were thought to be OK and the ‘bad guys’ were not released.

What would happen if all the jails in America were closed? Would that mean all prisoners are free?

So, what does President Obama do?

From a local newspaper: “President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2009 just after taking office asking for Guantanamo Bay to be shut down within the year.” Duh?
Rex Ray

Christiane said...


I don't know if a Christian person is to be concerned with having their kindness 'returned' if they extend it to others. . .
and maybe there is something in that attitude that contributes to the freedom of Christian people to love others, without judgment, without condemnation, without reservation.

Not 'expecting' something in return is very freeing . . .

what IS surprising in the story of Francis isn't his fearlessness and humility in the face of danger . . . we know Francis lived for Christ,

but what is surprising is how the sworn enemies of Christendom, the Muslim warriors, reacted to Francis.

He didn't come to them to hurt them. And he didn't come in anger or in fear, or even in condemnation. They received from him a blessing: he wished them the holy Peace of God.

Francis went towards them with the 'kindness' that was born on this Earth with the One who came to end all strife.

The Muslims received Francis in peace.

Today, there are among Christian people some who still bear towards all others the Kindness of Him Who came to this Earth to end all strife.

Rex, these Christian people are not afraid to reach out with that kindness freely, not needing for anything to be given to them in return.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply. I’m afraid you didn’t get what I wanted to talk about.

The point that Francis illustrates is good for Christians to follow all the time WHEN it applies.

But what do you do with the Scripture that says: “Don’t give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you.” (Matthew 7:6 Living)

As I see Muslims taking over country after country, and invading ours, I’m fearful of those that say:
“The most beautiful sound on earth is the Muslim call to prayer”…starting with our President.

Christiane said...


I'm thinking that verse in St. Matthew's Gospel is more in line with another verse, this:

"If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector."

The term 'swine' was applied by the Jews to Gentiles and tax collectors at that time.

The Great Commission would also counter the 'do not cast pearls before swine' meaning if it applied to a certain group of people in the world.

My faith doesn't see the Muslim people in the same way as they are now seen by Southern Baptists, so it is not easy for me to understand you as well as I need to, Rex. I will think about what you have written.
Hope all is as well with you as is possible.

Anonymous said...

It’s always a joy to hear from you. You have a way of pouring oil on troubled waters.

Most people would have said in words to the effect: ‘You’re wrong and I’m right’, but you said, “It is not easy for me to understand you as well as I need to…I will think about what you have written.”

Now, that’s what I call a combination of ‘turning the other cheek’ and ‘winning friends and influencing people’.

Thank you.

You wrote, “My faith doesn’t see the Muslim people in the same way as they are now seen by Southern Baptist…”

I don’t know what you mean since Southern Baptists are still trying to win them to Christ. My son was a Southern Baptist missionary for years that lived in a Muslim village near Beersheba.
I don’t believe my view of Muslims represents Southern Baptists even though some believe the religion of Muslims is the Antichrist.

Studies of the population of countries show the higher the percentages of Muslims; the more aggressive they become.

I mean with a low percent, they are as the first part of the Koran teaches: peaceful and loving. But the more they are in majority, the more they live by the last part of the Koran: ‘Kill the infidel”.

Anonymous said...

As to your “Have we lost the Gospel”, I believe we haven’t lost it, but only replaced it with doctrine such as “the office of pastor is limited to men” and other ‘walls’ they think keeps sin out but actually makes prisoners within.