I'm known as a rebel by many who know me well and after this post I may also be known as a cynic. Although I think that would miss the mark of reality a bit. I'm saying this because I want to address something that has bothered me for several years now and seems to be getting worse instead of better. It is the use of what I call Christian-ese.
Christian-ese, which cannot be found in Webster's dictionary, is a word of recent vintage that has come to define certain words or phrases used by Christians in everyday language that have become not much more than meaningless cliches. Christian-ese has developed over the past few years among some Christians and now seems to be something of a secret, coded language and is almost a badge worn by people who appear to find their comfort zone to be only with others like themselves. But I'm concerned that it may, in fact, unconciously feed a need to be known as spiritual as opposed to carnal. [Who can know the motives of another person with any certainty or what carnal means for that matter!]
My basic concern with all this is Three-fold.
One thing is that the Christian-ese lingo is generally thought of as conveying biblical truth when it doesn't really do that at all. "I feel in my heart God wants me to______" is not a biblical method for knowing and doing God's will. "Let this MIND be in you...who THOUGHT it not good to remain equal with God..." is the biblical pattern. [Phil. 2:5-6] The Bible always speaks of the thinking processes when discovering and doing the will of God. Paul said..."It seemed good to me."...when addressing something to be done except on rare occasions.
In Romans 14 when addressing making choices about questionable things his advice was NOT "Feel God impressing your heart"...but "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." [14:5b] He said in another place.. "For we have the mind of Christ.." [1 Corinth. 2:16] which is further indication that it is the mind that is as important as anything in Christianity, with all due respect to anyone who might think Christians are only ignorant and emotional and NOT intellectual.
A second concern is that such lingo too often becomes a source of measuring spirituality or spiritual growth. I've met new believers who sometimes wind up feeling inferior or less "spiritual" because they don't know all the "right" phrases yet. Or worse, they think someone is spiritual who does use the language.
The truth is it doesn't measure true spirituality at all and, in reality, may hide an immaturity behind that kind of language. To continually say, as I once did, "well, praise the Lord," at every opportunity, may sound as if we're spiritually minded in all things, when in fact may be as vain and empty as those who say "Well, fiddlesticks" [or worse] at every opportunity. I'm speaking from personal experience here as you can probably tell.
But a third concern is my greatest. It seems to me that it may forge an unnecessary stumbling block for unbelievers. I often wonder if non-believers hear some Christians talking and think, "Ugh, there go those Christians on their high-horse again using their silly, secret coded language." I know that I have that reaction sometimes and I'm in sympathy with the Christian message completely.
It seems to me when we Christians develop our own private language to be used with one another, we may have really forgotten how Jesus made Himself accessible to ordinary people. Using Christian-ese often does exactly the opposite which models the Pharisees rather than the Messiah.
Therein lies the real problem. Our message of the gospel is, in and of itself, offensive to the natural mind anyway. We don't need to create unnecessary obstacles which trite, empty, meaningless, cliches tend to do. I think we, as Christians, may need a new discovery of Koine-English [Common English] as an effective tool of communication much as the early Christians found Koine-Greek [Common Greek] to be an effective tool for conveying the gospel message.
Let me give just a few examples of some Christian-ese phrases along with what is probably meant if the truth were to be known.
1__"I feel in my heart God wants me to_______" Which being interpreted is... "I'm going to do it and I hope it's the right thing to do."
2__"I'm still waiting for God to open some doors." Which being interpreted is... "I don't have a clue about what I'm going to do and I'm hesitant to do anything."
3__"I can't do_______, so Christ in me will have to do it." Which being interpreted is... "I'm struggling with wanting to do this at all and sure don't want to do it right now."
4__"I need to share with you where the devil is attacking me." Which being interpreted is..."I want to tell you where I'm struggling and some of my failures and I feel badly about them."
I'm wondering why we can't simply say what we mean and mean what we say?
Of course the answer to all this isn't to "not speak at all" but rather to talk like normal people and act in such a fashion [Grace, acceptance, forgiveness, love, integrity] that our lives stir some to ask us about what makes the difference in us and then share the truth of our Lord.
I think that is what could be called...Christianity.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
“Warn a divisive [hairetikos which means “heretic” in Greek.] person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” [NIV]
It seems to me that there a divisive attitude, maybe even anger, among Christians in our day about doctrinal issues that are not the gospel at all. Truth perhaps, but secondary truth to what is our basis of unity which is the gospel of Christ alone.
I want to make some simple statements that I believe contain a few things that are often forgotten under the disguise of theological correctness.
1___We do not find anything in the text of scripture that allows for division or separation among believers over matters of general theology by charging them with being a heretic.
The word heresy, comes from the Greek hairesis, which means "division." This means that the noun, hairetikos refers to a "divisive person." [See text above]
So when Paul instructed Titus to reject a “heretic,” he meant to reject anyone set on creating disunity. Even then, the heretic was to be given two chances to repent from his divisive ways. [See text]
Heresy then, as biblically defined, is not a matter of wrong theology. Even what might be considered correct theology in the hands of a “divisive person” would cause the person to be deemed heretical biblically speaking. "Division" itself is the "heresy" warned about in the Bible.
This means that we must always remember that regardless of what we believe about…Scripture, creation, salvation, justification, baptism, spiritual gifts, God’s sovereignty, man’s free will, five points of Calvinism, the Church Universal or local…we have been commanded to remain united as believers. Our unity is around the gospel of Christ alone.
I repeat… The Bible never allows for division among believers over matters of theology.
2__The true gospel can be said to be certain things concerning Jesus Christ.
If we look carefully those things that make up the gospel could be compiled into these five statements about Christ...
a_Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16:16–18; John 20:31; 1 John 2:22–24; 5:1).
b_Jesus came to earth in the flesh (1 John 4:1–3).
c_Jesus is a descendant of David (2 Timothy 2:8).
d-Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1–4).
e_Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11).
All five of these statements are presented multiple times throughout the New Testament, but are clearly summarized and labeled as the “gospel” in the beginning of Paul’s epistle to the Romans seen here...
“This gospel (1)he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son (2)who was a descendant of David (3)with reference to the flesh, (4)who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, (5)Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:2–4, NET)
I repeat… The true gospel can be said to be certain things concerning Jesus Christ
3__The Bible does encourage ultimate separation from false teachers who preach another gospel.
Paul wrote that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8–9, ESV).
To be thoroughly biblical, we must limit our criteria for separating from people to be false teachers who teach a false gospel. While it is true that they can be identified primarily by their lifestyles, (see Matthew 7:15–20 and 2 Peter 2:14–19) they are also revealed as false teachers by their message of proclaiming a different Jesus. It is their different message about Jesus that makes for a false gospel and a false teacher.
Ray Stedman said it this way, “The true gospel calls us back from following men to the Person of Christ and His cross. The cross of Christ cuts across all human value systems. It wipes out all the petty theological distinctions that men make among themselves. The cross strips away our illusions and brings the pride of men tumbling down from that high place where it exalts itself against the knowledge of God.”
This all makes me wonder if ‘Statements of Faith” might not do more harm than good seeing that so many people choose to dis-fellowship with others over ever imaginable doctrine. It isn’t “theological correctness” that is to unify us but “gospel correctness.”
I repeat… The Bible does encourage ultimate separation from false teachers who preach another gospel.
Perhaps we should learn to say as Paul did, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it [and it alone] is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.” [NIV]
If we fellowship around this message then we can enjoy each other’s company even if we disagree on___well__you get the picture I’m sure.
Friday, December 05, 2014
What follows is a profound statement by an unknown author.
Ministers are leaders in whatever their gifted areas might be. Leadership leads. But where leadership leads can be disastrous if people follow without question. Modern day ministers, as leaders, are making some huge mistakes in my opinion and I want to gently point out a few that I believe need to be examined carefully.
Were someone to ask how huge I believe these mistakes are, My answer is...big enough to write about them and that may be because I think too many leaders seem to be followed without question with too many people following without asking those questions.
The first huge mistake ministers AND congregations are making is viewing the role of the pastor as all important. The word "Pastor" only appears once [as a noun] in the scriptures [Elder and Bishop however appear over forty times each.] and out of all the letters written to churches none were addressed to the Pastor. They were generally addressed to the people as the church.
In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find group of people in the New Testament who would think of a single person as pastor [local fellowships had a plurality of shepherds] and they certainly would never make the mistake of thinking of a single person, including a pastor, as the head of the church. That place was reserved for the Lord Jesus Himself.
No one is disputing the need or purpose for having in the body some who shepherd the flock, but in the New Testament it was never to the point of one man/one teacher/one preacher in any gathered group. [Local Church]. That's a modern day mistake made by modern day pastors and the churches that follow them.
Where it has disastrously led us is to a completely unbiblical stance where a local body [church] is handicapped when they are "without a pastor" and cannot function in worship or training until one is "called" and sets out his "vision" for the church.
Do you see where this is going? We may not want to call a pastor the head of the church in Baptist theology, but we Baptists sure live like he is the head.
A second huge mistake made by modern day ministers and congregations is to think of political processes as the way to change people into what they ought to be. No one would disagree that things in America are in a mess socially. But attempting to change society into what it ought to be by legislating their particular Christian values and ethics through the legal processes is a colossal mistake.
In doing what I just described, Ministers/congregations are forgetting at best or even possibly purposefully ignoring the fact that New Testament believers lived under some horrible and oppressive political systems and yet never attempted to shame, condemn, change, or force their society to become what it ought to be by their Christian definition.
They spent their time in obedience to their Lord, in loving their enemies, doing good to those who used them and, rather than attacking their enemies verbally, with grace, they presented the message of redemption that can be found in the person and work of Christ who is Himself God's Son and who came for fallen human beings. Yet, by any way you choose to measure it, they turned the world upside down with that simple methodology.
I think the simple reason is they never thought of the church as a business to be developed. To them, they were the Church, and the scriptures always spoke of them as a Body, a Bride, a Temple, a Holy Nation, a peculiar people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Word of God, belonging to God and strangers to this earth and any era of time.
There simply was no sense in forming protest groups or establishing lobbying groups to propagate biblical truth in order to change culture or society. That lay in the realm of a returning Lord who will make right all things in its time.