They Left Their First Love

The church in Ephesus was doing well, but by the time John writes Revelation, they seem to be headed the wrong way. John celebrates them and then warns them:

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

I have heard this passage addressed many times, all with the same warning to individuals: “don’t backslide! Remember how excited you were when you first got saved? Return to that excitement. Return to that passion when you couldn’t stop witnessing and hating on sin!”

Well, here’s the thing.

I have known several people who had unbelievable passion at the moment of their conversion. They ran about witnessing, sharing their testimony, and railing on sin. It was cool to see!

Unfortunately, few of those actually stuck with it. They remind one of the seed that falls on the stony ground, they received the word with joy, until it got hard, then they quit.

I find a bit of a snobbishness among Christians about how you got saved and how you responded. If there wasn’t some huge emotional moment when you got saved, or there wasn’t some huge outpouring of spiritual activity 24/7 where you could hardly sleep, you must not be saved.

However, I don’t really see that in Scripture. Anytime Scripture talks about guys who flailed wildly in their new faith, there seems to be a warning attached to it.

What about Paul, oh Jeffy boy? Paul, upon being saved, ran around doing stuff and freaked out everyone. The church told Paul to go cool off in the woods for a while.

I think the best thing a church can do with a young, excited believer is let them cool off. Too often we throw these people out front and then watch them implode.

I don’t think the warning to Ephesus is about an individual needing to return to first-moment emotions, but rather a call to be careful to always be moving forward.

Instead of worrying about backsliding, make sure you’re foresliding and watch out for cliffs.

Today’s Signs that the End Draweth Nigh

A fun diversion to do while waiting for college football games to start, is to scan the news headlines for evidence that Christ is about to return.

I come from a dispensational, rapture before tribulation before Millennial Kingdom, eschatology. This is, by far, the best eschatology to have for finding scary evidence of Christ’s return.

According to this eschatological view, the world will slip into apathy concerning Christ, if not hostility, with many falling away. There will be a one-world government with a united religion and economy. When the antichrist enters, he will forbid people to buy or sell unless they have his mark on them.

This is rich ground for finding signs of the times. Observe, just from today’s headlines:

–“Microchip implants like the ones pet owners use to track their dogs and cats could become commonplace in humans in the next decade.” And it will all happen because they offer “several advantages” to our buying, selling, and “security.”

Henry Kissinger says we need a new call to a New World Order as he observes all the turmoil, tension, civil wars, and strife around the planet. “A world order of states affirming individual dignity and participatory governance, and cooperating internationally in accordance with agreed-upon rules, can be our hope and should be our inspiration.”

–“Ecuador is planning to create what it calls the world’s first digital currency issued by a central bank” As the dollar ceases to be the currency of value, expect to see a new currency step in to that role. Tie it in with the internet and microchips and you’ve got a antichrist buffet of opportunity.

Russia is coming back. “President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”” Dispensationalists have long believed that Russia, the bear from the north, will be a major player in End Times events, messing with Israel to the end.

Meanwhile, this is what the American government is up to–“The U.S. Forest Service on Friday published a nearly 700-word article on how to safely roast marshmallows, all in preparation for Saturday, which is National Roasted Marshmallow Day.” Although I can’t find any verses on this, surely this must be a sign of The End. Some dispensationalists have wondered why we don’t see America in End Times prophecy. I have never wondered this. We’re going down. But at least we’ll know how to roast marshmallows safely while our New Rome burns to the ground.

Three Dangers Churches Face in Falling Away from the Gospel

There are three times Paul worries that one of his churches will make his labor vain. There are three contexts for his worry. They are worth a little consideration.

Here are three things Paul says these churches need to do to not vainitize his work in them.

1) Paul worries that the church in Galatia will return to works of the law, or to the empty religion of idol worship. In both cases–OT law keeping or idolatry–they will leave the Gospel and focus on works of the flesh that have no profit.

Although few in the church need fear someone entering the church telling them to be circumcised, churches often fall into legalistic, empty, flesh-centered religious ritual. This sort of thing sucks out spiritual life, breeds conformity to group identity, and leads many astray from God to follow traditions of men. Neither is helpful in maintaining spiritual growth in a church.

2) Paul worries that the church in Philippi will become lax when he leaves their presence. The Philippian church loved Paul. They were the only church to send Paul a monetary gift. They even did this three times! This is cool, but it also worries Paul. Perhaps their devotion is more to him than to Christ. What will they do when Paul leaves?

Pastors can be cool people, trust me, I know. They can really help you out. Co-dependency is a danger in here though. Pastors become needy of attention and praise, while their parishioners become needy of answers, guidance, and someone to blame. Churches need to carefully discern whether Christ is the head of their group, or is a guy heading it?

3) Paul worries that the church in Thessalonica will be tempted into dropping out. First Thessalonians is allegedly the first book Paul wrote. It’s a young minister preaching to a young church. It’s exciting, it’s cool, and it’s also tough. Persecution surrounds them. Paul is worried for their faith to persevere. He’s been away from them, he wants Timothy to go visit and give him a report of their faith. He worries that tribulation might wear them thin and make them susceptible to temptation.

As times get tough and evil men wax worse and worse, the willpower and steadfastness of a church can wane. It is in these moments of tiredness that the Tempter can get a foothold. We are not ignorant of his devices, but we do get tired, distracted, busy, and afraid. Paul tells them to persevere, keep it up, and trust in the Lord to provide.

the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”

Every church is different. Each church has its own strengths and weaknesses. There is no need to demand cookie-cutter churches. Let them be different, but let them all be ware of their weaknesses, keep pressing on toward Christ, and looking for the return of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Toronto Hates Jesus, Eh

Hey Canada, what’s up with hating Jesus, eh?

Toronto city officials have canceled the annual Jesus in the City parade.

“It is a sad day in this city when a parade for peace and love, Jesus in the City, is cancelled by city officials,” said McVety. “They would never do this to (the Caribbean Carnival) or the Pride Parade.”

“We were really upset by this,” said Dr. Charles McVety, of Canada Christian College. “We have been planning for the whole year and just weeks before the event, notice comes to cancel it. It’s shocking.”

“Christians are being slaughtered around the world and now persecuted at home,” said McVety. “Toronto used to be known as Toronto the Good, now it is Toronto the intolerant of good.”

Now, before you go hating on Toronto, the reason it was canceled is because of construction on the parade route as well as orientation day for the University located there. Too much traffic, too many roads closed, so Jesus gets the boot.

Something tells me Jesus doesn’t care too much about parades. Last time He was in one, they killed Him soon after. Eh.

Paul’s Worry About His Labor Being Vain

Several times the Apostle Paul says he fears that his labor in various churches might be in vain.

He says to the church in Galatia:

I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain

After warning or encouraging the church in Philippi to be blameless, harmless, to shine as light in the world by holding forth the word of truth, he says to do these things:

that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain

To Thessalonica he says:

I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you,
and our labour be in vain.

Paul understands that people can turn from the truth. Absence from solid teaching and counsel makes for weird results. Paul knows that evil corrupts.

If you’ve been in the church long enough, you’ve seen churches that were good and doing good things fall apart. It happens. It’s devastating to watch and greatly frustrates those who worked to build it.

There has also been many times when a pastor leaves that the church falls apart. In the end, it’s just a church. Sometimes I think we worship our institutions too much.

The sad thing is not the downfall of a church or the falling apart of some ministry that used to be great. That stuff happens and it’s OK.

The sad thing is if the truth is supplanted by error and the tempter deceives those on the way to eternal life and destroys their faith.

As every investment commercial tells you, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Stay vigilant in your faith. Don’t stop. Don’t take a break. There is no point in Christian growth where you can sit back because “you’re done.”

Press toward the mark. Don’t look back. Remember Lot’s wife.

Lower Grades for Saying “Bless You”

One professor at the College of Coastal Georgia has banned students from saying “bless you” in his class.

This is, no doubt, a sign of deep religious persecution for many. However, upon further reading, the professor’s rule goes like this:

“We are taught that it is polite to say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. However, if you say this while I am talking, it is NOT polite, it is very rude!”

I can agree with that. I have always thought the whole “bless you” after a sneeze thing was a little weird anyway. I never respond when people say it to me. Occasionally I let out the snide “He already has.” Most don’t get it though.

“Bless you” after sneezing has more to do with superstitious voodoo than Christianity anyway, more than likely.

Death Row Jesus and Wrong Conceptions of Jesus Being a Sinner

New thing coming you should be aware of: Death Row Jesus.

From the creators of Tattoo Jesus (I could have sworn I did a thing on Tattoo Jesus but I can’t find it) comes Death Row Jesus.

“When people think about Jesus, they don’t think about him being on death row, but if you think about what he did when he was on earth, that’s really the experience he had,” Miller said.

Miller said he hopes that message is clearly portrayed through this new video campaign.

“We communicate very directly that Christ became the worst criminal in history when he took our mistakes on himself. The second message is we are all equally undeserving of God’s grace,” Miller said.

I have heard such stuff before, that Jesus became a sinner, or “the worst criminal in history.”

This isn’t true. He was the spotless, blameless sacrifice for us. Yes, God “made him to be sin for us,” but that does not mean He was made a sinner. He became a sin-bearer–He bore our sins in His own body, but that doesn’t make Him a sinner or a criminal.

Even the criminal crucified next to Him knew “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

Furthermore, the Bible differentiates between the sacrifice and the sinner. Jesus was not a sinner; He was a sin-bearer.

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

Saying that Jesus became a horrible, rotten sinner is a misunderstanding of what’s going on. When the lamb of the OT sacrifice was offered, the lamb didn’t become a sinner, the lamb was a representative of the sinner and bore the sin for the sinner.

If Jesus became a sinner, then He got what He deserved. The Gospel is about love and grace, a sacrifice of a sinless, righteous man laying down His life for unrighteous people, not about judging a sinner.

If that’s not true, then the Gospel ceases to be Gospely.