Story of American Fundamentalism

Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, is in the midst of writing a series of articles about the formation of American Fundamentalism. I am finding it fascinating.

A recent article I read addresses sentimentalism and how it affected fundamentalism. I urge you to read this one and if you find it interesting check out the archive of articles and subscribe to the new ones. Good stuff. Here’s a sampling from the article on Sentimentalism?

“The new sentimentalism, however, completely changed the way that people saw God. God was no longer complicated. He was no longer terrible in His holiness. He was not a God who hid Himself or who left His children weeping in perplexity. Rather, His fundamental attribute became niceness. God was now thought to be the quintessence of fair-mindedness. Such a God would never barge into an unresponsive heart.”

Love Profits Me

Christians often define love as “self-sacrifice for the benefit of another with no desire for personal gain.” In general I don’t think this is bad, probably not heretical. At the same time, it might be wrong.

1 Corinthians 13 says things like “I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

The implication is that only by loving others do we actually gain a profit! In other words, love is actually the only way your self can gain!

Does this not make love self-serving? If we love someone so we profit, isn’t this more like capitalism than selfless sacrifice?

Indeed. Who are you kidding? At one point have you ever done something for someone else with no thought of how this makes you look good, feel good, make friends, influence people, gain trust, etc?

Even Christ Himself did not sacrifice Himself on the Cross with no thought of personal gain. He endured the cross for the “joy set before Him!” It was because He was cast down at the cross that He was exalted on high for eternity.

A person who thinks they are loving someone else with no thought of personal gain is closer to being a Pharisee than being like Christ.

Profiting From Love

1 Corinthians 13 is pretty rough. You can be a martyr and if you don’t have love it profits nothing. Ouch.

In analyzing what I do, how often is pure love my motivation? At some point this exercise becomes nothing but insipid introspection, which, although Paul never said it, also seems to profit nothing.

At the same time, we should examine ourselves. There is a role in our neighborhood that my wife and I took on ourselves voluntarily and, I think, motivated by love, that has now become a burden.

You would be hard-pressed to convince us we were now doing this role out of love, but rather we do it out of having no alternative. Does this mean all we do for this dear, dear neighbor is now worthless?

Perhaps. But I also know we only started it because of love, it was the right thing to do. We also keep doing it because it’s the right thing to do even though love does not look or feel like it once did.

I think we are accountable to do the right thing, even if we have twisted motives. When we do good, evil is present with us, there will be bad motive at some point.

Waiting for purity before moving is a sure way to guarantee you will do nothing, which is also less than profitable. Ah yes, so it continues.

Think About God

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

So says A. W. Tozer. I think I agree. Here is why:

1) The number one command of Scripture is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind.” These three words (heart, soul, mind) describe the inner-life of each of us. If our inner-self is not loving God we are in big heap trouble.

2) One of the primary areas of sanctification is the renewing of our minds. We are given a sound mind, not a fearing mind. We are made sober, circumspect, bringing every thought captive to Christ. Our thoughts are vital.

3) “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Our thoughts determine who we are. If you think God is mad at you all the time, or keeping score, or not coming through, or always jovial and jolly, your actions will reflect your notion of God.

There are two main points then:

1) Take time to think about God. Now.
2) Take time to read Scripture that you may think right thoughts of God. Now.

Faith and Expectations

It is my contention that wrong expectations do more to hinder growth and endurance than anything else (Yes, yes, yes, other than sin itself).

The problem is that we put our expectations on God, expectations that our minds cooked up, not that the Bible presents.

* We give up on prayer because God doesn’t answer them the way we expected.
* We give up on fighting sin because God does not magically eliminate the sin the way nor as quickly as expected.
* We give up on evangelism because no one “gets saved” the way we expected.
* We give up on good works because God isn’t glorified nor are we appreciated like we expected.

In the end, we give up. We settle for nothing. We lower our expectations so God is no longer a loving Father who provides for His kids, but a busy Dad who doesn’t have time to do anything we expect. We blame it on God’s failings. He let us down.

The problem is that Scripture says we are to do what the Father tells us to do regardless of outcomes. The Bible is quite clear on this point. In fact, the worse the outcome, the greater opportunity for growth–tribulation works patience, etc.

God asks us to pray, fight sin, evangelize and do good works because it’s the right thing to do. Faithful obedience is what we’re asked to do. leave the results with Him. Never retreat into lethargy. Our God reigns.

Have biblical expectations and be faithful to your Father’s Word.

Love Brings Forgiveness

A woman comes to Jesus, dumps oil on him, cries all over and wipes it around with her hair. The disciples are amazed at this show of affection, somewhat offended.

Jesus corrects them-she loves Him, unlike Peter who just stands around. Jesus says that those who love Him a lot are the people who have the most sins forgiven, those who love Him a little have fewer sins forgiven.

That’s the application we hear anyway, except that’s not what Jesus said! Because this makes it sound like drug addict, porn star, serial killers would love Jesus more than a kid in a Christian home. In other words–sin becomes a virtue.

This application always bothered me and today I read Luke 7:47, the punchline of the story and notice what Jesus actually says:

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

Jesus does not say that because many sins were forgiven she loved Him much.

His exact words are “many sins are forgiven because she loved Him much.” Then, after pointing out the great show of love, Jesus then tells her that her sins are forgiven.

Here’s Jesus’ point, if I may be so bold–A person who loves Christ a lot sees more of their sin and acts in love knowing that they have all been taken care of. A person who loves Christ a little does not truly see all their sin and hence does not see the great love Christ offers because they don’t see their need.

Loving God is not a work that results in having sins forgiven, Jesus himself says a few verses later it was her faith that saved her. But love is the expression, every time, when a person sees forgiveness.