7 Ways to Mangle The Great Commission

The basic gist of The Great Commission is this portion of Matthew 28:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

There are a number of mangled applications of The Great Commission. Here are a few I’d like to briefly address:

  1. The Missions Mangle
    I appreciate and respect what missionaries do. Going to foreign lands and proclaiming the Gospel is awesome. But I’ve also heard missionaries guilt people that they too need to go to a foreign land to do missions. This isn’t true. All you have to do is go and teach. Sometimes that starts in your own house. I’m not trying to talk anyone out of doing foreign missions, but I am making sure The Great Commission isn’t just something for missionaries in foreign lands.
  2. Get Em Saved Mangle
    Too often the Church has taught that evangelism is getting people to Say The Prayer. Close the deal. Get them saved. The Great Commission doesn’t even mention the Gospel, let alone getting people saved. The Great Commission tells us to teach people to do the commandments of Jesus Christ. Evangelism isn’t just about getting people to Say The Prayer; it’s about discipleship, teaching a new way of life that revolves around the person of Jesus Christ.
  3. The Baptism Mangle
    Baptism has been a divisive issue throughout Church History. To circumvent the division, some leave baptism out of it. Others demand adherence to their denomination’s particular baptism ideas. In reality, baptism is the dawning of the understanding of new life in Christ. It represents new birth, a washing, a unity with Christ’s death and resurrection, and a joining into a larger body of believers. Baptism is not the whole thing, nor is it nothing. It’s a part of what The Great Commission is. (By the way, YOU can baptize people! Jesus just said so. There’s nothing in the Bible talking about official church rites or having certified practitioners do the baptizing. You can baptize people. Do it some time. It’s cool.)
  4. The Commandment Mangle
    Teaching people to do Christ’s commandments is huge in The Great Commission. Obeying Christ’s demands is the goal. This freaks people out. “We’re not under Law; we’re under grace! We don’t have to do any commandments today!” There are intricate theological systems invented to prove this point, but if words mean anything, we’re not only supposed to do Christ’s commands, we’re supposed to teach others to do them too.
  5. The “It Aint Me” Mangle
    Some people don’t think The Great Commission has anything to do with us. Some think it’s for the disciples, or the early Church. The “I am with you til the end of the world” thing ends these theories. Yes the disciples and Early Church followed the Commission. Acts does a wonderful job of showing it in action. To think that the job is done now, we don’t have to do anything, is merely grinding logic in the garbage disposal.
  6. There’s No Gospel Mangle
    As I said earlier, The Great Commission doesn’t even mention the Gospel, only the commandments of Jesus Christ. Some have used this to play games about when did the Church know there was a Gospel. That is unnecessary. Part of the Commandments of Jesus Christ is the Gospel, it’s who He is, what He did, and the demands the Gospel brings into the life of the believer. It’s teaching people everything there is to know about Jesus Christ. Obviously this includes the Gospel. But again, it doesn’t stop with The Gospel, as in, it’s more than just “getting people saved.” It’s teaching them to bring their lives into alignment with the Gospel and with Jesus Christ.
  7. I’m Lazy Mangle
    People in this camp think, “Whatever Jesus is talking about, He’s not telling me to do anything. Others can, I don’t have to.” Most of the manglings above are merely attempts for people to justify their laziness in teaching others about Jesus Christ. Don’t do that.

If you know Christ and are taught by Him, telling others who He is will become natural. At the same time, Jesus did have to tell His people to do this.

Seeing the silliness people apply to these simple, straightforward, and encouraging words lets you know why He had to tell us to do this.

Even when He tells us specifically what to do, we get busy explaining why we don’t have to. Imagine how little we’d do if He never told us to do anything?!

The Great Commission is great. Not only is there a command here, there is a promise here. There is unbelievable joy here, the joy of bringing others to Christ, seeing lives changed by Him.

If Christ is with us to the end, we should be talking about Him to the end. Go and do so!

One More Thing I’m Not Worried About: Google Home Doesn’t Know Jesus.

I’m not even sure why this is an actual news story, but a Nashville TV station reports on a person who is troubled that Google Home does not know Jesus.

Seriously, this is a news story.

Google Home is Google’s version of Siri or Alexa. A box you ask questions to that gives you answers from the internet in a computerized voice.

Apparently, if you ask Google Home who Jesus is, it replies, “I’m not sure how to help you with that.”

The complaining citizen goes on:

“I even asked Google who is David Sams? Google knew who I was, but Google did not know who Jesus was, Google did not know who Jesus Christ was, and Google did not know who God was,” Sams said.

Sam later went on to say, “It’s kinda scary, it’s almost like Google has taken Jesus and God out of smart audio,” Sams said. “First it started with schools.”

Another person quoted in the article said, “They took prayer out of schools, they think just taking Jesus out of everything is politically correct these days and I think that’s the stem of a lot of our problems.”

This argument tires me. Logically it makes no sense.

Follow the logic:

God was in the schools
They took God out of schools
Now our culture is the pits

Didn’t the time when God was in schools lead to the time when He wasn’t? (Which also raises the silly notion that God is bound to go only where people have passed laws allowing Him to be.)

Why does no one take it back to that? If God in the schools led to a culture that took God out of school, then clearly we can say that God in the schools wasn’t all that great either. Maybe having school in charge of God wasn’t a good idea based on the results.

In all honesty, I do not want the schools teaching about God. They will mess it up, as history clearly seems to show. The Church is the institution entrusted with teaching who God and Christ are.

So, yes, I’m sure you can guess that I do not care that Google Home is not teaching people who Christ is.

Google Home, according to the article, has no problem telling you about “the prophet Muhammed, Buddha — even Satan.”

This is simply more confirmation that the world doesn’t like Jesus. No kidding. What was your first clue?

There is no point to being upset by this. If anything, it’s amusing and shows the world’s fear. I’m cool with that.

If you want more people to know who Jesus is, I suggest not relying upon a computer device, but in your own ability to go tell them. You’ll hopefully do a better job anyway.

The Great Commission is not, “Go forth and tell computer devices to tell the world about Jesus.” That’s our job to tell people about Christ. Go do it.

A Botched Sunday School Lesson on Gideon

At our church’s Wednesday night group I have been going over Bible stories, and talking about Sunday School treatments of these stories in comparison to the Bible.

Most Sunday School tellings are not consistent with the Bible. Many details are left out and applications appear to be from left field.

This past week I came across the worst one so far. It boggles my mind.

The story was about Gideon. To refresh your memory: Gideon, who was afraid of the enemy Midianites, was hiding in a winepress threshing his wheat, was called by the angel of the Lord to deliver Israel from the Midianites. He wanted a sign. God gave him a sign. He was also told to destroy an altar to Baal, which he did at night, for fear of the townsfolk.

Gideon was then to go fight the Midianites. But first he asked for two more signs. Eventually he went with his shrunken army and defeated the Midianites.

The Sunday School lesson gave this application. Are you ready for this? Please sit down first. I assure you I am not making this up. This is real. Ready? Here goes:

Gideon felt very unsure most of the time about how God was going to follow through but God didn’t give up on him and reassured him that with His help he could do it.  We might feel small, young, weak, insignificant but with God we can become something special, powerful, a mighty warrior!  God can give us special powers if we trust him and do His will.

Apparently God granted me the super power of not having my head explode upon reading stupidity. I find no other reason why my head is intact.

Unbelievable. This is so wrong on so many levels. Telling kids they will have super powers will create all manner of weird ideas in their head. I’m Batman with Jesus! You know that’s how kids will hear that.

The thing I don’t get is what super power did Gideon have? He was a chicken throughout the whole thing. He never did anything super powerfully. That was, in fact, pretty much the point of the story. God did the delivering; there was no human super power visible at any point.

The real problem with such applications is that they disillusion kids. They will go home, try to obey God, and ask for a super power. No super power will come.

Will they doubt what their teacher told them? Will they rationally consider whether their teacher told them the truth?

Or will they doubt God? The Bible? The Church?

We bemoan the fact that so many kids walk away from the church as they get older. Is it any wonder? We’ve told them so many falsehoods, I’d walk away too.

Be careful what ideas you put in the minds of kids. They are listening, more than most adults. They will try it. If you promise super powers, they will get bummed when they don’t get one.

All this disillusionment will grow over the years, until they hit a point where their brain works, and they’ll rebel. They’ll call you on the lies. Unfortunately, most of them will leave God, the faith, and the church. The damage is done.

Be careful not to put words in God’s mouth. Be careful not to promise things that God will do that God never promised to do. Be careful that you understand a passage before attempting to teach it.

Be careful.

Matt Walsh on the West’s Indifference to Church Persecution in the East

Christian persecution and genocide is worse now than it has ever been in history. Christians in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, North Korea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Egypt, and many other countries, are regularly imprisoned, tortured, beaten, raped, and martyred. Their churches are destroyed. Their houses burned. They meet and worship in secret, risking their lives in the process. They live every moment in constant danger.

About 215 million Christians face what is called “extreme persecution” for their faith. It’s estimated that around a million have been slaughtered since 2005. There is no way to know exactly how many. What we do know is that Christianity has been dramatically reduced in parts of the world where it had existed for nearly 2,000 years.

But what do we care?

There are other things to worry about here. Hollywood sex scandals. Twitter disputes. Whatever controversial thing Trump said this week. So on and so on. We — myself included — spend far more time, and spill far more ink, on these issues than we ever have on the coordinated genocide of our fellow believers in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Why?

I have come to believe that our disinterest stems not only from the general apathy that defines western society and the western church, but from moral cowardice. To face the plight of our brothers and sisters is to face ourselves. To see these Christians who would rather be shot dead in the desert than renounce their faith is to see our own faith as a shabby, pitiful, hollow imitation. To see Christians who would risk their very lives to go to church and preach the Gospel is to question why we will do neither of those things, even though we are perfectly free and able. We cannot confront these truths of ourselves, so we will not confront the truth of Christian persecution.

We have submitted to the forces of darkness. We have bent our knees in homage to Satan, and the enemies of the faith haven’t even fired a shot to induce our surrender. Satan does not beat us with a stick; he dangles a carrot. He lulls us to sleep. He distracts us. He tempts us. Kill us? Why would he do that? We are no threat to him. A Christian in Afghanistan is a threat. He must be destroyed. It’s the only way. But a lazy, soft, equivocating Christian in the West? There is no need to persecute him. He is not worthy of it. Just give him a television and the internet and let him damn himself.

And Satan laughs.

He does not want us to be jolted out of this stupor, and he has no doubt instructed his legions accordingly. The persecutors of the church in America have quite an easy job. For them, the strategy is clear: Put down the gun. Drop the machete. Don’t scare these people. Don’t make martyrs of them. Don’t give them any hint that there is a war going on and the fate of their souls lies in the balance. Let them be arrogant and self-assured. Let them push out any thought of their own mortality. Let them dismiss everything I’m saying right now as “pessimistic” and “negative.” Let them enjoy themselves. Let them have their spiritual indifference and let them dress it up as “positivity” and “hopefulness.” Let them have it all. Fluff their pillow for them, even. Turn on the TV and hand them the remote. Feed them. Pamper them. Pleasure them. Give them everything their hearts desire. Don’t appeal to their fear; appeal to their lust, their laziness, their gluttony, their vanity, their pride, their boredom.

And watch them drop like flies.

 

Read the whole article by clicking here.

5 Points About Football’s Impact on Holiness

In case you missed it, yesterday there was one of the greatest endings to a NFL football game ever. And it happened to the Minnesota Vikings, a team that has been mercilessly beaten by many amazing game ending plays.

If there was any team that deserved a miraculous game ending play to win, it’s the Vikings.

I went on Twitter afterwards to partake in the social media frenzy surrounding the ending. I came across this from a Christian:

“Over the years I’ve noticed that a Christian’s holiness is directly proportionate to the number of football games he or she has never seen.”

Ah yes, leave it to the Christian to poop on the party.

I hate stuff like that. Here are a couple reasons why.

  1. If I were a betting man, I’d put all my money on the fact that the author of this quote did not watch the game. Therefore, he’s putting himself in the holiness camp. One of the aspects of righteousness, sanctification, spiritual growth, and holiness is that humility develops. The kind of humility that keeps a person from vocalizing such a sanctimonious point.
  2. More than likely, if football fans were to examine the author’s life they could find something equally stupid he does that they don’t, and make a similar observation. I could say the same thing about watching movies, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing, reading fiction, having a 40+ hour a week job, etc. The list is endless and thus it’s really stupid to go where he goes.
  3. If a guy knows how to operate a DVR, you can watch a four-hour football game in about 45-minutes. I doubt this spending of 45 minutes a week will be a determinative factor in a person’s holiness.
  4. It might be true for some, but not necessarily for all. I do know some fanatical football fans that should probably cut back. I was one myself in the past. I cut ties. I backed off. There are, no doubt, many football fans who take football too seriously to the detriment of their spiritual health. I can also tell you some of the most helpful people to me spiritually partook in watching football. The idea that there’s something particular about football to ruin your sanctification is absurd.
  5. Finding a thing you don’t like and then making that thing that you don’t like the focal point of judging someone’s spiritual growth is a dangerous place to be. Perhaps this guy, or some who read his quote, will assume “I don’t watch football, therefore I am holy.” It puts the wrong emphasis on things.

In the end, this is a Romans 14 kind of thing. The author finds football to be a problem. Fine. Don’t watch football. Keep your non-watching of football to yourself.

I would be more impressed if the guy said he watched the game and has a problem with football addiction and said this quote.

But he didn’t. He just said the quote, bashing all who like that thing he doesn’t like.

He’s judging and he’s being divisive. He’s taking an insignificant thing and putting spiritual weight on it, tipping the scales toward legalism.

This is not just a screed against him or his anti-footballness. This is a warning to us all.

I’ve heard myself and others use Sci-Fi shows, coffee, health food, homeschooling, and any number of other issues the same way. Making an enjoyable thing of others into the antichrist.

It’s not helpful. It’s not edifying. It’s merely being a Pharisee and a High Horse Riding Judgmental Know-It-All.

Knock it off.

Wearing Hats in Chapel and Romans 14

I attended a Christian college with mandatory chapel every day in the auditorium. One of my goals in life at the time, was to see how I could miss as many chapels as possible and not get in trouble.

I wanted to miss chapel for two main reasons:

  1. Most of the chapels were really stupid. There was a lot of singing and a lot of very bad theology.
  2. I had a bad attitude.

Chapel was around 10am. I worked until 2 in the morning. I tried to arrange my classes so I didn’t have to go to class until at least late morning if not afternoon. I moved off campus to save money and also cuz then I could petition to miss more chapels.

I was frequently unkempt in college. I worked late, had to bike to school, I ran cross country and track, and worked as a janitor. Lots of opportunity to be dirty and smelly with that combination.

Instead of frequent showers, I wore deodorant and a hat.

One day I was sitting in one of the back sections of chapel, barely awake, unkempt, and having a bad attitude.

A chipper young fellow with a couple chipper little pixie college chics walks by me and taps me on the leg and says, “Hey bud, no hats in chapel, kay?”

I tipped my cap to him, which he interpreted as me dutifully listening to him. I then un-tipped my cap and put it back on as he walked past. I did this all with a super-abundance of bad attitude.

About a year later, this guy was in one of my classes. I did not recognize him or know him. But he came up to me one day and said, “Remember that day I told you to take your hat off in chapel and you immediately took it off but right back on? That really bugged me. Every time I’ve seen you since, I’ve thought about that and judged you.”

We had a nice conversation. I explained my schedule and my attitude. He apologized and I apologized.

I have often thought of this experience.

Both of us had our own lives going. I don’t know why hats had to be removed in a college auditorium. I thought that was dumb. But he thought hats should be off.

This was a classic Romans 14 issue. He that esteemeth chapel and he who esteemeth not chapel. He who regardeth hats and he who regardeth not hats.

Let each be persuaded in his own mind.

The guy didn’t think I should wear a hat. I had no problem wearing a hat, and, in fact, had, what I thought, were good reasons to wear a hat.

But as soon as the guy said something to me about the hat, it became a mutual issue.

Who relents? Whose opinion will rule?

Looking back, I consider myself to be wrong in my response. I should have removed the hat because the guy made it an issue. It’s better to keep the peace than to wear a hat.

I sincerely did apologize to him, and he sincerely apologized to me. Water under the bridge, no big deal. But isn’t it amazing how many of these smaller issues make us hate each other? How many of these issues cause divisions and fighting?

“Why not rather take the wrong?” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6. Why fight? Peace comes by giving in to others.

No one likes that, which is why there’s so little peace. But it’s the way of peace as spelled out in God’s Word.

No, I do not remember what was talked about at chapel that day, but I’m quite sure it wasn’t as instructive as this little episode has been for me.

The Apostle Paul, Bellum Romanum, and Terrorism

Bellum Romanum is a Latin phrase used to describe the particular kind of warfare the Romans waged against the Barbarians. It means “Roman War.”

You may recognize the Bellum from the Antebellum South–Ante–Before and Bellum–War–the South before the Civil War.

If you’re familiar with the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire, you know that they spent hundreds of years dealing with barbarian hordes picking on their extremities.

These Barbarian Wars began about 100bc and went sometime into the 400’s ad.

Rome convinced its people that barbarians weren’t totally human, they were sub-human. They were uncivilized brutes. Therefore, since they weren’t official humans, any number of atrocities against them were justified.

Bellum Romanum was all out war without restraint. There was killing, raping, and pillaging. Today we would refer to what Rome did as genocide.

It was the abject destruction of societies. Not just the destruction of barbarian warriors, but of innocent barbarian folk with their cities and everything else.

If you’re paying attention to history, you’ll recognize that much of the New Testament was written between 50-80ish ad. Smack dab in the middle of these dealings with the barbarians.

Knowing this background information, Romans 1:14 takes on special meaning. Paul says, “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.”

Paul considers himself to be obligated to barbarians along with civilized Greeks! Imagine what he’s saying!

This is a culture that has determined that the only good barbarian is a dead barbarian, they’re not even people. Then the amazing doctrines of the NT break in and Paul says he’s indebted to serve barbarians, almost as if they’re people like Greeks!

Colossians 3:11 says that in Christ there is no difference between barbarians and other people. This is astounding stuff!

It also has relevance for peoples since then. The idea that a nation’s enemies should be viewed as sub-human runs throughout history. If you can convince your people you’re up against animals, this helps justify your violence.

The white colonist’s attitude toward Native Americans was similar. As was America’s attitude toward African slaves. Hitler depicted Jews as animals.

You might even notice similar rhetoric today concerning terrorists. “Terrorist” is almost a synonym for Rome’s “barbarian.” Terrorists are less than people living in squalid caves in the mountain.

So when President Trump said on the campaign trail he would like to bomb them all to hell, many Christians cheered.

Watch out!

Nations have a right given by God to wield the sword, to protect their people. But watch out when we cheer violence. When we think bombing people to hell is worthy of praise.

Hell is real. People, even terrorists and barbarians, have souls.

Paul didn’t worry about what Rome was doing. But Paul did not buy into Rome’s prejudices. Paul loved everyone as members of Christ or potential members. As real people with real souls who need Christ.

Follow Paul’s example.