God Is In Control?

Whenever there is a crisis or uncertainty, Christians plop out the “God is in control” cliche.

I don’t think I’ve ever said this in such times, mostly because I have no idea what people think that means. As far as I can tell, Christians mean at least one of the following things:

1. God ordains everything.
This is the Calvinistic notion of meticulous determination. That every molecule of creation is doing exactly what God tells it to do. Therefore, in the current crisis, God created the coronavirus and is killing who He wants to kill with it, is making ill the people He wants ill, and is curing the people He wants to cure. There’s nothing to do to stop it. It’s God’s ordained plan. Suck it up.

2. God will protect me.
Many Christians have the idea that since they have Jesus (allegedly), they will be free of all diseases. Jesus protects them from any and all viruses. They are safe from all harm. The power of God works better than any vaccine or medication ever invented!

3. Fatalism.
God is in control; I am not, so, like, whatever. I’ll just do my thing and whatever happens, happens. I will do the bare minimum of precautions, mostly to avoid judgment by others, and just let God sort it out. If I perish, I perish; if I live, I live. Que sera sera.

4. God’s promises stay true.
All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. The good here is conformity to Christ. No matter what happens in good, bad or indifferent circumstances, God can use it to grow me in Christ. They meant it for evil, but God meant it unto good. Ultimately I will be made like Him when I see Him as He is and nothing will stop that.

If I say such a thing, I mean number 4.

I don’t mean number 1, because then God is just mean and nasty. There’s also no point for there being the Devil, the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air. Then we don’t really wrestle against principalities and powers. And, although God defines Himself as love, boy howdy, if this idea is true, what love is this? When God controls every aspect of life, that will be in the righteousness of the New Heaven and the New Earth, where God’s will is always done. There will be no tears, no death, no Fall. That aint here now.

I don’t mean number 2, because everyone dies. Even we who have the Spirit groan and travail in pain. These same people often wear glasses or have contacts. This view cannot be held with any semblance of logic or consistency and causes one to have to justify away reality.

I don’t mean number 3, because there are plenty of verses that say we have responsibilities down here. Fatalism is not a biblical basis for doing life. We reap what we sow. There are consequences for our actions. God gave us a brain for a reason.

I do mean number 4, because that’s the way God speaks of such things. Romans 8 has a large section about the fact that terrible things will happen down here. But none of these things can separate us from the love of God. All things can help conform us to the image of Jesus Christ and nothing will stop that progression to ultimate conquering. Even if we die, absent from the body is present with the Lord. I will be raised up incorruptible. I will be made like Him when I see Him as He is.

God is in control, but it’s important to understand what that means. A wrong understanding will distort your understanding of who God is and will greatly confuse you about reality on this planet.

Getting it right will fill you with hope and alleviate worry. Getting it right will help you let go of this life and lay hold on eternal life. Help you look for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. When He fully takes over, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

Aint nothing gonna stop the Wedding Feast that’s coming!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Coronavirus and The End

Let me begin by saying very clearly I do not think the coronavirus is The End, nor is it fulfilling any prophecies or anything like that. It’s not. Because, like, hardly anything is actually happening.

Let me also say I am not an infectious disease expert so my opinion that this is entirely overblown should carry little weight with you.

All that being said, here are a couple thoughts to consider.

–I believe that the next event in biblical prophecy is the rapture, when the Church will be taken to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). After that is a seven-year Tribulation period where the Antichrist will fool people and take over. He will begin by promising health and wealth to everyone and causing a semblance of peace (2 Thessalonians 2:8-11). You will note in this current crisis the following things:

A. Everyone wants health and wealth.
B. Everyone is looking to the government to give them both, or at least blaming the government for the absence of them.

This is setting the stage for an Antichrist figure to waltz right in and take over. He will promise, and apparently for a time, deliver on such expectations. If you are blaming a politician or looking to a politician to save you from disease, you are falling for the trap. The spirit of Antichrist is already at work right now setting this all up (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

–A stunning amount of Christians are falling for this. I am amazed at how many Christians are completely fixated on politicians. Jesus warns about false christs (the Antichrist is obviously the big, finale false christ–“christ” means anointed one and sums up the prophet, priest, and king roles) and the trend for people to fall for human leadership and not God’s leadership as the age goes on. He says the deception will be so great, that if it were possible even the elect would be deceived (Matthew 24:24). It’s happening right in front of you and possibly to you.

–I’m also aware that, thanks to the terrible writing in The Left Behind series, hardly any Christians uphold this view of The End anymore. It’s pretty much a joke and if you believe in a rapture and an antichrist and a tribulation you are an ignorant dork. In other words, the deception is almost complete! Even the Church doesn’t expect any of this anymore. Incidentally, whether you expect it or not changes nothing that God has planned.

–The more of these “crisis” things we go through, the more people will give up their freedoms to the government. We’re even doing it now when there is no discernible crisis. The more we do this, the more the government will take over the economy. Revelation 13:16-17 talks about the Antichrist’s reign on this earth and how he will control buying and selling, limiting it to people with his mark. Again, this 666 thing has been turned into a joke, yet you see the reality of this already at work. Would you follow the Antichrist to buy food, medicine, and more toilet paper?! Careful how you answer, because most will.

–All of these things are steps in that direction, each crisis bumps us closer. I’m not saying the coronavirus is the antichrist or fulfilling prophecy. I’m just saying to watch. All of this stuff is happening before any coronavirus arrived, it’s just pushing the trend along nicely. Notice how smoothly it’s happening, how people are asking for it to happen, practically demanding it. It’s happening in a way that makes complete common sense and I’m the stupid one for questioning it. The Antichrist will step right in to a situation already set up for him. He hardly has to do anything. We’re doing fine work down here for him.

–You don’t have to believe me. I really don’t care if you agree. I’m just sitting back and watching it happen and it’s stunning how it seems to be fulfilling everything the Bible said would happen (if you actually read the words on the page for what they say). I’m not trying to freak anyone out about the coronavirus. I am not freaked out about it. I’m just watching the slow slide of our response that will set up everything. The coronavirus will pass, but human stupidity will remain and continue us down the slope.

I am happy about Jesus returning, but not about the suffering, stupidity, and deception that will ruin souls along the way. Don’t be one of them.

Even so, come quickly.

Annoying Christian Books

I finished reading the short book on Romans 5-8. It was only 90 pages, mostly fluff, and lots of white space.

I was annoyed with it on page four, and became annoyed about every 12 pages throughout.

Many books say things that strike me as “off.” Not wrong, necessarily, just “off.” As in, not exactly what the verses say that you just quoted. For instance:

–the book said we “will all die not because we all sin like Adam, but because we all sinned in Adam.” Then they quote Romans 5:12, “death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Now the issue of Original Sin is large, not going to rehash it all here, but just note that Romans 5:12 doesn’t say that we all sinned in Adam, it says we die because we all sin. The author of this little book adds words. It annoys me when books add words to verses.

–the book said in relation to Romans 8:16, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” that we know we have the Spirit if we pray to the Father. Seriously? Plenty of people say the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father, who art in heaven) who are not saved. The fact that you pray does not mean you have the Holy Spirit. Prayer might be one thing, but it’s certainly not the whole thing. The emphasis of the chapter is on mortifying sin, doing righteousness, suffering with Christ, and things like that. That’s how you know you have the Spirit, not cuz you pray to the Father. Praying to the Father is much easier than doing those other things, how convenient and coincidental!

–the book talks about “whom He foreknew, them He also predestinated” and says “The difference between foreknowledge and predestination is, perhaps, that God’s electing choice was formed in His mind before He willed it.” I’d emphasize the “perhaps” a little more. That’s not what it means. He foreknew something that He based His predestination on. Saying it’s simply just that God knew what He was going to do before He did it is largely unnecessary to say. When has God ever done anything He didn’t think about doing first? They can’t define foreknowledge as anything to do with us because then our salvation is supposedly dependent on us and he already told us yesterday there’s nothing we can do to get God’s approval. So, let’s change the plain meaning of Scripture into something non-sensical to keep our theories alive.

That’s the kind of stuff. So many things are just slightly off. Even worse, it’s the same slightly off as everyone else says. Anytime people are all saying slightly off things that the Bible isn’t saying, you know people are just listening to people and not the Bible.

Why is it so hard for people to just say what the Bible says? Why do we feel a need to explain things in such a way that makes the Bible not say what it’s saying?

I could go on, but I’m not going to because it’s a beautiful day. Actually, it’s quite cold, but it’s still a day with many more possibilities in it besides me expressing frustration on the internet over dead authors.

Carry on.

Faith and Works, Gospel and Law

I’m about half done with my copy of Luther’s Bondage of the Will. I agree with him that the case Erasmus makes, at least the parts he quotes, isn’t that great. But I also don’t think Luther is doing that great either.

The main issue is over free-will and whether we have it or not. But there are minor issues that come up that are off too.

In the midst of attacking Erasmus’ definition of free-will, Luther says:

As for those things that ‘lead to eternal salvation,’ I suppose they are the words and works of God, which are offered to the human will so that it may apply itself to them or turn away from them. I take the ‘words of God’ to include both the law and the Gospel; the law requires works, the gospel faith.

This one phrase stood out to me: “the law requires works, the gospel faith.”

I think this is a root misunderstanding that leads to lots of trouble.

It is true that some of Israel, like the scribes and Pharisees, felt they had to do works alone for salvation. They felt no need to love God, they just did some stuff God said and called it good. Jesus corrects this, as does everyone else in the New Testament. In fact, most of the prophets are trying to correct that.

But since the Pharisees did that, everyone assumes that’s how people were saved under the law. Paul says in Romans 10:5, “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

See, there ya go; people under the law were saved by works!

Read the law. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Show me where, like in the entire book of Deuteronomy, it says anyone was saved by the law. It never says that. The law was a covenant between God and the nation of Israel to stay in their land. If they kept the law they would live and prosper there, if they did not keep the law they would be kicked out.

Never once does Moses say by keeping the law, doing all the works, you will go to heaven and be with the Lord.

When the Gospel comes along, people assume a BIG CHANGE occurred. Instead of doing works, we just have faith. Faith alone. Easy.

What this misses is that anyone who has ever been saved has been saved by grace through faith. There is no other way of salvation. Whether Abraham before the law, David under the law, or us today under the Gospel, everyone is saved by faith (Romans 4).

People under the law who were saved by faith did indeed desire to do the works of the law.

But get this, today people under the Gospel who are saved by faith desire to fulfill the works of the law too! It’s a little thing called “love.”

The idea that people under the law were the only ones who had to do what God said is crazy. What we do is different because the covenants are different. But faith always desires to do what God says.

“Faith without works is dead,” this is true under the law as well as under the Gospel. There is no difference in faith and it’s desire to do what God says. God says to do different things under each covenant, but faith wants to do what God says.

Luther wanted James ripped out of the Bible. Luther, when translating Romans 5, said we were justified by faith alone. Never mind that he added the word “alone” in there.

Anyone remember what the Bible says about people who add or subtract words from the Bible? Anyone? It says nothing good about them. Don’t do that.

Andrew Murray on Unanswered Prayers

Prayer is a misunderstood and totally beaten to death subject.

The Bible is pretty clear about prayer, how it works, and what it does.

The problem Christians have is that our experience does not measure up to what it says. And when push comes to shove, we cling to our experience more than the Bible.

One verse that puts things clearly is John 15:7:

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Every Christian is going to claim that they abide in Christ; yet every Christian must admit they don’t get what they pray for. Jesus seems to say that getting what you pray for is the proof you’re abiding in Christ. We don’t get what we pray for, therefore, Jesus must be wrong.

It is at this point where creativity joins Christianity. How can we justify our ineffective prayers and still feel good about ourselves? Surely there must be another verse we can throw in to loophole our way out of this jam.

Here’s what Andrew Murray has to say about John 15:7

In all God’s relations with us, the promise and its conditions are inseparable. If we fulfill the conditions; He fulfills the promise.

Now, already I can hear certain Christian heads exploding. “That’s Law! That’s a yoke of bondage! Grace just gives promises; we don’t have to do anything. Christ did it all for us!”

I’m inclined to agree with Murray on this one because that is indeed how the Bible presents things, even in the New Testament. All God’s promises will be realized only if we do things the way He says. God is not mocked; you reap what you sow.

Fully abiding in Him, we have the right to ask whatever we want and the promise that we will get an answer. There is a terrible discrepancy between this promise and the experience of most believers. How many prayers bring no answer? The cause must be either that we do not fulfill the conditions, or God does not fulfill the promise. Believers are not willing to admit either and therefore have devised a way of escape from the dilemma.

They put a qualifying clause into the promise that our Savior did not put there–if it be God’s will. This maintains both God’s integrity and their own. If they could only accept it and hold fast to it as it stands, trusting Christ to make it true! And if only they would confess their failure in fulfilling the condition as the one explanation for unanswered prayer. God’s Spirit would then lead them to see how appropriate such a promise is to those who really believe that Christ means it.

The problem with going with Murray’s idea is that the burden is on us. No one likes burdens on them. We like fuzzy notions of grace and happy thoughts.

But we also know we’d really like our prayers to be answered and for our prayer life to be richer. But as long as we hang on to fuzzy happy thoughts don’t count on your prayer life going anywhere.

The issue is not about getting stuff; the issue is about abiding in Christ. As we abide in Christ we will pray better, more informed, God-honoring prayers.

God does not answer our prayers to feed our flesh. He answers prayers so that we grow in Christ. Answered prayer is not a slot machine payout; it’s a proof that we are abiding in Christ.

The Father intends the answer to be a token of His favor and of the reality of our fellowship with Him.

Your experience with prayer falls short of how the Bible speaks of prayer. Instead of chalking it up to fate and some murky idea of “God’s will,” maybe consider the substance of your prayer, the state of your heart in asking, and your growth in Christ overall.

If these things are going well, I’d fully expect more answered prayer and I fully expect people to be ticked about me claiming that.

The Law Cannot Justify

Repeatedly the New Testament tells us that we are not justified by the law.

“Justified” means to declare someone righteous. The law does not declare people righteous.

The law was not designed to make people righteous, nor to declare anyone righteous. The law was written to declare everyone a sinner!

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
–Romans 3:20

The law tells you what sin is and makes you guilty

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
–Romans 3:19

The law declares people to be sinners. Paul says in Romans 7 that the law actually stirs up the flesh to sin more. The law makes sin abound.

You can’t be justified by the law because the law could never declare anyone to be righteous. The law points out how unrighteous you are.

The law has NO POWER to make you righteous. If the law can’t make you righteous; then the law can’t declare you righteous.

The only way you can be truly declared righteous in God’s eyes is if something existed that could make you righteous!

That aint the law!

But it is the Gospel!

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
–Romans 5:19

The Gospel declares you righteous because the Gospel makes you righteous, not just in God’s head or your head, but in actual conduct.

The law cannot do that because the law is weak through the flesh. It has no power to make you do anything right, therefore, it can never declare anyone righteous because before it; no one is righteous.

The law won’t justify you; the Gospel will. Come to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be made righteous.

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
–Romans 6:17-18

Justification is Real

Justification is a word thrown around quite a bit by Christians. Any time Christians throw a word around a lot, expect it to have become battered and bruised.

Justification has become a legal term. It means “to declare someone righteous.” But this is more than a legal term, more than God moving you from the unrighteous column to the righteous column.

Something more is going on.

Unfortunately, for many, justification is synonymous with salvation. The Reformers are talked about “justification by faith.” To the extent that justification now means salvation.

Justification is a part of salvation; it’s not the whole thing.

Justification is a declaration that God makes based on who He has made you.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
–Romans 5:19

Romans 5:19 is not talking about declaring you righteous! It says you have been made righteous through Christ’s work on the cross.

 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
–2 Corinthians 5:21

Again, this is not just a declaration; it’s a real thing God has made us. We have been made righteous.

So, get this: The reason why God declares us righteous is because He made us righteous!

The common understanding of justification is that God declares us righteous even though we keep living in sin. God just ignores that. God just pretends we’re righteous even though He, we, and everyone else knows we’re not.

Justification understood this way makes God a delusional liar. Yet this is how most people understand justification.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
–1 Corinthians 6:9-11

You were unrighteous and doing unrighteous things, but now you’ve been made righteous. How so?

Because God has washed you [cleansed you from past sin], sanctified you [separated you from the world and called you to holy living different from the world], and justified you [declared you righteous because that’s what He’s made you].

Justification is not a mind game in God’s head. Justification is a declaration based upon what God has made you through the Gospel.

You used to live in sin, but now you’ve been washed, sanctified, and justified and no longer do those things.

Vincent’s Word Studies says about these verses:

Emphasizing the actual moral renewal, which is the true idea of justification. This is shown by the words “by the Spirit,” etc., for the Spirit is not concerned in mere forensic justification.

Justification is not the whole of salvation, nor is it a make-believe scenario. Justification is a declaration of who we are based on who God has made us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God is not a liar. If He calls someone righteous it has to be because they are actually righteous, not just in His head, but in reality.

Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
–1 John 3:7

What Does “A Means of Grace” Mean?

We are often told that there is nothing we can do to get God’s grace. If there were something to do to get grace, it would no longer be grace. It would be a wage given for services rendered.

Many of the same people who emphasize this point (often under “sola gratia“), at the same time, hold to a belief in there being “means of grace.”

A “means to an end” refers to stuff you do to bring about a result. A “means of grace” is using the word “means” in the same way. “Means of Grace” means: stuff you do to get God’s grace, (which view, ironically enough, is typically held by people who don’t think there’s anything you can do to get grace).

For the majority of the Protestant church, the means of grace are prayer, the preaching of the word, and the sacraments (typically limited to Communion and baptism).

By doing such things, people will receive God’s grace to build up their faith.

If you pray; God will grace you with faith-building stuff. If you receive the preaching of the Word; God gives grace. If you eat and drink the church’s stuff and get wet in church; grace will be given to you.

If you don’t do these things, presumably, you will not be given God’s grace.

I actually agree that there are things you do to get grace. I believe this because the Bible says this. However, the biblical means of grace are different from the standard view.

God gives grace to the humble: you must be humble to get God’s grace. Humility is a means of grace.

We are saved by grace through faith. Faith is a means of grace.

Note how believing and being humble go together, and also note how neither thing requires you to be at church!

The real issue behind the means of grace is that a church hierarchy is telling people they need to come to church in order to get God’s grace. You need our leaders and our rituals to get grace.

It’s a classic way of guilting people into church attendance. That’s what’s behind the means of grace.

Faith and humility are all you need to receive grace. They are the only biblically sanctioned means of grace there are.  You don’t need to be in church to do either of them.

You can do them right now, in fact. Give them a try. They work wonders. Grace is cool. It would be cool to get more! Go ahead and get more; aint nothin stoppin ya.

Paul Calling People Names

Yesterday I posted about Jesus’ tendency to tell things as they are, even if it meant calling people out on their sin.

If we are to follow Christ, it seems as if we should do the same thing.

This does not mean besmirching people’s character, or making up stuff, or being rude for the sake of being rude, but it does mean telling the truth.

If, in an effort to soften our verbiage, we end up lying, we are forsaking love’s delight in the truth.

Not only did Jesus Christ call people out, so did the Apostle Paul. There may be some who defend Jesus’ manner in calling people out by saying, “Well, yeah, He’s the Son of God, of course He can call us wicked and faithless.”

Well, Paul is not the Son of God, he’s a sinner like you and me, in fact, he calls himself the chief of sinners.

He calls himself that because Paul speaks the truth. Not only does he call other people stuff, he calls himself names!

In the book of Titus he says:

One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true.

In another fascinating passage, Acts 23:3, Paul says to the high priest

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

Paul calls him a name, judges his performance, and calls upon God to smite him!

Paul later apologized for saying that to the high priest with the supposed defense that he did not know the guy was the high priest!

Paul is rather feisty. Jesus Christ was a tad feisty. People who speak the truth will be feisty, or at least come across that way.

Now, being feisty for feisty’s sake is not the issue. I’m not calling you to be a jerk and call people names.

What I am doing is saying that truth tends to hurt. If you speak the truth you will say things about people that they will not take kindly.

Most resentment and offendedness is a result of guilt. People who know they are sinners don’t like their sin to be pointed out. They want to live in the delusional world that they are sinning and getting away with it and everything is cool.

If you are an easily offended person, that’s because you are not walking in truth and righteousness. If you know you’re doing the right thing, what people accuse you of will bother you very little.

A sign of wisdom is listening to reproof and correction. Stupid people are the only ones who get offended at people correcting them, would be another way to put it.

This is a careful issue and I can easily be taken out of context. Hear what I’m saying.

My point is not that we should be judgmental jerks to people.

My point is to speak the truth and also, as you speak it, make sure you’re hearing it yourself. Start by dealing truthfully with your own sin before taking an interest in everyone else’s sin.

Calling People Names for Jesus

Everyone and their mother is upset right now over being called names, or being labeled and stereotyped.

Sticks and stones break people’s bones, names didn’t use to. Now, apparently they do.

In response to the hyper-sensitivity, we now come down on anyone who ever says anything the slightest judgmental about what someone else is doing.

As much as I agree we need to guard our mouths and be careful not to do unfair, self-righteous judging of others, I would also like to point out that there is a time and a place for labeling people for what they are.

Allow me to illustrate be quoting our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
–Matthew 12:34

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
–Matthew 12:39

Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
–Matthew 12:45

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.
–Matthew 16:4

Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?
–Matthew 17:17

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
–Matthew 23:33

And that’s just Matthew!

Jesus is talking about a large group of people, a generation. Certainly He’s stereotyping and labeling with His generalizations.

Now, I’m not for you going out calling people names or stereotyping people.

I am for a call to reasonableness. At least for calling a spade a spade, rather than calling a spade a “garden implement useful for turning soil.”

Words mean things and need to be used carefully, wisely, and righteously.

We still live in the midst of a crooked, perverse, faithless, and wicked generation of vipers.

We should admit that. We should also admit we are part of that generation and are therefore implicated for our own part.

Sin is sin. Evil is evil. Call it what it is. Sinners sin. Speak the truth and call things what they are. This will protect you and also potentially help others.

BUT, proceed with love, grace, and compassion. Love rejoices in the truth. Don’t fear truth.

Evangelical Christians and Politics

I am reading a book called, The Evangelicals. It is a history of the Evangelical movement within American Christianity, particularly the political involvement they have gotten into over the years.

It’s a 600 page book. The first 200 pages dealt with Wesley through Billy Graham. The last 400 is from Billy Graham to today. It has bogged down tremendously.

One fascinating thing that stands out to me is how ridiculous, from a historical perspective, church leaders look when they get involved in politics.

Politics is driven by fear. There are HUGE problems, so vote for us to solve them. If they solved them; you wouldn’t need them anymore! So, they never get around to solving issues, just changing them and freaking everyone out along the way so they get votes.

When the Church, which is allegedly filled with people with eternal hope, gets involved in temporal squabbles heightened by fear, they look really stupid.

This is especially true when they fall for predictions about the future. There have been so many “threats” to us that should have wiped us out. But none of the major fears ever developed and predictions, predictably (!), fail.

What happened was Evangelicalism, which originally just meant people who were focused on the Gospel (the “evangel” part of Evangelical), got wrapped up with politics. Billy Graham solidified the movement. He thought he was doing the right thing at the time. Richard Nixon broke his heart.

The church got sucked into Republican politics with the Moral Majority and so forth in the 1970’s-90’s. They got carried away and got used, while America continued to remain firmly nowhere near Evangelical ideals.

So, the church learned its lesson. It got tired of being lumped in with rightwing nutjobs. Which brings us to today.

While reading this book about the roaring 70’s-90’s Republican Christian Might, a debate over the Social Gospel erupted.

The Social Gospel, often called Social Justice, Movement is nothing more than leftwing nutjob thinking.

The lesson the church apparently has learned from our losing with the Right, is to join the Left.

I fully expect that in about 40 years all these church leaders fired up over the new leftwing Social Justice stuff will look just as ridiculous as the rightwingers of the 70’s look to us now.

Allow me to posit a theory.

Perhaps the lesson the church should have learned from the disastrous Moral Majority days, is not to shift from the Right to the Left, but rather to stay out of the world’s fray to begin with.

Something like, oh, I don’t know, come out from among them and be separate. What fellowship has light with darkness? Set your affection on things above and not things on the earth. Not falling for the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that choke out spiritual growth.

Maybe something like that. You know, like, what the Bible says and stuff.

Just a theory.

How to Get Grace

There are some who read that title and are already ticked off!

“There’s nothing you do to get grace! Grace is God’s undeserved favor. If you did something to get it; then it wouldn’t be grace!”

This is the view of Calvinism and the “I” of their TULIP–Irresistible Grace.

Irresistible Grace says the only way you get grace is if God chooses you to get it. If you win the luck of the draw, God will shove His grace down your throat whether you want it or not.

OK, that was my cynical and not very complimentary definition of Irresistible Grace. It is, however, in essence what it is, just without the theological politeness!

Clearly I do not believe in Irresistible Grace. Grace can be resisted; that’s why there are people in hell.

Saying there is something you do to get grace does not mean we earn grace, merit grace, nor that we worked for grace.

Doing something to get grace merely means we met the conditions upon which grace is granted.

There are several conditions the Bible says we meet to get grace.

First, is faith. We are saved by grace through faith. We believe the Gospel, we believe that Jesus Christ is the only one able to save us. When we believe this, we receive the benefits of God’s grace.

Second, is humility. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Being humble is not a work of the flesh. Humility is knowing your flesh can’t work anything to save itself.

Third, is love. Here I will quote a little quoted verse, Ephesians 6:24, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” If you don’t love Jesus Christ sincerely; no grace for you!

None of this says we earn grace or worked for it. Grace is a beautiful thing. God, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, provides everything we need for salvation. This is offered by His grace.

Our response is a faithful, humble, love that is drawn to the humble love Christ demonstrated on the cross. It’s grabbing on to Jesus Christ for salvation in love and faith, completely appreciating and being humbled by His salvation.

This is not a fleshly work that puffs up the fleshly nature. This is simply a realization of who we are and who Christ is, and our desperate need for Him.

There is a reason why some get God’s grace for salvation and some don’t. It’s not luck of the draw either. It’s based on your humble, faithful, and loving reaction to the grace and love of God.

Go get some grace! You need it!

When the Bible Interferes With Your Doctrine

Occasionally, when you read the Bible, it will become apparent that what you were taught is not what the Bible says.

What to do when the Bible disagrees with your doctrine?

Usually you start by asking your teacher, “Hey, how comes this here verse don’t say what you done told me?”

Your teacher will more than likely explain the verse away, or list 14 other verses that distract the issue, and let you know that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation. They will tell you that the problem, of course, lies with you and your uneducatedness. Good thing you have such a wise teacher!

You will then go back and read the Bible some more and you will come across the same question. You will remember what your teacher told you. You will look up the 14 verses that were listed, which you are now also more familiar with. Sometimes your understanding really was off and the teacher was right.

But other times you will figure out that the answers you were given don’t quite seem to jive with Scripture. In fact, often times, they conflict with verse after verse.

For many years I, along with just about every evangelical, was taught that we are saved by faith alone. I assumed the Bible said this. There are 14 verses people will list to prove that we are saved by faith alone. None of those 14 verses says we are saved by faith alone.

In fact, the only time the Bible mentions being justified by faith only is in James 2, where it clearly says we ARE NOT justified by faith only.

There are volumes written to explain why we are justified by faith alone and how you just don’t understand James, or you don’t understand why you don’t have to listen to James, or some other explanation you don’t understand.

You can hear the answers and have it explained to you 4,000 times and still not be able to get around James saying we are not justified by faith only.

So, at a certain point you have to decide: will I go with the doctrinal gymnastics of my group, or will I simply take the plain language of the Bible and go with that?

Most go with the group.

Some go with the Bible. I recommend going with the Bible.

Take the simplest explanation of each passage, which can only be seen by the context. Pretend that every verse means exactly what it says, stop trying to cancel out one verse with another one, and you’ll be amazed at how much more easy the Bible is to understand.

Stick with that simple message and act as though it were true.

If the simple message of the verses disagrees with your doctrine, make appropriate adjustments to your doctrine. Do not adjust the verses to your doctrine!

Everyone knew what James was talking about until Martin Luther invented justification by faith alone. Ever since then people have been trying to reconcile man’s ideas with James’ inspired message. And this is one example of about 5,000 where our man-made doctrine disagrees with Scripture.

Everything is simplified if you just drop man’s ideas and stick with the God-breathed words of Scripture.

You will be amazed at how consistent and simple the Bible is once you decide to stop defending your doctrinal camp. It’s truly beautiful and I highly recommend it.

Act as though the Bible is true. Do the work to find out what it means based on the context. Put those words into action. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word. If you are following man’s doctrine and not God’s Word, then faith is not what you are doing.

God’s Word is what has life. Don’t let man’s ideas keep you from the living Word of God.

Consequences of Substitutionary Atonement

Substitutionary Atonement (SA) is a flawed understanding of the Gospel, in my opinion. SA says that Christ died in the exact place of every believer so they don’t have to.

The Bible says believers were crucified with Christ. “With” is different than “in the place of.”

As an example, when Christ was crucified, two thieves were crucified too. Listen to how the Bible talks about this:

Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left
–Matthew 27:38

These thieves were crucified with Christ. By “with” it is meant that they were also crucified alongside of Christ! In no way would we take “with” here to mean “Christ died in place of those two thieves.”

So, later, when Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ,” there is no way Paul is saying “Christ was crucified in my place so I don’t have to.”

Yet the Church has taught this idea of substitution for about 600 years. Wrong doctrine leads to wrong living. What we believe determines what we do. We want to get our thinking right so our lives are right.

We can now observe trends in the church since SA was invented and has taken root, and quite frankly, I’m not impressed.

SA has led to several flawed outcomes:

  1. Calvinism. It is particularly seen in the completely anti-biblical notion of Limited Atonement as we’ve discussed. Calvinism is wrong, and it’s wrong because it’s based on a faulty notion of the Gospel. Calvinism is SA; SA is Calvinism.
  2. Easy-Believism. It’s great to talk about how some guy 2,000 years ago did some painful thing for me and all I do is believe it like a fairy tale, and then reap the benefits. If Christ did it all for me and it’s all about Him, then I’m basically inconsequential. Who cares? I believe the story so I’m done.
  3. Health and Wealth. Christ took all the bad stuff, all we get are the blessings. Christ did the suffering so we could live it up. My increasing bank balance proves the degree to which I believe in Jesus Christ. Suffering and death are far removed from health and wealth doctrine.
  4. Biblical Illiteracy. If Christ did the dying and the raising and I have nothing to do with anything, then in what sense do I need any instruction about anything? Who cares what I do if all that matters is what Christ did? If I’m not crucified with Him, then I am not raised up with Him to new life, so who needs instructions about how to live a new life? The Bible becomes irrelevant.
  5. Let Go and Let God. Christ does it all, we passively sit by and let all the stuff Christ did take care of everything. We idly sit by, being stoic and victorious in our happy thoughts. Christ does the suffering; we do the sitting and smiling.

The Bible does not teach that Christ died in your place. The Bible says Christ died for you, and, if you believe His Gospel, you are crucified, buried, and raised up with Christ. This looks like a loss of all things related to your old way of life. It looks like an actual death takes place, old things are passed away. There is then a new life identified with Christ’s resurrection life. We need to be taught this new way of life by the Spirit, who mortifies the deeds of the body and instructs us in what to do so spiritual fruit results.

Today’s evangelical Gospel is completely passive to the believer. It’s all about what some guy did 2,000 years ago and we just sit and soak up the benefits.

The New Testament does not speak this way.

There is a fight to be fought, a race to be won. There is an enemy to resist. There is supposed to be sacrifice, suffering, and cross carrying. There is a life-giving love for others, including enemies. There is a humility and a service, the mind of Christ, that lays down life for the benefit of others.

This new way of life is only possible through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of His Spirit working in us. There is no way we can do this on our own. But this in no way means we don’t have something to do with it! There are tons of commands in the New Testament, things we’re supposed to do, and there’s a coming judgment to assess how we did with what we were given.

SA is a passive understanding of the Gospel: what someone else did in your place that you have no part in. The New Testament speaks of the Gospel as being vital, alive, incredibly active and life-changing. There is power here, power at work in the believer. It’s not simply a historical fact that we intellectually are cool with.

This is life! This is power! This is something exhilarating and life altering! The Gospel makes things happen to you. It rebirths you, raises you up to new life, gives you resources to defeat and put to death the affections and lusts of the old way of life, and come alive to new life in Christ.

There’s so much here, and I think SA completely undermines it and gives believers the idea that the Gospel is just a cute story we believe about some historical figure and since I’m in the club that likes that story, I’ll just carry on like before, happy I’m in the right club.

The Gospel is not a passive acceptance of a story. It’s a new way of life! A life we get by joining in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Doctrine and the Gospel

I saw this quote on the internet the other day:

A rejection of penal substitutionary atonement is a rejection of the gospel. Either you’re saved through the work of Christ on the Cross, or you’re not saved at all.

I fully agree that you are saved by the work of Christ on the cross or not at all (as long as the resurrection is included). No problem there.

But the idea that my belief in the Gospel equals my belief in a man-made attempt to explain what Christ did, crosses the line.

Substitutionary atonement is not the Gospel. It’s the Calvinist/Reformed understanding of the Gospel.

If this quote is true, then only Calvinist/Reformed people can be saved.

This is one example of many I have seen and heard over the years. This is not an issue with substitutionary atonement; it’s an issue with overstating your case.

The fact that you can read your doctrine into the Gospel does not mean that your doctrine IS the Gospel.

One of the main problems Jesus Christ had with the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day was the demand to adhere to their ideas rather than adhering, by faith, to God Himself.

Believing what people say is not believing the Gospel! Believing a person’s summation of the Gospel is not believing the Gospel!

You do not have to have 100% agreement in doctrine with some elite group in order to get into heaven.

Furthermore, substitutionary atonement was not codified until about 600 years ago. Are we to believe that no one was saved before the Reformers showed us what the Gospel was?

Your job is to know the Lord Jesus Christ. To grow in your love for Him and all He has done and will do for you.

All of this is based upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection. It is not based on adherence or conformity to a group’s doctrine.

The temptation to say “Only people who agree with me are saved because I’m the only one who knows what the Gospel is” ruins people, leads to self-righteousness, and divides the Church.

Stop doing that.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

That’s a direct quote from the Bible and there are other verses like it. None of these verses say “believe what some guy theorized about what Jesus did and you will be saved.”

Know Christ yourself. Know His Gospel. Pray and talk with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. People can help you understand the Gospel (Ephesians 4 makes that clear), but nowhere is salvation promised to those who agree in totality with some random group.

Deal with God. He’s your Judge. Deal with the Word of God, for by His Word you will be judged.

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
–Matthew 15:8-9

The Messiah No One Really Wants

Jesus is the Messiah. The word “Christ” means the anointed one, it’s a messianic title. When you call Jesus “Christ,” you are acknowledging that He is your Messiah.

Anyone can say that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, but the true test is if we follow the Messiah.

Here’s the funny thing: humans aren’t too happy with the Messiah we got.

Many people followed Jesus while He was ministering on earth. But then He was turned over to the Romans, mocked, spit on, whipped, and eventually crucified. What’s up with that?

The two disciples on the Road to Emmaus talked with the resurrected Jesus unknowingly. Here’s what they were talking about:

the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel
–Luke 24:20-21

They thought He was the Messiah, but then crucifixion happened! They left the city. They took off. They gave up. Guess we were wrong.

Twice in Luke 24 Jesus shows them from Scripture that the Messiah had to suffer and be resurrected.

When the Apostles begin teaching in Acts, a repeated theme is pointing out from the Law and the Prophets that the Messiah had to suffer and be resurrected (Acts 3:14-19; 17:1-3; 26:19-23).

The biggest thing that made them doubt the Messiahness of Jesus was His suffering and death. Jesus and the Apostles say no, actually, His suffering and resurrection are the biggest proof that He is the Messiah!

Israel didn’t want a suffering Messiah. They wanted a triumphal Messiah. His awesomeness would make them awesome. He was supposed to overthrow the Romans and restore Israeli prominence. Instead He submits to the Roman authority and gets crucified by them on a cross.

You would think that now, after we have the completed Gospel lived out and the full Scripture revealed to us, we’d be cool with a suffering Messiah.

We are, as long as we’re talking about Jesus suffering for us. Jesus died and now I’m happy all the day!

We throw the suffering on Jesus and now Jesus makes the American Dream come true for me. I get health and wealth and my best life now! Yippee! Thank you, suffering Jesus!

We’re cool with a suffering Messiah as long as I just get the benefits. But the New Testament tells us to follow Christ, to have the mind of Christ, that only if we suffer with Him will we be glorified with Him, that we are living sacrifices, that we are to take up the cross, deny ourselves, and follow the Man of sorrows acquainted with grief.

Wait, wait, wait! I have to follow Christ in His sufferings? No thanks!

We don’t like the suffering Messiah anymore than the Jewish people of His day did.

No one likes suffering. No one likes to be around suffering people. No one wants to follow a suffering person into their very suffering so it becomes ours too.

We signed up for the good stuff and that’s it.

If you’re not suffering in following the suffering Messiah, there’s a real good chance you’re not following the suffering Messiah. You’re probably just following the Bestest, Funnest Messiah of Your Dreams.

Calvinism and Easy-Believism

“Easy Believism,” to define terms, is the belief that the Gospel is a set of facts you agree with that matter nothing at all once they are believed.

Practically, Easy Believism  looks like this:

You are presented with the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again. If you believe this, you say the sinner’s prayer, or get baptized, or do some other initiation rite, and then carry on. No strings attached. No obligation. No accountability. Nothing really matters now; you’re saved! And, once saved always saved, so live it up! Believing the Gospel makes sin OK. Anyone who tells you you’re supposed to stop sinning and do good instead, is a legalist and should be avoided.

That is what Easy-Believism is. The vast majority of Christians are in this camp in one form or another. Many may not express these words, but they live as though these words are true.

Easy-Believism is not biblical. It’s based entirely on human ideas, wishes, and philosophy. The underlying theological system behind it is Calvinism.

Calvinism’s main tenet of faith is Substitutionary Atonement. This is the idea that our sins were imputed to Christ who died on the cross and rose again. Christ’s righteous deeds were then imputed to us. Therefore, we have swapped out our sins for Christ’s good deeds. This is expressed by saying “Christ kept the law for us.” Or, “God doesn’t see what I do; He only sees what Christ did for me.”

Substitutionary Atonement has problems.

If Christ died in place of each believer, then atonement becomes limited. Christ could have only died for eventual believers. Therefore Christ did not die for the sins of the world as the Bible states, but only for the sins of the elect. The offer of forgiveness to whosoever may come is disingenuous at best, and deceptive at worst.

The idea that we were saved by Christ keeping the law for us, means we are saved by works and not by Christ’s death and resurrection, which makes the Gospel essentially vain.

If God only sees Christ’s good deeds credited to me and not my own deeds, then all warnings in the Bible about not sinning and giving an account for every deed done in the body, seem pointless. God would then be the worst judge possible because He can’t see who it is He’s judging. Judgment all seems rather ridiculous anyway, because God ordains everything we do, so why bust us for doing what God ordained for us to do?

Substitutionary Atonement is the ground of Calvinism. They stand and fall together. Substitutionary Atonement is also the ground of Easy-Believism. Throw Calvinism’s warped concept of predestination on top of it–you are saved by God’s sovereign choice and there’s nothing you can do about it–and Easy-Believism is sealed up in a nice, tight package.

According to Calvinism, I can’t believe anyway unless God saves me first. This is the easiest of Easy-Believisms. We are not even accountable to believe under this system!

I am fully aware that every Calvinist who would read this would say I’ve constructed straw man arguments and that I don’t understand Calvinism.

I would disagree. I’ve read Calvin’s Institutes and wrote a paper on each chapter. I’ve studied extensively Calvinist writings and sermons. I’ve had the argument hundreds of times. Calvinism is wrong. Substitutionary Atonement is wrong.

You are accountable to believe the Gospel and you will give an account before God for every deed done in the body.

I’m aware that no one likes this message, but it is the message of Scripture. The fact that you can find humans who have an established theology that contradicts this and makes you feel better about things, does not mean you’re hearing truth!

It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment. It’s coming. Don’t play games.

Calvinism and Evolution

Both society and the institutional church help people justify their irresponsible, sinful behavior.

The Bible says we’ve all been given life by our Creator and are accountable to listen to Him. The only ones who can truly listen are those who have been born again and receive divine assistance by coming to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Obedience is the point of salvation. God saved you to obey Him. Ephesians 2:8-10 most succinctly says this. We aren’t saved by obeying; we obey because we are saved, it’s what salvation creates us to do.

Perhaps the leading justification society gives you is based on evolutionary thinking. An unguided, random process brought us all here. We are products of this process and are driven by evolutionarily received genes. We have no choice really, but to obey our genes and drive evolution forward.

“Sin,” for the evolutionist, is anything that thwarts the greater good of evolving the species. “If it’s not hurting anyone, go for it” is the basic morality. But even if it does, quite frankly, it’s all part of the process taking out weaker elements.

I have heard evolutionists say that all the stuff that people do must be there for a reason. Evolution wired it into us and there must be a wise evolutionary reason it’s there. Somehow, and this is all a big mystery, this random process requires the rape of women to further its cause. So sin is really not that big of a deal. Ultimately, we praise evolution because everything that happens advances its process.

Most of the justifications the church gives for our irresponsibility comes out of Calvinism. Calvinism says that God has ordained whatever comes to pass from eternity past. If we sin, it must be because God wired it into us, there must be some reason why its there. Somehow, and this is all a big mystery, God requires the rape of women to further His cause. So sin isn’t really that big of a deal. Ultimately, we praise God because everything that happens advances His glory.

It’s rather startling how similar the takes on reality are in these two systems. Both end up denying free will. Both end up denying accountability and responsibility. Both end up chalking up bad stuff to mystery, not quite sure why it’s there, but suck it up, it must be for our good.

The common defense of the Calvinist is that not all Calvinists act like this. Famous Calvinists will be propped up and defended “They never acted like sin was no big deal.”

True. I find both Calvinists and evolutionists to be inconsistent in fully living out what they say they believe.

Calvinism leads people to believe that sin isn’t that big of a deal. Easy-Believism is not a non-Calvinist invention! I’m not saying that all Calvinists adhere to Easy-Believism, but all consistent ones do!

Calvinism, in many people’s opinion, comes from Greek Philosophy. Calvin based his stuff on Augustine, who based his stuff on the Greek philosophy he grew up in. Calvinism is rooted in philosophy.

Evolution is a philosophical construct as well. Sure, it sneaks in under the guise of science, but its the underlying philosophy that leads people to see evolution in the supposed evidence.

Human philosophy generally downplays sin, personal responsibility, and accountability. No one wants to be held accountable for what they do. But guess what? God is not a human! God’s wisdom is not rooted in human philosophy and guess what God thinks about responsibility and accountability?

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
–2 Corinthians 5:10-11

How The Church Keeps You Irresponsible

The Gospel is God’s way of bringing sinful people who don’t want to be held accountable by their Creator into being people who desire to do, and can do, what their Creator says.

Society does not like the Gospel. The Gospel is a massive downer to our selfish, narcissistic tendencies. You would expect society to be hostile to the Gospel. No one should be shocked that the world does not like the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What’s more amazing is how the church has become hostile to the Gospel. The Church is supposed to be the one place upholding the word of truth, yet we realize that no one is interested in the truth.

People in the church are just as selfish, narcissistic, and sinful as anyone else. These tendencies don’t magically disappear because you walk into a church building.

Churches want buildings and money and followers and everything else the world has. But in order to get such things, you have to keep unbelievers happy. Therefore, you can’t proclaim the Gospel, which the world thinks is foolish.

The Church, rather than upholding the Gospel and being a place where people can be built up in Christ, has become just another human institution on this earth doing its own selfish, narcissistic thing. The Church is not doing its responsibility. The church may be the most irresponsible institution on the face of the planet at this point.

Instead of proclaiming the Gospel that can rebirth you in Christ Jesus so you can do what God desires, the church has become one more institution telling you why its OK to be irresponsible. The church has come up with the following justifications for irresponsible behavior:

–God is love. He has no problem with anything you do. He just loves you and wants you to be happy.

–The Gospel actually turns Jesus into a magic pocketbook. If you listen to Him, He will give you all the fleshly desires you could imagine.

–Grace covers it all. It doesn’t matter what you do, God forgives you and nothing matters. Desiring to do good, in fact, might be a sign you’ve fallen from grace.

–God is in sovereign control. Every molecule of creation is doing exactly what God wants it to do. Nothing you do is of your own free will, and, somehow, God is glorified by it all.

Perhaps few come out and say it so bluntly, but this is the basic takeaway people get from these doctrinal distortions.

The church needs fleshly stuff, therefore it must keep fleshly people happy. The Gospel will never keep fleshly people happy.

So we’ve invented false gospels. We’ve constructed elaborate doctrinal structures to explain away personal responsibility. We now biblically explain to people why it’s biblical to not listen to the Bible. It’s a truly bizarre situation.

The church is not supposed to be part of the problem. We’re supposed to be upholding the solution: the Gospel of Jesus Christ that rebirths people into new life in Christ Jesus.

Instead we’ve fallen into the world’s trappings. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches has choked the life out of the church.

So, even church-goers believe their irresponsibility is OK. That God doesn’t really care what we do. That Judgment Day will be a judgment based on happy thoughts, rather than on deeds done in the body.

And we like it this way. But this will not work out well in The End.

Justification by Faith Alone and John 8

John 8 is one of the more fascinating chapters concerning justification by faith.

John 8:30 says “many believed on Him,” the “Him” being Jesus Christ. If you believe that we are justified by faith alone, you would conclude that these people are saved.

Jesus Christ, who does not believe people are justified by faith alone, says, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31).

Jesus Christ, the judge of peoples’ hearts, knows the true test is not whether you momentarily believed something, but whether you continue to hear everything He says.

Jesus Christ continues to talk to this same group who said they believed on Him. Although they liked the first three minutes of what He said, they argue everything He says for the rest of the chapter. He eventually tells them their father is the Devil because God’s word is not in them and they do the works of their father.

Jesus Christ, the judge, does not base His judgment of their faith on what they say, but on what they do. He accuses them of wanting to kill Him. If God were your Father, you would not want to kill Christ.

They deny all along that they want to kill Him. But guess what they do at the end of the chapter in verse 59? “Then took they up stones to cast at Him

Jesus Christ was right in His judgment all along! Surprise, surprise.

Again, this is the same group of people who said they believed on Him. The audience did not shift at all.

If you believe people are justified by faith alone, you would conclude that these people who want to stone the Christ are saved. You would be wrong.

This is not losing salvation. Genuine, saving faith continues in God’s Word. It keeps hearing and obeying and doing what God says. It would not decide to stone Jesus Christ!

Every judgment in the Bible is based on works. God does not judge you based on a momentary word of faith out of your mouth, but on a pattern of belief. Was there any change after your professed belief?

What about the thief on the cross?

After his confession, he told the other guy to knock off ridiculing Jesus Christ. he confessed his sin and his need of a Savior. Christ knows our hearts. He knows that if the thief on the cross had a longer life, he would live it serving Christ.

God is the judge. He tells us what His judgment is based on: not a momentary faith-like deed, not happy thoughts and words, but rather on the character of the life lived.

The Gospel brings new life. If there is no new life then you don’t believe the Gospel. Many profess to know God, but in deeds they deny Him.

Jesus bases salvation on whether you continue in His word, not whether you said you wanted to start one time.

This is a devastating message to modern Christian doctrine if you will hear it. Judgment Day is coming. Now is the time to get ready.

Easy Believism and Guilt

The basic attempt by people who hold to justification by faith alone is to eliminate personal responsibility in doing what God says.

The temptation of making salvation dependent upon merely nodding your head to the Gospel and then continuing on in your old life is great.

Everyone wants to think that sin isn’t bad. I can still do it and get to heaven. I don’t need to change anything. God loves me just the way I am.

It sounds great and certainly it will result in an easier life! But every attempt at eliminating the responsibility to listen to God will be shown to be foolishness.

Since there’s no reason you should listen to me, I’ll quote Jesus Christ Himself.

At the end of The Sermon on the Mount, a list of impossible commands for anyone in the flesh to possibly follow, Jesus Christ says this:

 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

If you do not do what Jesus commands you are a fool. The storms of life will knock you and all you’ve ever built over. Nothing but destruction.

I really am amazed at the number of Christians who try to convince me I don’t have to listen to God’s Word. Loopholes come fast and furious when specific commands get brought up.

No one wants to have to obey. No one certainly wants anything important riding on whether they obey or not.

Why so much skittishness there? Why do people feel the need to convince others they don’t have to listen?

If you are one who goes around telling others they don’t have to listen to God’s commands, it’s because of your own guilt. I see no other motivation–perhaps the exception of people trying to get you to listen to them.

But I don’t think most Christians are trying to get followers or start a cult. Most are just covering their own guilt. Doing what is right makes people doing wrong feel bad.

People are not content to just sin. They have to flaunt their sin. They desire societal approval of their chosen sin. They do this because of a nagging sense of guilt eating away at them.

At the heart of all the versions of an Easy Gospel is a lack of responsibility and tremendous guilt.

Instead of legitimately believing the Gospel and obeying God’s commands through the new Spiritual Nature we’ve been given, people wallow in their man-made Gospel that sounds easy, but never truly answers the guilt problem.

The only way to not feel guilt is to not do things that make you feel guilty.

It’s quite simple in theory! Through the power of God in you, it can be a reality too. The Gospel delivers people from bondage to sin. It really does.

If yours doesn’t, it’s because you have the wrong Gospel.

Salvation Is Hard

Many years ago I was talking to an older guy about fixing a broken something or other. He was a handyman type, knew how to fix everything. I’m a waste of space at fixing things.

He was telling me how simple it was to do this repair. To emphasize how simple it was he said, “It’s as easy as getting saved.”

I was stunned by his statement. I remember laughing and saying something like, “Hm, I never thought getting saved was all that easy.” He was then stunned by my statement!

There are many who think “getting saved” is easy. If you view justification by faith alone the way most do–nodding your head yes at the appropriate time of the emotional Gospel presentation–then yeah, getting saved is easy.

Easy Salvation agrees to the facts of the Gospel and you’re good to go.

What amazes me is watching Jesus Christ talk to people about salvation. He drove so many away. In fact, Jesus always seemed to make salvation harder than people thought.

The classic example is the Rich Young Ruler, “Go and sell all your stuff and give to the poor, come, and follow me.” Can you imagine explaining to the Rich Young Ruler that making a repair was “as easy as getting saved?”

It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. That sounds hard to me.

The gate is strait and the way is narrow; few there be who find it. Sounds pretty hard to me.

If you don’t hate mother, father, son, and daughter you cannot be my disciple. Sounds pretty hard to me.

Anyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Sounds pretty hard to me.

Take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me. Sounds pretty tough.

I think you get the idea.

Salvation is not mental assent to facts about Jesus. Salvation is a new way of life, one that must be thought about carefully. You sure you want to do that? You sure it’s worth it to lose your money, your family peace, your friendships, your cares of this world, and your carefully constructed reputation that will become dung?

You sure?

Yet most people will say, “Pssh, I’ve never had to do any of that, and I’m saved. It was easy for me.”

Judgment Day is going to be a real shocker to many people. Don’t be one of them. Wake up today. Read the Word. Realize that salvation is the hardest decision you’ll ever make and it might possibly ruin your life.

For many in the Great Cloud of Witnesses, salvation didn’t pay off until they were dead and finally inherited the Better Country.

Until then, salvation kind of stunk. Don’t rush people into making a decision. Particularly don’t push kids into it; they have no idea what the implications are. So much of our Gospel is wrong and so many of our Gospel presentations are wrong.

Read the Parable of the Sower. 3 out of 4 didn’t get in. If words mean what they say, salvation is not easy.

If you think it is, more than likely it comes from your warped, man-made view of justification by faith alone.

You’re Probably Deceived About Your Righteousness

Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

That’s 1 John 3:7, a verse in your Bible.

There’s a reason John warns us not to be deceived on this issue. It’s because he knows we’re going to be deceived on this issue.

The issue is that righteousness is real. If you are righteous, you will do righteous things. In fact, doing righteous things is what makes you qualified to be called “righteous.”

Don’t be deceived into thinking you can live in sin and yet call yourself “righteous.”

Yet living in sin and calling yourself “righteous” is fairly standard Evangelical Christian doctrine at this point.

We’ve been taught, and our flesh has desperately grabbed onto, the lie that we are righteous in Jesus Christ, therefore I can still sin and it’s no big deal.

We are deceived into thinking that God only sees Christ; He doesn’t see me.

The official doctrinal name for this teaching is Imputed Righteousness:

Christ obeyed the law. His law-keeping is added to my account, so even though I don’t keep the law, Jesus did for me. When God sees me; He sees the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

This is standard evangelical doctrine.

It is also insane.

Seriously, insanity is thinking things are one way when they are clearly another.

The idea that you can borrow someone else’s righteousness is never taught anywhere in Scripture, and, in fact, is explicitly refuted in Scripture (read Ezekiel 14 for one).

The Bible is also clear that we are not saved by works of the Law. Not by your works of the Law, nor even Christ’s! Think about it: if I’m saved by Christ’s law keeping added to my account, then I am saved by deeds of the law and Christ died in vain! A teaching the Bible repeatedly shoots down.

Calling someone righteous only happens if that someone is actually righteous.

To call someone who is unrighteous “righteous” would be lying. Deceit. Be not deceived.

Yet explaining this to people now, after hundreds of years of having it drummed into our heads, does not go over well. I will be the heretic for maintaining this very obvious, Scriptural, and common sensical idea.

It is explicitly stated in 1 John 3:7. It can’t be said any clearer.

So, instead of taking those clear words, we come up with reasons to explain why we don’t have to listen to John, or how John was talking about some other such doctrinal thing that way more educated people can confuse you about.

Nope. John, one of the best authors in Scripture at keeping things simple, is simply telling you that only righteous people alone are actually, get this, righteous.

None of us are naturally righteous. We are sinners. Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again to bring deliverance from sin. We, as placed into the Body of Christ, are now servants of righteousness. We do righteousness. A thing we never did before salvation.

The ability and power to do righteousness is a gift of the Gospel. God grants that power and His Spirit indwells us to mortify the deeds of the body and wake us up to an active, real righteousness in our lives.

If this new righteousness has not shown up in your life; you are not saved. You are not righteous.

You are not saved by working righteousness out of your own power. You are saved by working out the righteousness that Christ has worked in you through the power of the Gospel.

If that righteousness does not show up; you are not righteous and Christ is not in you and you are not in Christ.

We have reached the age where saying this is the oddball, heretical thing.

The deception is real. It’s already at work. Don’t fall for it. Wake up. Hear the clear words of Scripture. The Judgment is coming.

Grace and Works are Not Opposed to Each Other

I have long heard that grace and works are not compatible. If you are saved by grace, then works have nothing to do with anything.

The main proof text is Romans 11:6

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

The context of this verse is referring to the plan of God in choosing the Jewish people to bring forth the Messiah and God then putting them aside and now going primarily to the Gentiles.

Romans 9-11 has little to do with Calvinism and much to do with God’s plan of salvation and how Jews and Gentiles play their part in this plan.

When it comes to God’s plan, He will make sure there is a remnant that remains faithful to carry the plan ahead. This remnant is there by grace.

In other words, Jews didn’t become the Chosen People because they were so deserving of the honor. Nor are Gentiles now in because they are so much better.

Nope. No one earned that remnant status. The remnant is there because of grace.

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
–Romans 11:5

This elected remnant is there by grace, not by works. If you keep Romans 11:6 in its context, you can clearly see that Paul is explaining the election of the remnant. He’s not talking about how an individual gets saved, nor is he talking about life after an individual is saved.

To take this verse to mean that grace means we don’t do anything is just goofy.

But I have heard the point taken even further–if you do works, you are going against grace. This is even more goofiness.

Grace and works are not opposed to each other. Grace and work actually work together quite nicely.

Again, let me state, no one is saved by works. I think we’re clear on that. We are saved by grace through faith, it is not of ourselves, not by works, but as a gift from God.

And the next verse says we’re created in Christ Jesus by that same grace to do good works that God has ordained we should do. In other words, grace brings about salvation enabling us to do what God has always wanted people to do anyway–His will.

Grace, when properly understood and applied, will always result in good works. But alas, I’m just saying stuff. There’s no reason why you should listen to me. So, take a listen to God’s Word:

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
–1 Corinthians 15:10

You can know Paul has God’s grace by observing how much he labors. Doing nothing means you are taking God’s grace in vain–to no profit.

Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
–2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Grace brings us consolation, comfort, good hope, and establishes us in every good word and work. That’s what grace does every time it’s tried. It keeps you busy.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
–Titus 2:11-14

Grace doesn’t just bring salvation, it also teaches us to stop sinning and to start doing good stuff. The whole point of God giving grace to save people is to make a people who energetically pursue doing good works.

God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
–2 Corinthians 9:8

I’m not sure how it could be stated any more clearly than this.

The idea that grace and works are opposed to each other is just not true. Yes, there is truth in how people get saved–it is by grace and not by works. There is a definite distinction made there.

But when it comes to life after salvation, the whole point of God giving you grace is so you’d be able to do good works.

Salvation by grace isn’t about leaving you in your sin but when you die you can go to heaven.

Grace transforms and equips us to do good works in this present world. The benefits of grace can be had RIGHT NOW! A new life. A new passion. A new desire. A new heart. A new will. RIGHT NOW!

If you have God’s grace you will be doing good works. If you aren’t doing good works, you have taken His grace in vain, which means you haven’t taken it, folks.

You don’t do good works to get God’s grace. You get God’s grace to do good works.When you receive God’s grace, you do good works. Every. Single. Time.

Theologians Diminish Grace

Satan has focused a lot of his deception on the word “grace.” Grace is an abused word. It’s possible another word carries more theological baggage, but I can’t think of what that word would be.

Theology is an attempt to make the simplicity of God’s Word, something the faith of a child can grasp, and make it confusing so you feel like you need the Initiated Few.

You know when you’re walking into Confusing Theology Land when biblical words start getting adjectives stuck in front of them.

“Will” is an example. “Will” simply means a desire. God’s will is what God desires. It’s quite simple.

It remained simple until theologians became a thing. Now it’s not just “God’s will,” now it’s God’s

Decretive Will
Permissive Will
Sovereign Will
Desiderative Will
Directive Will
Perceptive Will

There could be more, it depends who you ask. Also some of the above may be the same wills, I don’t know. I’m not a theologian.

All of this is just silliness. But the silliness doesn’t stop there. The silliness is extended to God’s grace as well. There’s not just “God’s grace” anymore, now it’s God’s

Irresistible Grace
Prevenient Grace
Common Grace
Sanctifying Grace
Salvific Grace

And on it goes.

Here’s the interesting thing, none of these adjectives before will or grace are found in the Bible.

If you look up grace in your New Testament (KJV anyway) and look for adjectives before “grace,” here’s what you’ll find.

Acts 4:33—great grace
2 Corinthians 4:15—abundant grace
2 Corinthians 9:14—exceeding grace
James 4:6—more grace
1 Peter 4:10—manifold grace

All of these adjectives tell you one basic thing: God’s grace is massively huge! When God describes His grace; He makes grace big.

When theologians describe grace, they make it smaller. They whittle away at the concept. They make it fit their particular theological point of the time.

This is where problems start. After a while, we’re not even talking about God’s grace anymore; we’re talking about some theologian’s ax he likes to grind.

Which is why there’s one more adjective used before “grace” in the Bible:

1 Peter 5:12—true grace

Watch out for adjectives before biblical words. Theologians use them to limit a subject, mostly because the Bible doesn’t speak the way they do about a particular word.

Don’t let theologians confuse you about grace. Keep God’s grace big. That’s how He describes it.

Why Does God Take So Long?

I often hear Christians bemoan how long God takes to do stuff. This is especially so when it comes to the salvation of someone we love. It’s a hard thing to see someone head the wrong way. Why doesn’t God stop them?

There are many cliched Christian answers to for the “why does God take forever” dilemma:

–God’s timing is not our timing. There must be a reason why He is not intervening.
–God is eternal. A day with Him is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. We’re only impatient because we’re temporal.
–God works in mysterious ways.
–God’s word does not return void. They will be saved in God’s time.

Although some of these answers have kernels of truth, none of them rightly address the issue.

Most, if not all, of these answers approach things from a Calvinist perspective:

God does all the saving; people do nothing.
People are not saved because God doesn’t save them.
Therefore, we blame God for their unbelief. What is He waiting for?

The true answer to this dilemma is found in many places in the Bible, but perhaps most explicitly in Isaiah 30:18:

And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.

Isaiah 30’s context is about Israel waiting on God to bring judgment. They wait for Jerusalem to be elevated and peace to come, for all their promises to be fulfilled once and for all. Right now, however, as Isaiah writes these words, they are suffering.

They are waiting on God to fulfill His word. So, what is He waiting for? Why is He taking so long? Let’s get this thing going!

Isaiah wants them to know why God is taking forever to bring His judgment: He’s waiting for them to repent so He can be gracious! Isaiah 28:21 says judgment is God’s strange work. God would rather wait for people to repent than to wipe them out in impatience.

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
–Isaiah 30:15

The word “return” is the word for “repent.”

When you stick the whole chapter together God is reminding a questioning and impatient people that they are the problem!

If they return to Him, He will be gracious. He says that to them all over the place through the prophets. He’s holding off on final judgment so more may repent. That’s called GRACE.

As they are waiting for God, God is waiting for them!

Perhaps our impatience with God has more to do with our stupidity than God’s slackness in keeping His promises.

When it comes to finding fault, start with people and never throw the blame on God. We’re the idiots in this scenario.

7 Warped Doctrines That Make Sin Acceptable

Sin typically only bothers us when someone else does it. Our own sin lost its ugliness long ago.

Although not true for all, this is the view of the majority about sin.

One would think the Church would help people see their sin. But typically the Church fosters judgmental Pharisaism more than holiness.

Most church-goers don’t think their sin is a problem. Here are some doctrinal justifications that lead to this view:

1. Grace forgives all sin, so it doesn’t matter if you sin.

2. Your old nature did it, it had to happen, nothing you can do about it.

3. God doesn’t see you. He sees Christ’s righteousness.

4. Love covers a multitude of sin.

5. Baptism guarantees your entrance into heaven.

6. If sin is a problem, you can work it off in purgatory.

7. We’re justified by faith, not works; therefore it doesn’t matter what I do as long as I believe.

Although some of these doctrines have elements of truth, if they make you view sin as not being a problem, you’ve warped those elements of truth.

Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Love does cover sin, and it also patiently teaches and chastens. We are justified by faith and not works, and faith brings with it the power of the Gospel that makes us sons of God and equips us to every good work.

Sin is bad. We’re not supposed to do it.

Don’t ever lose sight of that simple idea.

Theology takes simple issues and makes them confusing so we can use our confusion as an excuse to do what we want.

Don’t do that.

Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
–1 John 3:7

Hitler, Stalin, and Calvinist Anger

Evolution News and Science Today is an excellent website about the issues of Intelligent Design.

This is not a Christian website. It’s a science website examining issues surrounding the debate between Evolution and Intelligent Design.

They have an article out today about the scientific attempt to deny free will–our actions are genetically predetermined, we have no real choice.

This is secularism’s version of Calvinism.

Calvinism and Secularism both deny free will, the only difference is over who controls our will. Calvinism says God does everything. Secularism says our genes do everything.

In the end, we do nothing. Our actions are our controlling agent’s fault.

Here are some quotes that lead to their point of what happens when we deny free will. Again, this is coming from a scientific, not a religious, standpoint.

But if . . . free will is not real, then there are no innocent people, any more than there are guilty people. There is no innocence or guilt at all, because innocence and guilt only have moral meaning if we have free will. If there is no free will and no innocence and guilt, there are just natural systems (us) doing what natural systems do.

. . . .

Hannah Arendt observed that a hallmark of totalitarian states is the eclipse of the concept of guilt and innocence. In a totalitarian state, masses of people are managed like livestock, irrespective of any imputation of personal guilt or innocence. Hitler didn’t kill Jewish children because they were guilty of crimes. He cared not whether they were guilty or innocent. Stalin didn’t starve millions of Ukrainians because they were individually guilty. He starved them as a matter of public policy, without regard for individual moral culpability.

The denial of free will, and the denial of moral culpability that follows on it, is the cornerstone of totalitarianism. The denial of free will does not, pace Dr. Sommers, herald an era of tolerance and understanding. It heralds an era of human livestock management, and the early experiments based on denial of free will and moral culpability — in Germany and the Soviet Union — have already been run.

Now, I am not saying that Calvinists will turn into Hitler and Stalin. I am saying this plays a part in why Calvinists have a reputation of being angry jerks.

They are not responsible for their angry jerkness. Nor do you have any value yourself to be treated with any dignity as an individual. For Calvinists there are two groups: 1) Evil vile sinners and 2) evil vile sinners whom God chose to love.

This does not, and will not, lead to an agreeable treatment of others. Remember, John Calvin burned a number of people at the stake. Observe his government he ran in Geneva. Does it sound a tad like what this article is talking about?

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.

Warring Against the War on Christmas

I was recently told that I, as a pastor, should be very concerned about the “War on Christmas.”

I must confess, I am not concerned with what the world does with Christmas.

It is a little known fact that Christmas used to be illegal to celebrate in America. The Puritans didn’t like it because it was Catholic–Christ-Mass. Do you see it? Puritans aren’t Catholic. Boo Catholics.

Now, I’m not suggesting Christmas should be illegal, I’m suggesting that I don’t care what the world does with Christmas and I feel no obligation as a Christian to be bothered by the “War on Christmas.”

What concerns me more than what the world does with Christmas, is what Christians do with Christmas.

Take this picture for instance:

This photo bothers me. It pops up in several versions and often comes with a poem. Here is one variation of the poem:

The sleigh was all packed, the reindeer were fed,
But Santa still knelt by the side of his bed,
“Dear Father, ” he prayed, “Be with me tonight.
There’s much work to do and my schedule is tight.
My sack will hold toys to grant all kids’ wishes.
The supply will be endless like the loaves and the fishes.
I can do all these things, Lord, only through You.
I just need your blessing, then it’s easy to do.
I do this only to honor the birth of the One,
That was sent to redeem us, Your most Holy Son.
So to all of my friends, lest Your glory I rob,
Please, Lord, remind them who gave me this job.”

OK, here’s where Jeff’s head explodes.

I just, I don’t even, I mean, come on, seriously?

The book of Ezekiel is about the downfall of Israel and Jerusalem, the dispersion of the Jewish people because they broke their Covenant with God.

Ezekiel says one of the main reasons why they were judged is because they lost the ability to discern between the sacred and the profane.

Sacred things are thing set apart for a purpose, things that are holy and sanctified.

Profane things are common, ordinary, every day usage kind of things.

Israel treated Sacred things like Profane things and they brought the Profane into what was Sacred. They lost their way.

I am not saying Santa kneeling before the manger photos are equivalent to the sin of Israel. I am saying it’s headed in that direction.

Santa is fictional. He’s not real. What confusion does this cause to kids? Is Jesus fictional too?

More than likely, the sincere attempt with this picture and poem is to elevate Christ. Our traditions bow before Jesus.

I get it. I know.

But I think the exact opposite occurs. I think instead we are yoking together the profane with the sacred.

I feel bad going after things like this, I really do. But where is the line between making a point and being blasphemous?

For me, this crosses the line. It’s sentimentalism that fails to keep a distinction between the sacred and the profane, and by doing so, ends up profaning the sacred.

If you want to celebrate Christmas, go for it. If you don’t want to, then don’t. But try and keep the blasphemy to a minimum.