Warriors for Christ Church Says If You Participate in Halloween “You’re a Compromiser and Carnal Minded”

In his live video on October 14th, Rich Penkoski from Warriors for Christ church went on an hour-long rant about why Christians should not celebrate Halloween, during which he banned at least a couple of viewers from his page for arguing against his position. To one commenter he said, “I can’t stand uneducated Christians!” To another, “You might want to go study before you go running your mouth, because you have no idea what you’re talking about.” I’m not sure exactly what the comments entailed because after the person was banned the comment was unavailable, but that didn’t sound like the loving, caring pastor I expected to hear when I started the video. I will now list five statements made in the video and then explain why they are completely preposterous.

1. “[You’re] introducing your children to the occult as early as one year old.”

If you have ever read your horoscope or watched Bewitched then you have been introduced to the occult. Anything relating to witchcraft and astrology are occult practices. Other practices that are included in the term “occult” today include ESP, the belief of reincarnation, and faith healing. Faith healing is a big part of Charismatic churches, including Warriors for Christ. Therefore, if you attend a charismatic church, such as Warriors for Christ, you are being exposed to occult practices.

2. “Do you know where the jack-o-lanterns origins came from? It derives from the Druids ghastly remnants of the severed human head. They probably decorated their houses and temples with bloody severed heads.”

There is no proof that these things actually occurred. His use of the word “probably,” indicates this as well. The Druids did celebrate Samhain “summer’s end,” which marks the end of the Pagan sacred year; and they did slaughter animals based on what they needed to survive winter and what they had to feed the animals from their spring harvest. Pagans today do still celebrate the end of the harvest and honor their ancestors who have passed. Some Christians today use this time to honor the martyrs of the Christian faith. Personally, I like to use this time to remember Martin Luther and the reformation, which just so happens to have fallen on October 31st five hundred years ago.

3. “Dressing your kids in Halloween costumes is indeed participating in a Satanic festival.”

There are some festivals around the world that are pagan or even Satanic in nature and some do involve the wearing of costumes. However, to say that putting a three-year-old in a superman costume and letting them in a bounce house on the church lawn is participating in a Satanic festival, is quite a stretch.

4. “You cannot claim to be a Christian and want to do these things.”

Scriptures are quoted throughout the video and their posts to support this claim, but they have all been taken out of context to suit their own agenda. Here are some of the verses and what they actually mean:

• Matthew 9:4 “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”

In this verse, Jesus was replying to the men that were accusing Him of blasphemy because He said that He could forgive sins. The evil in their hearts was that they did not see Him as God but as a mere man.

• Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

This verse is about keeping peace in your heart, even when people are trying to persecute you. While you may be tempted to get sweet revenge on your adversary, you should “not be overcome by evil.”

• 1 Thess. 5:21-22 “but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

This verse is referring to false doctrine. “Test[ing] everything” is the measuring of what is being taught in the Name of God to the Word of God. “Hold fast to what is good [teaching]. Abstain from false prophets and false teachers.

5. “If you are doing this year after year you are practicing sin and you need to stop.”

I have just demonstrated how the scriptures being used to support their claims were taken out of context and I have yet to see any scripture that even remotely indicates that dressing in costume and eating candy with your neighborhood friends, is a sin. “Where there is no law there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15). Opinion is one thing, but something like Halloween falls under religious liberty.

I would like to also point out that self-righteousness IS a sin. Self-righteous by definition is “convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the action and beliefs of others” (Merriam-Webster). In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Jesus told the story of “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt” (Luke 18: 9-14). The treatment given to people who disagree with Pastor Rich Penkoski’s stance on Halloween is appalling. It is self-righteous behavior and is not becoming of someone who calls them self a church leader.

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with being cognitive about how you approach Halloween, in fact I strongly encourage it. Even during Christmas, while my kids are staring at the Wal-Mart gift catalog with their eyes bulging out, I have to stop and remind them that Jesus is the reason that we are celebrating. Many churches use Halloween as a chance for a community outreach and if we can be the light on the darkest of days, that is a good thing. There is no compromise here if our focus is still on Christ. Just imagine what would happen if we did heed the advice of Warriors for Christ church. If all of the Christians were to suddenly shut their doors and hide away on October 31st, then it could indeed become Satan’s holiday.

Resources Used

Higginbotham, Joyce & River. Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions. Llewellyn Publications, 2002.

McDowell, Josh & Stewart, Don. Handbook of Today’s Religions: Understanding the Occult. Here’s Life Publishers, Inc., 1982

Pelayo, Cina. (2015, August 4). 10 Satanic Celebrations Held Around the World. Retrieved from http://www.therichest.com

Is Trusting God an Option? Book review

Being taught how to trust God by someone who believes trusting God is optional might sound a little kooky (because it is), but that is exactly what Joyce Meyer fans are doing when they read her newest book, Unshakeable Trust.  In the second paragraph of her introduction she states, “. . . trust is not an obligation that we owe God; it is a privilege that He makes available to us.” (p. vii) That one statement makes me want to fill this page with reasons why we should trust God, why it is imperative to the Christian faith that we trust God, but there are a few more contentions that I have with this book that need to be pointed out.

The first couple of pages of the first chapter didn’t send up any major red flags but by the third page she again asserts that, “there is no reason to be condemned if your trust in God is not perfected yet.” (p.3) While I can agree that trusting God isn’t easy, I don’t think it is wise to imply that it isn’t a big deal if you’re not trusting God.  Jesus commands that we trust Him. “. . . Do not fear, only believe” Mark 5:36.  It is not optional.  If ever you find yourself not trusting God to take care of you, then you should open your bible or pray, or do both.

The second contention I have with Meyer’s teaching is when she is talking about God’s character. She states, “. . . He works in our behalf and brings justice in our situation.” (p.4) This is how she interprets Hebrews 10:30, and after reading this verse I failed to see God talking about bringing justice to my situation.  What it is actually talking about is salvation and the assurance of it.  Again, we have an example of changing the context by only quoting one verse.  If you read Hebrews 10:30, then back up to verse 19 and read to the end of the chapter, you’ll see what I mean.

The last thing that I take issue with is Meyer’s belief that faith is what you have while you wait for God to give you what you want, which is the whole premise of the Word of Faith movement.  She states, “One of the reasons why trusting God can be challenging is because He doesn’t always immediately give us what we ask for.” (p.5) She also says, “God is waiting to help you and me, and all we need to do is trust Him to do so.” (ibid) Basically, people are having “faith” because they have gotten and/or will get something in return.   This is made evident in her story about dishtowels.

“Anytime I am having difficulty trusting God, I remember things He has done for me in the past and I am reassured that He will do it again.  I have kept journals for forty years, and I ran across one recently from the 1970’s, when I asked God to provide me with a dozen new dishtowels.  Dave and I had no money to purchase them, and since I was just beginning my journey of trusting God, I approached Him as a little child and asked for them.  Imagine my elation when a few weeks later, a woman I was barely acquainted with showed up at my door and said, ‘I hope you don’t think I’m crazy, but I kept feeling that God wanted me to bring you some new dishtowels!’ I got so excited that she was shocked until I explained to her that I had asked God to provide them.  That is one of my vivid experiences with the faithfulness of God, and there have been many others through the years.” (p.5)

While I like to give credit to God for everything that I have, I do not base my faith in what I have received.  God has done so much more than provide Joyce Meyer with dishtowels.  He is so much bigger than my little problems, He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  I don’t really need to look back at my own life to see what God has done, He already gave His son so that I can live (1 John 4:9).  Also, not all prayers are answered in the way we might expect.  God is sovereign and will act in accordance with His own plan, not ours.

The book is entitled Unshakeable Trust, but Meyer’s definition of faith seems to fit more in with the WOF movement and prosperity gospel than what real faith is.  “When Job’s wife said Curse God and die” (Job 2:9), Job rebuked her saying, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).  This foolish woman, and I’m speaking about Meyer now, spends a lot of time talking about good reasons to trust God and all of the wonderful things that will come of it.  However real trust and faith in God happens when you praise Him in the troubled times as much as the good times.  “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

I would love to see more examples of true faith.  I want to see examples of people who praise His name during the storms.  I once went on a mission trip to help rebuild houses after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  I remember vividly when one of my group members asked a woman how she was doing.  Her response was, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.”  Her house had been ruined by the floods but she had friends and she had skills and most importantly, she had faith that God was in control.  Faith isn’t waiting for something, it’s seeing God in every aspect of your life right now.

Book Review: Anxious For Nothing: God’s Cure For The Cares Of Your Soul by John MacArthur 

In my previous post, I gave you just a few reasons why you should not look to Max Lucado for answers in dealing with anxiety.  This post will give you a few reasons why you should read John MacArthur’s book Anxious For Nothing: God’s Cure For The Cares Of Your Soul.

A Contrast of Theory About The Bible and What it Says About Anxiety

In Max Lucado’s book Anxious For Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World, he makes the claim that “anxiety is not a sin; it is an emotion.”  However, MacArthur states, “Worry at any time is a sin because it violates the clear biblical command.” (p. 10)  He further clarifies this statement in the first chapter.

“Jesus commands us not to do it, thus making it clear that worry is a sin. . . Anxiety is blatant distrust of the power and love of God.” (p. 18)

Not only does MacArthur argue that anxiety is a sin, but he also explains why it is not a trivial sin.

“Worry is devastating.  But more important than what worry does to you is what it does to God.  When you worry, you are saying in effect, ‘God, I just don’t think I can trust You.’  Worry strikes a blow at the person and character of God.” (p. 38)

An Explanation of Faith

The word of faith movement has made many believe that they can change their circumstances by just speaking it in God’s name, otherwise known as “name it, claim it”, but that isn’t the biblical definition of faith at all. MacArthur gives a wonderful explanation of biblical faith in chapter 2.

“Faith isn’t psychological self-hypnosis or wishful thinking, but a reasoned response to revealed truth. When we in faith embrace Christ as our Lord and Savior, our minds are transformed. The Holy Spirit is at work in us, renewing us; and we receive a new mind or way of thinking. Divine and supernatural thoughts inject our human thought patterns.” (p. 45)

Why We Need Humility

MacArthur starts chapter 3 talking about the worrying Peter, because “Peter had ongoing trouble with anxiety.” (p. 51)  The topic of this chapter is humility because “only from humility comes the ability to truly hand over all our cares to God.” (p. 52) He also explores the topic of pride. Opposite of humility, pride prevents us experiencing the grace God offers when you “cast your anxieties on Him.” (1 Peter 5:7)

“I mourn to see people stumbling around trying to fix their lives, to find some kind of solution, some kind of book or therapy that will solve their problems, but who find no deliverance.  Instead of experiencing the grace of God, they experience the correcting hand of God because they are proud.” (p. 56)

Conclusion

In all, this book has nine chapters of biblical teaching that points to the main source of our anxiety alleviation, the Bible.  When questions are presented, an answer from the Word of God is given. Just as the title points out, we need to look at God’s cure, rather than ideas made by man.

 

 


Max Lucado’s New Book Provides Answers to Anxiety, But Are They Biblical?

The bible provides many answers.  Its sufficiency is fundamental to our Christian faith and anything else we read should be measured against what the Word of God says.  In his newest book Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World, Max Lucado takes on the topic of anxiety in America. So now comes the question, does Lucado’s book measure up to the standard of conforming to God’s Word? No.  I found three examples of bible twisting while reading the first chapter. Along with his misrepresentation of scripture, he gives advice to his readers that disturbed me to the point of wanting to throw the book in the fireplace.  The only problem is I don’t have the actual book, and I don’t have a fireplace.

Lucado describes anxiety as “a meteor shower of what-ifs” (p.3) as well as providing many other analogies:

“Anxiety is trepidation.  It’s a suspicion, an apprehension.  Life in a minor key with major concerns.  Perpetually on the pirate ship’s plank.  You’re part Chicken Little and part Eeyore.  The sky is falling, and it’s falling disproportionately on you.” (p.4)

He also states, “Anxiety takes our breath. . . It also takes our sleep.  Our energy. Our well-being.” (p.5), which leads into the first scripture reference.  Lucado refers to one of the Psalms in this way:

“’Do not fret,’ wrote the psalmist, ‘it only causes harm.’ (Ps. 37:8).  Harm to our necks, jaws, backs, and bowels.  Anxiety can twist us into emotional pretzels.  It can make our eyes twitch, blood pressure rise, heads ache, and armpits sweat.” (p.5)

While that is one way to interpret the word “harm”, I’m pretty sure that when David wrote this Psalm, he was not talking about our backs or our bowels.  In fact, most versions of the bible use the word “evil” or “evildoing”.

NIV: do not fret–it leads only to evil

ESV: Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil

NASB: Do not fret; it leads to evildoing.

The best way to understand scripture is to read the context and in order to do that, you need more than half of the verse.  So, let’s back up a little:

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:7-9 ESV).

This passage is a reiteration of vs. 1 which says, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers.”  The key message in this Psalm is don’t be envious, for the same LORD that rewards righteousness also punishes wickedness (Ps.11:21).  Now that we’ve read the verse in context, it doesn’t seem to fit with Lucado’s point that worrying leads to high blood pressure and constipation.

Moving along, Lucado makes a reference to Philippians 4:6, or about a quarter of the verse anyway.  Here is how he presents this verse:

“’Be anxious for nothing’ (Phil. 4:6).  ‘Be anxious for less’ would have been a sufficient challenge. . . [Paul] wrote the phrase in the present active tense, which implies an ongoing state. It’s the life of perpetual anxiety that Paul wanted to address.  The Lucado Revised Translation reads, ‘Don’t let anything in life leave you perpetually breathless and in angst.’” (p. 8)

First of all, it worries me that his man has his own version of the Bible.  Second, Paul was not presenting a challenge when he wrote this to the church of Philippi, nor was he referring to perpetual anxiety. In fact, if you read (like I’ve said before) the whole passage (sigh), you see a wonderful promise of inner peace received from God when we meditate on His word!  Job reminds us that “Man is born into trouble” (Job 5:7 ESV). However, those who live in Christ can always rejoice in the Lord, even during the trials of life.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7 ESV)

The next verse that Lucado chops up is found in Luke.  He begins by talking about how anxiety can lead to sinful behavior:

“If toxic anxiety leads you to abandon your spouse, neglect your kids, break covenants, or break hearts, take heed.  Jesus gave this word: ‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with . . . the anxieties of life’ (Luke 21:34 NIV)”. (p. 9)

At this point, Lucado is not making any sense in trying to relate this verse with sinful behavior.  Jesus is giving a warning, but it isn’t that anxiety will cause us to sin against others.  Again, let’s look at the whole verse:

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21:34 ESV)

“That day” is the key phrase here.  It is referring to the day of Jesus’ return and is warning us to be ready.  Matthew 24:42 says, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Like the ten virgins who took their lamps (Matt. 25:1-13) only the ones that were prepared went to the marriage feast.  We are often told to always be equipped for the Lord’s return.  “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matt. 25:13 ESV).  Christians do not have a complacent attitude toward their own sins, rather they eagerly anticipate the Lord’s return.

Nonetheless, Lucado uses Luke 21:34 to lead into a series of questions such as, “Are you laughing less than you once did?  Do you assume that something bad is going to happen?  Many days would you rather stay in bed than get up?” (p. 9)

Now I’m going to pause the book review for a second and tell you something about me.  I once went to the doctor and told them I was feeling depressed.  I took a little survey that sounds a lot like the one Lucado is providing.  It had about five or six questions on it.  The doctor then gave me a prescription for Prozac and sent me on my way.  I don’t take it anymore and looking back I feel that I didn’t really need it then either.  I believe it is so easy to get Prozac, Xanax, or whatever new drug is becoming popular right now, that it is scary.  I also believe that no good pastor would encourage his flock to jump on the antidepressant band wagon.

Going back to the book, Lucado finally quotes a passage in its entirety, and that is Philippians 4:6-7. It is certainly a good passage to meditate on anytime we are feeling stressed or worried, especially as Christians who desire to rely on Jesus for alleviation of angst. But again, Lucado takes a very bad turn and this is why I told you that little story about myself:

“You will discover a life that is characterized by calm and will develop tools for facing the onslaughts of anxiety.  It will require some work on your part.  I certainly don’t mean to leave the impression that anxiety can be waved away with a simple pep talk.  In fact, for some of you God’s healing will include the help of therapy and/or medication.” (p. 11)

Two problems here.  Two very bothersome problems that I have with these statements.  “It will require some work on your part.”  I don’t remember anywhere in the bible that says, you can have God’s inner peace, but it will require some work on your part.  Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice. . . again I will say, rejoice.”  This does not sound like work, but an invitation to just enjoy God’s peace and trust in His sovereignty.  The irony here is that the work incorporated by Lucado’s readers is only going to add to their anxieties, as they add to their ever-increasing arsenal of works righteousness.

The other problem I have is his mention of medication.  It just baffles me that anyone, let alone a pastor, would write a bible based book about finding calm and then bring up medication in the first chapter.  Now I’m not going to go as far as to say that nobody needs medication, I’m not a doctor (and neither is Max Lucado by the way), but there is already too much of a push to take a “magic pill” to make all our bad feelings go away.

An article written on August 17, 2017 states, “The number of Americans who say they’ve taken an antidepressant over the past month rose by 65% between 1999 and 2014.”[i]  There are a few theories as to why, but the one I agree with the most comes from Dr. Seth Mandel, now the chairman of Huntington Hospital’s psychiatry department, “Direct-to-consumer advertising, coupled with an evolving societal mindset to just take a pill to make things better, both contributed to the growth in antidepressant use over this time period.”[ii]

God’s solution to anxiety is simple.  Jesus did not come bearing magic pills.  Rather, He said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).  Jesus also did not say that it would require work, instead He merely extended the invitation to come to Him.  That’s all we do, is surrender to Him.  As sheep, we do not tend ourselves. Jesus is the Great Shepherd that tends His flock.  Go to Him who gives “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).  Stress comes in a fallen world but His promises are true.  “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It is easy to see why people in this world would have anxieties, but Max Lucado does not help to alleviate this pain.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9)

[i] Mundell, E.J. “Antidepressant use jumps 65 percent in 15 years.” http://www.chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune, August 2017. Web. 11 Sept. 2017

[ii] ibid

My Debate with a Seventh Day Adventist

Someone on Facebook asked me where I learn the stuff that I write.  My husband has been attending the College at Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary for the last four years, and will be graduating with his Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies in December 2017.  He has always loved to discuss his studies with me (even when I’m not fully coherent) and while I first tried to resist listening to his constant ramblings (with little success), I couldn’t help but learn a few things about theology.  I wouldn’t go as far as to call myself a biblical scholar, but I have learned how to use the many resources I have available.  With my own constant study and my husband’s continuous guidance, I am able to write these blogs.  With that being said, I’m not the best debater.  So, when a customer at my place of employment lured me into a biblical debate, I was caught quite off guard.

As soon as this customer found out I was a Christian, he immediately asked me if I had heard of the Seventh Day Adventists.  I told him there were a couple of people I worked with that were SDA and from what I could tell, they were strict observers of the Sabbath and that I do not believe that the Sabbath is a command under the new covenant.  He asked me where the bible said that.  I simply told him that the Sabbath was part of the mosaic law and we are no longer under the mosaic law.  He asked me again, ‘where does the bible say that?’  Trying to rack my brain to a sermon I heard from John MacArthur , I took too long to answer and he continued with his own argument about why the Sabbath is still in effect.

He pulled out his phone and opened his bible app to Revelation 12.  I won’t write out the whole chapter, but his main emphasis was, “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (vs. 17).  He went on for a long time asking things like, “if we are supposed to keep the other nine commandments, then why aren’t we supposed to keep the Sabbath?”  I was surprised that with all of his questions he didn’t give me a chance to answer any of them.  Perhaps I wasn’t assertive enough, but that is my nature.  Also, in a retail setting it is a little difficult to decide how best to handle these situations while other shoppers are coming through and asking me questions about what they are buying.

So here are my questions for him.  First, what day do you observe the Sabbath?  Wikipedia says of the SDA distinctive, “the Sabbath should be observed on the seventh day of the week, specifically, from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.”  Second, what day go you go to worship services?  Again, Wikipedia says, “The major weekly worship service occurs on Saturday.”  So, are the SDA really keeping the Sabbath law?  No, they are not.

Exodus 16:29 says, “See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”  The Sabbath law requires that we do not leave our homes, therefore going to worship services on Saturday is breaking the Sabbath.  Chris Rosebrough (Pirate Christian Radio) provides a list of how the Torah defines the Sabbath.  So read it and see, Are You a Sabbath Keeper or Sabbath Breaker?

The Great Salvation Debate: Works or Faith

I recently got into a debate on Twitter about Salvation.  The problem with Twitter however, is that it is difficult to express yourself in 140 characters or less, and Salvation is a big controversy even amongst Christians.  Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that we must work for our Salvation.[1]  From my many readings and discussions, I have gathered that many “Christians” believe that to be true as well, at least to some degree.  Someone that I was recently debating with directed me to the book of James, quoting chapter 2, “faith without works is dead.”  This statement is made in verse 17 and again in verse 26.  What we are missing though, is everything in between, which will give a very important entity needed when reading and studying scripture, the context.

Now, let’s start back at verse 14, of James chapter 2. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).  Basically, what James is saying here is, there should be evidence of the faith you claim to have.  “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20).  James goes on to say, in verse 18, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  This again reiterates that works is the evidence of faith, and that faith precedes any works that may be incurred.

Verse 19-26, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

So, faith precedes works. When Abraham offered his son Isaac, it wasn’t for fear of losing his Salvation, it was merely a display of his faith that was already in him.  Abraham was already declared righteous before God, and because of his great faith, he was willing to demonstrate that faith in obedience.  The faith that we have, if Christ is in us, will compel us to do good works.  If Christ is not in us, then we are still in the flesh and we are spiritually dead.  This is made clear in Romans.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:1-8)

The first sentence in this passage is astounding.  “There is no condemnation for those in Christ.”  Our debt has been paid, there is no penalty for our sin.  We cannot do anything to lose the Salvation gift that we have received from our wonderful Savior, that is what it means to be saved!  No one can snatch us from His hand (John 10:26-30). We have been set free and we are no longer walking in sinful flesh, but are now walking in the Spirit!  We cannot please God with our own works, but in Him we have life and peace.  Salvation is a free gift, you can’t lose it and you don’t have to work for it.

Now someone is going to say, “Doesn’t that just give people a free pass to sin?”  Paul faced that very same criticism from his audience.  “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).  A true Christian desires to be free from sin, not to sin freely.[2]

[1] John Ankerberg and John Weldon, “The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge: A Christian Perspective” (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989, 1990) p. 10, cited in Fritz Ridenour, “So What’s the Difference?” (Ventura, CA: Regal Books from Gospel Light, 1967, 1979, 2001) p. 128.

[2] Author unknown

Jesus Never Let His Theology Get in the Way of His Ministry??

On March 9th, Saddleback church posted to their Twitter feed, “Jesus never let his theology get in the way of his ministry.”

It was subsequently deleted on March 31st following many adverse comments and retweets that were made by outraged Christians like myself. Theology is the study of God, so if Jesus is God in the flesh, then who better to teach about God, then Jesus himself?

I was shocked to say the least that Saddleback would make such a ludicrous statement. Then again, I shouldn’t be so surprised considering the source. Rick Warren, founder of Saddleback Church wrote in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, “This is the essence of witnessing – simply sharing your personal experiences regarding the Lord.” He claims that we aren’t expected to “prove the truth” as lawyers prove a court case. He further claims that “your personal story is more effective than a sermon, because unbelievers see pastors as professional salesmen, but see you as a ‘satisfied customer,’ so they give you more credibility” (p.336). So apparently, churches need to provide a shopper’s survey so we can tell about our “customer experience.” Then those pesky pastors will have something to validate that unbelievers should “buy” what they are “selling.”

Warren also articulates, “Many people who won’t accept the authority of the bible will listen to a humble, personal story. That is why on six different occasions Paul used his testimony to share the gospel instead of quoting scripture” (pg. 337). The bible proves the first statement to be untrue. “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). The second statement, which is in reference to Paul’s time in Jerusalem (Acts 22-26), gives a horrifyingly wrong understanding of Paul’s ministry.

A great example of how Paul conducted his ministry is found in Acts 17. While in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas went to the synagogue of the Jews. It says, “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2-3). Take notice of what this passage is saying: as was his custom, reasoned from the scriptures, proving it necessary for Christ to rise from the dead. Meanwhile, Warren claims we aren’t expected to “prove the truth” or use scripture to witness. What a disturbing statement to make in face of the countless martyrs that have spilled their blood throughout history, who lived in accordance with Paul’s example.

Here are more examples of Paul using scripture for his ministry. Acts 17:11, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” In Acts 17:24-31, Paul preached from the Scriptures to the Men of Athens, to prove that there was a creator. In Acts 18:19, Paul returned to Antioch and “reasoned with the Jews.” In Acts 19:8, “he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” Contrary to what Warren teaches, Paul was using theology to “prove the truth” to the unbelieving Jews throughout the book of Acts. Jesus used theology as well. In fact, if Jesus truly is incarnate, then He was automatically engaging in theology.

God did not tell us to hide the gospel behind a “personal story” that would be more relatable to unbelievers. He said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15). Does “proclaim the gospel” mean that we should present it in different ways because they may not accept what the bible teaches? Proclaim means “to declare” and the gospel is the “good news,” which is found all throughout the Bible. So how can we proclaim the good news without scripture? We can’t! In order to tell about God, we must know God, and we know Him through His Word.

So why has theology become such a bad word? What has happened to that age-old children’s song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” that we sang as children? When did we become so afraid that the Bible will only scare people away? Paul preached the Word boldly because he was not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). We also should proclaim boldly, the teaching of the scriptures, and not be afraid that it will only drive people farther away from it.
Christians should have confidence in the power and sufficiency of God’s Word (1st Timothy 3:16). “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit” (Hebrews 4:12).

Warren should contemplate long and hard on Jesus’ assurance that “man does not live off of bread alone, but off of every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3). This should compel Warren and Saddleback Church to sing out God’s Word in proclamation, “let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”