Five Massive Errors the Church is Making Right Now-

You will know how people ought to conduct themselves in Gods household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth– 1st Timothy 3:15 NIV

Every generation of Christians has had its own unique set of excesses and errors. The 1980’s church was filled with dramatic personal “testimonies”. Many of which turned out to be crazy-pants lies. The 1990’s church became consumed with end times prophecy. Leaving many Christians looking like fanatical nut-jobs. The late 1990’s and 2000’s birthed the well-intended but tragically misguided purity movement. The movement inadvertently drove Christian dating completely underground and left a whole generation feeling an unhealthy level shame due to natural sexual desires intended to keep the human race in the business of reproduction.   

Sigh. 

Today’s church is struggling to share the gospel in a culture shaped by events in church world that have created a toxic spiritual environment for reaching the lost. In one sense our generation is no different. Like previous generations of believers, the spiritual mistakes and doctrinal errors of our time will be felt in the future. Believers in coming years will undoubtedly struggle to undo the consequences of our own unique lack of spiritual insight and wisdom. 

However. 

In some ways what this generation thinks and does matters more. Not because we are inherently more important than past generations. We’re not.  But because technology has given humanity the ability to spread bad ideas, misinformation, and wrong thinking faster than ever before. This is one of the reasons the church today is struggling in such profound ways. Thanks to advances in technology the spiritual errors and excesses of the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s had a much deeper reach into the culture than the errors and excesses of previous generations.  Following are a few of the more dangerous ideas floating around this generation. 

Starting with: 

I can be a Christian and reject everything the Bible teaches- 

No one can. It is true that no one comes to faith automatically believing the “right way”. We all have to be taught. It is also true that there is some room for disagreement on some of the particulars of what the “right way” is. However, to reject what God says about Himself as well His clear instructions pertaining to sexuality, gender and justice as well as His standards of right and wrong is to reject God Himself. One simply cannot reject God and still be a Christian. Period. It just doesn’t work like that.  

Bible knowledge doesn’t matter- 

This is usually preceded by a reference to 1st Corinthians 8:1 where Paul states “knowledge puffs up while love builds up”. Context is key here.  The apostle Paul wasn’t talking about spiritual or Bible knowledge in general terms. He was talking specifically about knowledge related to eating food that had once been sacrificed to an idol (1st Corinthians 8:1-13). Some Corinthian church members had become aware that food sacrificed to idols was just food and began openly and arrogantly eating that food in public spaces. This created all sorts of confusion for less-mature Christians who didn’t understand that food is just food. Some of them had rejected Jesus and returned to idol worship in response to the freedom they saw other Christians exercising. It would be absurd to assume the man who wrote well over half of the New Testament’s instructive passages was somehow opposed to people learning the Bible. It is true that people can become prideful about what they know about the Bible without really applying biblical truth to their lives. That does not make biblical ignorance somehow superior to spiritual knowledge.      

 Bible knowledge is the most important thing-

It is important, critical even. Those who do not acquire basic biblical knowledge rarely stay believers for very long (Matthew 13:18-23). That being said, knowledge is not the most important thing. Having our hearts transformed so we become a loving reflection of Jesus is (Romans 12:2, 2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:1-17). However, even that requires at least rudimentary Bible knowledge. So, there’s that. 

Christians can be spiritually formed outside of spiritual community-  

Individual believers are always at their most healthy when they are living in community with other Christians (Acts 2:42-47). This is because God designed people to be like Him (Genesis 1:27). God is a community within Himself (Genesis 1:26, Isaiah 46:16, Matthew 3:16-17). As a result, we were literally made to need other Christians in order to grow and mature (1st Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 10:24-25). Without healthy community individual Christians either drift away from church altogether or they adopt strange pseudo-biblical beliefs that make it very hard for them to effectively share their faith. 

We don’t need to half the Church to make the Church work- 

Men and women were intended to work together to bring about God’s purposes in this world (Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 2:18). Anytime church leaders think they can do church without the contributions of half the church something valuable and vital will be missing in that church community. That loss will affect the churches ability to effectively reach the lost and disciple Christians God has placed in their care. 

The church in the west stands at a crossroads (Jeremiah 6:16). We can continue down the path we have been on for years. If we do, the church will continue to lose influence and we will see our culture continue to disintegrate into moral bedlam. The other option is to do the hard work of correcting the errors we have fallen into.  This route will be much more challenging but it will pay dividends that will be felt for generations.   

Western Civilization has Reached a Milestone in its Race to the Bottom-

  And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice- Romans 1:28-29 ESV

Western civilization has reached a significant milestone in its race to the bottom.

Parent-child marriage.

Yes. You read that statement correctly. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  Parent-child incest is the latest sexual deviancy a person or group is seeking to normalize via the legal system in the name of “individual autonomy” and “personal fulfillment” (Romans 1:18-32).  Last week, the parent of an adult child filed a lawsuit in New York State. This parent is asking the courts to overthrow the state’s ban on incestuous marriages.  Their attorney argues that because this couple is for whatever reason “incapable of producing a child” the state of New York ought to bless their union with all the legal protections and benefits marriage affords.

After reading the piece I scanned the comments section of the article. Most readers were convinced this is a one-time deal limited in scope to a couple of oddballs who live in New York. 

I’m not so sure. 

Years ago, when the push began to normalize and legalize behavior traditionally thought to be sinful, we were assured there was no such thing as a “slippery slope”. We were promised redefining marriage would in no way lead to the normalization or legalization of pedophilia or polygamy or any other sexual peculiarities. However, just a few years later throuple’s (romantic threesomes) are a recognized thing, parents are petitioning the courts to marry their offspring and some medical professionals have argued zealously that pedophilia and childhood sexual abuse are not the same thing at all (Mark 9:42).  

All that being true. 

This situation in New York looks to me like the latest step in the downhill progression of nuttiness that happens when a society decides that there are no moral limits in the arena of sexuality. 

Incestuous marriages could catch on. Perhaps not everywhere with everyone, but it will likely become increasingly more common. Trust me: it is only a matter of time before a popular house hunting show presents a parent-child twosome looking for their “forever home” with absolutely zero judgment. Our culture lost its moral bearings long ago and this sort of thing is a really just a symptom of that reality not the actual problem. The problem is that most people in our society are unwilling to seek moral or even commonsense wisdom outside their own human brokenness (Proverbs 3:5-6). As long as we as society continue to lean on our own flawed understanding of life and sexuality the downward moral spiral will continue unabated. 

It’s painful to watch.

Mostly because to those of us who know Jesus the answer is so simple: turn to God in repentance (Acts 3:19). He will forgive and heal even our strangest desires if we humble ourselves and ask.  But, until our society gets to that point human beings will continue to degenerate and the courts will remain inclined to bless the never-ending moral freefall.  

Sigh. 

I suspect it will be a while before our culture hits bottom. In the meantime, there are some things Christians can and should do to be a part of the solution. First: 

Point people to Jesus- 

Pointing people to Jesus means reaching out to people who are different from us. We must listen with as little judgment as we can muster and ask leading questions about how these lifestyles are actually working for the people practicing them. As we get to know unsaved people it is essential we pray like crazy God gives them a vision for a healthier way of doing life. When that happens, we need to be there to show them the way. 

Live according to God’s design- 

This means get married, have or adopt kids, love your spouse enough to work through any issues that arise. It means no moral monkey business: no cheating, no secret addictions, no secret anything. Live life fully, joyfully and in such a way you can be completely transparent about every aspect of your life. Oh yeah, and get your butt to church. The world needs some good examples. 

Be kind-  

Please note: I did not say we should agree that sinful behavior is acceptable or healthy. Nor, did I say we should lie to people and tell them their sexual deviancy is normal, healthy or okay with God. It’s not and it’s not our job to sanction sin in the name of making people feel good about themselves. That said, it is impossible to effectively help or even pray for someone we when we refuse to love them the way Jesus loves us. 

Life just keeps getting weirder. The good news is that the light of Jesus shines brightest in darkness. This is just one more opportunity for God’s people to shine for Him in a dark season (Isaiah 60:1-3, Matthew 5:16, Matthew 13:43). 

The Real Problem with Lil Nas X and his “Satan Shoes”-

The serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”- Genesis 3:4-5 ESV

Last Friday, the rapper Lil Nas X debuted his latest single “Montero”. At the same time, Mr. X released the “Satan shoes”. Each shoe allegedly contains a drop of human blood somewhere in the sole of the shoe and are decorated with all sorts of satanic symbols. The limited-edition shoes sell for $1018.00. They sold out in less than an hour. 

I watched the video. 

Mostly because it felt false to write about something I hadn’t actually seen. The video felt long, was really disquieting, and kind of dumb. It probably won’t win any awards for creativity. When it was over it occurred to me that I will never get that three minutes of my life back. 

I deeply resent that reality.  

The video centers on a struggle between the protagonist (Mr. X) and the devil. Throughout the video Mr. Nas X repeatedly attempts to use his sexuality to gain power over Satan. The video ends with Lil Nas X giving the devil a lap dance. Immediately following, Mr. X breaks the neck of Satan and abruptly kicks him off his throne, steals his crown, places it on his own head and evidently takes over the administration of hell.  It was disturbing to watch a godless fool who obviously does not understand the choices he’s making writhe around with the devil in a sexually suggestive way for three solid minutes.  Nonetheless, by far the most troubling aspect of the video was not the obvious Satan-worship but rather the humanism and subtle self-worship rooted in the song. 

Modern-day humanism is a world-view that has its roots in the Renaissance. In recent years it has taken firm hold of western civilization. Humanists do not believe in the sinful and fallen nature of mankind. Humanists believe people are inherently good and know what is right and what is right for them. Humanist doctrine is not especially rigid except on one point: humanists believe there is unlimited potential in all human beings for goodness. 

Insert eye roll here. 

It is not a huge leap to go from a humanistic belief system to the sin of self-worship. If one accepts the notion that all human beings are born good the next logical step is to think that our individual perceptions of reality are always right and infallible.  If a large number of people in a culture begin to believe their perceptions of reality are always correct; most of those people will stop questioning their own assumptions or asking for second opinions. Once that happens even intelligent people begin dismissing any opinion that does not appeal to them or fit into their narrow view of the world. People begin to lean on their own understanding to figure out life. They stop acknowledging God or if they do acknowledge God they stop seeking Him for wisdom (2nd Timothy 3:5, Proverbs 3:5-6).  

That is the point where worship of self begins.  

Once worship of self takes root in a life deception of every kind begins to grow in that person’s mind and lunacy suddenly becomes the new normal. That is when it becomes possible to believe gender is fluid rather than binary or that literally everything is racist. Or that if someone sincerely believes something is true then it is true even if there is no evidence at all for that belief. 

Sadly, this is the cultural moment in which we find ourselves. 

At the heart of self-worship is the belief “my beliefs and desires are always good and it is always right for me to get what I want”.  Self-worship is at the root of every addiction under the sin. Self-worship is at the heart of self-centeredness, resentment, child neglect and abandonment, abortion, adultery, pornography and every other kind of sexual immorality and deviancy.  

In a very real sense it does not matter what the world does or thinks. If the average unbeliever wants to embrace the humanist delusion that people are good without God, it’s not really the concern of the church (1st Corinthians 5:12-13). That said, the health of the church ultimately has an impact on society at large. We are where we are right now partly because the church has failed to be the light this world so desperately needs.  

The church should be worried about the church right now (Mark 9:42, 1st Corinthians 8:13, 1st Corinthians 12:12-13, Ephesians 4:4, Galatians 5:8-10). The body of Christ is only as healthy as its weakest member and sadly, self-worship is not just for the unsaved or nominal Christians. Even serious Christians can easily fall into the sin of self-worship. Anytime we begin to believe getting what we want is more important than obeying God we have become worshippers of self. 

Self-examination is the only way to prevent self-worship and repentance is the only cure. 

Some Words to A Worried Church-

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him- 2nd Kings 18:5-6a NIV

Most church people would probably agree the outcome of the latest election was not exactly a win. At best, it was a colossal disappointment, at worst it could indicate some tough times ahead. The whole messy mess was kicked to the courts and it’s possible mandated recounts could result in a surprise turn in the election results. In the unlikely event that happens, no one will be more joyful than this girl. 

In the meantime. 

Believers should do a little soul searching and self-examination. Self-examination empowers the Church to move forward from disappointments and setbacks in a way that better equips us for whatever happens to be next on God’s agenda. Christians have historically believed God is ultimately sovereign over the affairs of men and women (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Isaiah 46:10, Revelation 22:13). We believe nothing on earth happens without God’s foreknowledge and the only thing that takes place without His explicit consent is sin. 

Therefore.

The results of this election are no accident. We cannot blame the outcome entirely on cheating and other shenanigans. Cheating is not outside of God’s purview. Therefore, if there was cheating involved then God allowed the cheating to take place. If we believe in the sovereignty of God then we also have to believe the outcome of the election is in the will of God. Like it or not  

Sigh. 

 This turn of events does beg some questions, like: what now? What are we supposed to conclude from this outcome? Does it mean God is on the side of abortion, censorship and a castration of the U.S constitution? Did this occur because God loves socialism or because He thinks court-packing is a good idea or because He wants churches shut down? 

Nothing I have learned about God from Scripture or personal experience would indicate any of those things are true. 

However, sometimes God wants His people to get hold of truth so badly He will bring difficulty into our lives to get us to turn to Him for wisdom and help rather than looking to the world for insight, wisdom or help. There are at least three takeaways God wants His people to glean from the current political situation. If we don’t come to understand these truths quickly we could be stuck in this uncomfortable place longer than any of us would like.  

The first is: 

We cannot depend on government to be our source of security-

 I do not think of myself as a person who places an inordinate amount of hope or faith in the authorities, documents or institutions of this world. If someone had asked me a month ago how much faith I put in the constitution or the president to make me feel safe and secure, I would have smugly replied that my faith is in God alone. Thank you very much. However, after some serious post-election prayer I realized that I felt significantly safer and more secure as a Christian last month than I do this month. There is nothing wrong with wanting a leader who protects our values and way of life. However, it is categorially un-wise to expect real security of any kind in a world broken by sin. It is even more foolish to trust anyone or anything more than we trust God. If you felt safer last month than you do this month it means you’ve put your trust in something or someone besides God. God wants us to ask ourselves what would happen to our faith in God if America ceased to exist. If that would cause your faith to disappear your faith is not really in God it’s in America and the security America provides. 

Even if everything is not okay it will still be okay- 

We all want everything to be okay and for good reason. No one in their right mind actually LIKES difficulties, pain and suffering. That said, knowing Jesus as our Lord and savior means that even if the worst happens we will be okay because to be absent from the body means we will be present with Jesus (2nd Corinthians 5:7-9). It is critical we remember this truth the next time our anxiety about the current situation starts to get the better of us (Isaiah 35:4) Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:6).  

This world is not all there is- 

 This generation is overrun with modern conveniences that provide regular people with luxury and comfort previous generations never could have imagined.   The problem with all this ease and comfort is it’s made life on earth a little too agreeable and most Christians are a lot fonder of this world than our spiritual ancestors were (1st John 2:15, John 12:25). As a result, many Christians love the world more than is spiritually healthy or wise.  I suspect God is using the discomfort and fear many of us feel over our current political situation to remind Christians we are to long for heaven rather than look for a political leader who will create a utopia here on earth.

Barring some sort of a miracle life will not be getting any easier for the body of Christ anytime soon. That does not mean life won’t be good. Life will be good because our God is good. If our faith is in Him, and only Him there is no way we will be shaken.     

How we Got Here and What Will Bring Change-

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins– James 5:19-21 NASB 

Sometimes writing about one thing will cause me to think more deeply about another thing. 

Such was the case this past week. 

Last week’s post was all about “the new normal” and my own stubborn resistance not just to the expression “the new normal” but also to all the changes the “new normal” has brought to everyday life. It has been tough for me to accept that the way we do life has changed dramatically all because of a stupid germ and our weird response to that germ.  However, over the course of time I have come to accept the reality that life will be different for a while, perhaps even forever. 

I do not believe the “new normal” is an accident of fate. It is the direct result of God’s judgment and rebuke. We are where we are due to the moral rebellion of those outside the church as well as the complacency and disobedience of those inside the church. Much of the “new normal” including the fear, political division, confusion and loss of freedom is simply the result of a loving God working overtime to get our attention before we destroy our stupid selves. It’s time we started paying a little closer attention.   

The world is a mess:

 We live in a time and a place where basic knowledge concerning God and morality is still very much part of the Western cultural norm. Thanks to the internet there has never been a time when more people had more access to the Bible and Christian teaching. Sadly, all this access to information has had little impact on how most people approach life (Romans 1:18-21, 2nd Timothy 3:5). 

Most non-Christians view themselves as free moral agents who are unaccountable to anyone or anything. The mere suggestion of God’s existence raises the hackles of some. The God our culture does embrace bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible. He is weak, tolerant, unfailingly nonjudgmental and very kind. As a result, most non-Christians have literally cast off all restraint. They fight against the notion that anyone, including God has the right to tell them what to do or how to run their lives.  It is routinely argued by politicians, thought leaders and “average Joes” that anything God has declared to be true and good is actually wrong, stupid and repressive. The mere suggestion there should be moral limitations in any area but especially in the area of sexuality is met with open outrage and hostility (Romans 1:21-32). 

The church has its own set of issues. 

For the better part of the last century the church has behaved much like Adam did in the garden (Genesis 3). Christians (including me) have been passive as their friends, neighbors and family members have played around with ideas and behaviors that we were fully aware would lead to their eventual destruction.  We watched the public schools teach our children the lie that Western civilization is evil and unredeemable, and did little, if anything to stop the madness.  We allowed the entertainment industry to lead our families into a hellish upside-down morality that calls evil good and good evil.  We passively watched our culture fall down the rabbit hole on nearly every issue from drug use to the break-down of the family to gender issues.  

Our reluctance to confront these and other issues was been born out of fear (Isaiah 41:10-13). We were afraid of being labeled as “hateful”, “backward”, “anti-science” or “mean-spirited” by our peers (John 15:18).   On the rare occasions when Christians have boldly confronted these and other issues it has rarely been done the way God designed it to be done. It hasn’t been a parent challenging their child or one neighbor or friend gently confronting the sin of someone they care about. Instead Christians have outsourced hard conversations to pastors, books, big Christian organizations and ministries who have had the discussions concerning virtue and morality that individual Christians should have been having one-on-one with their friends and family.   As a result, many in our culture are convinced Christians have no real interest in individual people but only care about righteousness in a nationalistic sense. 

All that being said.

Because God is good and unfailingly merciful all is not lost. We have hope.  God is eager to forgive those who are quick to repent. He will send revival, He will heal our land but first church people must make changes (2nd Chronicles (7:14). The church must do some serious soul searching. It’s time to ruthlessly root out the sin in our own lives and repent. If we don’t we will never have the moral authority necessary to confront sin and have hard conversations with others. It’s way past time to let go of any discomfort we feel about discussing moral issues with our children, friends and neighbors. And lastly, it is imperative we stop expecting pastors and ministry organizations to do the job of making disciples and confronting sin. It’s not their responsibility, it’s ours (Ephesians 4:10-12). If we lean into that responsibility we will see the culture change and our churches grow into something healthy and strong. 

How to Flourish in the “New Normal”-

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age- Psalm 92:12-14a NIV

 Among other notable distinctions 2020 has been a year that has produced some annoying but unique catchphrases and buzzwords. Thanks to the “Rona” even those generally unfamiliar with medical jargon are now familiar with terms such as “self-quarantine”, “contact tracing”, “social distancing” and “flatten the curve”. 2020 has also given us some brand-new catchphrases such as: “show you care, mask-up” “spread kindness not COVID”, “we are in this together”, “remember to wash your hands”, “staying apart is the best way to stay connected” and “stay home to stay alive”.

Sigh.  

However, the award for the most annoying new slogan or catchphrase of 2020 has to go to the expression “the new normal”. I resisted this phrase from day one. I was horrified at how quick people were to accept the idea that a stupid GERM would automatically change everything about how we function in this world. After all, germs are not a new thing. Germs have been around since the fall and humans have managed to survive quite nicely in spite of their presence in the world. Moreover, this is the twenty-first century for the love of all that is good and decent! We are not living in the stinking dark ages for heaven’s sake! At this point in history humans ought to be sophisticated enough to cope with a stupid virus, even a novel virus without it destroying the best parts of our civilization (free speech, sporting events, live entertainment venues, face-to-face communication, free exercise of religion, unrestricted travel). Acquiescing to the notion that a virus with anything less than a twenty-percent mortality rate could change EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING is a kind of spineless defeatism I was and still am very uncomfortable with.  

Nevertheless. 

As time has worn on, I have been forced to acknowledge reality.  COVID-19 really has shaped a new normal that will doubtless continue to affect our daily lives for some time to come. Unfortunately, little of the new normal is healthy, pleasant or life-giving. In fact, most of it is corrupt, unhealthy, illogical and extremely distressing in some way.  So far, the “new normal” includes a lot fear, an appalling lack of logic, political division, hostility, hate, rioting and government control. 

I am still not a fan. 

That being said. Because God promises He will never leave us or forsake us, Christians will ALWAYS have the ability to flourish spiritually even in the most challenging of times (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).  The book of Jeremiah demonstrates this reality.  Jeremiah is mostly a grim and unpleasant book.  After generations of idolatry, sexual sin and open rebellion against God the people of Judah were finally faced with the consequences of their sinful lifestyle.  God lifted His hand of protection and the nation was conquered by the Babylonians. Jeremiah prophesied that this would not be a short-term inconvenience. Israel would remain in captivity to the Babylonians for seventy years. However, Jeremiah also assured the nation that even in the midst of their painful and ugly “new normal” God still loved them.  He promised God would still hear their prayers, He would continue to dwell among them, He would continue to bless them and He still had good plans for their future (Jeremiah 29:10-14). 

What was true for God’s people in 605 B.C. is still true for God’s people in 2020 A.D. God is still God and God is still good. He has plans for His people and they are good. 

This is without question a season of rebuke and judgment. God is not dealing just with those outside the church but also with Christians who have become disobedient and negligent in their devotion to God (1stPeter 4:17). During a season of rebuke and judgment it is vital we ruthlessly root out the idols in our lives and seek to become active participants in the sanctification process (2nd Corinthians 13:5, 2nd Peter 1:5-11). We must examine our lives and repent quickly so we can be a peaceful and life-giving presence to non-Christians who have reached the end of their own coping mechanisms and false belief systems. Our ultimate obligation before God is to live holy lives and seek the good of the culture we have been placed in, no matter how corrupt or sinful our culture happens to be (Jeremiah 29:4-7, Matthew 5:16, Matthew 28:18-20, 1st Peter 2:12). That means being spiritually ready when God  brings revival to the unbelieving.  

 Historically, God does His best work in the darkest of times. Our time is no different. God promises to do great things in and through the faithful.  The seventy years of captivity gave us some of the most heroic, encouraging, and instructive stories in all the Bible. The books of Daniel, Esther and Jonah are all stories that tell how God worked in and through those who remained faithful during their season of rebuke and judgment. If we cling to God and stay open to what He is attempting to do in us through this season we will not lose heart we will see God do great things in us and in our culture. 

We will flourish.