Sunday, January 23, 2011

Which Counterfeit Gospels are Most Prevelant Today

The temptation when writing a book like Counterfeit Gospels is to focus on everything wrong with everyone else. I didn’t want to write that kind of book, as it didn’t strike me as particularly constructive.
Instead, I thought long and hard about the doubts and struggles of people in my congregation. I also looked within my own heart to see the kinds of counterfeits that appeal to me in one way or another.
Ultimately, I narrowed the list to six counterfeits. Then, I sought to hold them up to light of the biblical gospel in a way that exposed their flaws and made them less attractive to us.
Below is a list of counterfeits I considered. I’m interested to see which ones you think are most prominent. Take the poll below and let me know the six you would have chosen. Then, leave a comment telling me why you made the choices you did. I’m curious to see how your choices line up with the six I put in the book.
Therapeutic Gospel: Sin robs us of our sense of fullness. Christ’s death proves our worth as humans and gives us power to reach our potential. The church helps us find happiness.
Formalist Gospel: Sin is failing to keep church rules and regulations. Christ’s death gives me an agenda, so I can begin to follow the predescribed forms of Christianity.
Moralist Gospel: Our big problem is sins (plural) and not sin (nature). The purpose for Christ’s death is to give us a second chance and make us better people. Redemption comes through the exercise of willpower with God’s help.
Judgmentless Gospel: God’s forgiveness does not need to come through the sacrifice of His Son. Judgment is more about God’s goodness, not the need for human rebellion to be punished. Evangelism is not urgent.
Social-Club Gospel: Salvation is all about finding fellowship and friendship at church. The gospel is reduced to Christian relationships that help us enjoy life.
Activist Gospel: The kingdom is advanced through our efforts to build a just society. The gospel’s power is demonstrated through cultural transformation, and the church is united around political causes and social projects.
Churchless Gospel: The focus of salvation is primarily on the individual, in a way that makes the community of faith peripheral to God’s purposes. The church is viewed as an option to personal spirituality, or even an obstacle to Christlikeness.
Mystic Gospel: Salvation comes through an emotional experience with God. The church is there to help me feel close to God by helping me along in my pursuit of mystical union.
Quietist Gospel: Salvation is about spiritual things, not secular matters. Christianity is only about individual life change and is not concerned with society and politics.

The New Testament is Plural Not Singular « Reimagining Church

Though this article is anti-institutional, nevertheless it has some good things to say that are very biblical and challenge how we see community life and the role of the pastor. I found it on Reimagining the Church website by Frank Viola. - David
The New Testament Is Plural (Us) Not Singular (Me)
by Jon Zens
As folks listen to local and media Bible teachers, most miss the fact that Christ’s body is missing from their use of the New Testament. More often than not the approach taken is individualistic – “how can Christ help me live the Christian life?” However, the NT was not written to individuals but to groups of believing people in various cities and regions. This does not come across in English translations for the most part because the word “you” in the Greek can be singular or plural. For example, the “you” in “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” is plural, and has in view the Body of Christ.
Think about it. The NT letters were sent to ekklesias (assemblies) – “when you come together as an ekklesia.” Even the letter sent to an individual – Philemon – still has a corporate (body) dimension to it – “to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the ekklesia in your house.”
This is the crucial missing element in the bulk of today’s Bible teaching. The Lord intended the life of Christ to be lived out among the disciples in community, not in isolation. Consider how upside-down we are in our practice. The NT has at least 58 “one-another’s” that are meaningless without the reality of close, deep local relationships. The call to be longsuffering and forbearing with others implies day-to-day involvement that simply cannot take place by seeing people a few hours a week at controlled religious meetings.
But where do we put the emphasis in what people call “church”? It pretty much revolves around “the pastor.” He is the one with the ordination, the school training, the vision, and the sermons. Without a “pastor” people would generally conclude that you don’t have a church yet. No church is seen as complete unless it has a “pastor.” If a “pastor” leaves a church, then you have to quick find another one.
What have we done? We have elevated that for which there is not a shred of evidence in the NT – that there must be a “pastor” to lead the church – and by doing this most church structures then suppress the life of Jesus coming to expression through the 58 “one-another’s” that are clearly in the NT.
Since the “one-another” perspectives are pushed into the background, the “pastor” must then spend a lot of his time helping the flock live the Christian life as individuals.
In the NT we see the life of Christ in each believer come to expression as they gather in an open meeting and edify each other (1 Cor.14:26). The NT knows nothing of “worship services.” In the gatherings of the early church there was no one, or no group, “up-front” leading the time together. It was a body meeting led by the Holy Spirit to be an expression of Jesus Christ.
But what have we done? We bring individuals together who haven’t seen each other since last Sunday to sing a few songs, put some money in a plate, listen to a pastoral prayer, hear a sermon, and go home to their roast in the oven and afternoon football. “Church services” climax with the sermon and perhaps an altar call. People can go through what is ordained in a church bulletin, and not have an ounce of loving commitment to anyone. Families can be sitting in the pews week after week that are about to explode or end in divorce and their needs fall through the cracks of church machinery. Oversimplification? I think you know in your heart that the essence of what I’m describing is reality for most people in “church.”
The early church came together in a way in which all the parts could be an expression of Christ on earth. For the most part we now come to “church” to see one person function and hear a sermon that is supposed to help us live better lives in a fallen world. Can you see the disconnect? The former is Christ flowing like living water out of his people in a life of interdependence; the latter is institutional and fosters dependence on one part – “the pastor.”
Consider the matter of repentance. Generally this subject is approached individualistically – “What do I need to repent of in my Christian life?” But in Christ’s words to the ekklesias in Revelation 2-3 we see that he called the whole body of believers in a city to repent of various sins. This is we-repentance notme-repentance. When have you ever heard of a body of believers repenting for anything?
This illustrates how we have completely missed the fundamental body dimension of the NT. One of the key reasons why the “us” has been replaced by “me” is because of all the human traditions that have buried the living Christ and exalted “churchy” stuff.
Indeed, the ekklesia consists of unique individuals. But in the Lord’s building of his ekklesia these individuals only find meaningful existence together, not apart. He wills for his vine-life to be fruitful in each and every branch, for the health and growth of the whole plant.
Our life is just a vapor. Are we going to expend our energies oiling religious machines or pursuing life – “Christ in us the hope of glory.”
(For further reflection on this theme and related ones see the author’s A Church Building Every ½ Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick?)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On Mission

Thus the mission of the church is not only that of employing the keys of the Kingdom to open to both Jew and Gentile the door into the enternal life which is the gift of God's Kingdom; it is also the instrument of God's dynamic rule in the world to oppose evil and the powers of Satan in every form of their manifestation.
-- George Eldon Ladd

Friday, January 14, 2011

Can We See Jesus Better Than the Saints in the Bible?

Found this on John Piper's Blog:

Jesus speaks of three ways of seeing himself, each better than the one before.

  1. There were the people who saw him, the incarnate Son of God, and did not see the self-authenticating reality of his divine glory. They only saw a teacher or a prophet. “Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:13).
  2. Then there were the prophets and righteous people in the Old Testament who did not see the incarnate form of the Son of God, but did see his divine glory. “Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17).

    That is, they did not see the physical form of God’s glory in the incarnate Son. But they did see his glory. Some saw it only with the eyes of their hearts through the revelation of God in his word (1 Samuel 3:21). But others were granted to see his glory in a more direct way. “Isaiah he saw [Christ’s] glory and spoke of him” (John 12:41), referring to the vision of Isaiah 6:1–4.
  3. Finally, there were those who saw both the incarnate physical body of the Son of God and, in him, the reality of the divine glory. “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:16). “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Where do we fit in? We fit between 2 and 3. We have the advantage over the “righteous people” in the Old Testament because we have the divinely inspired portrayal of the incarnate Son of God—his teaching and life and glorious work of redemption on the earth. This portrayal of his divine glory is something the saints of old longed to see but did not. But now we have it in our New Testament (1 Peter 1:10–12).

In this written portrayal of the incarnate Christ, we do see the divine glory of the Son of God. We see it in “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

But we do not see the incarnate form of Jesus in the flesh, as the apostles did. We would like to. And Paul says that, in the absence of Christ physically, there is a seeing and a fellowship yet to come that will be better than the fellowship and the seeing we have now: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

Therefore, let us pray with Paul that “the eyes of our hearts be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18), to see the self-authenticating divine glory of Christ in the biblical portrayal of his incarnate life and work. God forbid that Jesus’ words would be spoken over us: “Seeing they do not see.”

Are we really following the Jesus of the bible?

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And awhoever does not take his cross and bfollow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mat 10:37 ESV)

Are you following the Jesus of the Bible who makes radical claims on your life for the greater good or are you following the Jesus you have created and are comfortable with who lets you live a self centered American lifestyle? 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bewar of Counterfeit Bills Floating Around Homer!

Yesterday I was informed that there are counterfeit $20 bills that are floating around Homer since the beginning of the year.  The unsuspecting victims were deceived because they did not recognize the bills as counterfeits.  I was told that real $20 bills will have a face in the watermark along one side edge when you hold it in the light and secondly that Andrew Jackson’s coat will be textured.  So last night Karen and I were at dinner with another couple and as I shared this with them Karen said that she had heard that banks have tellers handle bills so much in training that the teller can identify a fake by the touch and the feel of it.  I decided to find out for myself how to distinguish the real thing from a fake so I did a little research this morning.  I found that the way to identify a fake is to compare it to a real bill of the same denomination.  Several sites gave a list of identifying markers that are easy to see on real bills but are not on counterfeit ones.  For example, compare the print quality and texture and the watermark as I was told.  But I also found several other factors to examine.  For more information go here.

I immediately saw several spiritual principles in this issue.  The first is that the only way to know a counterfeit in your life is to know the original very well.  For instance, the only way you know a counterfeit god in your life is to know God very well.  Or the only way to identify a counterfeit teaching in your life is to know the truth very well. 

The second principle is that individuals, some you may know, were deceived because they were not aware that counterfeit bills were circulating around in Homer nor did they even suspect the fact that they could be deceived!

Let’s make this more personal.  How well do you know God and his word?  Do you know him and his word so well that the instance some idol raises its ugly head in your heart that you instantly know it?  For instance, when you are being selfish do you recognize the idol of self as at work in your heart?  Or when you are afraid to share the gospel or tell the truth in a situation that the idol of people pleasing is at work in your heart.  I could go on and on . . .

Let me encourage you to make this year the year that you saturate yourself with God and his word so that your mind is renewed in such a way that you are better equipped to know God and his truth.

Fighting against the idols in my own heart,

Pastor David

Think Hard, Stay Humble: The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride

Think Hard, Stay Humble: The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride

This video is a must watch for every person in ministry, every one who claims to follow Christ. This is a gripping message on what it means to be in anguish for others, what it means to love and core for others.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ministry within God Give Limits

  But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. (2 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)

I was reading from 2 Corinthians this morning and came across this verse within Pauls defense of his apostolic ministry.  He is making the point that God assigns people and gives them the authority to work with or within a given group of people (v. 8).  That word 'assign' literally means to divide so as to divide things up or separate into parts.  So Paul is telling us that God has divided up his work among people whom he calls to a work and gives them the authority to build up that group.  The evidence of this is the fruit of their labors among that group (v. 14-15).  This is important and significant because as the gospel is sown and grows it lays the foundation for future ministry and work (v. 16).  When the gospel is distorted and there is resistance to Gods appointed leadership, gospel work is handicapped.

Monday, January 10, 2011


"Lo, I am with you always..." (Mt. 28:20). If we know that Jesus is with us, every power will be developed, and every grace will be strengthened, and we will cast ourselves into the Lord's service with heart, soul, and strength; therefore is the presence of Christ to be desired above all things.  His presence will be more realized by those who are most like him. If you desire to see Christ, you must grow in conformity to him. Bring yourself, by the power of the Spirit, into union with Christ's desires, and motives, and plans of action, and you are likely to be favoured with his company. Remember, his presence may be had. -- Charles Spurgeon