Is your church going liberal?

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions…” 

 

2 Timothy 4:3

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

Author’s Note: Below this post is a link to ‘Her Faith Inspires’ podcast hosted by Shanda Fulbright on this topic. We go a little deeper. After reading, head to the link below!

A pastor doesn’t wake up one morning and decide to be a heretic or stray from orthodoxy.

A church doesn’t have to hoist a giant BLM or LGBTQ+ flag to be considered liberal… Although, I’d definitely recommend avoiding churches that do so.

Liberal theology elevates human reason as authoritative while the Bible is seen as erroneous, possessing little to no authority. In reality, liberalization of a church is death by a thousand cuts. In other words, straying occurs slowly and incrementally over time. One must take in consideration a church’s theological commitments, doctrinal positions, and preaching over a span of years. History and trajectory are important.

I will share a few warning signs.

Controversy
If church leadership begins to avoid controversial issues, this is one indication of that church going liberal. Excuses range from the “seeker-sensitive” mindset where leaders try to convince the congregation that preaching about controversial topics “gets in the way of the Gospel” to labeling all controversial issues as “political.” Both excuses in all their various forms are copouts. Avoiding controversy is a cover for the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25) and cowardice (Revelation 21:8). Both lead to sin.

Compromise
In a church, compromise is an attempt to morally relocate the difference between good and evil, and right and wrong somewhere in the middle. Compromise is usually packaged as something new and it’s never good. It is a theological and doctrinal reorientation around worldly culture rather than the Word of God. A little compromise here and there becomes normative. (Compromise is largely a function of the philosophy of pragmatism – more on pragmatism later).

Liberal theology takes on many forms and can be hard to recognize. Theological and doctrinal compromise rarely begin in the pulpit (unless the pastor has begun to privately compromise the truth). Actually, compromise typically begins in smaller communities within the larger church community – in small groups, classes, and/or church committees. From these smaller enclaves, compromise works its way into the wider church community.

Progressive Christianity is a current trend of dangerous theological and doctrinal compromise making its way through churches. If a teacher is promoting a “new and different interpretative approach to Scripture” or “deconstructing power and privilege in the Bible“, you are seeing compromise and false teaching. The teacher may be a nice guy with a seminary degree, but Satan “masquerades as an angel of light” too (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Eventually, compromise leads to a total rejection of biblical inerrancy and authority. Again, this occurs very slowly.

Criticism
If you observe a leader isolating and insulating themselves against criticism or feedback they don’t like, it can indicate a trend toward liberalism. No one enjoys criticism or critique because it grates against our pride, sensibilities, and emotions. However, we can learn from criticism and feedback, even when it’s way off base because it contains some kernel of truth. When criticism, critique, or feedback comes from people who’ve supported and been committed to a fellowship for years, it’s probably a good idea to listen and humbly acknowledge there’s something to learn.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16). This is not just aimed at the congregation. Pastors and teachers are to be taught, reproved, and trained by the Word as well.

When a church member critiques or challenges a leader, it’s a great opportunity to meet, open bibles, and discuss (reason together). However, when barriers to access are raised, its time for concern – because the leaders don’t want to listen. If they don’t listen, they don’t learn. If they amplify positive affirmations but don’t listen to the congregation, they lose connection with reality.

Convictions
When a church is going liberal, it begins to alter or subtly back away from long held convictions. This is closely related to compromise. For instance, if your church has been committed to protecting and promoting the sanctity of human life for many years only to begin avoiding discussion about the sin of abortion, it’s backing away from a conviction. When ‘hot button’ issues like surgical mutilation of children, sterilization, or Marxist indoctrination of children in schools, or public promotion of drag shows for kids are avoided or ignored, there is a problem.

The Bible has something to say about all of these issues – the Bible calls them ‘evil.’ When Christians remain silent in the face of evil being foisted upon our neighbors who we’re commanded to love and children we are to defend, we are seconding evil’s motion.

Compromise and backing away from convictions lead to backsliding individually and liberalism theologically.

Moralistic Therapeutic
When sermons and teaching sound more like therapy sessions, there is a problem.
When messages are devoid of conviction and a call to humble repentance only to be replaced with ways to improve your life or become a better person, your discernment radar should kick in. Don’t be fooled when biblical narratives and feigned exposition are used as backdrops for moralism or the therapeutic. They are not preaching the Bible, they are using it as a prop for a watered down gospel.

It is important to note that the Moralistic Therapeutic is extremely difficult to spot because the language and tone lulls the congregation to sleep. Why? Because in reality, God created us as emotional beings with needs. In addition, Christians desire to be godly and good. A moralistic TED-talk sermon manipulates those desires. Furthermore, everyone struggles with depression, grief, joylessness, trauma, etc to some degree. So, a therapeutic message appeals to people’s emotions. However, when the clear admonition, conviction, and edification of God’s Word is twisted to sound like a TED-talk or self-help book, liberal theology is just below the surface. No one should feel good about their sin. 

Nickels and Noses
When church growth, attendance, and giving become primary drivers of decision-making, the door is wide open for liberal theology. 
When entertaining the goats is more important than the feeding the sheep, there is a problem.
When church resources are diverted away from serving people to funding operations that are geared toward entertainment and marketing strategies, mission drift is occurring. Furthermore, Big Data is big business in the church world today. Christians are being treated like consumers. Who’s responsible for growing Christ’s Church? Man or Jesus Christ?

The congregation is no longer viewed through a theological lens. Instead, the congregation is viewed through an economic and marketing lens. There has been a paradigm shift away from the mission of the church toward pragmatism and franchise-styled thinking. This leads to empire-building, marketing gimmicks, and protecting the institution in order to keep the people and money rolling in. Does this sound like a biblical description of the Body of Christ?

Many pastors don’t speak truth boldly because their customers (I mean) congregations may be offended and leave the church (taking their tithes with them). In these pastors’ minds, it’s better to sooth the congregation’s consciences, tone-down convictions, compromise with the world, avoid controversy and criticism to keep the lukewarm congregation coming back. This results in churches focusing efforts and resources on keeping their customers happy, comfortable, and entertained. The faithful members who are committed to the truth and obeying God’s Word are pushed out for speaking up (labeled as divisive, disloyal, trouble-makers, and distrusting of leadership). Little do these fearful pastors know they are sawing off the branch on which they sit. (See Proverbs 26:27)

I could ramble on, you get the point.

Driving toward solutions – What are we to do?

– Pray.
– Praise God for the Church – the body of Christ.
– Repent of our self-centered idolatry and compromises with the world.
– Return to our first love – Jesus Christ and his holy Word – obey his commands.
– Recover the mission of the church – a community committed to truth (John 8:46-47), a community of love (John 17), and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
– Restore a full-orbed Kingdom vision for our place in God’s world for his glory! (Ephesians 2:10)
– Pray again (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. – Titus 2:1

What about you? What ways do you observe churches ‘going liberal’?

 

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

Want to dive deeper? Listen to my interview on ‘Her Faith Inspires’ podcast with Shanda Fulbright. Go to the podcast homepage here…

LEARN ABOUT THE FORGE ROOM FOUNDATION.
TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.

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The ‘Why?’ behind the Forge Room

WE ARE TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.
FORGING A REVOLUTIONARY LEARNING COMMUNITY, LIVING BOLDLY FOR CHRIST.

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

The only organization on earth capable of reorienting society toward reality, virtue, and human flouring is the church. The only roadmap is the Bible. The only captain is Christ.

People change, organizations change and churches change. My calling remains the same.

God’s call led me into lay-leadership of our church’s pro-life ministry in 2012. He sustained me and exponentially grew the ministry and its impact, despite my short-comings. God is faithful.

God’s call led me to join staff at our church in 2014 to lead Local Missions (community outreach). God blessed and multiplied His ministry through bringing lay-leaders with gifts and talents I do not possess. They were vessels of God’s strength and grace in reaching thousands of people for Christ. Our message was clear, “we are a church without walls.” God is good.

God’s call placed me on the ramparts as a watchman in 2020 as dark ideologies attempted to mount a siege against our fellowship. My responsibility was clear; understand the enemy and his schemes, discern between friend or foe approaching the gates, and relay what I saw to those inside the city.

“For thus the Lord said to me:
“Go, set a watchman;
let him announce what he sees.
When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,
riders on donkeys, riders on camels,
let him listen diligently,
very diligently.”
Then he who saw cried out:
“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,
continually by day,
and at my post I am stationed
whole nights.
And behold, here come riders,
horsemen in pairs!””
– Isaiah 21:6-8

God’s call sustained me once again as organizational focus changed and shifted. God revealed a vital need where something was missing that I could create and contribute. The fellowship needed to be fortified in the faith, equipped with understanding of the times, and encouraged to stand firm – shining as lights in the darkness. God is wise.

God’s call on my life has always centered around protecting the most vulnerable – the unborn, the orphan, the trafficking victim, the elderly, the unprotected youth. You can read my story here to understand I was once the antithesis of this. But, God took the evil I committed and turned it for good. Even when I am unfaithful, God is faithful.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?”
– Proverbs 24:11-12

I cannot and will not remain silent in the face of evil as I did in my younger days. I am accountable to God, my wife, and my children. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I’ve reached two conclusions; First, for the most part, Christians have been fighting a defensive battle (even as we claim to be on the offense). Second, the American church suffers from the fear of man, a focus on self-preservation and empire-building, and protection of the institutional church (as a business). We’ve traded our God-ordained birth-right for a cheap bowl of marketing gimmicks. The results are; a loss of mission, moral confusion, and a sense of prevailing darkness. Well-meaning Christians have retreated to their ‘holy huddles’ and rabbit holes of Sunday church attendance, home, work, entertainment, and Christian activities (as sanctioned by the world).

Someone once said, “When the light of the world retreats inside walls of the church, the world becomes a very dark place.”

I prayed, “Lord, what would you have me to do? I’m your’s to command.”

On June 16, 2022 a vision began forming in my mind. I saw a joy-filled, spirit-led, faithful, prayerful, worshipful, and vibrant community of sold-out Christ-followers so distinct from the world, they shined like the brightest stars in the sky. I saw people on fire for the Lord and loving their neighbors. I saw hundreds and even thousands of Christians breaking down the walls of church buildings to serve as ambassadors of our Savior and King. I saw Christ being honored and glorified in our city. I saw entire families being brought into the fold through the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. I saw prayer meetings, big and small breaking out all over. I saw a recovery of a full-orbed Kingdom vision and public theology as Christ-followers engaged within their sphere of relationships.

I saw classrooms, seminars, and forums filled with eager Christians in learning communities being equipped to serve God’s purposes in this generation and this city. I saw people investing in people who invest in people – creating disciples who will disciple the nations and generations in our city.

Today, I see a recovery of what is good, true, and beautiful on the horizon. I see answered prayer unleashed on our city. I see renewal and local churches pouring fourth light like never before.

All of this is totally impossible… or is it?

My prayer is… Ephesians 3:20-21

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (ESV)

J.B. Phillips paraphrase puts it this way, “Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine—to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen!”

As a pastor and leader, I’ve led the charge against human trafficking, exploitation of the vulnerable, abortion, euthanasia, and destructive ideologies. By God’s grace, great work has been done in these areas! We must celebrate what God has done through His faithful people. But, things in our community continue to worsen and decay. It’s not for a lack of awareness or funding or services. We have some of the best people and organizations serving trafficking victims, women in crisis pregnancies, orphans, the elderly and protecting the hearts and minds of children in our schools. The problem is cultural virtue is decaying because Christian leaders are telling their followers to abandon societal institutions like education, arts and music, media, and politics. Thus, our communities become very dark places.

The church isn’t lacking in programming or resources or personalities, we’re lacking in prayer, fortitude, and Gospel G.R.I.T. (Guts, Resiliency, Integrity, and Tenacity). Our Savior, Jesus Christ demonstrated all of these virtues as he “set his face like a flint” and marched to the cross, through death, and sat upon his Kingly throne.

Most Christians live as though we have a King without a Kingdom. Meanwhile, evil, chaos, and brokenness ravage our children, families, and communities – and churches!

Michael S. Craven stated, “While Christian faith is deeply personal it was never intended to remain private. This reductionism and privatization of Christian faith have left the contemporary Church with little to offer a desperate world other than a prescription for personal salvation, the only real implication of which is realized when you die. Unfortunately, this truncated gospel has left the Christian confused and uncertain with regard to what they are to be doing in the meantime.”

Again, we’ve made great strides in our fight against issues like trafficking and abortion. However, things continue to get worse. Most individual efforts are focused on arguing against and fighting at the point of crisis (ie. rescuing victims, protecting the vulnerable, or political action). I encourage, support, and participate in those efforts.

Sadly, the church sits on the sidelines, or complains, or remains silent or avoids critical cultural issues at all costs. I participate in the anti-trafficking community, serve on boards of ministries, attend school board and city council meetings, and advise crisis pregnancy centers. Local church involvement is always missing. Christians get involved but local churches tend to shy away from ‘controversial’ issues like trafficking, abortion, euthanasia, pornography, human sterilization, and perceived ‘political’ issues.

Silence on an issue of good versus evil is not going to win lost people to Christ.

Eric Metaxas said, “There are a lot of pastors that say, “I don’t want to fight (against moral evil)… I just want to “preach the Gospel.” I mean, if slavery is an issue, should you not talk about slavery because you might offend someone in your congregation? What issue will you be silenced on that is a God issue? That is an issue of good versus evil, because you have been persuaded somehow that if you don’t talk about that issue, you’ll win a convert. A convert to what? What dead, useless gospel are you preaching?”

Richard Owen Roberts said, “During the present time of moral and spiritual declension, the church is daily losing ground to the world. Each false convert that is added to an already adulterated work adds to the decline and hastens its pace. We have already reached the point where the negative impact of those who profess to be Christians and either are not or are badly backslidden is greater than the positive impact of those who profess to be Christians and truly are. Thus, the church is going backward instead of forward.”

Christ alone can heal and revive His Church. The church isn’t a franchise. Jesus Christ, not man, is responsible for building His Church. The “church growth movement” is an open door to liberalism, compromise, and false-teaching. Today, we find ourselves on a recovery mission of sound doctrine, faithfulness, and public theology.

God’s calling on me is clear and fortified. God moved the location and context of my vision. No longer is it limited to a single local church. It is a bigger enterprise for equipping and mobilizing the Church in our city in order to push back against the darkness and infuse God’s goodness into our community.

Based on my research, our communities will continue to degrade. Trafficking will continue to get worse, new forms of abortion will increase, sterilization of children will become normalized, euthanasia of the elderly and ill will increase, and the indoctrination of children and organizations with sex-ed, Marxism, and DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) / SEL / ESG doctrines will destroy any last vestige of moral virtue and human flourishing. Not to mention, the harsh rhetoric and cancelling of dissent or truth will continue unchallenged.

Moving forward, what are we about?

Christianity is a public truth.”

– Lesslie Newbigin

We must recover a unifying vision of the Lordship of Christ over the domain of our individual and collective lives as the local church. We shall live lives that are holy and pleasing to the Lord as we exercise dominion over that which God has placed in our care. The hallmarks of Christian maturity are; faith, holy living, the ability to articulate a Christian vision of total reality, and a zeal for sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom. Christ is Lord over ALL things. We serve as ambassadors of His Kingdom – reflecting our King’s image, redeeming and restoring that which is lost and dying in the place and time in which we live. We need a recovery of cultural virtue like in the days of William Wilberforce in order to make good culture and protect the sanctity of human life.

“God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”
– William Wilberforce

With this in mind, we launched the Forge Room Foundation in May of 2023.

A forge is “a furnace in which iron or metal is heated and hammered into form. Any place where any thing is made or shaped. The act of beating or working iron or steel; the manufacture of metalline bodies.” [Noah Webster 1828 – American Dictionary of the English Language].

A forge room is “a place or establishment where iron or other metals are wrought by heating and hammering.” [Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary]

A forge room is a motif of the Christian life and journey. We are constantly being grown, tested, sanctified, and conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Until Christ returns, the sanctity of human life will always be in danger. Threats against the weak, the vulnerable, and children are unending and will continue to grow.

We’re accurately Identifying the Problem:
We are living in a Civilizational Moment. Christians need strong biblical community and equipping now more than ever. Over the past hundred years, the Christian faith has become privatized as we have abandoned society resulting in darkness and moral confusion. Dangerous ideologies are invading our families, schools, and churches.

Like the German church in the 1930s, the American church is overcome with fear and remains virtually silent in the face of evil. As a result, the Church has lost its public witness. Our action or inaction today will shape the next century.

We’re Creating and contributing Solution:
The Forge Room Foundation is creating localized learning communities – providing training in worldview, cultural intelligence, and biblical theology – bringing light into the darkness.

We must repent of our silence. We must develop the life of the mind and heart. We must cultivate Gospel GRIT (Guts, Resiliency, Integrity, and Tenacity) in local churches. We must recover the Gospel of the Kingdom!

“The Gospel is so much larger than the personal plan for salvation. The Gospel of the Kingdom is the in-breaking rule and reign of Jesus Christ as King over all creation – redeeming and restoring all things. Through Him, the Kingdom of God has come into this world. Jesus has completed the atonement for our sin on the cross. By his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father, He is presently ruling and reigning over creation. Christ is reinstating his righteousness on the earth.”

– Michael S. Craven

We’re Encouraging and mobilizing appropriate Action:
We will develop a full-orbed Kingdom vision, confidence, and wisdom to serve generations yet unborn for Christ.

Are you ready to live boldly for Christ in this generation in our city?

Will you partner with us in this mission? Join us for a course and check us out (click here)

In conclusion, God will sustain and grow His ministry and its impact, despite my short-comings. Why? God is faithful.

Learn more about Forge Room here…

Resources to encourage you and give you hope

Article: Recovering the Gospel of the Kingdom by Michael Craven

Sermon: How to Be a Man of Courage by John MacArthur

Article: THE THREE WORLDS OF EVANGELICALISM by Aaron Renn

Book: Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch

Book: A Christian Manifesto Paperback by Francis A. Schaeffer

“Evangelization requires that we proclaim, not only God’s saving grace, but the norms by which he intends those who are in Christ to live. In no way do mere human beings redeem culture by engaging in creative activity. This is presumptuous. Only God in Christ redeems his fallen creation. We are at most agents of his kingdom, manifesting his saving grace in everything we do — including the shaping of culture.”

– David T. Koyzis –

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

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Lust

Unlike other sins, lust commits severe violence against one’s self, others, and God. Lust is a distortion of a good desire.

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

The grocery store checkout may be one of the most spiritually dangerous places on earth. A wall of magazines adorned with images surround you.

In addition, sexually explicit and suggestive movies, media, social media, advertisements, books, magazines, school ‘sexual health’ curriculum, strip clubs, drag queen shows for children, cultivate and feed lust.

The cover of Cosmopolitan magazine coveys a powerful message about identity and conjures up illicit thoughts. Like mainlining heroin, the image of a scantily-dressed woman rides base emotions, bypasses natural defenses of reason, logic, and moral sensibilities directly into the imagination. Once there, the image of the Cosmo woman takes on a life of its own – playing with powerful desires within us.

In the mind of a teenage boy, an image can conjure up sexual appetites that God made for good purposes. But lust takes hold, distorting and degrading the woman’s image. A boy learns to objectify a lovely creature made in God’s image. Mind you, no one has to teach a boy how to lust or objectify others. It comes ‘naturally’ to him.

Illicit thoughts pulse through the mind. A narrative is created in the imagination and eventually gets expressed through behavior. Behavior reinforces the narrative and a destructive cycle ensues. The sinful narrative can shape a person’s life… Yes, it’s all in the imagination. But, it does not stay there. At some point it will be externalized.

Lust is a blatantly obvious universal sin – if people are honest with themselves. Unlike other sins, lust commits severe violence against one’s self, others, and God.

As an aside. In the mind of a teenage girl, the Cosmo woman’s image conveys messages as well. The first, is the girl will never be ‘good enough’ to be like the woman on the magazine. Second, the girl begins to feel like she must become like the woman on the magazine. Finally, the girl may decide that the woman on the magazine is what boys want – so she decides to pursue becoming like the image.

The truth of “I’m created in the image of God – fearfully and wonderfully made” is replaced with a false identity – a lie takes hold of a young girl’s imagination and heart. It reshapes her life if left unaddressed. She lusts after the image for different reasons… She wants to ‘become like’ the airbrushed Cosmo woman. Again, the imagination builds a narrative and often destructive behavior follows.

But, let me re-focus on boys and men since I am a man and I’ve been a boy, I know this domain best.

In objectifying girls, the boy’s lust transforms the girl from an image-bearer into a thing to be obsessed over, possessed, and used for his pleasure… then, to be disposed of.

Ask any man what he had for lunch last Wednesday. He will have to think about it for a moment… He probably won’t remember.

Ask any man about the first time he viewed pornography… He can tell you IMMEDIATELY. He can describe the place, time, and setting.

Ask any man about the woman he first viewed through pornography. He knows nothing about her other than how her image made him feel and how he responded. 40 or 50 years later, her image haunts him.

The average age that a boy is exposed to pornographic material is 8 years old.

At 88 years old, he will still remember the first time he was exposed to it.

Lust is powerful.
Lust is prideful.
Lust is hateful.
Lust is deadly.

Lust is a distortion of a good desire.

God gave men and women desires for one another that are good. However, due to the Fall, sin caused those desires to become disordered and destructive. This is why Lust is one of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins.’

Epithymia(Greek) Desire, longing, coveting, craving, lusting…
Notice the negative connotation – a notion of craving for something that does not belong to you (coveting). (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)

Within the richness of the Greek language, Lust carries powerful characteristics of desire and longing for a specific object. The word, ‘concupiscence‘ is used – denoting a passion of lust, evil desire, an indwelling sin. It emerges from the ‘inside’ when an image or event is experienced from the outside. In other words, when boys are exposed to an image of the naked body of a women, it gives rise to an internal desire (response). When virtues are not fully developed, there is no guardian at the gates of the imagination to protect against lust invading the mind and heart.

Epithymia is connected to another Greek word, orexis. The idea here is “reaching or grasping toward the object of desire to attain fulfillment” which one wants to possess. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)

Three things come to mind when connecting epithymia and orexis.

The First comes in Genesis 3 when Eve is tempted by the serpent in the garden to eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The temptation and lie is that she will become “like God.” But wait, she was already like God – made in His Image, sharing in the fullness of communion with God and Adam. Was the first sin the first bite of the fruit? I think not. It was their “grasping at” the gift God had already given… Adam and Eve already had everything they could ever need from God. They were in perfect fellowship and peace. Man fell because he attempted to grasp and possess the gift of God. We do this today.

The Second comes from Genesis 15 where God promises Abram (Abraham) a son. Instead of waiting for God to deliver on His promised gift of an heir, Abraham and his wife, Sarai (Sarah) grasp for the gift to possess it for themselves.

The Third image comes to mind from Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings“. The pursuit of the Ring in order to possess its power brings out the worst in every character – even the benevolent and valiant have imagined attaining the ring. Possession often brings about destruction of the possessor and the world around him. There is a deep hatred of the ring and anyone who may possess it – unless you are the one possessing it – but then you hate it too.

Lust militates against authentic love.

While love recognizes others as image-bearers, lust turns a person to be loved and respected into an object to be used and rejected. When this occurs, we begin to hate the object – who a person God created in his image. Eventually, lust will destroy its host with self-hatred and shame that began with curiosity, self-love, and self-pleasure. All that is left is an empty shell of a human – a prisoner of his own desires – a slave who is left groping in the darkness for the illusive object of his desire.

The words of Gollum (Lord of the Rings) echo;

“We wants it (the Ring), we needs it. Must have the precious.”

“Precious, precious, precious!” Gollum cried. “My Precious! O my Precious!” And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail “precious”, and he was gone.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings)

How can we have victory over lust?

First, we must ‘turn on the light switch.’ Like other sins, lust is isolating. It happens in the darkness. When we ‘turn on the light‘, we are doing two things. 1) We acknowledge the sin. 2) We realize we’re not alone. The dark room is filled with others. All it takes is one person to flip the switch and many others are able to see as well. Furthermore, when someone is freed from a habitual sin, he or she is able to help others get free as well. God uses people. Free people free people.

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” – Romans 15:1-2

Below is a link to a post on Repentance (the only starting place).

Second, as those who have asked for forgiveness and have been redeemed by the blood of Christ are robed in Christ’s righteousness before the Father (called ‘imputed righteousness‘). In other words, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and faith in Him, we are declared ‘not guilty’. We are saved from the penalty of our sin, we are being saved from the power of sin, and eventually we will be saved from the presence of sin. That includes lust. By the virtue of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have power over sin (albeit imperfect during our life in this fallen world).

“For His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust (epithymia).” – 2 Peter 1:3-4

Finally, (Christian) we must realize that when we do sin (and we will sin), we will experience the grace gift of conviction that brings that sin into the light – where it can be acknowledged and forgiven (forever).

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

Reflect on this passage and pray it becomes a growing reality in your daily life:

“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.” – Philippians 4:8

Resources:

Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson

Repentance by Lance Cashion 

 

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Repentance

We must recover the Doctrine of Repentance and raise it to its rightful place – God’s grace-filled gift to sinful man.

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The Doctrine of Repentance may be one of the least understood essential Christian doctrines.

Most (myself included) have grown up with an incomplete understanding of repentance. In addition, true repentance has been lost in the modern evangelical church. It has sunk beneath the waves of our cultural environment of emotionalism, biblical illiteracy, theological confusion, and therapeutic self-referencing doxologies.

The solution is to recover repentance and raise it from the depths of darkness and bring it to its fullest glorious light. Therefore, we turn to the Puritan, Thomas Watson to help salvage the heavenly vessel called “Repentance.”

I credit Virgil Walker and Darrell Harrison from the Just Thinking Podcast (Episode 120) for inspiring the following post.

The section below contains an extensive quotation from Thomas Watson’s “Repentance.” I have selected specific sections to highlight each of Watson’s points in order to condense his 121 page book into a blog post. I highly recommend reading “Repentance” in its entirety. It will profit you greatly.  [Link to the full work provided below this post]

“Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed. For a further amplification, know that repentance is a spiritual medicine made up of six special ingredients:

1. Sight of sin
2. Sorrow for sin
3. Confession of sin
4. Shame for sin
5. Hatred for sin
6. Turning from sin

If any one is left out it loses its virtue. (p.18)

1. Sight of sin (p.18-19)

A man must first recognize and consider what his sin is, and know the plague of his heart before he can be duly humbled for it… . Sin must first be seen before it can be wept for. Hence I infer that where there is no sight of sin, there can be no repentance.

2. Sorrow for sin (p.19-27)

This sorrow for sin is not superficial: it is a holy agony. It is called in scripture a breaking of the heart: ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart’ (Psalm 51:17); and a rending of the heart: ‘Rend your heart’ (Joel 2:13).

3. Confession of sin (p.28-37)

Confession is self-accusing: ‘Lo, I  have sinned’ (2 Sam. 24:17)… But true confession drops from the lips as myrrh from the tree or honey from the comb, freely. o have sinned against heaven, and before thee’ (Luke 15:8) – the prodigal charged himself with sin before his father charged him with it… Confession gives vent to a troubled heart. Confession purges out sin. Confession of sin makes way for pardon.

Where a person has fallen into scandalous sin and by it has been an occasion of offense to some and of falling to others, he ought to make a solemn and open acknowledgement of his sin, that his repentance may be as visible as his scandal (2 Cor. 2:6-7).

Where a man has confessed his sin to God, yet still his conscience is burdened, and he can have no ease in his mind, it is very requisite that he should confess his sins to some prudent, pious friend, who may advise him and speak a word in due season (James 5:16).

Where any man has slandered another and by clipping his good name has made it weigh lighter, he is bound to make confession. How can this reconciliation be effected but by confessing the injury? Till this is done, God will accept none of your services. Do not think the holiness of the altar will privilege you; your praying and hearing are in vain till you have appeased your brother’s anger by confessing your fault to him.

4. Shame for sin (p.39-44)

Blushing is the color of virtue. When the heart has been made black with sin, grace makes the face red with blushing… Every sin makes us guilty, and guilt usually breeds shame.

Be assured, the more we are ashamed of sin now, the less we shall be ashamed at Christ’s coming. If the sins of the godly be mentioned at the day of judgment, it will not be to shame them, but to magnify the riches of God’s grace in pardoning them.

5. Hatred for sin (p.45-52)

A true penitent is a sin-loather. If a man loathe that which makes his stomach sick, much more will he loathe that which makes his conscience sick… We are never more precious in God’s eyes than when we are lepers in our own.

Sound repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin.

Compare sin with hell, and you shall see that sin is worse. Torment has its emphasis in hell, yet nothing there is as bad as sin. Hell is of God’s making, but sin is none of his making. Sin is the devil’s creature.

Look upon sin in the issue and consequence, and it will appear hateful.

By sin we have lost the image of God, wherein did consist both our sanctity and our majesty.

We should hate sin infinitely more than ever we loved it.

6. Turning from sin (p.52-58)

Weeping and turning are put together (Joel 2:12). After the cloud of sorrow has dropped in tears, the firmament of the soul is clearer: ‘Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations’ (Ezek. 14:6). This turning from sin is called a forsaking of sin (Isaiah 55:7)…

There is a change wrought in the heart. The flinty heart has become fleshly. Satan would have Christ prove his deity by turning stones into bread. Christ has wrought a far greater miracle in making stones become flesh. In repentance Christ turns a heart of stone into flesh.

There is a change wrought in the life. Turning from sin is so visible that others may discern it. Therefore it is called a change from darkness to light (Eph: 8).

It must be a turning from sin upon a spiritual ground A man may restrain the acts of sin, yet not turn from sin in a right manner. Acts of sin may be restrained out of fear or design, but a true penitent turns from sin out of a religious principle, namely, love to God.

It must be such a turning from sin as turns unto God This is in the text, ‘that they should repent and turn to God’ (Acts 2:37). Turning from sin is like pulling the arrow out of the wound; turning to God is like pouring in the balm…

To return to sin gives the devil more power over a man than ever. When a man turns from sin, the devil seems to be cast out of him, but when he returns to sin, the devil enters into his house again and takes possession, and ‘the last state of that man is worse than the first’ (Matt. 12:45).

If we turn from our sins to God, God is not advantaged by it. It is only we ourselves who reap the benefit. In this case self-love should prevail with us: ‘If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself (Proverbs 9:12).

If we turn to God, he will turn to us.

If any one (of the six) is left out, repentance loses its virtue.” (1)

In other words, counterfeit or incomplete repentance is an exercise in futility and worthless. We must recover the doctrine of repentance and raise it to its rightful place – God’s grace-filled gift to sinful man.

Oh, how I need forgiveness for my vein and fleshly repentance!

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”
– Acts 3:19

Ken Boa provides a Prayer for Forgiveness – “I return to You, Lord. For You have torn me, but You will heal me. You have injured me but You will bind up my wounds. After two days You will revive me. On the third day You will raise me up so that I can live before You. Amen.”(2)

“Come, let us return to the LORD.
For He has torn us to pieces,
but He will heal us;
He has wounded us,
but He will bind up our wounds.
After two days He will revive us;
on the third day He will raise us up,
that we may live in His presence.”
– Hosea 6:1-2

New Mercies!

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
– Lamentations 3:22–23

He is Faithful!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
– 1 John 1:9

If you don’t know Jesus Christ, I have good news (The Gospel) – Call on Him!

“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””
– Romans 10:13

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”
– Romans 1:16

Daily habit of the Christian life and fellowship with God.

Christians will continue to sin.
We should repent of our sin.
Do Christians confess our sin to be accepted by God?
By no means! We have already accepted when we place our trust in Christ for Salvation.
We confess our sin to remove barriers to our fellowship with God – and with one another (when necessary).
Through repentance, we draw close to the heart of our Heavenly Father… He draws close to us (James 4:8).

Make it a habit; Repent and believe the Gospel every day.

Footnotes:
1. Thomas Watson – Repentance

2. Ken Boa – Prayer for Forgiveness

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Taming Politics

Politics should not be an idol nor something to be ignored.

Politics should be stewarded with thankfulness.

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Political thinking does not arise in a vacuum, nor do our politics stay neatly within the walls we erect around them…

On the contrary, political convictions emerge from our deep underlying assumptions about reality, life, and what we believe about the world we inhabit. While political possibilities shift, biblical truth does not – neither should our convictions.

 

Some treat politics as a worldview – this is wrong. Politics is incapable of answering the bigger questions of life and existence (origin, meaning, identity, morality, destiny). In other words, politics is too small to function as a comprehensive worldview.

On the other hand, some believe politics has no place within a Christian worldview or mitigate its importance – this is also wrong. If a worldview is incapable of containing politics, that worldview is too small.

Only a full-orbed Kingdom vision is capable of not only containing but taming and shaping our politics. For the Christian, our politics should flow from deeply held truths about God, His reality, His creation, His commands, and our responsibility. We must ground our politics in the Word of God, obey His commands, and reflect on the implications of scripture upon our cultural moment.

Politics properly understood impacts individuals made in the image of God with intrinsic value and worth. Because politics involves people we are commanded to love regardless of their political positions – we have a responsibility to properly steward politics. A good gardener would no more allow weeds and pests to infest his gardens than Christians ought to allow harmful ideas and bad policies to infest the way we govern a society comprised of image-bearers – our neighbors.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… And “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV)

Can we truly claim to love God and love our neighbors while allowing evil and destructive policies to harm our neighbors who are created in God’s image?

Someone said that “politics has sucked the air out of the room” in our social discourse. I agree!  However, I will take it a bit further…  Politics IS the room and the door is locked.

I believe the Church is the only institution on the planet that possesses the only key to unlock the door. But it will require the recovery of an integrated Kingdom vision where we live under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ – declaring the Lordship of Christ over all things… even political things.

Politics should not be an idol nor something to be ignored. Politics should be stewarded with thankfulness.

 

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How Then Shall We Vote?

For the Christian, there will be political implications of our Biblical worldview. What we believe about God, ourselves, others, and His creation will shape our politics and how we vote.

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In America, we fail to realize people around the globe would die to have their voice heard politically or be able to vote in a legitimate election.

They don’t possess the opportunity and freedom to run for office or vote. In America, we need to remember this fact… We can vote. We should vote. How then shall we vote?

When it comes to political engagement, some Christians will try to convince you to remain silent or shame you for speaking up.

Why? Because they believe being ‘political’ is somehow antithetical to the Gospel. As if the infinite Gospel of the Kingdom is too small to contain politics.

Have you noticed these pietistic holier-than-thous are the ones who’s social media feeds and conversations are brimming with under-informed political commentary and flimsy theological arguments? Have you noticed how they subtly shame others?

They claim Christians are to be ‘apolitical’ (non-political). But they attempt to persuade others by making political statements and taking political postures themselves. It is intriguing that these pietistic pundits tend to lean left politically. If you lean left, that’s fine with me but don’t cloak it in Christian garb. Don’t cloak the right in Christian platitudes either.

Some have developed an allergy to certain personalities. So, they vote for more ‘tame’ personalities that don’t upset their sensibilities. They are too fearful, shallow, and shortsighted to think through the long term implications of their vote.

Do they believe the Gospel is too delicate to withstand the storms of politics?

Recently, I had a conversation with a fellow Christian friend who stated that one of his biggest fears was to be labeled a Christian Nationalist. Christian Nationalism is a loaded term and carries negative connotations. My response to my friend was, “what do you mean by Christian Nationalism?” After all, several definitions exist. He lacked a coherent response. Obviously, he had not thought deeply about the issue. His position was emotionally based in his fear and a need to be accepted. No one likes to be called names or rejected. Even though that is exactly what Jesus promises in Scripture (see John 18:15-25, Matthew 5:11-12).

In the final analysis, my friend was incapable of properly articulating much less understanding one of his biggest fears. That’s a problem. Meanwhile, his social media posts over the last two years are filled with poorly formed political and theological arguments of why Christians ought not to be political or vote for certain candidates who he finds distasteful. He posts articles and books from pastors and Christian leaders who support his chosen political position. Unbeknownst to him, the non-Christian world has already labeled him a Christian Nationalist. My friend is walking into the very snare he’s trying desperately to avoid.

The holier-than-thous’ defense is usually some form of Tone-policing. I’ve written about this here

Hey, look at me, I’m not one of them” is not an effective strategy to reach lost people. The unbelieving world doesn’t care. They hate you, your Bible, and your God. No amount of virtue signaling is going to change that. So, get over it and return to biblical fidelity, a bold public witness, and a faith that is undefiled by the world. (It wouldn’t hurt to apologize to the people you’ve shamed).

Dear Christian, if your worldview isn’t big enough to contain politics, then your worldview is too small.

As Christians, our politics and how we vote must be formed and shaped by a biblical vision of the world and grounded in truth. The Bible doesn’t tell us who to vote for. However, the Bible does tell us how to vote. The Bible provides moral laws and principles to guide our politics and inform our vote. John Stonestreet once said, “The Bible isn’t a book to be looked at, but a lens to be looked through.” In addition, we must understand our cultural moment.

We ask the questions; What is our current situation or cultural moment? And what does the Bible have to say about it?

For the Christian, there will be political implications that flow from a Biblical worldview. What we believe about God, ourselves, others, and creation will shape our politics and how we vote. Our theology should direct our vote.

A few thoughts…

Why vote?

Authority – America is different from other nations. From a governance standpoint, our government is not the authority. “We the people” are the authority. With that in mind, go and read Romans 13. Question the Romans 13 sermons that were used during the COVID lockouts to justify closing churches, keeping you silent, and subservient. God’s Word is our ultimate authority.

Opportunity – As I said, In America, we fail to realize that Christian brothers and sisters around the globe would die to have their voice heard politically or be able to vote in a legitimate election. Honor your brethren in closed countries by stewarding your privilege well in your nation.

Stewardship – All Americans and particularly Christians have the privilege and responsibility to vote and influence politics. We Christians vote according to biblical principles. Again, our government structure is unique. In His providence and mercy, God has given us a voice and influence to steward in the political realm. The purpose of government is to promote righteousness for the good of the people and government (read Proverbs). If we refuse to steward the gift God has given us, we will lose the gift.

That said, we run afoul when we place politics or politicians at the center of our lives. Do not enthrone a politician over and above Christ. Instead, proclaim the Lordship of Christ over politicians and political realm allowing His Word to guide you.

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be shaken.” But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord…”

– 1 Peter 3:14-15a

How to vote?

Wisdom – Fear of the Lord leads to wisdom and life. The fear of man sets a snare. Pray for wisdom and seek it in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

Directionally – Personally, I vote direction. This helps me from getting caught up in personalities, propaganda, and pandering. What direction does the platform point the nation? Does it lead to righteousness, human flourishing, prosperity, and protection for the most vulnerable? What are the logical conclusions and moral outcomes of a candidate’s or party’s chosen platform and direction?

God’s Commands and Principles – For starters, one can use the Ten Commandments as a guide. Perhaps begin with what type of platform should we NOT vote for and move on from there.

Human Life – I’m not a single issue voter but I am a single issue voter in the first instance. If a politician or platform or party does not protect human life in the womb, I could care less about their great economic policies. It’s a matter of first principles. If they get human life wrong, God doesn’t care about their economic or foreign policy or tone.

Character – Remember, you are voting for sinners just like you. The problem we have when discerning the character of a candidate is the accuracy of our understanding. The media deliberately distorts our perception of how people really are. We are limited. This is where we need to pay attention to platform for the future and pray for discernment.

Purpose – Government is designed to restrain evil and promote good. That is its ultimate purpose. In America, we have checks and balances to restrain government from becoming evil and tyrannical. That is why it is important to understand the purpose of government and then vote purposefully.

Our conscience is a guard, not a guide.

In other words, our conscience is designed to alert us when we are tempted to sin or help convict us when we do sin. It is a guard and is not our authority. When we try to use our conscience as our guide in making decisions, we are actually listening to emotions. Emotions can lead us in the wrong direction. God’s Word is our guide. It is our authority.

What we believe about God, ourselves, others, and creation will shape our politics and how we vote.

Now, go vote biblically, soberly, thankfully, and righteously as if God is watching. Because He is.

Related:

iVoterGuide: https://ivoterguide.com/

My Posts on politics and culture:

https://revolutionofman.org/politics-is-downstream-from-culture/

https://revolutionofman.org/the-christians-role-culture-politics-and-government-part-two/

https://revolutionofman.org/should-the-church-get-involved-in-politics/

https://revolutionofman.org/christian-tradition-of-resistance-against-tyranny/

 

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