Church of the Missing Words


One of the truths that has struck me in recent years, and one not every Christian is willing to consider, is that nearly every tribe, tongue, and nation has some concept of sin. Those tribes, tongues, and nations may view sin in a way that does not conform to orthodox Christian theology, but the acknowledgment that you/me/us has somehow done something wrong to anger “the gods” remains.

Where the divide comes is how you/me/us deals with that sin, and this makes for the most obvious differences between Christians and everyone else. In nearly all religions, some element of works righteousness exists, and while none should in Christianity, I’d say the majority of the world’s Christians are still trying to earn their way out of their sin or the consequences of it.

But that huge topic is another post.

This morning, I read the Outreach Magazine newsletter and an article in it, “5 Things Jesus Says to the Gay Community.” I’d like to say that I resisted considering what that article would NOT say, but I am weak and came to it expecting not to see a few Things Jesus Says even if He did, in reality, say them.

I wish I could say the article surprised me. I wish I could say that.

If anyone questions our status in the Last Days before the return of Christ, it is enough to know that while ancient pagans who participated in all manner of perverse activity still maintained some concept of personal sin, we don’t seem to have any concept of this today. Sin seems to be relegated to the other guy OR to political parties OR to groups with bad public relations departments OR to jerks who can’t manage their carbon offsets properly.

Reading “5 Things Jesus Says to the Gay Community,” one does not get the sense that at any time Jesus wants to say “stop sinning” or “repent, or you will all likewise perish.” Those statements of His are in the Bible, though. While it’s true they are not aimed at any one sin, the fact is that they are aimed at everyone and they cover every sin is what should make them an obvious addition to anything Jesus says.

Gagged and silencedThe problem for the Church today is that some elements within it seek to silence those words that accompany those concepts that make people uncomfortable. Or those same folks dance around truth like it’s a primed hand grenade, hoping that some other poor schmuck will take the risk to stick the pin back in. This is happening because we have become purposefully dishonest about Mankind’s status before God. We find it impossible to say without caveats, “Actually, I am a bad human being,” and have that badness mirror what God says is bad rather than what Man says is bad (“You wore white after Labor Day? For shame!”) Even the ancients knew that something was grossly wrong within them, yet in declaring ourselves immune to such gross wrongness today, we see the language associated with that wrong decay and go missing. In the end, we find we can’t express truth in any way that makes life uncomfortable for anyone, and every Gospel appeal sounds like little else than salve for bruised egos.

When the Church can’t bring itself to state the obvious, then it has lost whatever force God has endowed it with. And Jesus had something to say about that:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
—Matthew 5:13 ESV

The Desperate Need for Statesmen


So a Republican whose major claim to fame is going nude in Cosmo is the new senator from Massachusetts. And conservatives everywhere are rejoicing.

Forgive me if I don’t blow a horn and wear a silly hat.

No, I can’t get pumped about yet another political lightweight who drank the party-line Kool-Aid and talks about real change. Frankly, the Democrats and Republicans are true to one goal only : their own political ambitions.

Can I ask a simple question? Here it is:

Where are the statesmen?

America is in bad shape. Honestly, I think the collective wound is deeper and more threatening than anyone in D.C. cares to admit. And that wound is only going to get deeper if we don’t throw the bums out and put some serious people on Capitol Hill. People who do what is right, not because it is makes the bigwigs happy, but because they fear God.

What we need are statesmen. Folks who don’t go all weak in the knees when the GOP party chairman calls ’em up on the line or Barney Frank blows ’em a kiss. People who remember the point of this country. People who don’t pass laws just because. People of deep convictions that can’t be sold to the highest bidder. Intellectuals with big hearts, who are widely read and understand history. People with a spine, who can stand up to dictators around the globe and not flinch (or bow).

We need guys like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Remember them?

And this terrible lack of statesmen applies to the American Church. The national stage of Christian leaders is littered with lightweights who have the wrong motivations, wrong answers to difficult questions, and no vision.

Jesus called Simon a rock. He said He would build His Church on a rock like that.

But where are those rocks today? Where are those kinds of Church statesmen in America 2010? Seriously, can you name a half dozen Christian players on the national stage today considered to have a brilliant mind and a heart of compassion?

I admit that part of the problem here is that the kind of personality that makes for a genuine Church statesman is the humble one that stays out of the limelight and isn’t listening to himself on Christian radio.

Still, desperate times call for humble, nameless Church statesmen to rise up.

Call them prophets if you will. Call them the mighty heroes of old. But for all our sakes, someone, anyone, please call them! We need Christians like that from every profession and walk of life.

And we need them now.

The Three Marks of Genuine Power Evangelism


In my previous post, “Fumbling the Gospel,” I noted that many charismatic churches are using what is known as “power evangelism” to reach the lost. Power evangelism employs the Holy Spirit-given charismatic gifts to heal and speak words of knowledge and prophecy into the lives of people who do not know Jesus.

I fully support power evangelism done by genuine believers who can fully articulate the Gospel. Whether that’s the case in what passes for power evangelism in some sectors of the Church today is the question and the gist of my previous post.

Today, I feel compelled to add one more point to that post.

When you closely examine the “gospel” that many churches in America preach today, it is not the real Gospel. In too many cases, it fails to emphasize three core principles of the real thing:

1. Conviction of sin in the presence of a holy God

When the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God, notice his response:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
—Isaiah 6:1-5

In the presence of a God called “Holy, Holy, Holy,” Isaiah, though called to be a prophet of God, immediately was undone by his own sinfulness in the presence of supreme holiness. As Isaiah stared into the reflecting mirror of God’s holiness, he saw a creature of his worst nightmares staring back. And he cried out in his guilt for being a sinful man.

The Bible notes that Isaiah is not alone:

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
—Romans 3:23

2. The death of self at the cross

The Apostle Paul writes of the one thing of which he must speak boldly:

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
—Galatians 6:14-15

All the world’s religions, save for Christianity, are little more than rules that no one can fully abide by. Each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, no matter how many religious rules we try to keep. Only Jesus Christ perfectly kept the rules of God, and so being perfect, He took our place of punishment on the cross and served as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. As one popular Christian song states, “The cross has said it all.”

Paul said earlier in that same letter to the Church in Galatia:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
—Galatians 2:20

If people don’t make it to the cross, then they never die to self. And if they never die to self, then they are not new creations. Because the only kind of Christian that God can fully use is the one who has died to the self that was the old man and been born again into Christ.

3. Genuine repentance

Sadly, the portrait of Jesus often sold to people today is of the weepy-eyed sort who loves infants and little lambs. Yes, that side of Jesus is real. Yet He had another side that too many churches fail to promote as part of the whole Gospel:

There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
—Luke 13:1-5

Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest of the prophets. What was John’s message?

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
—Matthew 3:1-2

Shortly after being baptized by John, Jesus began His own public ministry. His message?

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
—Matthew 4:17

After Pentecost, when Jesus had been resurrected, had ascended into heaven, and the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the disciples who had followed Jesus, they had something to tell the world. That message?

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
—Acts 2:38-39

Do you think repentance is a big deal to God?

That last verse I quoted, Acts 2:38-39, is preceded by the Holy Spirit falling in power on the followers of Jesus at Pentecost. Those indwelt by the Spirit spoke in tongues and exhibited the power of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, the charismata. That power was so stunning that 3,000 people watching the events of that day surrendered their lives to Jesus. Talk about power evangelism!

But what immediately preceded verses 38-39 is a telling response by the crowd of unbelieving onlookers to the words of Peter concerning the truth of Jesus and the power they had seen wrought in that gathering place by the Holy Spirit:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
—Acts 2:37

This is not a simple question but a desperate one, the same kind of angst-filled reply that burned in the heart of Isaiah when confronted with the holiness of God and the true nature of his state before that holy God. It’s the conviction of sin.

When the Holy Spirit touches sinful people, He ALWAYS brings conviction of sin because He is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY. Prostrate before the Lord in repentanceEvery great revival of the last 300 years of recorded history has been marked by conviction of sin, people fleeing to the cross, and genuine repentance. The First and Second Great Awakenings, the Welsh Revival, the Azusa Street Revival—when Christians (especially charismatics) start talking about the Holy Spirit in revival, the results always lead to conviction, the cross, and repentance. ALWAYS.

So when I’m told about power evangelism supposedly being done in the power of the Holy Spirit, if I don’t hear about people coming to conviction, dying at the cross, and genuinely repenting of their dark sins in the light of the purity of the Holy Spirit, then I have got to wonder. Without those three essentials occurring in the lives of people touched by some sort of powerful spirit, I wonder just what spirit they received. Is it possible they are being influenced by a spirit who is not the Holy Spirit of God?

Real power evangelism done through the genuine power of the real Holy Spirit will convict people of their sins, drive them to the cross, and lead them to repentance. The Bible tells us this, and the great revivals of history add their own yes and amen.

If you are doing power evangelism and conviction of sin, dying to self at the cross, and repentance are not immediately following people’s power encounters, then stop what you are doing and ask yourself if you are truly ministering the genuine Holy Spirit to people.

We have got to stop being ignorant of the truths of God. This is simple stuff, but people are not using even basic biblical discernment to understand these truths. It’s just another example of how a lack of understanding of the words of the Bible leads to all manner of error. Better to know the Bible inside and out before one attempts anything resembling power evangelism.