Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Secular World Understands Reality Better Than Protestants

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on October 12, 2017

Origandy-profile-1inally published October 12, 2016

In the eight-plus years that TANC Ministries has been researching the vile doctrine of Calvinism and the evil that is authentic Protestant orthodoxy, one fact emerges over and over again – Protestants are the most confused group of individuals that there ever was. I was reminded of that fact once again when an article appeared in my Facebook newsfeed this morning entitled, “Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics”. The article was published in the “Religion” section of a secular news site called “The Federalist”

Here’s the deal. Protestantism is founded in the Gnostic concept that man is totally unable to comprehend true knowledge, and as a result, man must be ruled by the select few who have the “gnosis”, the “knowledge” that man “knows nothing”. This root assumption has been the basis for every form of tyranny and spiritual abuse since the beginning of time. Protestantism is no exception, no matter how you dress it up in Bible verses.

So when I read an article that concludes that the majority of those who call themselves “Christians” have relatively little actual Bible knowledge, it comes as no surprise to me, not only because of what I know with regard to authentic Protestantism and its metaphysical assumptions, but I can recall hearing similar results of “studies” throughout my life. Funny how a system of orthodoxy that depends on a Biblically illiterate laity to maintain its control and authority publishes the results of a survey that bemoans that very thing – Biblical illiteracy.

This article is only the most recent to come to this conclusion in the past 40 years, if not the past 500 or more. Since the time of the reformation and before, “Christians” have always been woefully illiterate in their understanding of exactly what God has revealed to man in His philosophical statement on reality, also known as “The Bible”. But in today’s information age they have no excuse. Knowledge and wisdom are there for those who have the courage to seek it out!

Let’s look at some of the more interesting statements found in this article in question, beginning with one of the opening paragraphs:

“A survey of 3,000 people conducted by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Ligonier Ministries found that although Americans still overwhelmingly identify as “Christian,” startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions. These are not minor points of doctrine, but core ideas that define Christianity itself.”

According to their own website, “LifeWay Christian Resources is one of the world’s largest providers of Christian resources, including services, Bibles, Bible studies, research, events, church music and supplies, and digital services.”  The number of books written by the “who’s who” of mostly reformed academia is voluminous, and it grows bigger every month. Just talk to any one of your “Christian” friends and they will be sure to talk about the latest book or “devotional” written by their favorite author/elder/pastor/spiritual guru (read “Philosopher Kings”). And reformed “Christian” blogs such as “Ligonier” abound. Yet despite all of these resources and the countless amounts of money spent in the “Christian” publications industry, this article concludes, “startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions.” Surely this can’t be because people aren’t reading enough John Piper!

Exactly what are these “ancient errors” supposedly condemned by “Christian traditions?” Again from the article:

“Two-thirds admitted that everyone sins a little bit, but still insisted that most people are good by nature, which directly contradicts scripture (See ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,’ and ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’).”

What is probably worse than the false doctrine of “total depravity” is the outright lie that “total depravity” is unique to “orthodox Christianity”.   In fact the exact opposite is true. I need only refer you to the 2015 TANC Conference and speaker, John Immel, who gave us an outstanding survey of deterministic thought throughout history. In those 2015 sessions we learned that in every philosophical system of thought, the one major theme that was consistent over and over again was the concept of the depravity of man and some deterministic force compelling his actions. (View clip here) So to suggest that the idea of “total depravity” is a concept unique to Christianity is beyond disingenuous.

But what I find remarkable is that despite the “Christian tradition” emphasis on total depravity, man (secular, unregenerate man for the most part, but some professing “Christians” as well) still has a propensity to regard man himself as existentially good. I believe that this is the natural and correct assessment of man because it is consistent not only with what man knows to be true in and of himself but also because of what his own senses tell him in simply observing reality around him. Despite the evil that is in the world, it is man who chooses whether or not he can do good things or bad things. This is not a contradiction of scripture, this is a contradiction of a false “orthodox” interpretation of scripture.

Man is not condemned because he is “totally depraved” and cannot “do good”. Man is condemned because he is under law. The remedy is not to have One who “does good for us” so that His obedience can be vicariously imputed to our account. No, the remedy is for the law to be ended so that it can no longer condemn. This is what the New Birth accomplishes. For the one who is born again, the old man has died. In his place is a new creature who is the literal offspring of the Father, and the law has no jurisdiction over him. He cannot be judged by it, and therefore, he cannot be condemned by it. He is truly free to use the law as a means to show love to God and to others. He can love without fear of condemnation.

Furthermore, the Bible never teaches that man has a “sin nature”. The statement in Ephesians, “for all have sinned” is indeed a statement of fact. Yes, all have sinned, but that is not indicative of man’s nature.  Man is not metaphysically evil.  It simply means that the unregenerate man is under law and has transgressed that law and is therefore subject to condemnation. In contrast, the Bible teaches that man (flesh) is “weak”, but that man is able to choose how to use his flesh; to do evil or to do good. Because the unregenerate man is a slave to the Sin-master, he will have a propensity to obey the master who pays his wages. But he still is able to choose to do good. Since the Sin-master only pays wages of death, choosing to do good only results in less death, but death just the same.

This is why “Christians” are so confused. They understand that man, even “Christians”, do wrong things. Orthodoxy labels this as “sin” because all of “Christianity” has a single-perspective on sin, that is, ALL sin is condemning. This is the source of what they perceive as a contradiction. They intuitively know man is good but are taught that even the good they do is evil. And so when they “sin”, the natural response because of what they have been taught is fear of condemnation.

Here is another point from the article:

“They also saw a huge increase in evangelicals (28 percent, up from 9 percent) who indicated that the Third Person of the Trinity is not equal with God the Father or Jesus, a direct contradiction of orthodox Christianity.”

Protestantism teaches the believer to have an ever-deeper understanding of his own depravity (sin) while having an ever-growing awareness of God’s holiness. As he does this, the cross (and what Jesus does for us) gets bigger and bigger. The emphasis is always on, not just what Jesus did, but what He is still doing for the “Christian” every day, living and obeying the law in our stead so that we can have “the imputed righteousness of Christ”.

crosschart

Such orthodoxy not only keeps the “Christian” under law, but it emphasizes the role of Christ at the expense of the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Father is regarded as a vengeful monster who is to be feared, and Christ is the only one who stands in the way to deflect the Fathers wrath. The Holy Spirit is simply the agent whom God sends to the “elect” for the purpose of regenerating them to a “saving faith”. He is rarely if ever presented as the Comforter who empowers the born again believer to live a sanctified life through obedience. With the Protestant emphasis on the “Cross-Centered” gospel, or the “Christ-Centered” gospel, is there why wonder why Christians hold a diminished view of the roles of the other members of the Trinity?

The writer of the article goes on to address the issue that “Christians” don’t seem to be very well-read when it comes to the Bible, yet they would cite the Bible as being an important part of their lives, going so far as to refer to it as the primary source of authority for living. He cites the following as an example:

“Former Newsday religion reporter Kenneth Briggs recently told Religion News Service that the faith he finds in ‘mega-type churches’ is a ‘Bible-less,’ ‘alternative version of Christianity.’ Scripture, he says, has become ‘a museum exhibit, hallowed as a treasure but enigmatic and untouched.’”

Such is true not only of “mega-churches” with thousands of members, but it also holds true for the smaller community churches with membership rolls in the hundreds or less. This is not a statement on the church size or the “style of worship”. It is a testament to the fact that the Bible itself has become irrelevant when it comes to faith and Godliness. While “mega-churches” might be more inclined to a “pop-psychology” approach to teaching and preaching, in 99% of modern churches, the very truths of scripture have been replaced with orthodoxy presented by mere men who have become the self-appointed mediators between God and man. These are the “divines” who have been ordained by God to reinterpret reality for the great, unwashed masses. When the laity have become followers of men, they have no need to open their Bibles, let alone consider what the Bible itself has to say about things.

Ironic, too, that an organization such as LifeWay, who’s industry includes the publication of “Christian” literature, is incredulous that Christians spend so little time reading their Bibles. I dare say that if more and more “Christians” actually spent more time in the study of God’s word for themselves, rather than relying on someone to interpret it for them, it would be the “Christian” book stores that would eventually become irrelevant.

Christians are uninformed about Christianity for the same reason that people in secular society are uninformed about politics. In both cases the answer is because people have outsourced their brains to someone else. They are much too involved in the comforts of their own existence to care about the larger matters. They leave that for the “experts”. It is much easier to let someone else tell you how you should think about something than to do all that heavy lifting on your own. And the so-called “experts”, whether secular (politicians, pundits, “talking heads”, media) or religious (pastors, elders, academics, scholars, “popes”), take advantage of that reality for their own ends; control over the uninformed masses.

The author proposes a few possible solutions in all of this. While the survey specifically polled those who profess to be Christians, he believes that the study of the Bible is beneficial for unbelievers as well.

“For those who don’t profess Christianity, gaining a basic understanding of the creeds and Scriptures of the religion that built our civilization isn’t a bad idea, either. As Indian Christian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi writes, the Bible created the modern world by making the West a reading and thinking civilization, and by grounding this reading and thinking in the idea that truth is knowable.”

Well, that’s not a completely honest assessment. The notion that “truth is knowable” runs counter to Protestantism and its Gnostic roots, where the only “truth” that is knowable is that you cannot “know” anything. Truth is to be for those in self-appointed authority who have been gifted to bring this “knowledge of knowing nothing” to the rest of us. Yet Protestantism lays claim to this kind of “knowledge” as being the foundational philosophy of western civilization. The reality is that it was this same kind of thinking that kept man in the Dark Ages, and it is what is responsible for our own spiritual dark age in which we presently find ourselves.

The rebirth of thought that ushered in the Age of Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th centuries happened in spite of religion, not because of it. The Bible did not create a world of reading and thinking. It was reading and thinking that enabled man to regard Biblical truth with the right interpretive assumptions. Men rejected the notion of “total depravity” and rediscovered the principles of individualism and man’s ability. These are the very premises that gave rise to “Americanism” and which made our nation the greatest the world has ever seen. Contrary to Protestant orthodoxy, the Bible speaks very highly of man’s ability. Even God Himself values the individual and his ability to reason (after all, we are all made in God’s image), so much so that He made it possible for the condemnation of the law to be ended so that man could be reconciled to Himself as members of His own family!

If Protestants are Biblically illiterate, it is because Protestantism made them that way. I dare say that the majority of “Christians” are more “secular” in their philosophy (without even knowing it) than they care to admit. The results of the survey in this article would seem to support that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If nothing else, it offers a valid explanation for the current mass exodus from the modern institutional church. People can just no longer tolerate the rational inconsistencies they observe between reality and Protestant orthodoxy. And perhaps as a matter of consequence, many of them might actually end up taking that Bible off the shelf, blow the dust off the cover, and start reading it for themselves.

Andy

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The Secular World Understands Reality Better Than Protestants

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on October 12, 2016

andy-profile-1In the eight-plus years that TANC Ministries has been researching the vile doctrine of Calvinism and the evil that is authentic Protestant orthodoxy, one fact emerges over and over again – Protestants are the most confused group of individuals that there ever was. I was reminded of that fact once again when an article appeared in my Facebook newsfeed this morning entitled, “Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics”. The article was published in the “Religion” section of a secular news site called “The Federalist”

Here’s the deal. Protestantism is founded in the Gnostic concept that man is totally unable to comprehend true knowledge, and as a result, man must be ruled by the select few who have the “gnosis”, the “knowledge” that man “knows nothing”. This root assumption has been the basis for every form of tyranny and spiritual abuse since the beginning of time. Protestantism is no exception, no matter how you dress it up in Bible verses.

So when I read an article that concludes that the majority of those who call themselves “Christians” have relatively little actual Bible knowledge, it comes as no surprise to me, not only because of what I know with regard to authentic Protestantism and its metaphysical assumptions, but I can recall hearing similar results of “studies” throughout my life. Funny how a system of orthodoxy that depends on a Biblically illiterate laity to maintain its control and authority publishes the results of a survey that bemoans that very thing – Biblical illiteracy.

This article is only the most recent to come to this conclusion in the past 40 years, if not the past 500 or more. Since the time of the reformation and before, “Christians” have always been woefully illiterate in their understanding of exactly what God has revealed to man in His philosophical statement on reality, also known as “The Bible”. But in today’s information age they have no excuse. Knowledge and wisdom are there for those who have the courage to seek it out!

Let’s look at some of the more interesting statements found in this article in question, beginning with one of the opening paragraphs:

“A survey of 3,000 people conducted by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Ligonier Ministries found that although Americans still overwhelmingly identify as “Christian,” startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions. These are not minor points of doctrine, but core ideas that define Christianity itself.”

According to their own website, “LifeWay Christian Resources is one of the world’s largest providers of Christian resources, including services, Bibles, Bible studies, research, events, church music and supplies, and digital services.”  The number of books written by the “who’s who” of mostly reformed academia is voluminous, and it grows bigger every month. Just talk to any one of your “Christian” friends and they will be sure to talk about the latest book or “devotional” written by their favorite author/elder/pastor/spiritual guru (read “Philosopher Kings”). And reformed “Christian” blogs such as “Ligonier” abound. Yet despite all of these resources and the countless amounts of money spent in the “Christian” publications industry, this article concludes, “startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions.” Surely this can’t be because people aren’t reading enough John Piper!

Exactly what are these “ancient errors” supposedly condemned by “Christian traditions?” Again from the article:

“Two-thirds admitted that everyone sins a little bit, but still insisted that most people are good by nature, which directly contradicts scripture (See ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,’ and ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’).”

What is probably worse than the false doctrine of “total depravity” is the outright lie that “total depravity” is unique to “orthodox Christianity”.   In fact the exact opposite is true. I need only refer you to the 2015 TANC Conference and speaker, John Immel, who gave us an outstanding survey of deterministic thought throughout history. In those 2015 sessions we learned that in every philosophical system of thought, the one major theme that was consistent over and over again was the concept of the depravity of man and some deterministic force compelling his actions. (View clip here) So to suggest that the idea of “total depravity” is a concept unique to Christianity is beyond disingenuous.

But what I find remarkable is that despite the “Christian tradition” emphasis on total depravity, man (secular, unregenerate man for the most part, but some professing “Christians” as well) still has a propensity to regard man himself as existentially good. I believe that this is the natural and correct assessment of man because it is consistent not only with what man knows to be true in and of himself but also because of what his own senses tell him in simply observing reality around him. Despite the evil that is in the world, it is man who chooses whether or not he can do good things or bad things. This is not a contradiction of scripture, this is a contradiction of a false “orthodox” interpretation of scripture.

Man is not condemned because he is “totally depraved” and cannot “do good”. Man is condemned because he is under law. The remedy is not to have One who “does good for us” so that His obedience can be vicariously imputed to our account. No, the remedy is for the law to be ended so that it can no longer condemn. This is what the New Birth accomplishes. For the one who is born again, the old man has died. In his place is a new creature who is the literal offspring of the Father, and the law has no jurisdiction over him. He cannot be judged by it, and therefore, he cannot be condemned by it. He is truly free to use the law as a means to show love to God and to others. He can love without fear of condemnation.

Furthermore, the Bible never teaches that man has a “sin nature”. The statement in Ephesians, “for all have sinned” is indeed a statement of fact. Yes, all have sinned, but that is not indicative of man’s nature.  Man is not metaphysically evil.  It simply means that the unregenerate man is under law and has transgressed that law and is therefore subject to condemnation. In contrast, the Bible teaches that man (flesh) is “weak”, but that man is able to choose how to use his flesh; to do evil or to do good. Because the unregenerate man is a slave to the Sin-master, he will have a propensity to obey the master who pays his wages. But he still is able to choose to do good. Since the Sin-master only pays wages of death, choosing to do good only results in less death, but death just the same.

This is why “Christians” are so confused. They understand that man, even “Christians”, do wrong things. Orthodoxy labels this as “sin” because all of “Christianity” has a single-perspective on sin, that is, ALL sin is condemning. This is the source of what they perceive as a contradiction. They intuitively know man is good but are taught that even the good they do is evil. And so when they “sin”, the natural response because of what they have been taught is fear of condemnation.

Here is another point from the article:

“They also saw a huge increase in evangelicals (28 percent, up from 9 percent) who indicated that the Third Person of the Trinity is not equal with God the Father or Jesus, a direct contradiction of orthodox Christianity.”

Protestantism teaches the believer to have an ever-deeper understanding of his own depravity (sin) while having an ever-growing awareness of God’s holiness. As he does this, the cross (and what Jesus does for us) gets bigger and bigger. The emphasis is always on, not just what Jesus did, but what He is still doing for the “Christian” every day, living and obeying the law in our stead so that we can have “the imputed righteousness of Christ”.

crosschart

Such orthodoxy not only keeps the “Christian” under law, but it emphasizes the role of Christ at the expense of the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Father is regarded as a vengeful monster who is to be feared, and Christ is the only one who stands in the way to deflect the Fathers wrath. The Holy Spirit is simply the agent whom God sends to the “elect” for the purpose of regenerating them to a “saving faith”. He is rarely if ever presented as the Comforter who empowers the born again believer to live a sanctified life through obedience. With the Protestant emphasis on the “Cross-Centered” gospel, or the “Christ-Centered” gospel, is there why wonder why Christians hold a diminished view of the roles of the other members of the Trinity?

The writer of the article goes on to address the issue that “Christians” don’t seem to be very well-read when it comes to the Bible, yet they would cite the Bible as being an important part of their lives, going so far as to refer to it as the primary source of authority for living. He cites the following as an example:

“Former Newsday religion reporter Kenneth Briggs recently told Religion News Service that the faith he finds in ‘mega-type churches’ is a ‘Bible-less,’ ‘alternative version of Christianity.’ Scripture, he says, has become ‘a museum exhibit, hallowed as a treasure but enigmatic and untouched.’”

Such is true not only of “mega-churches” with thousands of members, but it also holds true for the smaller community churches with membership rolls in the hundreds or less. This is not a statement on the church size or the “style of worship”. It is a testament to the fact that the Bible itself has become irrelevant when it comes to faith and Godliness. While “mega-churches” might be more inclined to a “pop-psychology” approach to teaching and preaching, in 99% of modern churches, the very truths of scripture have been replaced with orthodoxy presented by mere men who have become the self-appointed mediators between God and man. These are the “divines” who have been ordained by God to reinterpret reality for the great, unwashed masses. When the laity have become followers of men, they have no need to open their Bibles, let alone consider what the Bible itself has to say about things.

Ironic, too, that an organization such as LifeWay, who’s industry includes the publication of “Christian” literature, is incredulous that Christians spend so little time reading their Bibles. I dare say that if more and more “Christians” actually spent more time in the study of God’s word for themselves, rather than relying on someone to interpret it for them, it would be the “Christian” book stores that would eventually become irrelevant.

Christians are uninformed about Christianity for the same reason that people in secular society are uninformed about politics. In both cases the answer is because people have outsourced their brains to someone else. They are much too involved in the comforts of their own existence to care about the larger matters. They leave that for the “experts”. It is much easier to let someone else tell you how you should think about something than to do all that heavy lifting on your own. And the so-called “experts”, whether secular (politicians, pundits, “talking heads”, media) or religious (pastors, elders, academics, scholars, “popes”), take advantage of that reality for their own ends; control over the uninformed masses.

The author proposes a few possible solutions in all of this. While the survey specifically polled those who profess to be Christians, he believes that the study of the Bible is beneficial for unbelievers as well.

“For those who don’t profess Christianity, gaining a basic understanding of the creeds and Scriptures of the religion that built our civilization isn’t a bad idea, either. As Indian Christian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi writes, the Bible created the modern world by making the West a reading and thinking civilization, and by grounding this reading and thinking in the idea that truth is knowable.”

Well, that’s not a completely honest assessment. The notion that “truth is knowable” runs counter to Protestantism and its Gnostic roots, where the only “truth” that is knowable is that you cannot “know” anything. Truth is to be for those in self-appointed authority who have been gifted to bring this “knowledge of knowing nothing” to the rest of us. Yet Protestantism lays claim to this kind of “knowledge” as being the foundational philosophy of western civilization. The reality is that it was this same kind of thinking that kept man in the Dark Ages, and it is what is responsible for our own spiritual dark age in which we presently find ourselves.

The rebirth of thought that ushered in the Age of Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th centuries happened in spite of religion, not because of it. The Bible did not create a world of reading and thinking. It was reading and thinking that enabled man to regard Biblical truth with the right interpretive assumptions. Men rejected the notion of “total depravity” and rediscovered the principles of individualism and man’s ability. These are the very premises that gave rise to “Americanism” and which made our nation the greatest the world has ever seen. Contrary to Protestant orthodoxy, the Bible speaks very highly of man’s ability. Even God Himself values the individual and his ability to reason (after all, we are all made in God’s image), so much so that He made it possible for the condemnation of the law to be ended so that man could be reconciled to Himself as members of His own family!

If Protestants are Biblically illiterate, it is because Protestantism made them that way. I dare say that the majority of “Christians” are more “secular” in their philosophy (without even knowing it) than they care to admit. The results of the survey in this article would seem to support that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If nothing else, it offers a valid explanation for the current mass exodus from the modern institutional church. People can just no longer tolerate the rational inconsistencies they observe between reality and Protestant orthodoxy. And perhaps as a matter of consequence, many of them might actually end up taking that Bible off the shelf, blow the dust off the cover, and start reading it for themselves.

Andy

SBC Expose: Roger A Moran’s Address to the 2010 MBC Worldview Conference

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 28, 2015

My Assignment for today was to share with you some thoughts I shared in a another conference earlier this year about the topics of Biblical authority and holiness –

…which are foundational to the issue of developing an authentically Biblical Worldview.

I want to start by going back about 1900 years ago —  early in the second century.  The year was about 125AD and there was a philosopher in the city of Athens by the name of Aristides.  And Aristides wrote a letter to the king – whose name was Caesar Titus Hadrianus Antoninus.  And in that letter, he laid out what he viewed as the obvious errors of the religious beliefs of his day.  But the Christians, he defended.

What follows is just a small portion of what he saw in those early 2nd century Christians – which he contrasted to the perversions of the culture in which he lived.  This is just a little bit of what he wrote:

But the Christians, O King… have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations.

For they know and trust in God… from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come.

Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly…

[A]nd their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world…

Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly.  And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting…

And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free.

And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food.

They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them.

Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him…

And they do not proclaim in the ears of the multitude the kind deeds they do, but are careful that no one should notice them; and they conceal their giving just as he who finds a treasure and conceals it.

And they strive to be righteous as those who expect to behold their Messiah, and to receive from Him with great glory the promises made concerning them.

It is enough for us to have shortly informed your Majesty concerning the conduct and the truth of the Christians… [V]erily, this is a new people, and there is something divine (lit: “a divine admixture”) in the midst of them.

This was the testimony of the early church as seen through the eyes of a philosopher from Athens.

These were Christians whose love for Christ; whose commitment to the authority of God’s Word, and whose passion for holiness caused them to honor Christ not only with their lips, but with their lives.

But the testimony of the church today – the 21st century church – in contemporary America — is significantly different.

In fact, despite our hard fought battle for the Bible as Southern Baptists and all of our conservative theological rhetoric, we are increasingly looking more and more like the world than like our savior.

And if this is true – then the real question that we need to address is WHY….

That’s what I want to talk to you about today.

In authentic Biblical Christianity, Biblical authority and holiness are literally inseparable.

  • They are intrinsically woven together.

But tragically, they can be separated and in the Southern Baptist Convention, I would argue that we are becoming experts at doing just that.

But this is nothing new – Scripture is full of such examples.

Christ Himself quoted Isaiah when He addressed what He called the “vain worship” of the Pharisees:

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”  Matt 15:7-9,     Isaiah 29:13

The Apostle Paul spoke of those having a form of godliness – but no power. (2 Tim 3:5)

Jesus spoke of those who were preaching and teaching and casting out devils and doing many wonderful works in His name —  but then declared “I never knew you.”

As Southern Baptists, we have developed an array of conservative, theological rhetoric around the topics of “Biblical Authority” and inerrancy.

And we have learned very well how to look Christian, act Christian and talk Christian.

We have boldly declared that we are “inerrantists,” and our slogans have been:

  • “We are a people of the book.”
  • And for us, “the Bible is our final ‘authority’ in all matters.”

But our love and commitment to the Bible is increasingly being clouded by a hyper-shallow – superficial form of Christianity that is losing its ability to distinguish the difference between the ways of the Lord and the ways of the world.

In recent years, we have witnessed in both the Missouri and Southern Baptist Conventions a growing infatuation for the things of this world and a growing carnality — which has produced a growing inability to discern the difference between the wisdom from above and the “wisdom” of the world.

And over the last few years we have also seen ample evidence pointing to the fact that there are two distinctly different groups of inerrantists within the conservative ranks of the SBC.

And these two distinctly different groups have distinctly different visions about the direction this denomination needs to go.

In 1979, conservative, Bible-believing Southern Baptists were universally united in our battles for the Bible.

The same was true in 1998 here in the Missouri Baptist Convention as we fought the battle against the liberalism of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

We believed that the Truth of God’s Word mattered supremely – because it did.

We understood with absolute clarity that theological liberalism could not take us to the place of authentic Biblical Christianity.

  • We understood that theological liberalism could not produce an authentically Biblical worldview – nor could it produce that kind of Christianity marked by a passion for holiness where the power of God would be upon His people.

But as we fought and won the battle for the Bible in the SBC, something significant happened:

We began to place so much confidence in our new theologically conservative leadership that for many of our people, “inerrancy” became virtually the only criteria for pastoral and denominational leadership.

We naively thought that right believing would automatically produce right living

  • that sound doctrine and holiness were inseparable — that orthodoxy & orthopraxy would automatically advance together.

But now, our conservative resurgence is behind us, and we have discovered the disappointing reality that our passion and commitment to “inerrancy” did not automatically produce all we had hoped that it would.

After twenty plus years of conservative domination at the SBC level and nearly a decade of conservative domination at the MBC level, we find ourselves still in spiritual disarray.

In fact, recent events in both the Southern Baptist and Missouri Baptist Conventions has left many of us as disillusioned and divided as we were during the days of our battle over the rank liberalism of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The new liberalism: “Cultural Liberalism”

And rightly so.

In recent years, Missouri Baptists have been confronted and challenged with a new liberalism – they call it “cultural liberalism.”

But unlike the moral, social and theological liberalism of the CBF, this new liberalism is said to be SBC-friendly,

  • Why – because its advocates are said to be “inerrantists” just like us,
    • and its advocates, they say, have a passion for Evangelism and for planting new churches – just like us.

But this “new liberalism” (once it was discovered) quickly became the battleground and the dividing line between those two distinctly different groups of conservative, Southern Baptist inerrantists.

And now, the battle that so deeply divided the Missouri Baptist Convention has exploded at the SBC level.

Mark Driscoll and Acts 29

At the heart of this latest battle is the once obscure organization called the Acts 29 Church Planting Network…

  • This group was not only at the center of Missouri’s controversy,
  • …but its leader, pastor Mark Driscoll, personifies the spirit of this new liberalism that has spread across the entire SBC like a cancer.

Driscoll popularized the odd combination of being “theologically conservative” and “culturally liberal”…

  • …which also made him an icon among a multitude of young evangelicals.

(See Driscoll’s books: Confessions of a Reformission Rev., pg. 46 and Radical Reformission, pg. 22 as two examples)

(According to Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, which hosted a conference with Driscoll in February, 2010  —   Driscoll’s church logged 4.4 million downloads of his sermons last year worldwide.) 

  • Driscoll’s fame and notoriety can be traced directly back to his pulpit antics, which first and foremost, earned him the title “the cussing pastor.”
  • His vulgarity in the pulpit and his self-professed R rated sermons on sex has brought him mountains of criticism…
  • In early 2009, one of the largest Christian broadcasters in the country banned any programming that featured Driscoll.
  • And at the 2009 SBC annual meeting numerous motions focused on Driscoll and growing concerns that some of our SBC leaders were encouraging Southern Baptists to embrace Driscoll’s “culturally liberal” approach to ministry.

SBC leaders like LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer and Southeastern Seminary president Danny Akin have been among Driscoll’s strongest advocates.

  • Stetzer has served as an Acts 29 board member and refers to Acts 29 as the “inerrantist wing of the Emerging Church;”
  • Danny Akin has gone so far as to bring Driscoll to the seminary as a recruiter for potential new seminary students.
    • And earlier this year, he brought in Acts 29 vice president Darrin Patrick for three days as chapel speaker.
  • More recently, Southern Seminary president Albert Mohler has jumped on the bandwagon and is singing the praises of Act 29, referring to them as “the hope of the future.”
  • And just prior to the 2010 SBC annual meeting, SBC president Johnny Hunt was a featured speaker at an Acts 29 Boot camp meeting called “Contextualizing the Gospel in the South.”
  • There’s not enough time to deal with Lifeway and the North American Mission Board’s involvement with this movement.

Apparently, if you can draw a crowd and call yourself an “inerrantist,” then all these other issues are just secondary and tertiary issues that we have to ignore  or learn to tolerate, like…

  • Their obsession with alcohol
  • Their fascination with sex and the use of vulgarity in the pulpit
  • The use of secular R rated films on “film night” (some which were rated R for the repeated use of the F word)
  • Church sponsored secular rock concerts for under aged kids
  • “Men’s Bible and Brew nights” and “Men’s Poker night” ministries and so on…

All these things have been thoroughly documented and are available for anyone who wants to investigate for themselves.   (www.mbla.org)

But let’s not think that this “cancer” hasn’t affected our Missouri Baptist churches for it most certainly has:

In my own association, one of our largest conservative churches —  pastored by a prominent inerrantist —  recently had a minister of music who was introducing some of the kids in the youth department to an overtly demonic form of music called “Death Metal Music.”

He eventually left the church, but only because of serious financial improprieties.

At about that same time – at the same church, the youth minister wrote an article in the church newsletter promoting a “Bible study” on “the subjects of hotness and sexiness” for the younger girls in the youth department.  He wrote:

“Some might call it a study on modesty, but I just like to call it a study on HOTNESS!!”  (Oct. 7, 2009 Troy First Baptist Church newsletter)

At about that same time – and at the same church, the wife of one of the deacon’s attended a lunch with a group of ladies – several from her church.

Several of the ladies from her church ordered alcoholic drinks with their meal.

Some months later, that deacon left the church when some of the other deacons brought a motion to change the church policy on alcohol from abstinence to moderation.

And it’s not just SBC churches:

  • In the same town – a new church called the Journey – – whose pastor thinks we need more pastor’s like Mark Driscoll, has now hosted two “no limit” poker tournaments for the community —  $30 buy in.

Every Sunday night this church plays host to a poker night for church members and potential new members.

  • Also in the same town, the Methodist Church recently advertized a new Sunday School class called “Tongue Pierced.”

The promotional materials showed a guy with a pierced tongue and flames tattooed down both side of his tongue — with this statement:  “This ain’t your momma’s type Sunday School Class.”

While I could go on and on about the various “ministries” and “outreach” events both inside and outside the SBC, here’s the issue:

  • The Apostle Paul warned against those “who think that we live by the standards of this world.” 2 Cor 10:2
  • In James 4: the Bible say: “don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
  • The Book of James also tells us that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless” includes “keep[ing] oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
  • The Bible warns us in Col 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
  • The Bible commands us in I John 2:15-16

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

  • The Apostle John warned of the false prophets and the “spirit of falsehood” when he wrote: “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” 1 John 4:5
  • And then Jesus encouraged those who were serious about the Christian life when He said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.

John 15:18-19

But the world doesn’t hate this kind of “culturally liberal” Christianity.  No… They are fascinated by it.

They can drink, smoke, cuss, watch their secular “R” rated movies, hang out in the bars and hang out in the casinos, get some tattoos and body piercings – and still get the “good Christian” seal of approval.

But here is the problem:  The more the church looks like the world –

…the more the church acts like the world –

…the more the church talks like the world –

…the less the church has to offer the world —- But be assured:  the world loves it this way.

And here’s why  –  The offense of the gospel isn’t just in the preaching of “sound doctrine,” but in the convicting power of holy living.

“Culturally Relevant,” “Contexualization” and “Missional”

But some of our SBC leaders are now telling us that if we really want to “win people to Jesus,”  —  if we really want to grow big churches, we need to be open to this kind of stuff…

…we need to be “culturally relevant” —  as defined by the Acts 29 – emerging church-type inerrantists.

We need to look a little more like the world, act a little more like the world and talk a little more like the world — in order to win the world to Jesus.

But let’s be clear:  The calls for the church to be “culturally relevant” is nothing more than our latest attempt to soften the gospel and…

…to make it appear a little less offensive and a little less foolish to those who are perishing.

…and if our theologically conservative preaching makes them a little uncomfortable —  it will be OK, because our “culturally liberal” living will make them feel better.

What we are actually doing is stripping the gospel of its transforming power by legitimizing the very kind of carnal Christianity that is plaguing our churches.

But we’re also being told that we now need to “Contextualize the Gospel.”

Well, I would argue that God has provided us with all the context that is needed.

We have the 66 books of the old and New Testament canons – which we call the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.

Throughout the history of Biblical Christianity, the Bible has provided all the “context” necessary for the conversion of the unregenerate soul and for the making of authentic disciples. 

But there’s more:  Once you master the modern evangelistic methodologies of being “culturally relevant” and “contextualizing the gospel,” then you qualify to be a “missional” Christian and your church can become a missional church.

In February, 2010, the Great Commission Resurgence Taskforce made their presentation to the SBC Executive Committee.  In that presentation, the taskforce chairman called on Southern Baptists to become a “missional movement” and to embrace a “missional vision” and to develop a “missional strategy.”

But you see, the problem with the word “missional” is that it is an intentionally vague term.

It is used by everybody from the Unitarian Universalist Association to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The far-left wing of the emerging church movement (Emergent Village – Brian McLaren’s group) —  they state in their materials that:

Emergent Village is a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”

Acts 29, the so-called “inerrantist-wing of the emerging church movement” states that they are a “trans-denominational peer to peer network of missional church planting churches.”

Mark Driscoll’s new school of theology (called The Resurgence Training Center) states that it’s purpose is to “train missional leaders.”

I think it is also significant to point out that Driscoll’s professors at his new school include:

LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer

Southern Seminary professor Bruce Ware and

Southern Seminary professor Gregg Allison

These things concern me… And I am of the opinion that they should concern every one of us…

But I have said all this to provide something of a backdrop – or a context – to make the point that an authentically Biblical Worldview must have as its foundation both a commitment to Sound Doctrine and a passion for holiness.   

When Sound Doctrine and Holiness do not advance together,

Back to my point:

When a commitment to sound doctrine and a passion for holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the end results are spiritually devastating.

The end results are Bible believing Christians who honor Christ with their lips but their hearts are somewhere else.

  • The end results are Bible-believing —   yet carnal – Christians infatuated with the things of this world

But let’s be honest:  living an authentic Christian life is difficult for everyone who professes the name of Christ because is it contrary to everything the flesh, the world and the devil wants me to embrace.

And it is far easier to fake the Christian life than it is to live it  —  because then, I don’t have to deal with what I really am.

Let me also say:  Holiness is not about perfection, but rather our passion to know Christ, to honor Him in all we do and in all that we are.

Six Consequences:

Beware:  When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the spiritual consequences to the body of Christ are significant:

Six things:   

  1. First and foremost: we become a people heavy on religious rhetoric and incredibly light on spiritual substance. 
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is a loss of our Biblical understanding of the seriousness of sin in the sight of God.
  • There is probably nothing else that can devastate the Christian life like this one thing.
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is a growing carnality and worldliness that continually lowers the spiritual standards for Christian living.
  • As one Christian writer has stated: “Worldliness is what makes sin look normal in any age and righteousness seem odd.”  (God in the Wasteland, by David E. Wells, page 29)
  • Bottom line: As carnality and worldliness expands, the distinctions between the things of the world and the things of the Lord become increasingly blurred.
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is that our works of righteousness (our missions, ministry and evangelism) are increasingly done in the power of the flesh rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
  • The power of God does not rest upon the carnal minded who are infatuated with the things of the world.

At the 2002 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis, I had the opportunity to address a large group of SBC leaders from across the country.  In that meeting, I address what I considered to be the most pressing issue of our denomination.

  • “As a Southern Baptist, one of my greatest concerns is that we have developed multitudes of programs, published reams of materials and spent millions upon millions of dollars to train and motivate our people to do in the power of the flesh, what you could not prevent them from doing if they were in the Spirit.”
  • We must understand: We can only pass on what we possess.
  • And we can only testify and witness about that which we have personally witnessed and experienced.
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is a growing tendency in such churches to settle for “professions” of faith rather than transformed lives in our new “converts”
  • Maybe this is the reason the issue of unregenerate church membership is now being debated at SBC annual meetings.
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is that our spiritual hypocrisy will become increasingly evident to those who genuinely love the Lord while a growing spiritual blindness will cause others to barely notice our spiritual decline.
  • The end result is a deepening divide within the body of Christ.
  • And ultimately, the calls for peace, unity and compromise causes us to cater to the lowest common denominator, as the standards of Christian living move lower and lower and lower.

Denominational Results:

But there are also significant ramifications for the denomination as well.

When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in denominational life, the end results are probably even more devastating —  because all these “things” become institutionalized.

  • And then they are downloaded into our SBC churches through our denominational agencies by the denominational bureaucrats.

When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in denominational life, the result is a spiritual environment where …

  • The praise of men slowly and gradually becomes preferred over the approval of God.
  • And the command to “seek first the Kingdom of God” gets lost in the passionate pursuit of the seats of honor.

Spiritual leaders who fall prey to such temptations quickly morph into religious professionals and religious bureaucrats…

For such men, creating and maintaining the appearance of pastoral success becomes the means of climbing the denominational ladder.

In SBC life, Pastoral success is measured by the false criteria of the infamous four B’s:

  1. The number of Baptisms
  2. Size of our Budget
  3. Size of our Church Buildings
  4. Number of warm Bodies we can continue to attract on a regular basis.

Tragically, our passion for numbers is largely replacing our passion for the much more difficult tasks of making disciples.

The Resurgence:  The First Critical Step

With that being said:  I want to make a very important point here:

Some of our SBC brethren have now discovered the harsh truth that our battle for the Bible was only the first step in a much larger and much more difficult battle.

  • A battle that can no longer be fought on a purely political level.

As the former Coordinator of Project 1000, let me state one more time for the record:  Our battle for the Bible here in the state of Missouri was never intended to be the final destination.

  • But rather, our battle for the Truth of God’s Word was a critically important effort intended to take us back to the spiritual “starting line” that we might then run the right race, in the right direction, according to the right rules of God’s Word.

The intended purpose of that battle was to re-focus the attention of God’s people on two essential areas in the Christian life:

  • First: A biblical understanding of the seriousness of sin
  • Second: And the necessity of holiness in the life of the individual believer.

For without these two things – the pursuit of authentic Biblical Christianity is not possible.

The SBC:  Making the wrong thing the “main thing”

Let me make one more observation:

I would argue that the greatest error of the SBC’s conservative resurgence was in its failure to emphasize with the same passion and tenacity the issue of holiness that we did the issues of inerrancy and evangelism.

In fact, I would further argue that these three things (inerrancy, holiness and evangelism) are so intrinsically woven together and so inseparable in authentic Christianity as to represent the three legs of the “three-legged stool of Christian living.”

  • The leg representing the truth of God’s Word must be in place and strong – for it is the revelation of God to man whereby we can know who He is and what He requires in all matters.
  • The leg representing the life of holiness and purity before God must be in place and strong – for it is the essence of the first and greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
  • And the leg representing our passion for evangelism and the making of disciples must be in place and strong – for this is the essence of the second commandment to love our neighbor as ourself.

And if any of these three legs are missing, or weak, or out of its proper proportion, the stool will not stand as intended.

As Southern Baptists, our commitment to the truth of God’s Word has been unquestionable:

And in the area of evangelism — nobody has talked about the Great Commission and reaching the lost for Christ like Southern Baptists.

But when it comes to the issue of holiness  —  it is barely on the radar screen.

CRITICAL POINT:

For decades, our SBC leaders have been telling us about our commitment to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.

And for decades, we have been told about our passion to win the world to Christ:

  • “We have got to keep the main thing the main thing,” they tell us. “And the main thing is evangelism.”
  • But the “main thing” is not evangelism.
  • It’s not now, nor has it ever been the main thing.
  • Rather, evangelism flows naturally from what Christ Himself said is the “main thing:”
  • The “main thing” is what Christ called the First and Greatest Commandment.
  • And it is from this one thing that everything else in the Christian life flows.

And the degree to which we fail to get this one thing right,

  • To that same degree we will fail in all our attempts to live out the Christian life in faithfulness to all that God has called us to be and to do.

The First and “Greatest Commandment”

We find in Matt 22:34-40, one of the most profound passages of all the Bible regarding the Christian life.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’   38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’   40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In this profoundly important passage, Christ goes back to Deut chapter 6, a passage the Jews called the Shema.  Here, the Lord Himself makes it profoundly clear exactly what the “main thing” is to be.

And the reason Christ identified the command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength as the first and greatest commandment, is because it is from this commandment that everything else in the Christian life flows.

  • I would contend that this commandment can be summed up in the simple phase: The passionate pursuit of holiness. 
  • And it is through the pursuit of this commandment – and all that it means, that we enter through the doorway to authentic Biblical Christianity.

This is the starting point in the Christian life and if we don’t get this right, then ultimately, nothing else really matters.

Because all that remains to live the Christian life is the power of the flesh and the wisdom of man.

First Commandment Christians: A Passion for Holiness

As I mentioned earlier:  There are two distinctly different groups of “inerrantists” within the conservative ranks of the SBC.

  • And these two distinctly different groups have distinctly different visions about the direction this denomination needs to go.
  • With that being said, I would argue that the great battle that has raged in the Missouri Baptist Convention in recent years and the controversy that has now exploded at the SBC, is a conflict between two broad categories that I have called “First Command Christianity” and “Second Commandment Christianity.”

So, what is First Commandment Christianity?

Let me start with this:  First and foremost, First Command Christians understand that:

  • If it’s God who draws men unto Himself, (John 6:44 & 12:32)
  • And if it’s God who convicts men of sin and righteousness, (John 16:8)
  • And if it’s God who regenerates the individual and makes that person a new creation in Christ, (Titus 3:5, 2 Cor 5:17-18)
  • And if it’s God who then indwells the new believer and leads him into all truth, (1 Cor 3:16, John 16:13)
  • And if it’s the indwelling Holy Spirit of God who empowers the believer to carry out the good works we were saved unto, (Acts 1:8, Eph. 2:10)

…then what exactly does that leave for us  —   except to be faithful to the one commandment from which all else in the Christian life flows?

And how shall we live the Christian life in faithfulness and authenticity apart from the power of God, which comes only to those who are faithful to the First and Greatest Commandment  —  the command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength?

  • And how can we be the salt of the earth and the light of the world except we understand what it means to “abide in Christ” and to be holy?

For the very essence of the First and Greatest Commandment is the command to be holy.

  • The Apostle Peter wrote: “be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”   1 Peter 1:15-16
  • In Hebrews chapter 12, we are again commanded to be holy for “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

The apostle Paul summed it up well:  “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”  2 Cor. 7:

So, what is holiness?

So what is Holiness?

Simply stated:  Holiness is the God-given passion inherent within every born-again believer to become outwardly what Christ has made us inwardly.

While holiness starts at the point of sound doctrine… 

  • …it is a life that must be pursued through intense spiritual training with an acute awareness of the conflict that rages between the “old man” and the “new man.”

It is the new man, born again of the incorruptible seed of God that longs for holiness and thirst after righteousness.  (not the old man)

It is the new man, born again of the incorruptible seed of God that worships God in Spirit and in Truth.    (not the old man)

It is the new man, born again of the incorruptible seed of God that the Spirit of God indwells and empowers to carry out the good works we were saved unto.  (not the old man)

We are commanded to crucify the old man – daily — for his passion is for the things of the flesh and the things of the world.

We are to crucify the old sinful nature – the old man – not put him in charge of our Christian life.

Those who desire to know Christ and experience the blessings of obedience must understand first and foremost that as Christians, we have two natures to contend with:

The old man and the new man. 

  • Whichever nature we nurture will become dominate in our lives.
  • When we feed the flesh, the flesh grows stronger.
  • When we nurture the new man, born again of the incorruptible seed of God, we will become more like Christ.

The battle for holiness is a battle that must be waged and won in the heart and mind of each and every individual believer  —  each and every day.

  • When this battle is not consciously waged, it is lost by default.
  • In the SBC, we fought the battle for the Bible
  • We have fought to keep the Great Commission front and center
  • But —  I would argue that we have not advocated for holiness with the same passion and tenacity that we did for inerrancy and evangelism.

Sin and Holiness

Now it is critically important that we understand one more thing:

There is only one inhibitor to holiness in the life of a believer, and it is sin. 

  • And the greatest threat to holiness among the people of God is where there is a low and diluted view of the seriousness of sin.

It is for this reason that the desire of “First Commandment Christians” is to live as far from sin as possible.

They recognize the truth in the old saying:  “Sin will take you farther than you want to go – keep you longer than you want to stay – and cost you more than you want to pay.”

  • It is for this reason that Hebrews 12 tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and “run with perseverance the race marked out for us… fix[ing] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

First Commandment Christians understand the significance and context of God’s commands

  • We can never fully understand the command to “go ye therefore” until we understand the command to “Come out from amongst them…”
  • And we can never understand what it means to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” if we can’t come to grips with what it means to:
  • “Take captive every thought, making it obedient to Christ…” 2 Cor 10:5
  • Or the command to… “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deed of darkness but rather expose them…”  Eph 5:11
  • Or to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…” Eph 4:29
  • Or to “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds…” Col 3:9
  • Or what about the Biblical command that “…there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place…”   Eph 5:3-5

Bottom line:  For First Commandment Christians, sin is never viewed as a secondary or tertiary issue, but rather primary – because the issue of sin goes to the heart of what the gospel is about. 

Let me say one more time:  Holiness is not about perfection – it’s about our passion

– our passion to know Christ– and to honor Him– in all that I think — in all that I do — and in all that I am.

We are all sinners saved by the grace of God.  But there should be a passion in the life of every believer to be like Christ.

But let’s also point out that there are two sides of this issue of grace.  Not only are we saved by grace as the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8, but Titus 2:11-12 says this:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

Now when a man says he was saved by the grace of God, but that same grace can’t seem to teach him the difference between right and wrong  —  between good and evil…

…then there’s good reason to question exactly what got hold of this guy  —  even if he is an “inerrantist.”

It is a perplexing thing to me when you contrast the boldness with which we declare the power of God’s grace to save the lost and our virtual silence regarding the power of that same grace to transform the lives of those same individuals.

Holiness: Character Traits of a First Commandment Christian

First Commandment Christians are those who have a passion for holiness.

And because of that passion to become outwardly what Christ has made us inwardly, certain character traits will begin to develop in the lives of such people.

You will begin to see things like:

  1. Godly character
  2. Integrity
  3. Honesty / a desire to tell the truth and to be honest
  4. Moral purity
  5. A passion to be obedience to all the commands of God
  6. Faithfulness
  7. A biblical Humility, compassion, mercy and a forgiving heart
  8. And a desire for the kind of fellowship where “iron sharpeneth iron.”
  9. A willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ, understanding that if Christ Himself learned obedience by what He suffered, how much more will that be true for us.
  • We need a deeper understanding and commitment to what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:29: For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,   (Phil 1:29)

First Commandment Christians are recognized most clearly by their…

  1. Deep rooted love of God. (First and Greatest Commandment)
  1. A hatred of sin: (Ps. 97:10  Let those who love the Lord hate evil)
  1. A healthy fear and reverence of the Lord
  1. Their love for God’s people
    • ( “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35)
  1. Their longing for righteousness and a desire for the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in their lives.
  1. And lastly, First Commandment Christians are most clearly recognized by their passion to testify — as a witness to others — about the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ — that they have personally experienced.

Second Commandment Christianity

So, if First Commandment Christians are those who have sought to be faithful to all that it means to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength,

Then what does it mean to be a Second Commandment Christian?

The Lord said that the Second Commandment is like unto the First, that we are to “love our neighbor as ourself.”

In SBC life, the essence of the Second Commandment can be summed up in our well-worn phrase:  “missions, ministry and evangelism”.

So, let me try to explain what I mean by “Second Commandment Christianity”

  • Second Commandment Christians are those who are best known for their commitment to the work of missions, ministry and evangelism rather than for their passion for holiness.
  • Second Commandment Christians are more interested in pursuing the latest evangelistic methodologies than they are in pursuing the favor and power of God.
  • Second Commandment Christians are those who have been most faithful in repeating the mantra: “We’ve got to keep the main thing the main thing and the main thing is evangelism.”
  • The problem isn’t in what they emphasize, but what is not emphasized with equal passion.

We can never love our neighbor as ourself until we love God as we should.

And we can never be truly faithful to the work of the Second Commandment until we are truly faithful to the First Commandment.

Let me state it as clearly as I know how:  The problem with what I have called “Second Commandment Christianity” is that it is nothing more than the old man masquerading as the new man.

  • It is the substitution of a right relationship with Christ — with conservative religious rhetoric and the doing of good deeds.
  • Second Commandment Christianity tends to be artificial, superficial and shallow. It is self-centered and self-serving because —  after all  —  it’s all about “self.”

Second Commandment Christianity is popular because it is easy  —  it is the religious path of least resistance.

  • It is what we become by default when we fail to consciously seek the Lord with all our heart.
  • It is what we become when we fail to deal with the all too often subtle passions of our old sinful nature.

Second Commandment Christianity is the results we get when we nurture the wrong nature —

  • …when we nurture the old sinful nature rather than sending him to the cross to be crucified daily.

Second Commandment Christianity has the form of godliness but there is no power…  because God does not empower the old sinful man – no matter how religious he might look or sound.

Second Commandment Christianity honors Christ with their lips but dishonor Him in their thinking, in their attitudes and ultimately, in their behaviors.

Second Commandment Christians are heavy on religious rhetoric but light on spiritual substance.

Second Commandment Christianity is more interested in the temporal than the eternal.

Second Commandment Christianity is more interested in the eradication of suffering than in the eradication of carnality through suffering.

Second Commandment Christianity is running rampant within the SBC and within American Evangelicalism.

Adrian Rogers summed up what I believe goes to the heart of our most pressing problem as Southern Baptists when he spoke of saltless preachers preaching a saltless gospel, producing saltless converts and building a saltless church.

Second Commandment preachers tend to preach more on evangelism than holiness: more on the love of God than on the seriousness of sin: and more on growing the church than on the making of disciples.

It was of such spiritual leaders that God spoke of:

Lam 2:14  The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.

Jer 5:30-31   “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land:  The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.”

Jer 23:13-14   “…among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible:  They commit adultery and live a lie.  They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. 

Again, let me state it as clearly as I know how:  Second Commandment Christians are those who are passionate about their evangelistic efforts;  They are passionate about their mission trips;  They are passionate about their various “ministries;”  And they are  passionate about the planting of new churches (that will be passionate about the same things they are passionate about).

But Second Commandment Christians are passive about the two things that matter most to God:  They are passive about righteousness on the one side and they are passive about worldliness on the other side.

They are passive about holiness because they are passive about sin.

Second Commandment Christianity is the pathway of “lukewarm” Christianity.

So, the question for each of us today is this:  Which of those two categories best reflects what I am?

First Commandment Christian or Second Commandment Christian?

Where would I fall on that scale that runs from “authentic” on the one side to shallow, superficial and “lukewarm” on the other side.

You see, most of us aren’t completely one or the other  —  We are human  —  and sinners by nature  —  so each of us are at least a little bit of both…

So the real question is this: In the quiet and privacy of my home, when I look deep into my heart and life –

What is the testimony of my life?

What is the testimony of your life?

Is there any desire in my life to do better and to be more for Christ?

I am convinced that until the Southern Baptist Convention and the pastors of our churches give to the issue of holiness its rightful place along side our commitment to the Word of God and our commitment to the work of the Great Commission, we will continue our downward spiral.

1900 years after Aristides wrote his letter in defense of the Christians to the king, the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville saw something similar in the Christians of early America when he wrote this:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there;  in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there.  Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.” 

That’s the kind of testimony we need in the American Church today if we are to be truly relevant to this wretched and depraved culture that we live in.

And nothing short of a complete, total, sold out commitment to what Christ called the First and Greatest Commandment can take us there.

We need a “resurgence” of the “Great Commandment.”    May God Help Us.

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