Christianity would be better of if it had fewer adherents rather than more. The reason is simple—the Church is the best kind of wine until water gets added. The more water one mixes with wine, the less wine there really is. Water down the wine enough and before long there isn’t anything left of it but a little smell.
I often feel the same way. Being a Christian in name only is not being a Christian at all. I would much rather spread the gospel with those who see it as good news than those who have grown familiar with the amazing story of Jesus. There are too many counterfeit Christians who distort the gospel yet they seem to get all the press.
I recently read the allegations regarding Eddie Long, Atlanta-area mega pastor. These allegations regarding sexual immorality are saddening though not much surprises me anymore. Long has been under investigation in the past for financial impropriety.
I am not interested in humiliating or insulting Long nor am I making a judgment regarding his innocence or guilt. However, I recently came across a thread on Facebook regarding this topic and wanted to provide a little bit of Biblical guidance. Read for yourself what some were saying:
I agree that we should examine ourselves and be slow to judge. God is the ultimate judge. However, this idea that we are NEVER to judge or never to make moral statements regarding the sin of other Christians is ridiculous (and unbiblical). Judgment is an integral part of being a Christian and being part of a faith community. Think about Paul, he spoke very clearly about how to deal with immorality within a church (see 1 Corinthians 5)! We are called to judge the Christian within the church! Furthermore, we must banish any nonsense that the “pastor” is God’s anointed and is beyond judgment. As a pastor, I pray that my brothers and sisters (my coworkers in the gospel) will be firm in holding me accountable.
Sunday I taught an overview of the small book of Jonah. We looked at the role and shape of Jonah among the minor prophets. In the antihero of Jonah, I tried to demonstrate the love of God for the nations.
To the very end of the story Jonah never embraced God’s call. In the words of VeggieTales: “Jonah was a prophet and he never really got it.” Jonah, the seemingly good news prophet ends up being the bad guy.
His selfishness, nationalism, and pride prevented him initially from obeying God and ultimately from enjoying the love and mercy that God extended to the Ninevites. Jonah didn’t want God to show mercy on his enemies.
Jonah was not willing to sacrifice his reputation, comfort, or life for the story and glory of God. The call to go is bigger than my reputation, my comfort, and even my life.
In conversation with one of the pastors at my church I was reminded of the importance of seeing God for who he really is and myself for what I really am. It is so easy (like Jonah) to think that God must act the way I want him to. He must love who I love and punish who I hate. Just like Jonah fostered an us versus them mentality between the Israelites and Ninevites, I often foster an us versus them mentality. With the recent anniversary of 9/11 I am reminded how many Christians still view Islam as the enemy.
I am reminded that our power and hope is in the gospel. It can break any chain of Islam. As a Christian I am called to demonstrate the scandalous love of Christ.
In 2004, five Southern Baptist Missionaries were serving in Mosul, Iraq (geographically analogous to ancient Ninevah). They had moved to Iraq to share the glory of the gospel with the Iraqi people and serve them by researching opportunities to provide clean water. The five missionaries (Larry and Jean Elliott, David and Carrie McDonnall, and Karen Watson) were ambushed by gunmen. Carrie McDonnall was the only survivor. Prior to leaving for Iraq, Karen Watson had written a letter to be read upon her death. She knew the risk of going to such a difficult place.
I wasn’t called to a place. I was called to Him,” she wrote. “To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory was my reward, His glory is my reward.”
Anticipating her death may cause others to question the need for the humanitarian work in Iraq to continue, Watson clearly said one of the most important things is to “preserve the work. Keep sending missionaries out. Keep raising up fine young pastors.”
In making a few requests for a funeral service, Watson said to keep it simple and preach the Gospel. “Be bold and preach the life saving, life changing, forever eternal GOSPEL. Give glory and honor to our Father,” she wrote.
Watson quoted The Missionary Heart, which says in part, “Risk more than some think is safe,” a line that resonates with the endeavor she undertook in a war-torn country. She listed some of her favorite passages of Scripture, including 2 Corinthians 15:5, which says, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Another was Romans 15:20, which says, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” In closing, Watson wrote, “There is no Joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him.”
Glenn Beck is a regular topic of discussion on this blog (see here and here). My reservations about Beck are numerous (both political, ideological, historical, and theological). Recently, Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally has gained much attention. Some have lauded Beck for showing courage to stand for America’s “founding values” and others have cautioned evangelicals to be careful with whom they partner (at this point the essay by Russell Moore is genuinely helpful). Not only has Moore weighed in but Doug Wilson and Scot McKnight have offered some commentary on the situation.
One denominational side note that I found disappointing was the alliance of Richard Land (president of SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) with Beck as part of his multi-faith “black-robed regiment.”
Outside of Moore, Robert Parham has proven to be the most helpful. He not only provides insightful commentary about the dangers of civil religion and generic, theistic alliances, he does so with ample quotations from the actual event in question (“Restoring Honor” on August 28, 2010).
Fox News host Glenn Beck muddled biblical references with fragments of America history, recreating a pottage of civil religion that says America has a divine destiny and claiming that a national revival is beginning…
Beck said, “We can disagree on politics. We can disagree on so much. These men and women don’t agree on fundamentals. They don’t agree on everything that every church teaches. What they do agree on is that God is the answer.
It is insightful to note that the definitions of god provided by these various clerics are so broad that god is probably not even a sufficiently meaningful category. Whose God?
No amount of Bible reading, sermons masquerading as prayers and Christian hymns can cover up Beck’s civil religion that slides back and forth between the Bible and nationalism, between authentic faith and patriotic religion.
He treats the “American scripture”—such as the Gettysburg Address—as if it bears the same revelatory weight as Christian Scripture.
What is important to Beck is belief in God—God generically—not a specific understanding of God revealed in the Biblical witness, but God who appears in nature and from which one draws universal truths.
Not surprisingly, Beck only uses the Bible to point toward the idea of a God-generic…
I have been reminded of late about the massive misunderstanding that most Christians have regarding the nature of the church. One common fallacy of which I have recently encountered has massive implications for the way one lives and behaves. It is routinely propagated that one must behave in a particularly pious way “at church.” “Put on your Sunday best,” someone might say. Others balk at a pastor’s knowledge of popular media or his reference to popular culture while teaching. They say that it has no place “at church.” The manifestations of this Biblical mistake are never ending.
Ultimately some would have you believe that certain physical space is sacred and other physical space is secular. Like Moses and the burning bush, when you step onto the church’s property you are “on holy ground.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality of the New Testament is that believers are the ones who are holy, by means of the blood of Christ (1 Cor 3:16–17; 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). The church is not a building (Eph 2:11–22) but a people.
On the one hand, what you do and say with the church should not be disconnected from what you do and say by yourself. Granted, the purpose of a church meeting together is different than when you are alone—mutual edification can only occur with others. However, there should be little difference in the manner of my living when I am with other believers and when I am by myself. If what I wear throughout the week is not appropriate for “church” then it is not appropriate for the grocery store. You might not want to wear a baseball uniform or pajamas to church (different purpose) but neither must you wear a specific “church uniform.” If God does not require a suit to go the baseball game then he does not require one when I gather with other believers. This thinking should extend to what I watch on television and the content of my conversation. As far as I can tell, the Biblical definition of sacred and secular is purely an inward category. Holiness is a function of our calling from God, not our location (Eph 1:4; Col 3:12; 1 Pet 1:15).
I’m not sure if you have moments of personal doubt and insecurity—I sometimes do. Recently I was feeling quite useless. A stray comment here or a thoughtless decision there and one can easily spiral into a defeatist attitude. Satan wastes no time in capitalizing on our mistakes.
Satan accuses Christians day and night. It is not just that he will work on our conscience to make us feel as dirty, guilty, defeated, destroyed, weak, and ugly as he possibly can; it is something worse: his entire play in the past is to accuse us before God day and night, bringing charges against us that we know we can never answer before the majesty of God’s holiness.
What can we say in response? Will our defense be, ‘Oh, I’m not that bad?’ You will never beat Satan that way. Never. What you must say is, ‘Satan, I’m even worse than you think, but God loves me anyway. He has accepted me because of the blood of the lamb
— D. A. Carson, Scandalous
Unfortunately, Satan is not our only accuser. Other Christians waste no time pointing out your flaws and imperfections. I am convinced that accountability is necessary within a Christian fellowship but accountability is for the purpose of edification and restoration. It is very easy to drift from accountability to accusation. We love to see others fall. There must be a point where we allow the mistakes of others to be left in the past. The acceptance and forgiveness of Christ is the basis of our status before Him and each other. For me, the words of Paul are profoundly applicable:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
Am I willing to treat others not just as I want to be treated but as Christ treated me. Am I willing to consider them as better than myself? Am I willing to suffer wrongs and insults rather than be defensive? Am I willing to measure others by the work of Christ rather than their good or bad behavior? Am I willing to forgive their sins rather keeping score? Am I willing to love like Christ?