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Speaking Out For A Return To Biblical Authority II

October 08, 2001

As you may imagine, the past few issues of UMVoice have stirred up quite a response from many readers. Some feedback has been very negative, some just the opposite. What I want to do in this issue is try to bring it all together.

Was this judgment, or not? I’m still not sure how you can come to a different conclusion. We rush too quickly to give “credit” to Satan for horrific, inexplicable acts. Yes, Satan is powerful, but he is only a prince! (Eph. 2:2) The risen Lord Jesus Christ is enthroned as King and rules over ALL the universe, “prince of the air” included! But Satan is a rebellious subject, and is trying to take as many of us down with him as possible. What do you think spiritual warfare is all about? Certainly there is a danger in labeling all actions like we witnessed on Sept. 11 as judgment, but I never said nor meant to imply that ALL suffering was a direct result of God’s immediate judgment on sin – just that this incident was.

In the Old Testament, when the prophets speak about coming judgment against Israel, God's harshest criticism is always leveled at the priests and the prophets who speak in their own name, not His. And who does Jesus berate in the New Testament? The scribes and Pharisees always seem to bear the brunt of His harangues. God is patient with an apostate people, but will not tolerate an apostate clergy for very long.

Being a reader of UMVoice in the past, certainly it should be obvious that the politically-correct, apostate clergy are taking over in America. We fought (and continue to fight) the battles in our own denomination, as do the Presbyterians and the Catholics. The Episcopalians have largely given in to cultural pressures, as has "progressive" Judaism in this country. These are just some of the examples. What we are left with is a church that speaks with a forked tongue: some embrace homosexuality, others have not. Some endorse pro-choice positions, others are pro-life. What is the message that society hears? Is homosexuality wrong, or isn't it? Is abortion wrong, or isn't it? We are to be lights of truth as well as compassion.

If we are honest with ourselves, we are forced to admit that the church in this country has become weak. It certainly is not because we worship a weak God, but because we have gotten soft. Over the centuries, it seems we have gone from "fire and brimstone" to "fireside chats". We overemphasize the part of the Gospel that talks about God's love for us, the relationship. That is what is appealing, and that is what gets people to "sign up". Nobody wants to sign on for hardship, or sacrifice, so we "soften" the message and package it up in a way that does not offend people. Yet church membership continues to decline.

To the unbelievers who are seeking, the message of the church has been and should continue to be that God loves them and died for them. Because of that God accepts them as they are when they come to the foot of the cross and repent. But while we have a sacred obligation to accept the homosexual and the woman who has had an abortion, we are not to accept homosexuality or abortion. God accepts us as we are, He does NOT accept our sin. He is patient with it, but will never accept it. Unfortunately, that distinction has been blurred or obliterated to the point that there is no perceived difference anymore. And this is the message of the last few issues: God is not pleased with how the culture is affecting His Bride. We have gone beyond acceptance of the sinner, and have become tolerant and accepting of the sin – especially our own. We are losing our purity. How has it happened?

We focus on the “wedding ceremony,” if you will, and forget that the marriage is hard work! Saying “I do” to Christ is a huge step, the most important one that any person can ever make! But we cannot be content to “accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior” and then just leave the relationship up to Him. It doesn’t work in our own marriages, and it certainly works no better in our relationship to Jesus. In Ephesians, Paul makes urges wives to be in submission to their husbands. Why?

Ephesians 5:22-27

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

Wives are to be in submission to their husbands for the same reason we are to be in submission to Christ: that is how we prove our fidelity! And how do we do this? How do we prove our love? By keeping His commandments! We HAVE to make Him the Lord of our life! (John 14:21) And while this role of submission goes directly against the grain of our culture, it wouldn’t seem such a burden or contradiction if husbands were upholding their end: loving our wives as Christ loved His church – a daunting responsibility indeed. But don’t let this fallen state of human relationships take away from the perfect purity that is to be our model: Christ and His church. Jesus has already proven His love for us in His atoning sacrifice. We are to prove our love for Him by growing in our relationship with Him and obeying Him. And as we grow in Christ, He will sanctify us!

Sanctification - becoming conformed to the very image of Christ, becoming Holy – is an essential part of our relationship with God, for “without (holiness) no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14) Sanctification is to salvation what marriage is to the wedding ceremony. It is the part that takes our ongoing commitment and dedication on our part, yet it seems almost “assumed” anymore, if not overlooked entirely. "Holiness" is the part of the Gospel that demands sacrifice. "Holiness" is the part that demands repentance. "Holiness" is the part where we MUST let God change and shape us.

Unfortunately, in our zeal to reach as many people as possible with the eternal truth of the Gospel, all we have succeeded at is making many genuine seekers "comfortable" with God. We get them in the door, and end up putting them to sleep with a message that is designed to make us feel good about God! The Body of Christ IS getting the message, but the message is only half there! We must continue to preach God's grace and goodness and mercy and love, but we have to also restore balance. A one-sided view of God amounts to fashioning an idol, and the one that is largely worshipped across this country is the "God of Love." The ultimate irony, of course, is that once people realize the true state of their souls, they'll be telling YOU how good God is! We won't have to explain it to them. David says it so well in Psalm 51:

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing heart to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and I will declare your praise."

This captures the essence of spontaneous evangelism, and highlights what the church today has lost: Joy. Gratitude. Adoration. As Jesus tells the church at Ephesus, we have “left our first love.” (Rev 2:4) Or the church at Laodicea, we are “lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.” (Rev 3:16) We will overflow with praise for our Savior once we truly grasp what He has done for us, and for the world! We won't need to try and "guilt" people into witnessing to the lost about Christ. We won’t need to coerce people to give their tithes and offerings. We won’t have to force people to want to grow – in fact, we won’t be able to stop them!

Our motives are well-intentioned, but they have backfired. We talk about grace, relationship with Jesus, hope, security, and love, without challenging church-goers to repent daily and take up our cross. Without confronting church members with the reality of sin in our own lives – as well as the culture around us. Without causing us to take pause and consider the awesome Holiness of God. It's all about invitation, little about commitment. In our efforts to preach the Gospel in an “appealing” way, we have turned Jesus into a “cosmic buddy" who will always be there for you, no matter what - fast friends forever, He will always accept you. Heck, He'll even intercede with God for you on your behalf! What better friend could you have? But He is more than that. He has to be. Otherwise, He would not be God.

No, these past few issues would not make good evangelistic tools. But UMVoice has never been primarily an evangelistic outreach of Dueber Church. The audience of UMVoice has been and will continue to be the "active" church. This has always been an effort to get Methodists (and others) who claim the name of Christ motivated to get involved in shaping the attitudes, morals, and laws of this denomination and this country. What we sometimes tend to forget is how easy it is to lose sight of the “small” sins we struggle with when the culture around is so much worse (relatively speaking…). Our sins can become almost invisible as we decry those sins around us, but it is hypocritical to point the finger without taking a good, hard look in the mirror. We have to remove (with God’s help!) our own “planks” first so that we can see clearly. (Matthew 7:3-5) An integral part of being light to the world around us has to include letting God show us where we still fall short as individual! s.

Some have questioned the timing of the message, and certainly it is even more difficult to talk about issues like these during times like these. But if there is a connection, if this is an act of God’s Holy judgment, we would be foolish to simply dismiss it and concern ourselves only with getting back to "normal." And even if I have overstepped a boundary by calling this an act of judgment, then God will deal with me for that. But just as we should not let imperfect human marriages warp our sense of how we are to relate to Christ, whether this is judgment or not does not change the fact that it is never a bad time to look deeply into your own spiritual condition and take stock of your soul. "Fear and trembling." That's how Paul advises us to consider our salvation.

I believe that on Sept. 11 Osama Bin-Laden roused a sleeping giant - the United States military machine. He may have thought that he was safe hiding out in Afghanistan, but he will soon learn differently. At the same instant, God tried to rouse a sleeping giant of His own - His church. And if we don't rise to the moral imperative at this point in history as our armed forces are doing for the military imperative, we will find ourselves anything but safe from a God who will not be ignored. And Christians who don't believe that Jesus is capable of wrath will learn differently, too. (Remember, He returns next time as a Judge!) We need to make sure that God's giant gets as worked up over issues of spiritual decay - both personal and corporate - as our military giant is getting over issues of national security.

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