31 May 2013

Politicizing the Gospel part 2/2

To continue with the issue of politicizing the Gospel....

Our greatest enemies are those within the Church/Temple who set themselves up as a Law-source, those who repudiate the commandments and teachings of Christ our Lawgiver. Desiring to be God they seek power through deceit. Any kind of manipulation of the facts to serve your purposes is deceitful.

Biblical theology can be twisted and overlaid. History re-written. Current events manipulated. A gospel of cultural prosperity feeds pride and financial success. They embrace what we might call the anti-Beatitudes.

The end justifies the means. Might makes right. These are their Beatitudes.

Why are we Christians? Are we Christians so that we can get something? Is it about a better marriage? Financial security? Is it about capturing America? Is it about defeating America's enemies? Is it about pride in accomplishment? The praise of men? Is it about breaking free from vice? Is it about the American Dream? Is it about finding your purpose?

No we're Christians because it's the Truth. Our eyes are opened we realize we are wretched sinners and deserving of hell. We all deserve our houses to be flattened by a tornado. We all deserve for our children to be gunned down by a mass killer. We all deserve the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Our eyes are opened and we see ourselves and we see the world around us. It's a vanity fair of lies, deceit, treachery and murder and once our eyes can see we discover it has nothing to offer us, nothing to entice us with. Our hearts and our hope are set upon the throne of the Risen Lamb.

Our lives are now consumed with seeking Truth and wisdom, knowing our God and walking the paths of His Kingdom.

Psalm 25 says:

Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.

and,

Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth,
To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
11 For Your name’s sake, O Lord,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

12 Who is the man that fears the Lord?
Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
13 He himself shall dwell in prosperity,
And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.

 

I love the part about how He will show them his covenant. Yes, I know it speaks of prosperity and descendants inheriting the earth. But what is prosperity? What is it to inherit the earth?

Read the Psalms and Proverbs. Read the Sermon on the Mount. Prosperity reckoned through spiritual eyes and in the Kingdom of God is not worldly riches. It's wisdom. It's righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14.17). It's the fruits of the Spirit. Our treasures are not reckoned in terms of earthly possessions or worldly power. We lay up our treasures in heaven. Galatians 5 reads:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

This is in response to and compared to:

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

It's interesting how idolatry and sorcery follow fornication and adultery. And from this flow hatred and jealousy, avarice, coveting and violence and then a celebration of all of it.

Prosperity cannot be defined in terms that reject the fruits of the Spirit nor can it rest on a foundation of sinful desire and the quest for power. Patriotism baptized the works of the flesh and blesses the acquisition of power. And power doesn't have to be just political power. This can work in the Church, in the business world and in many other relationships. How few seem to notice that their own success is often at the expense of someone else? They have trampled the Royal Law (James 2.8) and celebrate it!

What does it mean to inherit the earth? This earth will burn, both the earth and the works in it will burn up (2 Peter 3). Our inheritance is Heaven itself. Because we are in Christ and have the Holy Spirit we can partake of it now in part and we groan longing to be in our true home.

It's true the Old Testament saints sometimes depicted the heavenly life and were rich. This too was typological. Their wealth was a picture as Israel was itself of heavenly blessings. Appropriating that to today is once again to misunderstand the nature of Old Testament imagery and symbolism. The New Testament helps us understand the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 10.11). Inverting this places us in danger of reading the Bible as the Pharisees did.

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord.

(Jeremiah 9)

Politicizing the Gospel is nothing less than worldliness. Too often that term is associated with wearing hip clothes or listening to popular music. That can be worldly too, but what so many misunderstand is that it's not about the clothes or the music. That has nothing to do with it. It's about the heart and its desires. It's a heart not laying up its treasures in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6.21).Why? Because the person's heart is not set on heaven, but on the desires of the earth and the wisdom (lies) it offers us.

The world teaches us to make a name for ourselves. This anti-humility is at the heart of worldliness. This pride in self-accomplishment and nation is what the American Church has declared to be Christian, and yet the Bible tells us this is why Satan has been condemned (1 Timothy 3.6).

King Saul was a type of the anti-Christ, of Satan. Filled with pride he refused to follow through on the commandments of God. He embraced his own wisdom and desire and wanted to build a Kingdom that suited him and his aspirations. Samuel called it witchcraft. Witchcraft and magic are seeking to control the laws of nature and the Universe and manipulate them to your own ends rather than to glorify God. It is setting yourself up as a god. It's not about tinkering with potions and secret formulas. It's about power, gaining it, tapping into it, or whatever particular way it is framed.

When I watch/listen to Christian media, when I read their books, when I listen to their shows and sermons, when I attend their services I'm left with one thing...witchcraft. Every story, every Bible lesson is politicized.

So if I seem harsh, I mean to be. I think if we don't grasp the issues I've been talking about in this piece, we're in grave danger.

Perhaps you'll realize this kind of ethic will not lead to success in the world and you would be correct. The world will hate us, persecute us and for the most part reject our message. Christ declares that what the world esteems is abomination to him (Luke 16.15). Not only are many Christians in this state, but how many foolishly seek it out? How many want the praise of the world?

Sacralism makes Christianity...respectable and worthy of esteem.

How many people go to church simply because it's the 'good' thing to do or something 'that nice people do', as I've heard it said more than once?

Our victory in the world's eyes looks like a defeat. We're a bunch of worthless and weird people. Losers. They will slay the witnesses (The Church) in the city and rejoice. Revelation 11 reads:

When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

That's not Jerusalem on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. Jerusalem always was and always will be a symbol of the Temple, the place of God's presence. Today that holy city is the Church (Revelation 21.2). The Church all too often is Sodom and Egypt and it all but destroys the faithful witness. And yet if you read on in the passage, the death of the faithful is actually a victory. They like Christ are vindicated by the father.

Some read this passage and believe that the faithful Church (the two witnesses sent out) will be all but extinguished near the end of the Age. It could be. Sometimes it seems like we're already there.[i]The parable of the Wheat and the Tares seems to suggest the two grow together until the Judgment but we also read in Luke 18:

And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

There's nothing about Christianity that would appeal to worldly wisdom. Only the Holy Spirit can open their eyes to its beauty. We're Christians because it's true. We have to reject all claim and desire for power, which is the essence of our sinful nature, the flesh that desires to be a god. The embrace of power and pride is the spirit of antichrist at work in the Church.

The Church that has embraced the gospel of politics will never understand the conclusion of Romans 8:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.






[i] Many point to the lack of Bible preaching and Christianity during the Middle Ages. It's true and yet the testimonies of scribes and inquisitors are pretty interesting. They report the number of heretics...some Christian and some not....to be in the tens of thousands. It cost something to be a Christian then and yet tens of thousands risked all to meet around the Word. As dark as that era was, is it possible there may have been more Christians in the West at that time....then today?

 

Christianity is exploding all over the world and I watch it all with great interest. There are some good things going on, but mostly it's pretty bad. I'm not talking about the apostasy in the Anglican Church or even the lack of faith in Europe. In the Third World, so much of the Christianity is Pentecostal/Charismatic which by definition is a rejection of Scripture as the sole authority. I'm generalizing of course. There are Pentecostals and then there are Pentecostals. But most of what's out there right now falls into the pagan category.

 

I watch videos, read, listen to podcasts and I don't hear good things. I hear prosperity Gospel, claims to be prophets and apostles, a lot of worship that's more akin to chaos and demonic activity. There's a lot of cultural syncretism....native and introduced from the West. There's a lot of political and tribal identification, nationalist Christianities which are just baptized pride and violence and have nothing to do with the Gospel of Grace.

 

I am confident there are millions of Christians on the earth right now...like the stars in the sky. And yet, compared to the 7 billion people who inhabit this small planet, it's a pretty small number.

 

I don't pretend to know. No one can keep track of it all. I constantly learn of new places where good things are happening and for each one of those there are five more that are bad.


Sometimes it seems like we live at a very bad time in the history of the Church. But it's not unprecedented, it has been and certainly can be worse. At the risk of sounding misanthropic I do believe it is going to get much worse. If we're not grounded, the faith of many will fail, and their love will grow cold.

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