Posts by Todd Pearson

Counting the Cost: Including Persecution When Preaching the Gospel

Why Counting the Cost?

Over the years as I have ministered the Gospel in varied ways and in vastly different places, I have met with many objections from professing Christians. These objections run the gambit from, “You are doing it all wrong,” to “You don’t talk about God’s love enough,” and, “I never talk about God’s wrath, it scares people too much.” Sometimes I get all three from one. However, the topic that seems to upset other Christians the most is the idea of counting the cost.

In this context, I use counting the cost to refer to persecution. Specifically, the truth of persecution for those that pursue holiness. Frequently, I can be heard telling people that if they truly repent and believe they will in turn go out and preach the Gospel. Furthermore, I will follow up with some a warning that persecution will follow. All of this is done to compel my hearers to consider counting the cost.

Recently, in an ill-advised attempt to call a “local church” to repentance, I public rebuked the “pastors”. Additionally, I warned the congregation to expect persecution if they were truly born again. In an odd twist of irony, several of the men from the congregation approached me to defend their “pastor” with one man flatly stating that he would beat me up if hadn’t been wearing a camera.

Compelling Fellow Christians to Point Others Towards Counting the Cost

Therefore, I feel compelled to write this article. I want to urge you to compel others to consider counting the cost. In previous articles I have mentioned my own varied levels of persecution. I have written about persecution of the ancient and modern church. I’ve spoken about the inherit issues with quickly affirming someone as a Christian in the context of modern WCC.

Subsequently, I feel it imperative to compel you my reader(s) to be about the work of counting the cost yourselves. You should be counting the cost of what it means to Advance the Gospel into the world, and couple that with what the Gospel message really looks like. Modern evangelicals have a tenuous grip on the Gospel these days. Jesus has become an accoutrement, or a trapping if you will.

The issue has moved far beyond the problems with “asking Jesus into your heart” and ventured into a realm that has toppled all the way over into heterodoxy. I have had countless conversations with people that express that they “share the Gospel” by showing their joy in Jesus. Incidentally, this seems to be the same method by which those same people “got saved.”

With this in mind, does that sound like counting the cost to you? When the compelling and formative reason that a person comes to Jesus is for the earthly peace and joy they observe in others, they are coming under spurious conditions. This is almost exclusively a modern Western problem.

Does Jesus Point Us Towards Counting the Cost?

Indeed, I am not making this up out of whole-cloth. There is an abundance of places where we see Jesus compel people to count the cost. In Matthew 5, the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks about persecution being the norm for those who seek to follow Him. Assuredly, this isn’t just about being saved and then facing persecution. The Beatitudes are one long building towards the Advancement of the Gospel culminating in a promise of hatred.

It is almost as if counting the cost is being built into the message as a warning.

“Look!” Jesus is shouting at us, “If you hear my message and believe, you will become a peacemaker. Being a peacemaker between God and sinful men will result in persecution for the sake of My righteousness.”

Furthermore, this isn’t the only place that Jesus speaks to this. Luke 14 shows us Jesus preaching to a large crowd and explaining the truth of counting the cost. The implication is that only a fool takes on major building projects or goes out to war without first knowing the potential risk/investment. One very clear take away; you will face resistance. You will lose relationships.

Paul isn’t content to let it end there. He wants us to understand it fully. In 2 Timothy 3 he tells us that anyone who seeks to live a godly life will be persecuted. Clearly the Word reveals to us that there is a cost for following Christ.

Jesus Was About Counting the Cost We Should be Too

In a conversation a few months back, a detractor challenged me. Their insistence was that we don’t need to warn people that becoming a Christian will result in persecution. I want to err on the side of love. I believe that they have perception of Christianity that is viewed through a decidedly modern Western lens.

The last 150 to 200 years of Christianity in the West has been markedly easy living. By-and-large, the States in the West have been markedly pro-Christian. Sure, there have been pockets of enmity here and there throughout the West, think Communist Cuba and other socialistic States. Yet, broadly speaking, the West has been pro-Christian. Subsequently, it is very difficult to proclaim Christ crucified for sinners and warn them that persecution will come for them. It just isn’t the world that Western folk live in. Persecution is something that happens to people in other places. It is done to people in far off lands surrounded by a type of people that we are not surrounded by.

Sadly, we think that persecution is Chick-Fil-A being kept out of a city or people staging a die-in. However, even in that, it is still something happening to “another” or to an entity apart from the individual. Simply put, our only point of reference for persecution is the early days of the Church and The Book of Martyrs.

Counting the Cost Goes Beyond Personal Application

Yet, the same words of Christ that compelled His contemporaries to go about counting the cost of following Him, still apply to us today. However, I am speaking to a reality in which we, speaking as oracles of God, should be echoing the words of Christ.

I see compelling others towards counting the costs as incumbent upon us. As the west drifts further and further way from Christian thought and living, the more that we will see persecution increase in our contemporary age. It is in this context that we must be prepared for our own persecution.  Even more, as we go about preaching the Gospel, we should be pointing people towards counting the cost.

The days of using un-biblical language to communicate the idea of the Gospel to people should be behind us. No more promising people “God has a wonderful plan for your life” if you are not also explaining that that wonderful plan may involve you losing your life for Christ. Gone should be the idea that the Gospel promises us earthly peace and joy. The only promise that comes with believing the Gospel is eternal life in the glorious presence of God and persecution for seeking to live in righteousness.

Why People Don’t Want to Compel Others Toward Counting the Cost

My contention is that we fail to speak about the promise of persecution because it makes us uncomfortable. We don’t want to do or say anything that could possibly stand in the way of seeing someone saved. In an era where most Christians believe that evangelism takes place almost exclusively in the context of deeply personal relationships, any talk of counting the cost is detrimental to seeing conversions.

The more time you pour into building a friendship in hopes of eventually “sharing the Gospel” with them, the less likely you are to want to talk about the hard truths of Scripture. As a result, just as talking about sin and God’s wrath against sinners is difficult in these situations, it becomes hard to talk about the reality of persecution. While the desire to see people come to Christ is admirable, withholding fundamental truths, such as the promise of persecution, is not an act of love.

In short, I do not believe that it is love that constrains Christians from compelling others to be about counting the cost of following Christ. I am convinced that it is an act of selfishness. People fear that telling others that they will face persecution if they convert hinders the chances that they will. These Christians, whether-or-not they will admit it, are more concerned with pointing to the “disciples” they have produced. To that end, they will shy away from anything that hinders or serves as a roadblock.

In Conclusion

In the end, we must address two things.

What does it mean to love neighbor as self and how is that exemplified?

Loving neighbor as self ultimately means that we do not look out for our own interest but instead, look out for their interests. This is firstly manifested in the proclamation of the Gospel to the lost. The one thing that our lost neighbors need more than anything else is to understand that they are wicked rotten sinners in need of Christ’s redeeming work.

Moreover, as we call our neighbors to repent and believe the Gospel, we must not only warn them to flee from the wrath to come. We must also be about the work of pushing them towards counting the cost of following Christ. If our message warns them to flee from the coming wrath of God that is indeed truth. However, if they think that there is no persecution coming to them if they are sold-out disciples, then we have failed to be biblical.

It is no wonder that Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Church…” For generations and even centuries, the Church recognized that persecution was part and parcel of being Christian. This wasn’t built solely on anecdotal and personal experience. Instead, it was resolute acceptance of the warnings of Jesus to His disciples as He walked with them. The people of God knew and accepted that the loss of all things, even their lives, was worth it all to spread the message of Christ.

If you do not believe that today, or find it a needless roadblock to the Gospel, you need to repent…

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Maturity: When I Became a Man

Observing a Decline in Maturity

I first wrote this article some time ago and felt it needed reiteration. I was personally challenged in the writing because I often lack maturity.

By nature of my personality and career field I observe people. It is part and parcel of not only my secular work but also my Gospel ministry. Consequently, something that I have observed in the last ten to fifteen years is a steady and rapid decline in the amount of dignity and maturity with which adult men carry themselves. This is not just within the realm of the work I do. It is also in broader societal interactions.

The day has come when we see that societal mores have shifted in a tragic way and what was once considered childish and foolish behavior has become accepted and lauded. Men, overall, lack a sense of maturity.

Some time ago I was with my family in the local mall and I observed something that drove home the truth of what I have been observing. Several grown men rented giant motorized stuffed animals and rode them around the mall. Maturity isn’t just declining; it is under attack. Often, maturity is a thing to be despised by men.

Clear Bias

Some years ago, I watched as heterosexual male television characters, especially in sitcoms, started to be depicted as lazy. Moreover, they are depicted as sloppy in their living and slovenly in their appearance. Furthermore, they are ignorant, rude, crass and generally self-centered. Even within dramas male characters were being depicted as sexist, man-whores who are incompetent in their work fields. All of this done to the sounds of laughter and nods of approval from the broader viewing audience. Conversely, the only male characters depicted in a positive light or with maturity are effeminate or gay.

The proto-typical male figure as a dad and/or husband, is always the buffoon, being made the butt of constant jokes by his wife and children. Accordingly, the wife can be heard complaining about her husband to her ever so understanding friends. Of course, they nod in agreement. Why? Because every complaint the protagonist female character offers is echoed by them about their blundering spouses as well.

Children in these sitcoms are always seen outwitting their intellectually inferior dads. Even in the most menial activities. Dad is the one that lets the house fall apart when mom goes off to her prestigious job. Mom will often chortle when dad offers to take care of things. Why? Because every time he does some horrible crisis takes place. Consequently, mom must be called in to save the day. The children run amok and there is general chaos. Dad proves he is nothing more than an overgrown child himself. He lacks any level of maturity. It is mom that keeps the family straight. Dad gladly relinquishes his previously abdicated role to his wife. He just wants to get back to watching sports and drinking beer with the guys.

Even Male Maturity is Buffoonery

Furthermore, these male characters are reflections of the buffoonery of their dads. Other men in the sitcoms are depicted as hen-pecked and mealy mouthed. Still others are perpetual bachelors who hate women and see them as mere tools for their sexual gratification. This formula has become so predominant that it is easy to spot in the opening moments of a program.

Sure, there are exceptions to this formula. However, they are few and far between. Most noticeably, the recently revised Last Man Standing, depicts the male character as able to hold his own with his wife and daughters. However, he is still the butt of many of the now traditional jokes about men. Moreover, every single male character around him is a picture of the models I described above.

Tying Observations Together

So, what does this have to with my experience at the mall? It is hard for me to diagnosis the totality of the problem. Either men have come to reflect the way we have been depicted in TV shows and movies, or they are accurately reflecting what men have always been. Usually, what I see is that men are becoming caricatures of themselves. That is what I saw at the mall. I saw grown men playing at games with a staggering lack of dignity and self-respect; making mockeries of themselves as they rode overgrown stuffed animals around the mall.

At one point, these allegedly adult men started making sexual innuendos as they rode these toys in and out of the Victoria Secrets store numerous times. Mind you this was with underage children following them around and mimicking their actions. What message are these men sending those children? Were they conveying an example of maturity or were they modeling childishness?

When I commented on this episode on social media, my notifications blew up. Close Christian friends, people I worshiped alongside, called me out for being mean spirited. They accused me of lacking love and joy. They chastised me for not being Christ-like. Many castigated me for a sense of legalism. “Where is your joy?”, they asked.

Maturity Doesn’t Mean Lack of Joy

I am not opposed to adult men sitting with their infant and toddler children on one of these contraptions and having an enjoyable time. Not any more than I would be opposed to a dad playing with his children in a park. Yet that wasn’t what was happening in that moment. What I observed in the mall that day was adult men behaving in the same manner as the teenaged-girls that were riding around just before them.

I grew up in a time and in a family, where adult men were expected to act with a qualified dignity and maturity. There was a time for laughter and jokes and having an enjoyable time. However, the men were expected to carry themselves with visible respect for themselves others. Especially in public. This trait is dying if it hasn’t died already.

I am not sure I know if that death is a product of what we have been fed by the entertainment industry. Perhaps men have made the caricature a reality for the industry. I hear time again from men around me:

“I am on babysitting duty.”

“My wife won’t leave me alone with the kids.”

“I am glad I don’t have to be home with the kids all day. I’d go nuts.”

These and hundreds of other remarks demonstrate just how much men today lack a sense of seriousness and maturity. Instead of being a beautiful gift; being husbands and fathers or adults, is a massive burden. It breaks my heart.

The Word and Maturity

The scriptures record this for us:

1 Corinthians 13:

“11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

This verse comes after a long discourse about what our actions look like if they are not motivated by love. I could be wrong, but I am convinced that Paul is telling us that getting older isn’t maturing in-and-of-itself. Paul is telling us that a loving mature believer ceases to behave like a child. The act of loving others in light of the Gospel, produces in us a weight of maturity that means we conduct ourselves with God-honoring dignity. The more we are conformed to the image of Christ the more maturity we display. We give up childish ways in favor of pursuing Christ-likeness in maturity. If we are seeking to mature as believing men, then we should not look like the depictions that are on display in the media and general pop culture.

In Conclusion

To summarize, I am not trying to make a law where there is no law. Clearly there are certain activities that believing men should not partake of. I feel no need to list them. Moreover, I am not here to tell a man, whether he is a husband and/or father, that he cannot engage in a good time with his friends or family members. Especially, his children.

What I am trying to say is that I think it is acceptable and even more so, commendable, to approach being an adult man with severity and dignity. It is high past time that manhood begins being recaptured and made respectable again. We need to stop allowing the caricatures to be proven true. No place is this truer than for the Church. We need to live in such a way that we reflect Christ in our maturity. A lack of maturity reflects the world. In short, we need to give up the childish ways.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Negative Responses to Gospel Proclamation

What Prompts This?

Downtown Lanesboro Near Where I Preach

Just a few weeks ago I was in a local city preaching the Gospel in the open air. This tiny little city of just 800 people was hosting their annual summer celebration. When I left home that morning I did not know I was walking into the middle of Buffalo Bill days. Furthermore, if I had known it would not have stopped me. However, the negative responses I received for the first half of my day of ministry were new to my overall experience in Lanesboro.

I have been ministering in Lanesboro for several years. The last year has seen me engaging in open air preaching there nearly every Saturday that weather allows. This day was no different. As I was about mid-way through my first of several open-air messages, an event organizer; clearly upset with the preaching, approached me. She informed me that I needed a permit to preach. When I refused to stop she was not pleased. I invited her to send someone in authority to speak with me. This was the first of the negative responses.

Just off the corner from where I stand on limestone boulders and preach

From that location I moved roughly a block away and began to proclaim Christ crucified for sinners by a sand volleyball court. Out of the gate the negative responses flowed out of the crowd. One young lady cried out that I was giving God a bad name. People were crying out that I was ruining their fun. They were yelling at me to stop and go away. There were cries that they knew the message and they didn’t need to hear it. My response was to warn them they their negative responses indicated that their hearts hated God.

Haven’t You Ever Experienced Negative Responses Before?

Sure, this isn’t new to me by any stretch of the imagination. I have run the gambit of negative responses without a doubt. I have been assaulted and accosted and on numerous occasions I have had law enforcement called on me.

Overall, this day wasn’t atypical. When any open-air preacher heads out to Advance the Gospel they go knowing full well negative responses are part-and-parcel of the experience. However, what got me thinking about this topic in general is the profession of the people that were offering the negative responses.

Depending on the region or community you labor in, you will experience a plethora of detractors to Gospel work. Atheists, Christian cultists, Muslims, Black Hebrew Israelites, and the dreaded nominal professing Christian and even more. However, there are no more negative responses than those offered by the professing Christian.

On this day the people at the volleyball courts that were most vocal against the preaching of the Gospel were also the quickest to claim they loved God. How do we respond to this?

Negative Responses from Professing Christians Need Firm Rebukes

Paul has reminded us that we do not judge those outside the Church but those inside. I am often heard saying that I do not easily call a person a brother/sister in Christ upon first meeting them. That leaves me in a quandary that I addressed in a previous article. However, having said that, when I meet someone that insists that they are Christian, I will take them at their word to some degree.

This is not to say I embrace them as brother/sister. However, what I mean to say is that since they are putting themselves in the camp, I will judge them as if they are indeed part of the family. In different instances this will have vastly different appearances.

In some cases, I address these folks by paraphrasing James and telling them, “Great you believe in Jesus. But even the demons believe and tremble before Him.” In still other cases I will blatantly tell them that if they truly loved God they would not have such negative responses to the preaching of the Gospel.

Negative Responses Deserve Rebuke

When the response of the professing Christian is to mock the Gospel or to mock the preacher, there is little room for any contrary conclusion. The mocker hates God and despises the Gospel message. These folks need to be called to repentance and warned to flee from the wrath to come.

I realize that in our soft and effeminate, non-confrontational modern Western Christian Culture, this is terribly hostile. However, it remains that these folks need to be shocked out of the stupor of American Easy Believism. There is a reason that Jesus was warning people of the future where He would denounce those who merely give lip service to being His followers.

Negative Responses Come from Workers of Iniquity

When Jesus addresses those who approach Him claiming that they did wonderful works in His name, He rebukes them. “Get away from me you wicked people!” will be his cry. How much more so will those who publicly despise the preaching of the Gospel?

Make no mistake, I am not insisting that every person should be on a corner preaching the Gospel. I believe that this would be a mistake. I am not even insisting that every Christian engage in public evangelism in the ways that many like me do. What I am saying is that those who truly know Christ will not hate the Gospel no matter where they hear it. It takes an evil and unconverted heart to have the negative responses that I experience from professing Christians so often.

Instead of tucking our tails in fear of being labeled hostile we need to be able to warn these folks of their condition. It isn’t loving to leave it be. We just don’t have the leeway to coddle such people. Conversely, we should be compelling them to turn to Christ while today is still called today.

Negative Responses Juxtaposed with Positive

On this same day I had several instances where I was able to interact with folks that were drawn in by the preaching. There was a wide spectrum of theological perspectives represented by those I interacted with. One young lady was from a local Rochester Mega-church, but she was thrilled with the preaching of the Gospel and made a point to come and thank me. Yet another young father and his family stopped twice to encourage me. They hailed from a Charismatic background. Still another larger family group from the Twin Cities were drawn in by the preaching. They hailed from a Regular Baptist congregation.

Even in these diverse backgrounds there was simplistic beauty in the embrace of the preaching of the Gospel. There were no negative responses from these folks. From the oldest to youngest they all beamed with delight to hear Christ proclaimed for salvation of souls. One little boy stood boldly before me and listened raptly as I extolled the Glory of God. His grandfather then rode up to me on his way out of town, stopped at the tips of my shoes and thrust out his hand and thanked me.

True Believers Respond Joyfully

My beloved reader(s), this is what the response of every genuine believer should be when the Gospel is proclaimed in love and grace. Surely there are theological points that could be lovingly and passionately debated. However, there is a much deeper bond and unity in the glory of the Gospel. This unity causes the converted soul to relish the preaching of the Good News.

Do I know beyond any doubt that each of these folks was truly saved? Of course not. Yet, if I was forced to err in making a judgement I would err on the side of those who rejoiced. I believe this is reasonable and right.

In Conclusion

The truth remains that we cannot know the final destination of any person we interact with. Whether it is negative responses or glowing smiles and jubilant praise, only God knows the heart. However, I think it is time for us to step-up as Christians and be bold in making declarative sentences.

Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome without any equivocation states he isn’t ashamed of the Gospel. Those who reject the unadulterated Gospel when it is being proclaimed are demonstrating shame for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Moreover, while they boldly proclaim they love Jesus in one breath, but then mock the Gospel in the next. They are effectively denying Him before mankind. Christ uses rather harsh towards those who do so.

Therefore, when we meet these negative responses as they spill from the lips of the professing Christians, we must respond with Gospel driven compassion. Our end goal should be drawing out proper biblical shame from the hearer. So that they may be moved to repentance and faith in Christ instead of mere lip-service.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Leaving Faith at Home: Christians in the Workplace

Contemporary Wisdom Dictates Christians Should Be Leaving Faith at the Door

There is the old saying that dictates that in polite society you never discuss religion or politics in public, work or family gatherings. Moreover, “sage” advice tells you that leaving your faith at the door when you go to work or other places is the best practice. This used to mean at the door of your destination. Leaving your faith at the door has taken on new meaning in the last ten or so years.

As we move further and further away from Reformation and the First Great Awakening the demands of culture and society require that people of faith set aside their convictions to adapt to the environment around them. In each scenario that is going to look a bit different.

However, the truth is that the demand to leave your faith at the door is being required more stringently of a certain group. No group is experiencing the pressure more than Christians. What I am going to do with this article is explore the ramifications of this demand. Leaving your faith at home may be the societal requirement, but it has far reaching ramifications on society as a whole. Similarly, those who acquiesce to that societal demand are also in jeopardy.

The Expectation for Leaving Ones Faith Behind is Detrimental to Society

For years Christians labored under the heavy burden of the unorthodox belief that their good-works endeared them to God. It was believed that moral uprightness earned you God’s favor. This was never the contention of the earliest of Church Fathers and certainly never the understanding of the Apostles.

Martin Luther (and his predecessors) and those following in his footsteps, recaptured the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone and made it the rally cry of the Reformation. It was in this moment of time that people began to understand that good works were of no value in saving them. Well their own good works at least.

One of the most profound statements of Luther has stuck in my mind and it speaks to the influence of Christians on society. In a moment of utter brilliance Luther uttered these profound words.

“It is not God that needs your good works. It is your neighbor.”

In that short quip Luther captured the intent of Christians loving their neighbors in a tangible way. While society and culture cannot be “saved” in the sense that men may be saved, there is a sense in which society can be sanctified by the presence of Christians. However, this can only happen when Christians bring their faith to bear on every aspect of their life, to include their public presence.

When Christians either willingly, or are forced, to abdicate their public expression of faith, society and culture suffer.

When Christians Fail They Need to be About the Work of Leaving Their Failures Behind

To be sure there have been things done in the name of Christianity that we should work to distance ourselves from. Empire building being chief amongst them. I will go a step further with that if you will bear with me.

There are two strains of Christian conservatism that have been detrimental to certain cultures and societies.

The first strain is a brand of KJV Onlyism that requires that missionaries first teach the native population how to read and write English, so they can learn from the KJV. This is requiring a cultural shift away from the native people’s tongue and culture to become Christian. True Christian missionary work would learn the Gospel in the tongue of the “target” population.

The second strain is a form of fundamentalism that moves into a region and starts by imposing external moral rules on a people group. A culture and society where the women are used to walking around without shirts or other coverings over their breasts is not sinning against God. Furthermore, their freedom isn’t a sin against the Victorian mindset of the fundamentalists coming to them. These same folks will then go on to destroy cultural and ethnic dances because dancing is evil.

These are just two examples that have far reaching negative impacts on the cultures they are desiring to reach. It is tantamount to imposing a form of works righteousness on a group of people. They don’t need Victorian ideals, they need the Gospel. They need to hear Christ crucified.

These would be examples of leaving something unhelpful behind. To be sure, move into a region and preach against idolatry and wanton sin. However, do not impose your convictions on their culture.

Leaving a Positive Impact on Society Through Christian Exertion

So many times, throughout the history of the Church Visible, there have been advances made for the betterment of society. These are not few and far between. On-the-other-hand, they are common and dot the landscape of history.

Hospitals were a direct result of Christian love.

Higher Education, even in its current manifestation, is a direct result of Christian philosophy being brought to bear on education. Some of the most prestigious universities in the USA alone were once stalwarts of Christian thought.

The end of chattel slavery in Europe and North America is directly linked to Christianity. Particularly, Christians of the Reformed camp were almost entirely responsible for starting the campaign against slavery.

Representative Democracy as we see it practiced in so many places today, even where it fails, is a result of the sanctifying work of Christ in rulers. Orthodox Christian practice and dogmatics compels the Christian politician to govern justly.

Consider the work of the Salvation Army. The Booths were devout Christians with a mind to be of help to the poor and destitute in their midst. That work continues to this day.

The YMCA and YWCA both started as exclusively Christian based ministries bent towards the goal of helping youth avoid the snares of the world.

Princeton University

When we consider charities today we cannot help but consider the impact that Christian ministry had on such work. Before the inception of government run, or the take-over of welfare programs, in the west it was almost exclusively churches and denominations that ministered to the poor and needy.

Even adoption agencies were once the exclusive domain of Christians

I could go on for quite some time, but I believe the point has been made. Christians have a positive and sanctifying effect on society and culture that cannot be ignored.

Leaving our Faith at the Door

No longer is society happy to settle for Christians leaving their faith at the door of the office. Generally, we are being asked to not bring into public period.

Political parties that were once Christian friendly are now rejecting conservative Christians who refuse to abandon their principles and convictions. People decry the idea of a religious litmus test if the person using the test is orthodox in their beliefs.

Employers once welcomed Christian employees because they could be counted on. Consequently, they would bring some semblance of order to an often-disordered workforce. Consider Wales and her coal miners. They were drunk, foul-mouthed and unreliable. When revival swept the island droves of miners were swept up with it. Hundreds and hundreds were converted and subsequently transformed. The change was so staggering that the mules had to be retrained because they could only understand commands given by way of curse-words.

Prior to the advent of government run schools, schools were almost exclusively the domain of local churches. Often meeting in the same building that the local congregations met in. School teachers were expected to keep a certain level of decorum in public. As recently as the 40s-50s some districts would not even allow teachers to date locally or go to local bars for the sake of the children. Dewey (the inventor of the public-school concept) was a rabid Marxists atheist. He saw schools as the way to end the influence of the Christian thought in the West.

Now the demand is not for all religion to be left at the door, but chiefly Christian thought. As Christian prayer was removed from schools it has been replaced with wanton sin and debauchery.

This is what broader society wants. If the Enemy cannot oppress us, he will oppress our influence.

Christians Leaving Their Faith Behind Won’t End Well for Nations

Some out there have declared that we now live in a post-Christian culture. I understand the argument. However, I do not know if I can agree with the assertion. I guess I am not ready to give up the ground and give my concession speech.

Look, I work in an environment where I have been told I have to keep my values and beliefs to myself. I have even been told that my religious beliefs have no bearing on my work. In one instance I have been flatly directed to keep my thoughts to myself. Of course, none of this comes as surprise to anyone who knows me and shares my doctrinal convictions. I understand the pressure that Christians are under to remain silent. My co-workers can swear and blaspheme and use all sorts of sexually explicit language around me and in front of our customers, but if I so much as mention Jesus I can be written up if someone complains.

Canada has begun to arrest Christians for “hate-crimes” when they refuse to refer to transgender folks by their preferred pronouns. The same is happening all over the world in any nation that is considered to be influenced by Western Thought. Ironically, the term Western Thought used to include Christian values.

Subsequently, this will not end well for our civilization. Any nation that once embraced Christian thought and then pushed it off was destroyed. I do not mean to imply that this is a judgement. No geo-political power, (yes that even means geo-political Israel for my Dispensational friends) is promised a future. However, when the influence of orthodox Christian doctrine is pushed off to the sidelines or removed all together, the end will be disastrous.

Just ask Rome, Germany, Russia and North Korea.

Agreeing to the Notion that Leaving Our Faith at Home is fine Won’t End Well Individually

I get it. It would be so much more comfortable to cave-in to demands to keep our beliefs to ourselves. Agreeing to the notion and then actually leaving your faith at home would cause so much less conflict. No more angry co-workers because you mentioned Christ. No more uncomfortable silences at the holiday family gathering when you speak about the Gospel to your heathen uncle or false-convert sibling.

Doesn’t the bible tell us that as much as it is possible for us we are to be at peace with all mankind? I mean it’s true isn’t?

The issue is that we are called to so much more than that. It is that exact mentality that has stifled public evangelism around the Western World. Even the YMCA which was founded on Christian values once sent its members out to preach in the public. Now, instead, the Y has compromised and abandoned Christ and fallen to the way of the world. So much so that it is widely accepted that in many locations the clubs are known meeting places for a certain sexually debased culture of the West.

Hence, Scripture speaks to those who are willing to compromise. Jesus has warned us that compromise is deadly to the soul. A willingness to leave our faith behind is denying Christ before men. It is a demonstration of our fear of man. Moreover, it is a display of our shame in the face of Gospel.

Jesus has promised all that deny Him before mankind He in turn will deny before the Father. Who do you think is in the greater peril? If fear of discomfort is enough to make you deny Christ, what would you do in the face of true persecution?

Can you even call yourself Christian?

A Definition of Leaving Your Faith at Home

We all have moments where we allow fear to overtake us. It will always be a part of battling against the flesh. Christ intercedes for that. However, there is a difference between the momentary shame or apparent denial of Christ and actual denial of Him.

Many people (ok all 6 of you) may read this and think about yourselves or someone you love. We all have that person in our lives that we love that claims to be Christian. Particularly, they hold to all of the right positions according to the bible. They hate abortion, they oppose the normalization of sexual debauchery and they embrace traditional family values (allegedly).

However, when pushed, they will not talk about their faith. The idea of speaking about Christ and His completed work, even on their behalf, causes a chill to run down their spine. This person you are thinking of is far more likely to join in with the crowd then they are to defend you. Even in the rare instances where they may defend you, they make it clear that you are an embarrassment and do not speak for all “Christians”.

These are the folks that we love that insist that their faith is deeply personal, and that God knows of their love for him. Most likely they rarely if ever attend worship forsaking the gathering together commanded in Scripture. Simply put they will assert, “I am just not as gung-hoe as you are.”

Let me be the first to say I cannot ascertain any person’s final destination. Yet, we are told to judge those inside the church. These people display all the fruits of false converts and their constant denial of Christ before men indicates their willingness to go along with leaving their faith at home. They are in grave danger.

A Word to Employers That Insist on Christians Leaving Our Faith at Home

To all the secular employers out there that insist that your Christian staff separate their faith from their work. You know who you are. You really do not want any of us to walk away from the One who has saved us. As much as you may dislike us the way we are now, you would despise who we would be without Christ.

If we are reliable employees who strive to do our work well, it isn’t us. It is Christ in us driving us to do all things to glorify God. You must understand that even when we irritate you it is our obligation to serve you with honor and respect and treat you with dignity. Often times with a level of dignity that you do not treat us with.

The “us” that would be working for you without Christ, may be less irritating on matters of faith, but ultimately, we would be far worse. We are less likely to steal from you than our secular and atheist co-workers. Why? It isn’t because we are afraid of the consequences of the law. It is because we know what Christ suffered to redeem us.

We are the individuals who will come in to work on a Sunday, even if it means missing worship with those we love with nary a complaint. Yet, others that work for you will call in sick, so they do not miss the big game.

We are the individuals that will give up certain privileges or even days off to ease the burden on others. Yet, others will cling selfishly to their time no matter who else suffers for it. Why? Because Philippians 2 means so much more to us than you could ever imagine.

Concluding the Leaving of Our Faith at Home

Culture, society, Western World views cannot afford to push Christians off to the sidelines. In his book “How Should We Then Live” Francis Schaeffer addresses the demise of Western Culture as Christians are pushed to, and at times willingly abdicate their responsibilities to the world. He details the detrimental affects with such profound prose you wonder if he was a prophet. If you have the time and the inclination I would urge you to undertake the tome. It will help you to understand what is at risk if Christianity falls in the West. So much of what Dr. Schaeffer had to say has been proven true it would be terrifying if we didn’t know that God is in control.

While the world is striving to bring massive pressure to bear on us to succumb to their designs on the planet, it is imperative that we stand firm and refuse to back-down. I do not know about anyone else, but I will never be comfortable denying Christ before men. It hurts me to see how so many churches and “Christian” organizations are already compromising with the world in the name of being relevant.

We can be relevant to the world and adopt its message and fail. Conversely, we can be relevant to the world by preaching the Gospel to them and be seen as successful in the eyes of God.

Now is the time for all of us to decide who we will serve. The gods of this world or the gods of the old world. But for me and my house we will serve the LORD!

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Past Embarrassments were Hung on the Cross with Christ

What Prompts Talking About Past Embarrassments?

I am one of those people that deals with morbid self-criticism. At times I delve into a deep self-loathing. Most often this manifest in looking at past embarrassments and dwelling on the moments where my embarrassment was on full public display.

As with several other articles, events that have transpired recently have caused me to think about this tendency in myself. Furthermore, I have also wondered if others experience this, and what it means for Christians. While I have also dwelt on the interpersonal familial cause of this in my own relationships, I will not be addressing that directly in this article. Suffice it to say that there are always numerous roots to every issue.

Likewise, I want to address what it means to allow past embarrassments to continue to plague us.

Laying Past Embarrassments All-Out on the Line

This part is going to be incredibly uncomfortable for me. Some of it will be humorous at times and others will be truly difficult. So here it goes.

As far back as I can remember I am more prone to recalling moments of embarrassment than I am success. Frankly, I do not recall that I have ever had a moment of public success much less triumph.

One of the first moments of pubic humility I can recall from my past happened during a Sunday-school program when I was barely old enough to make it into elementary school. I was supposed to recite a single bible verse and I stammered and stuttered and then froze. The audience burst out in laughter, and I blurted out as loud as possible, “It’s not funny.” Then ran off stage.

Once, when I was in junior high, I was headed into my art class. When I walked through the door the room was dark and it had the sound and feeling of emptiness. I walked in singing “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard at the top of my lungs. The ensuing laughter was nothing compared to the mocking and picking I received for the next two years every time I walked into a classroom.

My Past High-school Embarrassments

In another case of school age embarrassment when my senior year yearbook came out there were two pictures of me in it at cross-country events. One picture showed me on my side stretching and I had a hand behind my back. That in and of itself isn’t the problem. The embarrassment came by way of everyone commenting about me having my hand down the back of my shorts doing inappropriate stuff. I knew it was not true. However, the comments were scathing, and it became nearly impossible to show my face in the hallways. I am sure you can imagine that if you went to public school.

In the same yearbook there was another picture that showed me apparently in a compromising position in another cross-country event. This would not pass unnoticed either. Almost every student in my graduating class and most of the underclassmen wanted me to sign the year book under that picture where they circled what was apparently wrong.

If that wasn’t enough, at senior prom that year, they used both apparently compromising pictures in the Senior Last Will and Testament. They also used them in the senior prophecies. It was so bad I couldn’t even finish the prom.

My Past Adult Life is full of Past Embarrassments

Some of the things I experienced in my adult life that still cling to me from the past are obviously my fault. I have said and done some pretty stupid things in private and in public. However, some of the worst moments have come in “public” moments.

One night while my wife and I were out with friends to see two movies there was a tornado warning. The male half of the couple and I were just finishing our movie when the alert took place. Mind you this was 1999 and no one had a cell phone in our group. I wanted to get home to our daughter to make sure she was ok. So, we walked into the theater where the ladies were. I tried to spot my wife and get her attention. That wasn’t happening. Consequently, I stood in the back of the theater and announced that there was a tornado warning taking place and that if people wanted to leave they should do so quietly. I only did this because the theater staff didn’t think we were in danger and wouldn’t help me find my wife.

Eventually my wife made her way out and we made it home. The worse part of the event was to take place the next day. I was at work and needed to grab something from a bartender to make something. A regular patron recognized me from the theater the night before and made me a laughing stock of my co-workers and the other patrons.

My past adult embarrassments don’t end there.

Past Embarrassments in The Church

In the church I was in at the time of my conversion to genuine saving faith I have some embarrassment over one past encounter. When selecting a man for deacon, the leaders chose someone that had been in the congregation less than a year. I had some misgivings about his qualifications (later proven to be quite accurate) and had expressed them to different men in leadership positions. In every case I was rebuffed and told to mind my own business. This apart from being told that we should bring any question or concerns to those leaders.

Subsequently, when the floor was opened for discussion about his selection as deacon, I raised my concerns. The pastor literally directed me to be quiet telling me I was out of line. I responded in anger and stormed out of the church leading my embarrassed family out with me. As I stormed out I announced my resignation (later rescinded). I own this as my own sin. The situation was mishandled all the way around. However, my response was out of line and not keeping with a desire for Christ-likeness.

Holding Past Embarrassments Forced Upon Me

In the same church I was eventually called before the leadership in 2010 as it became clear that there were massive divisions between us in our doctrinal understandings. As my wife and I sat down to the table for the meeting we could clearly see the agenda on the sheet of paper in front of the pastor.

“Problems with Todd” was typed out across the top. From there it was all downhill. Subsequently, one of the accusations leveled against me before the conversation turned to doctrine was that I had commented about how adorable or cute the daughter of one of the congregants looked one day for worship. This was related to the pastor that it was said in a creepy and lascivious way. Instead of confronting me with this alleged incident at the time it was used against me for the purpose of this meeting.

They quoted Galatians 6:1 using it out of context. The implication being that “caught in a sin” meant that “if we catch you doing something sinful we have to respond this way.” They intentionally misconstrued the intent of “caught” for their own ends and beat me up with it. I never knew who my accuser was nor was I given the chance to seek forgiveness or make amends. To this day that accusation hangs over me with so much weight that it becomes nearly unbearable at times.

One Last Not So Far Past Incident

As I mentioned in a previous article I recently had occasion to have an encounter with a local “pastor”. I did not handle myself well in that moment. I am terribly embarrassed by that. Subsequently, I apologized both publicly and in private for how I labeled this man. In the interim month since my apology I have not heard from the him. This is grievous to me on several levels.

There is much to be said for receiving forgiveness from someone you have sinned against. Such a wound first inflicted by the one sinning often does far more damage to the sinner then the one sinned against. The withholding of forgiveness allows the wound to fester and the puss of embarrassment causes deeper infection.

Why Am I speaking About My Past Embarrassments?

These things cling to me with a rugged tenacity that is irksome. They and others will spring up in me at the times I least need to be reminded of them and cast a shadow over my soul and psyche that is seemingly impossible to escape. This isn’t the same as the lifetime of depression I have battled and spoke about in another article. These embarrassments are something far different they are directly rooted in something deeper.

When I think of them I reminded of Peter’s words in 2 Peter 5:8 when he leaves us with the imperative to be sober and vigilant. While I cannot be overtaken by the Enemy, I can, in some ways be heavily oppressed by him. This is the warning to watch out for his desire to devour us. Embarrassment is the tool of the Enemy that works to draw out the deeper something that we should be putting to death daily. That is what I sense when I feel that overwhelming feeling of embarrassment over the past rise up in me.

Holding onto Past Embarrassments Speaks to Something Deeper

While forgiveness from others or even from you to others can have a freeing affect on us, both emotionally and spiritually, embarrassment can still linger. Oft times the reason for withholding forgiveness from someone that has sinned against you is to cause such a festering wound to get worse. It is a tool of someone that enjoys seeing the other person squirm.

However, more times than not, embarrassment clings to us over past events due to something deeper inside of us. When we consider what embarrassment flows from it will motivate us to change.

My contention is that embarrassment is nothing more than the sin of pride and self-centeredness. Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for proper shame and embarrassment. If I walk out of my bedroom into living room unclothed and my wife is sitting there with a friend, embarrassment will drive me back into the bedroom. (Probably for the next 50 years.)

There is an old joke that somewhat addresses embarrassment:

“Baptist never recognize one another in the liquor store.”

That is really what is happening in that joke. Embarrassment is me getting caught out and my pride being dealt a serious blow. I don’t want that kind of recognition. My pride wells up and screams, “Don’t look at me I am better than this. In fact, outside of this one moment I am better than you!”

Pride is the killer waiting in the dark shadows of a creepy basement. When you are most vulnerable it jumps out and slaughters you. This is why Proverbs 16 warns us that pride precedes the fall.

Therefore, it is not healthy to allow pride to cling to the roots of the heart that has been made new and set-free by God.

Embarrassments from that Past that Haunt Us are Current Battles with Sin

When we allow past embarrassments to keep us knuckled under to the way the world views us, we are telling God He isn’t enough. COnsequently, we appear to be rebuking God, “I realize that Christ died to be the atonement for sin. Yet, that isn’t enough. Don’t you understand what I went through in those moments? Do you know what it was like for me in that moment? You can’t expect me to let that feeling go!”

There is a tacit shaking of our fist at God on His throne in these moments.

Embarrassment over those past moments is us clinging doggedly to a sense of our own worth and value. It is self-righteousness and being ashamed for how we were exposed for how weak and incapable we are on our own.

Particularly, what we are doing is denying that Christ knew shame. We are uttering without words, that we have forgotten what He did. When we look to the words of Hebrews 12:1-3 we see this reminder. “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross despising the shame…”

The Christ set aside His equality with the Father (Philippians 2) not counting it a thing to be grasped and took on the shame we justly deserve to suffer.

Christ Despised the Shame So We Could Cling to Past Embarrassments?

I dare cry out NO! When the author of Hebrews used the word shame there he was telling us something poignant. There is a historical and cultural context to this reality.

The Hebrew people who read this epistle knew full well the context of what was being said. It was a great dishonor to be crucified in Jewish tradition. As far back as the Deuteronomy we see that a convicted criminal who is hanged on a tree is cursed. The Hebrew people would not even allow an executed criminal to hang over night on the tree. (Sound familiar?)

Similarly, even Roman law did not allow for crucifixion for any but the worst of criminals. None other than Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen to avoid crucifixion. It was simply that grotesque to the people. Yet, here is the God-Man, inserting Himself into the world. He enters into the malady of mankind and takes on Himself the worst of earthly curses that could be imagined. This was the disgrace- the dishonor, to which Christ condescended to be subjected to.

In short, Christ endured the shame that He did not earn as a result of anything that was lacking in Him. Unlike Christ, we endure embarrassment and shame often as the result of our own sinful actions.

However, I would argue, that for those of us that are in Christ, the shame, the embarrassment has been rightly done away with. Christ has endured the worst of embarrassments, so that we do not have need to.

When Past Shames are Good for Us

Make no mistake. There is a good sense of shame over things we have done to violate the high and holy standards of God. When the Eternal Moral Law of God is brought to bear on our sin it needs to be felt shamefully. I would argue that there is no true conversion to life in Christ without shame and guilt over our sin against God. This is a positive use of shame or embarrassment for us. There should even be a sense of heavy guilt on Christians who are rebelling against the Master Who Bought them.

Yet, this state should be short-lived and replaced by the freeing joy of knowing the One who endured the cross on our part.

Do not discount shame and embarrassment and how it is used by God. However, the dwelling on past embarrassments is nothing more than a clinging to pride of self-worth and that sin needs to drive us to the One who hanged on a tree in our place.

Letting Go of Past Embarrassment to Cling to Christ

When we cling to past embarrassments and work to hide them instead of letting them out into the light of God’s redeeming work through Christ we are insulting the Christ.

In a sense we are declaring that we are ashamed of the Gospel. How can I say that? We are telling God, “I am too ashamed of the past here. There is no way You can use this to display the power of the cross and the redemptive work of Christ. I know that you promised me that there is now no more condemnation for me, but I think You may be wrong about that.”

No! We should not let that be the case for us. We need to drag those embarrassing moments out into the light and expose them to the power of God. It is imperative that we take those things that we are ashamed of from our past and disinfect them through the purity of the blood of Christ.

This does not require that every little detail and every disgusting sin and moment of shame be drug out kicking and screaming. However, it does require that we face them and kill them. We must die to the pride that says our past embarrassments still have power over us. We must stop hiding from those things that shame us and realize, that all things work to the good of those that love God and are called according to His purposes. The more we struggle to hide from them, the worse our past embarrasses us. This exposes the all-pervasive pride that will forever hold us back from experiencing the same joy that was set before Christ at the cross!

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Conversions are Always Radical

Thinking About Conversions

Recent events in my life have really had me thinking about conversions. From the nature of conversions to the importance of understanding what it means within the framework of Christian philosophy. As I write this article it is July 26th, 2019. It has been fourteen years to the day since my dad was called home to glory. At some point in his life my dad experienced conversion. My wife, my son, my mom and any other number of people that I love dearly all experienced conversions of their own.

Number amongst them my own conversion and it will be perhaps be easy for you to see what has me thinking about the nature of conversions. Yet, other conversations and disputes as of late have me in the mind to really dig into this topic.

It is my plan to lay out the argument that no one comes to Christ without a radical and fundamentally massive shift in their life and way of thinking. As I recently told someone I am close to, “It simply doesn’t matter how sincere the motivation may be, coming to God on anything other than His terms is not salvation.”

In short, conversion is coming to God the way He demands…

Conversions Defined Biblically

Jesus speaks of being converted in Matthew 18:3. However, notice the disciples’ question to Him just prior to His response. They want to know who the greatest will be in heaven. This is a radically self-centered view of heaven. The disciples were humans like us. They watched other religious leaders of their day. Consequently, they saw that those closest to key figures in any religious movement were always given positions of greater honor and recognition. That was the premise of their question.

Christ wasn’t having any of that from them. This is why He called a child to Himself and rebuked His own disciples. He wanted them to understand that there was no room for pride and self-centered view of heaven. Children were totally and utterly dependent on their parents and other adults for all they had. There was no room for bragging from children. They provided themselves nothing. It is this truth that Jesus is calling His disciples to embrace.

Jesus’s call to His disciples to become like little children to enter into heaven is a radical shift from self-centeredness and pride. He is telling them they need to drop it all and turn away from seeing themselves as important. The Greek word translated convert in verse three is stréphō. Stréphō means to turn or transition or to change directions. It is indicative of the military term “about-face”. It is an immediate and direct change in one’s course.

Conversions Include Turning and Returning

While the definition may sound much like repentance it is different in at least one way. Repentance is to have your mind changed and to turn away from a thought process. Conversion here in Matthew is a complete change in life direction going back where you were. As I was reading and researching I came across an article that indicated it was a turning away from the life of all humanity. The about-face is to take us back to the state of our first father Adam before the fall.

When you think about conversions in that sense it should be akin to a gut punch. The First Adam was created sinless and in perfect communion with God. However, as we all know, he fell and plunged all humanity into sin. It is only the perfect obedience of the Second Adam that can take us back to that perfect state of the First Adam prior to the Fall.

Therefore, conversions are when we become as God created mankind to be in the beginning.

I will just sit here and let you stew on that for a few minutes…

Why Do We Speak About Radical Conversions?

One the most oft heard descriptors when hearing stories about conversions is the word radical.

“Did you hear his testimony? Talk about a radical conversion. No one would ever believe someone like that would become a Christian”

“Man, she was a drug using hooker before God got a hold on her. Look at how radical her conversion was.”

On and on the stories will go. I have even heard these kinds of comments:

“My conversion is really boring compared to yours. I was just a normal dude until I became a Christian. No one wants to hear my testimony.”

Talk about a radically shallow view of the power of the Gospel!

“Radical Conversions”?

I think that one of the reasons that we speak of radical conversions today is that we don’t see any “so-called” hum-drum conversion stories in the Scriptures. At least that is the perception of many. Even when we read the account of five thousand coming to faith in one day, that is pretty astounding in our eyes. Apart from mass manipulation of crowds at “religious crusades” these days most people will rarely if ever even be present for the conversion of a single soul let alone five thousand.

Furthermore, much of that is due to the fact that the majority of Christians today are not actively engaged in Gospel Advancement. So, when they do hear the stories of conversions happening they are impressed. Even folks that claim that they do all of their evangelism in the context of relationships rarely ever report the repentance and faith of their friends. Moreover, those that do, speak in subtle shifts in their friends and not in terms of “radicality”.

All of this has lent itself to the idea that there are mundane and radical conversions. When David Berkowitz (The Son of Sam killer) gets saved people call that radical.

But is it, really?

Defining Radical and Applying it to all Conversions

The standard dictionary you turn to will define radical this way:

Adjective;

(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.

Herein we see the answer to nature of all conversions in Christianity. The fundamental nature of the human being is affected in far-reaching and thorough ways. All conversions are radical because every person born is born a radically or totally depraved sinner.

Furthermore, that sinner is incapable of doing anything at all that pleases God because they do not possess salvific faith.

Therefore, when a person is truly born again and turns to Christ in repentant faith their nature is changed thoroughly. Now, that is not to say the person is no longer going to sin. What it means is that each genuinely converted person no longer is a slave to the sin that once defined who they were at the root.

The converted person has been radically transformed from a condemned enemy of God that had the wrath of God hanging over their head constantly. Upon their conversion that wrath has effectively been removed from them and transferred to Christ at the cross.

As I stated in my opening, they have been made like the First Adam before the fall through the completed work of the Second Adam on the cross.

This is what all conversions have in common.

Are the Biblical Stories of Conversions Meant to Convey Something We are Missing Today?

In short, no!

When dealing with the New Testament we need to use caution. I mean to say that we cannot apply the encounters around the myriad of accounts of conversions to what we see today.

Consider the woman at the well in John. By today’s standards we see a “radical” conversion there. She went out to the well as an idolatrous and adulterous whore. In the short span of a few words of conversation she is converted to faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah. Her conversion- so staggering- it is recorded that she rushed back to her village telling everyone who would listen about Jesus. That encounter led to even more conversions. Her fellow villagers even confessed their faith telling the woman that her words had been used to convince them to come and see the Christ.

Consider the conversion of Saul to Paul. I mean if you want an apparent radical conversion there you have it. Headed to Damascus to murder Christians only to be converted to Christianity by Christ Himself. Talk about a fundamental change in one’s nature.

What of the Philippian jailer? Here is a man charged with keeping a prison secure. God sends an earthquake to open the doors of the prison. Expecting that the prisoners had all fled the jailer prepares to commit suicide. Paul calls out to him compelling him to turn to Christ and live and the man is saved. Conversions sweep his entire household entourage. Talk about radical.

Numerous Conversions All of Them Radical

We see this a multitude of times.

The Ethiopian Eunuch

Lydia

The Roman Centurion

A drove of people on Mars Hill

Onesimus

These conversions are not radical because of circumstances. They are radical because by nature all conversions are radical.

Two Short Stories of Conversions (One Ain’t Mine)

Several years ago, in the summer of 2007 I met two young LDS missionaries. I saw them repeatedly in the same place every Tuesday night. Finally, after resisting the urge for several weeks, I stopped and spoke with them. This opened the door for further conversations and I was used by God to preach the Gospel to these young men.

Time passed and as is the norm for these types of conversations the interest from the LDS missionaries appeared to wane. I lost contact with them. Then, one winter in February of 2008, at particularly difficult time in my walk, I received a call while sitting at home. The voice on the other end identified himself as one of the young men I had witnessed to. He was calling to tell me that he had rejected LDS doctrine and had converted to true Christianity.

I was left dumbfounded. I had no idea this was transpiring. It hit me that no matter how fruitless our evangelistic endeavors may seem to us, God is working in them in some way. Furthermore, if I would have been prone to labeling something as a radical conversion that would have been it. This young man was previously vehement in his defense of LDS doctrine.

The Second Still Ain’t Me

More recently I was contacted by a young lady I met over a year ago. She was professing Christian but addicted to drugs and living in abject rebellion against the God she had claimed to serve from a young age in an IFB church. During one of many conversations over a period of a week or so it seems I confronted her about her profession of Christ. (I don’t remember what I said.) She messaged me to tell me that one evening my words were used by God to show her she was not truly converted.

She was apparently devastated and left trembling. Shortly after that encounter she ultimately turned to Christ for salvation and has confessed Him as Lord and Savior. She reached out to me to thank me. THANK ME!?! Are you kidding me? I had nothing to do with her conversion.

God worked in these two to draw them to Himself and provide them with the faith needed to save them. The story of these conversions is not of being radically saved but of people radically converted as all others are.

Our Conversions Are All Radical

O! My beloved reader(s?) make no mistake, your conversion is as radical as any other. God does not specialize in saving some in a radical way and still others in mundane ways. God radically saves everyone who believes.

My story is of a radical conversion. (If you want to know read this or contact me here.)

Your story is of a radical conversion.

Furthermore, every believer you know is a story of radical conversion.

Do not think that radical conversions are only for the criminal on death row and drug addicts and rock stars. Make no mistake that hookers and pimps can be saved. God-hating societally morally upright wealthy atheists can be saved.

Similarly, well-behaved church cloths wearing upright young ladies with no outward sin or rebellion can be saved. Regularly attending church folk who are at every function and every event can be saved. Bible preaching pastors who love the people around them can be saved.

What I want us to walk away from this time with, is the realization that all conversions are radical. You do not have to have a story of radical law-breaking and immorality in the eyes of the world to be radically depraved in the eyes of God. Furthermore, when God saves you, He fundamentally changes your nature and makes you His friend.

Transformed from Enemy to Friend

As the song so wonderfully points out, “Once an enemy now seated at your table! Jesus thank-you!

That is what it means!

All conversions are that radical!

Certainly, we will all grow in sanctification at different rates. However, at the core our nature is no longer what it once was. It is now something incredibly different. It is a return to what God intended in the Garden of Eden. That is wonderfully radical!

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Honest Descriptions: When They Aren’t Truthing in Love

Honest Talk About My Own State

There is no love without truth and no truth without love. This is perhaps one of the greatest realities that one can submit to. Speaking from the perspective of one who wrestles with the tendency to embellish when telling stories, I can admit that truth isn’t always easy. Conversely, I also have a dogged dedication to theological truth. Often times, this trait has led me to use honest descriptions devoid of love.

Our, God is both sovereign and possesses a sense of irony at times. I have been wrestling with this article for weeks. The basic gist of what I want to say has been percolating in the vapid recesses of my mind for some time now. As if kicking me square in the keister (Minnesota vernacular for rear end) God treated me like Balaam this past Sunday (July 21st, 2019). That is not to compare the pastor He used to a donkey, but I got the message loud and clear any way.

This Sunday in question saw me struggling with putting metaphorical pen to paper and pushing myself to confront- to face the issue. The pastor of my local church followed his plan to preach through Revelation. He opened the sermon with the profound question, “Which is more important, truth or love?”

There I sat, my mouth all agape and dumbfounded. This topic that I had been staring at for so long was no longer simply staring at me silently from across the table. It walked across the room. Then pulled a chair up right in front of me and sat down and breathed its heavy and cloying exhale directly into my stunned visage.

“Here I am partner,” it seemed to say, “When are you going to deal with me? Enough is enough.”

So here we sit…

Embracing the Truth of Honest Critique

I can often be my own worst critic. If you know me, you know this about me. Also, those who know me the best, will recognize that I tend towards a heavier critical eye towards professing “Christians”. Frequently, this critical eye is driven by my own self-loathing that seems impossible for me to escape. For every criticism of another that I offer I am often pointing the barrel of a loaded gun back at myself.

I have known for some time that there is a fine balance between love bearing and believing all things and speaking the truth in love. My struggle has been with speaking truth in love and believing all things.

I tend to want to go straight to the truth. After all, God commanded us to not lie. Sadly, the desire to go straight to the truth, hasn’t always led me to honest critique of myself. Even in the moments when I perceive myself to be standing with Luther-like boldness I am only spewing “truth” with no consideration for the love that should be behind it.

Moreover, I am often in need of utter transparency about my own sin while struggling to mask it for the sake of my own comfort. Which ultimately, ends up leaving me as far from comfortable as I can get. I do not have a mere plank to remove from my eye. I have entire lumberyards sticking out of my forehead. Try that image on for size.

I will sit here now and argue with you and Paul that I am by far the worst of sinners. I am the “chiefest” of the chief of sinners. It is in this context that I am going to speaking the honest truth of what has been on my heart and mind as of late.

Honest Descriptions and Radical Examples

We have all been guilty of just vomiting out something that is true when we perceive it needs to be said. Generally, this happens when someone has done something to hurt us. I recently told a friend that is suffering from hateful things said to them, “Hurting and hurt people will hurt others. Even if the one they hurt hasn’t provoked it.”

Like a beloved family dog, when we are in pain, we bite. Yet, for many in Christendom, the biting sometimes seems to come unprovoked. We can understand the dog that just had surgery nipping at us. What we do not understand is the seemingly content dog, jumping up and charging at us with teeth barred and snarling. Sadly, I am afraid this is how much of the secular world, views Christians. Even more sorrow provoking, we as Christians have brought this on ourselves.

There isn’t a single person reading this article at the moment that isn’t fully aware of the Westboro Baptist Church. (I say that with confidence because I just linked to at least one video of them.) Most of us that have a finger on the pulse of Western Christian Culture, have gone to great lengths to distance ourselves from WBC.

Furthermore, many of us have seen the videos of hate-preachers standing on the streets literally screaming at people calling them names. It is so easy for us to decry these folks and fall easily into the No True Scotsman Fallacy when we observe these folks in action.

The man who stands on a corner during a Gay Pride event and calls out about the effects of homosexual sex on the human body may be speaking truth, but is he really doing so in love? The easy and proper answer for us is an emphatic, “NO!”

Honest Descriptions and Gospel Minded People

It is easy for us, by I us I mean the ten or so folks that read my articles, to decry men like Reuben Israel and Brother Jedd. Their antics and tactics are nothing at all like Christ’s. Sure, Jesus used hard and often biting language, but it wasn’t done the same way these men have done. I have ministered in the wake of men like Reuben and Jedd. The aftermath is maddening. Consequently, I spend almost as much time explaining what sets me apart from them as I do preaching the Gospel. Over time I have learned to let my words and actions demonstrate the difference.

However, I am afraid I have also been the raging bull in a china shop at times. There aren’t many street preachers that haven’t been that person at least once. Furthermore, I would dare say that many solid Christians that aren’t engaged in public evangelism, are just as guilty of causing damage.

I have stood outside of facilities where abortions are performed and stared straight into the face of clinic escorts and called them “deathscorts”. In the moment, I was quite convinced that it was best way to proceed. Subsequently, I have become convicted that it isn’t right. Sure, it is true. It is a very apt and honest description of what they are there for. Where is the love in it? Are some descriptions useful in this case? Sure. Is the use of name calling speaking truth in love? I do not think so.

I will even draw a distinction between calling names and making comparisons. For example, I will draw a correlation between clinic escorts and concentration camp guards.

On a Personal Level

How about on personal level? I have met Christians that insisted on referring to homosexuals as Sodomites and Homos.  Moreover, I am not talking about Brother Jedd calling scantily clad college co-eds whores. I mean genuine Gospel minded Christians that think it is their calling to call a gay man a homo or call a lesbian a dyke. The justification for this is that it is true.

“I refuse to call a Sodomite gay! They aren’t gay, gay means happy. They aren’t happy, they are homos!”

I have literally had that conversation with people that are convinced that level of honest speaking is the most loving. These are men and women who are truly dedicated to Gospel Advancement. They are passionate about truth and seeing souls saved. However, they are also convinced that the language that they use must be as shocking as possible.

What I think they have forgotten, as I have done more than I care to admit, is that the cross should be the offense.

 

Honest Speaking Should Be Speaking Truth in Love

Ephesians 4:15 uses a phrase that we love to toss out with little to no thought about its meaning. The scholars that I have consulted on this topic have almost across the board stated that it should read “truthing in love.” This changes it for us in an imperative way. No longer is speaking truth separated from love.

Far-too-often, it is easy for us to say, “Well of course we need to speak the truth in love. But when all else fails, TRUTH!” Conversely, many will say, “Well of course we need to speak the truth in love. But at all costs LOVE!”

Ordinarily, I am the “TRUTH” guy, unless of course it comes to addressing my own sin. Yet, as I said, understanding the imperative of truthing in love, changes how we react and interact with the lost. Dare I say it even changes how we interact with other Christians.

In an article I wrote about baptism I spoke to the reality of how easy baptism has become in WCC. There is little to no counting of the costs of following Christ. Truthing in love means telling not only unbelievers hard things but also other believers. However, that kind of honest language has to be motivated by a desire for the good of the other and the glory of God.

Don’t Just Take my Word for It

Consider these words from theologian Albert Barnes on the verse:

  1. The truth is “to be spoken” – the simple, unvarnished truth. This is the way to avoid error, and this is the way to preserve others from error. In opposition to all trick, and art, and cunning, and fraud, and deception, Christians are to speak the simple truth, and nothing but the truth. Every statement which they make should be unvarnished truth; each promise which they make should be true; every representation which they make of the sentiments of others should he simple truth. “Truth is the representation of things as they are;” and there is no virtue that is more valuable in a Christian than the love of simple truth.

No Rejoicing

(2) The second thing is, that the truth should be spoken “in love.” There are other ways of speaking truth. It is sometimes spoken in a harsh, crabby, sour manner, which does nothing but disgust and offend. When we state truth to others, it should he with love to their souls, and with a sincere desire to do them good. When we admonish a brother of his faults, it should not be in a harsh and unfeeling manner, but in love. Where a minister pronounces the awful truth of God about depravity, death, the judgment, and future woe, it should be in love.

It should not be done in a harsh and repulsive manner. Neither should it be done as if he rejoiced that people were in danger of hell, or as if he would like to pass the final sentence; it should not be with indifference, or in a tone of superiority. And in like manner, if we go to convince one who is in error, we should approach him in love. We should not dogmatize, or denounce, or deal out anathemas. Such things only repel. “He has done about half his work in convincing another of error who has first convinced him that he loves him.” And if he does not do that, he may argue to the hour of his death and make no progress in convincing him.

To Be Honest; I Fail Often

If I have to face the reality of my humanity here, I admit I fail often. I often err on the side of truth over truthing in love. I must be honest about that. Nothing changes unless we start with addressing our own error.

Equally important is realizing that it isn’t loving to withhold honest speaking to avoid hurting. As I mentioned in a previous article, I had occasion to display truthing in love. I believe in one part of the scenario I managed to do so. However, I am striving to be honest, I failed in the second part of the scenario.

I spoke honest heartfelt words. As much as I want to assert that it was motivated by love, that would not be honest. As I stood, literally face-to-face with another man and called him a wolf, I was pronouncing an anathema. It was not mine to pronounce. In the moment I wanted it to hurt. However, even if I was correct in my assessment, my desire was not for his good in that moment. Therefore, I was wrong, my heart was not interested in truthing in love.

It would seem as if this confession should be easy. On some level it is. The thing that pains me the most is that I said many true things that evening. Much of what I did say was motivated by love. Much of what I said was an honest representation of error. However, the damage that was inflicted by one moment of speaking absent of love, was inflicted to me. Any message that I brought from that point forward would not be received well.

This was a hard but valuable lesson to learn. As much as it stinks to go through it. I am now glad for it…

In Conclusion

My beloved reader(s?), please stop and consider your motivations for any words you speak. It is not merely enough to be speaking truth if it is devoid of love. Not just any love, but biblical love. The desired end of any honest comment you make should be for the good of the other to the glory of God.

As the scriptures remind us, faithful are the wounds of a friend.

The husband who answers his wife’s question about her pants by saying, “It isn’t the pants that make you look fat dear.” may be speaking truth, but it won’t be a faithful wound, no matter how honest it is.

If I could compel any of us to one action it would to always consider the imperative of Ephesians 4:15. No matter who we are speaking to or when we are speaking, our light should so shine before men in our words, that they glorify God.

Please stop and consider this imperative as you go about Advancing the Gospel. Do not merely spit out truth if your heart is not bent towards the good of the person hearing. Allow the glory of God to be your motivation in preaching even the hard things.

Allow your speech to be seasoned with the salt of God’s loving goodness, mercy and forbearance. Leave the name calling and inflammatory language to the heathens and hate-preachers. Do not try and justify intentionally abrasive and irritating words by claiming that Christ did the same thing.  If your desire is honest Christ-likeness, you will recognize that the harshest words of judgement should be reserved for you.  But God!

Honest Love Will Hurt

Equally, if the situation warrants, speak hard and honest truth with boldness. Yet, do it in love. Then do me a favor, when you figure out how to do this every time you open your mouth, let me know. I need the help.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Ten Commandments for Children: Do We Avoid Some?

The Back Story of The Ten Commandments for Children

A few weeks ago, I had occasion to engage in a conversation, albeit it brief, with a sister in Christ. This brief exchange was about an interaction that I had. In a video that I shared to the If Only Even One YouTube Channel I am seen handing Million Dollar Gospel tracts to two children and their mother. This beloved sister relayed to me a conversation that she had with a school administrator that took exception to my friend’s use of the same material. The administrator was concerned for the use of the adultery aspect of the Ten Commandments.

It seemed that the administrator felt that such material would possibly be too much for the young students to handle. My dear sister took the administrator’s request under advisement and agreed.

I want to make it clear that this is a matter of personal conviction. My beloved sister is free to respond to this request in whichever way she feels best. There is no law here and I am not about to make one.

What I will be addressing in this article is the idea of societal norms and how we bring the Bible to bear on the spiritual state of even young children. I want to consider how God’s Word speaks to children in the Ten Commandments and what we can learn from the Old Testament especially.

So, hang on tight, this is bound to be a dangerous ride in the eyes of the world and I do not want to see you thrown from the cart…

Secular Sensibilities and The Ten Commandments

As I was thinking about the administrator’s request to my friend I began to consider secular sensibilities. In a school setting, especially in the setting of the government run schools, sex has become a part of the school culture. The research that I have conducted thus far shows that many recommendations have teachers, not parents, telling children about sexual intercourse as young as five. This information indicated that this is a fine age to introduce the practice of bi-sexuality and homosexuality to children.

Moreover, public schools are now exposing children as young as kindergarten to transsexuals during in school reading programs and presentations. This is bleeding into the broader world with the same practices taking place in public libraries and some community summer activities.

Consequently, we are also observing the moral decay of culture where a 7-year-old child is allowed to parade himself in a Pride parade flaunting his sexual deviance. Furthermore, in an equally robust display of moral degradation, an 11-year-old child was allowed to dance in a provocative manner in a NYC gay club as patrons showered him with money.

These are the secular sensibilities and cultural mores that the ten commandments exist in today. Similarly, the ten commandments were not devoid of this same context when God gave them to Moses on the tablets of stone in wilderness.

In broader society the people most likely to protest about their children being exposed to the law of God; would revel in the debauchery of a pride event.

The Ten Commandments and How They Were Taught

In Exodus 20 God has summoned Moses to Mount Sinai to give him the ten commandments. The intent was clear, God intended for all of Israel to be taught these things. If we have any doubts of this, we are later reminded of this very reality in Deuteronomy 5 and 6. Moses emphasizes the importance of the ten commandments and what God expected of His people.

In Deuteronomy 6 Moses makes this profound statement:

4“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 YOU SHALL TEACH THEM DILLIGENTLY TO YOUR SONS AND SHALL TALK OF THEM WHEN YOU SIT IN YOUR HOUSE AND WHEN YOU WALK BY THE WAY AND WHEN YOU LIE DOWN AND WHEN YOU RISE UP. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (emphasis mine)

This is the hallowed Shema that Jesus recites to the Pharisees when they question Him about the greatest of commands.

How Do We Understand This?

The intent of God and the understanding of the Israelite’s is that all of Israel was to be taught these commands. There was no deference to the sensibilities of the fragile state of little children being confronted with any aspect of the Law of God. Make no mistake, the word translated sons in this passage means offspring or descendants.

God intended for even the children, at a young age, to always be confronted with the law. This was good for them. It was for their benefit. In those days, even what would be viewed by us a slight infraction would be met with severe judgement. Do not forget that a man was stoned to death for collecting sticks for a fire on the Sabbath.

The failure on the part of contemporary society to see the Ten Commandments in the same severity does not lessen their import. In fact, I would posit that it is our lack of familiarity with the Law of God that causes people to recoil at the idea of teaching little children that it is sin to commit adultery or to fornicate.

God intended for the people to teach these laws to one another at all times. But why? Because it was in their best interest from even an early age to know them.

A Brief Look at the Historical Reality of The Ten Commandments in Confessions

One of the questions I pondered after that interaction with my beloved sister was, “Am I wrong?” I had asserted that it was the biblical norm that sins such as adultery and fornication were taught to even children. So, I did some digging and further thinking. My intent was not to prove my contention to be accurate, but to be corrected if need be.

As I contemplated this topic I pondered what else in the law we would shy away from teaching. Shouldn’t little children be taught that God commands us to not murder? Or do we refrain from this aspect of the Ten Commandments because explaining murder to children of any age may be hard?

I began to see that there was the unfortunate side effect of the slippery slope coming to play. Historically speaking, the Church has never really refrained from instructing children in all of the Ten Commandments.

Consequently, I looked to the main go to for most confessionally Reformed Christians; the Westminster Confession of Faith. I dug deeper and looked to the Shorter Catechism. From there I took an even bigger risk, I looked to the children’s version of the shorter. Guess what I found. Even the children’s version of the shorter addresses the question of adultery like its parent document does.

Take a look:

Q. 95. What is the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment is, thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. 96. What does the seventh commandment teach us?
A. To be pure in heart, language, and conduct.

Make no mistake, when we speak of purity in the context of the seventh of the ten commandments, there is a sexual aspect here. It isn’t just overall purity that is being addressed. It is right and good for children to understand.

Christian Parents that Love Will Teach the Seventh of the Ten Commandments

I will reassert this subheading…

Christian parents that love will teach the seventh of the ten commandments…

Why? Because Jesus repeated the Shema when He was asked. Make no mistake, Jesus, like every other Hebrew youth, was taught the Shema. Not only was Jesus the Word by which all things were made and the Word by which the Law was communicated, He learned the law. In Hebrews 5 we are taught that Jesus learned obedience. This is not to imply that Jesus as God needed to learn anything. However, in His incarnate form, He took on the same tasks as all of humanity. He learned in the same way as other Hebrew youth. He was taught to keep the law as others were taught.

Furthermore, He did all of this perfectly to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus learned that murder was sin against God. He learned that it was sin to commit adultery and idolatry. He would then go on and expand on these truths in Matthew 5-7 teaching His audience that it was more than mere physical acts that were violation of the law. The Christ pointed to the heart condition behind each of these sins.

Therefore, Christian parents, lovingly teach their children these things. In the same way that we warn children that a hot stove is dangerous, we teach our children that sexual impurity violates the ten commandments. Subsequently, we teach them that violating the Eternal Moral Law of God is more than just dangerous, it is deadly. This applies to the totality of the law. Even the parts that may be complicated and messy to explain. The alternative is terrifying.

Worse Than an Infidel

In 1 Timothy 5 Paul tells his readers that the man who does not provide for his family is worse than an infidel. Failing to provide spiritual guidance is a major part of that. It is the beautiful burden of the Christian father and mother to warn their children to flee from the sins that so easily beset them.

From a personal perspective, it was sexual sin that was my greatest struggle in my youth. It wasn’t for lack of hearing not to have sex. My parents instilled this thought in me. However, it was always taught that sex was to be saved for marriage. Sex was a secret thing saved for the dark and it was sinful. I never learned about the beauty of sexual intimacy and the gift that God meant it to be.

The constant refrain was that having sex was sinful. That was the chorus of the battle song against impurity. The more that was announced to me the more intriguing the idea became. Anything that was so sinful had to be worth exploring.

The Beauty of the Seventh of the Ten Commandments

I posit that part of teaching the seventh of the ten commandments includes the beauty of married union. That is why the shorter catechism refers to a pure heart and conduct. Godly parents should be teaching children from a young age that God has a design for sexual intimacy in marriage and that seventh commandment addresses that design.

It is not enough for Christian parents to focus on the first table of the law and then the fifth commandment. In short, parents that spend most of their time focusing on the fifth do so selfishly. Should children learn to obey? Yes. However, there are many other commands embodied in the second table of the law that children need to learn. Loving neighbor as self means to abstain from impurity and preserving the beauty of sexual intimacy for marriage.

As a parent, if all I teach is that my children need to obey me because God has commanded it, they may indeed obey. Yet, they will not obey for love of neighbor. They will simply obey because they have had it drummed into their head that they must.

However, if I spend my time teaching the ten commandments and what makes each of them beautiful, I have extolled our self-exalting God to them. Shying away from a single one of the ten commandments because it is difficult or complicated is to fail to understand the beauty and glory of God behind each command.

A Brief Word on What Cannot be Promised

No person has the authority to promise that your children will grow to be Christians if you teach them the beauty of the law. That may seem obvious, but I have so often dealt with people that struggle with the wayward child who has rejected all they were taught. So many have clung to Proverbs 22:6 thinking it promises converted children.

Proverbs 22:6 is a principle not a promise. A child that learns the ways of God is far more likely to avoid the traps that so easily ensnare the child that is taught to be a mocker. Teaching your child, the depth of the beauty behind the seventh commandment will not keep them sexually pure until marriage. Furthermore, even if they do maintain that purity but have not turned to Christ alone for salvation they will remain lost rebels against God. They will be self-convinced of their righteousness thinking that they have earned heaven.

This is why no teaching on the ten commandments should end there. It should always lead to Gospel conversations where Christ is extolled as the perfectly obedient Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The Christian Who Loves the Littlest of Neighbors Recognizes A Greater Problem

I think of the idea that handing a child a Gospel tract that speaks about sexual sin is exposing them to that sin is foolish. All we need to do is look around the world today to see that this is not true.

Turn on a TV and see what you find.

Surely, Christian parents may be far more inclined to keep their children from television, but the secular world and professing “Christians” do not. Not even Confessing Christians are obligated to do so. Even then, keeping your children from the TV will not prevent the exposure they will receive in public. Wanton sexual sin is everywhere. It is being taught and promoted in government schools. It is paraded, quite literally, down the city streets of every major and some minor metropolitan areas.

Worse yet, as mentioned before, many parents give ringing endorsements of sexual depravity and debauchery. The same parents that lose their minds over a person preaching the Gospel in public will gladly expose their children to sexual sin in public places.

Consider this, many Christians today will use the most graphic of images one can imagine exposing the horror of infant murder. This too will draw the unmitigated anger of passing parents as their children are exposed to such images. Yet, those same Christians using those signs will make no apologies. Do not let the irony escape you that abortion is almost always the direct result of deeply rebellious sexual activity.

Do Not Misunderstand Me

My argument is not that we should be holding up pornographic images in front of children to preach about sexual sin. I am simply arguing that children of even the youngest ages are already exposed to sexual immorality today. We need to recognize this and recognize what the argument against the use of sexual sin on a Gospel tract is. It is an attempt to shelter children from God’s law while they are exposed to man’s depravity without a filter.

In Conclusion

Again, God directed that all Israel be taught the full counsel of the ten commandments from the earliest of ages. I have demonstrated that even in the Reformed Tradition we have echoed this in our confessions. Even the Reformed Baptist have brought this forward in the Baptist Catechism.

Christian parents should not shy away from this teaching. We are obligated to honor the Shema just as our Lord did. Moreover, the Christian evangelists need not fear preaching on sexual immorality or handing out literature that may offend the sensibilities of the recipient.

I will emphasize yet again, I am not making a law and insisting that every Gospel conversation had with a child needs to spend time focusing on sexual sin. I do not do this with even adults. But I also will not refrain from preaching the whole counsel of God or handing out materials to any person.

If we are trusting the word of God according to Isaiah 55:11, then we do not know what the work of God may be in that Gospel tract. Imagine that the child, (almost certainly exposed to great levels of sexual sin in the world around them.)  you handed that Gospel tract to hands it off to their parent. Imagine that parent is convicted of their sexual immorality and is moved to repentance and faith.

In Conclusion for Real Now

I do not advocate for pragmatism here. We preach or hand out the Gospel and let God do the work. There is wisdom to be sure in knowing your audience. Wisdom does dictate molding the message, appropriately, to specific audiences at times; while remaining faithful to the preaching of the Gospel.

However, no Christian with a mind bent outward towards their lost neighbors, should ever be chastised for handing out a piece of literature that mentions adultery or fornication for the great sin that it is. You can rest assured that as Jesus preached the Gospel in the Sermon on mount there were children present. Jesus did not hide from the truth of sexual sin as He proclaimed that adultery happened in the heart long before it was acted out in the flesh.

Simply put, we bring the whole counsel of God in the ten commandments to bear on the sinning world. We can be calculated and tactical at times, but there is never a reason to fear the offense. Especially if we consider how Paul addresses this issue in Romans 1:16-32.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

God Loves His Glory and that Affects The Gospel

God Loves!

One of the things that every person you talk to will affirm is that God is love. It just doesn’t matter if that person is a Christian or an avowed atheist, the fall back is, “God is love.” The quick follow up to that is “God loves!”

Truthfully speaking, God loves, is a profound reality that we cannot possibly ever explore to its end. Yet, the frequency of the recitation of this truth has led to a dumbing-down of what it means to say, “God loves.” As the old saying goes, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt.”

In the Proverbs God has communicated to us that it is His glory to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search that matter out. Instead of simply reciting that God loves, I want to suggest that this is one of the concealed matters that we should be searching out.

Moreover, the more we mine the depths of this profound reality, the more we will be humbled by it. Consequently, the more humbled we are, the more it will impact our efforts to Advance The Gospel into the world.

God Loves Humanity!

Perhaps the most oft quoted bible verse of all time is John 3:16. Years of watching Minnesota Viking football games alone drilled this verse into my head. There was once a time when a man would sit in one of the endzones during home games holding a sign that simply read, “John 3:16”. It has been a bit since I watched a professional football game. It has been even longer since I have seen that sign during a game.

We have come such a long way that even Tim Tebow taking a knee to pray in the endzone is seen as controversial. Controversy aside, people are still fully aware that God loves people. Years of that same recitation of John 3:16 and asserting that God loves all people equally has led to a complicated “tary”-morass of theological debauchery.

God Does Love

God does love. Furthermore, God loves certain people in certain ways. To some extent His love for humanity is manifested in the fact that we have not been wiped from the face of the earth yet. Certainly, God did hit the reset button, if you will, in Genesis 6. However, God’s love was extended to humanity through the sparing of Noah and his family. God’s love was not manifest in the millions upon millions that were drowned in the flood.

Later, God would manifest His love for mankind by calling Abram out of Ur and promising to deliver the Savior through the seed of Abraham. This promise was an echo of the promise given in the Protoevangelium from Genesis 3 when God cursed mankind because of the sin of Adam.

All-too-often, modern understanding blurs the lines between the overarching beneficent and merciful love of God for humanity versus how God loves His elect. His salvific love if you will.

God Loves Who You Say?

 My contention is not that God does not love humanity. However, I do contend that God does not love each segment of humanity in the same way in the same scope. Now some of you would argue that this contention is based solely upon conjecture on my part. I feel the need to recognize that from the outset.

If we watch the redemptive story carefully we will see the intertwining aspects of how God loves throughout that history. As I already mentioned the promise of the coming messiah in Genesis 3, and the calling of Abram and the promise to bless many people with the seed of Abraham. I also spoke of the flood and how God manifested His love for mankind by not wiping all men off the face of the earth then. Yet, these accounts are not the only places we see this intertwining.

God Loves Through Others

We can see how God loves in His working through the Hebrew people. He makes grand promises to Israel that He did not extend to other nations. Yet, those grand promises to Israel work to benefit other people as they come to sojourn in the midst of Israel or glean from the riches of Israel.

In some cases, we see nations and peoples benefit from how God loves His people by raising up mighty kings to come against Israel for their sins. These peoples benefit for a time, but it is due to how God loves His chosen ones. When God finishes chastening Israel, in many cases those that were not His people are in turn wiped from the earth.

This is not a sometime event that happens only once in Scripture. It happens frequently. There is maybe no more powerful example of this than the story of Esther.

God Loves Who the Most?

Subsequently, when I meet professing Christians I tend to want to ask them probative questions. These questions are not meant to ambush people, but they are meant to compel thought. Frequently, the answer I receive to the question reveals much about the person I am interacting with.

The first question I like to throw out most often is, “What is the Gospel?”

A dear brother that I met last year while I was preaching in Lanesboro made a bee-line for me and asked me that exact question. Hi Ezrah! The person who professes Christ but refuses to answer that question or answers in accurately; will not be embraced in fellowship by me.

The second question I like to ask most often is, “What is the greatest commandment?”

The answer to this question is also quite revealing. Often, the answer is some form, “Love your neighbor.” While this is close, it isn’t the greatest commandment. I will often use that answer to launch into a clear teaching on the greatest commandment and then preach the Gospel.

The third question I frequently ask, “Who does God love the most?”

God Loves Me The Most

Almost without fail the answer from every person I meet is, “God loves mankind most.” Moreover, I will often hear, “God loves me the most.” I know that sounds ridiculous to my normal reader. However, I have heard this very answer too many times to count.

If you are paying any kind of attention to me at this point you may see where this is going.

The three questions I just gave are not merely probative and thought provoking. They are perfectly intertwined. To preach the Gospel you must know the Gospel. To know the Gospel you must know who God loves the most.

My answer to that is God loves Himself most…

How Can You Assert God Loves Himself Most?

Let us consider the question put to Jesus by the Pharisees in Matthew 22? In an attempt to trip Jesus up which was their normal routine, they asked Jesus what the greatest of all commandments was. Thinking that Jesus would parse all of the commands and come out with one over all others, they thought they had him in a trap. They figured that they would catch him in an act of blasphemy. But no, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6 and stops their mouths.

Jesus asserts that the greatest of all commands is to love God with all of the heart, soul and strength. However, He does not stop there. He then goes on and commends love for neighbor as the second greatest. Yet, Christ wasn’t content to let that hang in the air without explanation. He tells the astounded crowd that all of the law and prophets were contained in those two great commands.

“Buuuuut Todd,” you are wailing at the moment, “How does this prove that God loves Himself most?”

God Loves In The Law

We know several things about God. One of them is that the Ten Commandments, the Eternal Moral Law of God, describe God as He is in His character. When He gives a command it is to point us to what perfect moral righteousness looks like. When God gives a command such as “Do Not Commit Murder.” it is because He does not murder. He is incapable of such an act.

Thusly, when God commands us to love Him above all else with every fiber of our being, He is commanding us- pointing to Himself as the model for this. God can command such a thing because He loves and values Himself above all else.

The first table of the law commands us to love God as He loves.

God Loves His Own Glory and will not Share it!

The Scriptures are replete with example after example of how God has loved His Glory and guarded it jealously.

Isaiah 48:9-11 makes it clear that He will not give or share His glory with another.

Isaiah 43:6-7 shows us that God has created mankind for his own glory.

Jeremiah 13:11 shows us that God raised up Israel out of nothing for His own glory.

Romans 9:17 has Paul telling us that God raised up Pharaoh for destruction for His own glory.

1 Samuel 12:20-22 God spares Israel for His own glorious namesake.

Matthew 5:16 shows us Jesus telling people to do good works for the sake of God’s Glory.

John 12:27-28 shows us Jesus suffering to the glory of God.

And in one simple verse, John 17:1, Jesus proves His divinity (not that it needed proving) by asking the Father to glorify Him as the Father is glorified.

Romans 15:7 has Jesus welcoming us into fellowship for the glory of God.

Romans 1:22-23 shows us that we are justly condemned for failing to properly honor the glory of God.

Also in Romans 3:23 makes that same statement far more personal about each individual.

In Acts 12:23 God strikes Herod dead for refusing to glorify Him.

In Romans 9:22-23 Paul tells us that God uses His wrath to make His glory known.

Self-Exaltation

On and on we could go. Make no mistake the principle is more than a mere concept. God is jealous for His own glory and loves it with ferocity. He demands that all people glorify Him and there are staggering consequences for failing to do so. He will not be robbed of what is rightly His.

This is the ultimate act of self-exaltation. If a mere mortal were to act in this way it would be a grievous sin.

But God!

God Loves Himself As Only He Can and Thus The Christ

There are in some ways, degrees and gradations of sin. As several teachers I enjoy hearing from like to say, if I threaten my neighbor with harm, it is criminal. If I threaten a local politician it becomes even more heinous. Consequently, if I threaten the president, it becomes more than just a crime to be handled by local authorities.

Therefore, we are to look at how we relate to God in the same way. He has given us the totality of the second table of the law to teach us how to relate to one another. However, Jesus has summed up the entire first table of the law for us. He tells us that we are to love God above all else with all that we are. Paul has defined sin as falling short of the glory of God.

We cannot love God in the way that He loves Himself. We are incapable of loving Him and exalting Him the way that He has exalted and loved Himself. This self-exultant reality existed long before God ever created. There was mutual and reciprocal love amongst the Triune being of the God-head. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit loved each other unfailingly.

God Loves In Commands

Then the God-head created all that there is for God’s own glory and love. He created man and commanded man to love Him the way He loved in the perfect communion of the Trinitarian essence. Subsequently, man falls into sin and breaks that command.

So, God, being concerned for His own glory and for the sake of His pre-existent love of self, breaks in to man’s wickedness and promises to redeem fallen humanity for the sake of the glory of His name.

Therefore, only God alone could accomplish the perfect exultation of Himself to redeem man!

God Loves Himself Thus The Gospel

I realize that for some that read this, this is incredibly difficult for us to process or read. In a society where secular culture is replete with commands to self-esteem and self-love it has become clichéd in Christian world to push against such thought. On the other hand, Christians have also begun to incorporate such debased language into their vernacular.

I recently had cause to meet a local “pastor” of a United Methodist Church. In passing she said that her biggest struggle is teaching her congregants to love themselves first. Had the circumstances been conducive to the conversation I would have asked her to exegete Philippians 2 for me. I will contend that broader society is not lacking in self-love. I would even argue the second great command is not stated as “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” to endorse self-esteem and love for self. The second great command is stated that way because love for self tends to lead us to want only the best for ourselves. Thus, loving neighbor as self means that we want their best above all else.

Loving God Completely

For the Christian, loving God above all else with every fiber of our being and then loving neighbor as self means that we proclaim Christ crucified for sinners. We should frequently and with fervency compel them to consider if they love God above all else with every fiber of their being. No one can answer this question in the affirmative. In just that one moment we have already worked condemnation upon ourselves.

In Conclusion

This is the situation into which Christ condescended to become man and despised the shame of the cross not counting equality with the Father a thing to be grasped. This is why we can preach the Gospel for forgiveness of sins.

It is this that required Christ be the propitiation for sin. Only the God-man who loved and obeyed God the way God commanded and the way God loves Himself, could be the perfect sacrifice for sin.

God Loves Truth

This is Gospel truth. This should be what is on your mind when you seek to proclaim Christ to the lost and dead world. Do not shy away from the self-exalting God of Scripture. Declare His love for Himself and His jealousy for His own glory to a world that rejects Him. Declare that God loves Himself and that this is what compelled Him to demonstrate His love to us, so that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. The very people who will reject this message and would dare to call God a narcissist for this, are the same that consider it impossible to love others until we have learned to love ourselves.

Remind them, that we only love because God loves first

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

 

Baptism: Let’s Slow the Roll Baptist

What’s Your Beef with Baptism Todd?

I need to make it clear. I do not have a beef with baptism or my fellow Baptists. Even if they aren’t Calvinists. My beef is the rush to baptize people today. (the provided link was discovered by me just a few days after I wrote this article.)

As Baptists we struggle with understanding the non-Baptist perspectives. We often confuse the meaning of Roman Catholic baptism with traditional Lutheran baptism. If that isn’t bad enough, we tend to also confuse the Presbyterian views of baptism with Roman Catholic and Lutheran. Moreover, we often embrace any baptism performed by any denomination that practices baptism by immersion as being authentic.

I recently had a conversation with dear friend that was disappointed to learn about the aberrant view that the Church of Christ holds to. Yet, I know many Baptist that will embrace CofC baptisms as valid. So, all of that to say this; the variant views of baptism require that we study this topic with a desire to do baptism rightly.

Is Baptism Salvific?

If we understand baptism properly we understand it to be a command; not a mere suggestion. Peter is very clear in Acts 2 when he preaches to the masses on Pentecost. Repent and be baptized is his cry. Peter does not seem to think that baptism is a mere suggestion. Consequently, we must ask ourselves

What was Peter communicating to us. How are we to understand baptism?

Was Peter attempting to tell us that baptism is necessary for salvation? Or, was he stating something else?  Obviously, there are those who hold to baptism as part of salvation.

Roman Catholics view baptism as an act where the recipient receives an infusion of the righteousness of Christ. This infusion works as a bank of righteousness that is “stored up” and used to cover the sins of the person. Eventually, the righteousness is used up and the person must start to do works of penitence to make up for their sins

In the case of the Lutheran view of baptism it does not infuse the recipient with righteousness. Instead, baptism grants new life to the recipient. In a conversation that I had with a friend that is a Lutheran pastor, (of the orthodox conservative vein.) I was told that my baptism was the beginning of my salvation. Subsequently, when I truly converted at the age of 33, I could look back on the act of being sprinkled with water as an infant as God’s working to bring me new life.

The Church of Christ view of Baptism is too confusing to address in this article. However, suffice it to say that they believe that salvation is completed in baptism and without it there is and can be no salvation. This is heresy and like the view of infused righteousness it must be rejected.

Presbyterians and Baptists and Others, O! MY!

Oddly enough, the Baptist view of baptism isn’t too far removed from the traditional or orthodox Presbyterian view of baptism. My Presbyterian brethren see baptism as bringing children into the covenant of salvation that the parents enjoy. However, they do not view baptism as salvific in a specific sense. While Presbyterians do not require a new convert that was baptized as an infant to be baptized as believer, they do not reject baptism for a new convert. Furthermore, many Presbyterian congregations will practice both covenant baptism and believer’s baptism. Trinity Presbyterian, my church home, fully embraces her faithful Reformed Baptist members and recognizes our differing views.

I would suggest that the reason this is possible is because sound Presbyterians adhere to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. When this is embraced, taught and adhered to, baptism, when viewed rightly, becomes a secondary or even tertiary matter.

Unlike many other issues that are adiaphora, baptism is not such an issue. Baptist perhaps single-handedly have both protected and bastardized baptism today. When we look across broader evangelicalism we see many so-called evangelicals that are clearly baptistic in their roots. Current Western Christian Culture (WCC) has any number of denominations that are at their core, Baptist, if for no other reason than they “practice” Believer’s Baptism and child dedication.

So, while there may be some stark doctrinal differences between The Assemblies of God and Fundamentalist Baptist, they are all “Baptist” in their approach to who is to receive baptism and when. The entire Evangelical Free denomination is baptistic at its core but not fundamentalists or AOG in their practices.

A Brief Comment on Differences

So, while the differences can be somewhat stark, those that are Baptist in practice have a core practice in common. In the case of the Reformed or Calvinistic Baptist our differences aren’t vast enough to separate from our traditional or orthodox Presbyterian brothers. In fact, Calvinistic Baptist tend to have far more in common with Presbyterians than they do Fundamentalists Baptist. The Fundamentalists in our midst won’t like this, but they are far more in line with traditional AOG theology than they are with ancient Baptist. The ancient Baptist were almost without fail Calvinistic before that was even a thing.

So, what is the Point of this Article on Baptism Todd?

A while back I spoke about baptism and what I see is a great weakness of WCC in how we view baptism today. It is my conjecture that while God clearly views baptism as vitally important, we; as with almost everything that we do in WCC, have missed the boat.

Ancient baptism was a very public identification with Christ. It was a milestone if you will. Men and women were leaving their old religious practices for a new way of life and this was marked with an announcement to the watching world that they were different. They were bearing witness to being followers of the Way.

This announcement was marked first with a very public proclamation of Jesus as Lord over Caesar and as Savior. This was often a rejection of both Judaism and Roman rule and  all other religions at the same time. This Romans 10 announcement marked the person as both a blasphemer (according to Judaism) but also a traitor to Rome. This often meant the death sentence for the one doing so.

Following this very public announcement of Christ as Lord and Savior by the convert they would then be baptized publicly. In the early days of the Church this meant at a local gathering place where there was sufficient water to immerse the individual. This would be a second identification with Christ and further work to inflame any of those who were not of Christian faith. Moreover, the ramifications were often well understood long before the public confession and baptism ever took place.

Paul and Witnessing

Consider Paul. He had personally seen to the persecution of the ancient Church. He was directly responsible for the martyrdom of Stephen. Make no mistake, Stephen was not just wandering by the synagogue the day of his martyrdom. (By the way, the Greek word translated witness in the NT is martureo, which is where we get our word martyr.) Stephen had already publicly announced Christ as Lord and Savior. It was this action that got him hauled before the counsel.

So, to answer the question, what is the point? Baptism, for those of us with baptistic roots here in WCC has become too easy. It looks nothing like what the ancient Church understood baptism to be. Baptism used to be costly.

Baptism Was Once Costly, Now it is Just Comfy…

As I already laid out, baptism was often the death sentence for early Christians. Today, baptism has become all-together different. We have turned baptism into a party environment where ease and comfort has become the order of the day. I recently went to preach at an event where there were games and grilling and all matter of fun before and after the mass baptisms. If I remember correctly the number of folks being baptized was well over 20. Now, considering Pentecost and the thousands that were added to the Church that day, twenty is mere drop in the bucket.

I will grant you that the event was held at a public beach so in this case the baptisms were slightly different than what normally occurs today, but there was still a party like atmosphere. In recent years there have been “churches” that have used diving boards and other such trifling to make baptism more entertaining. (Reports of Elevation church using water-slides were actually the Babylon Bee doing what it does best and that is using absurdity to make a point. The fact that so many people fell for such satire says more about Elevation than it does about the people who fell for it.)

However, that aside, baptism has become all too comfortable today. Instead of publicly announcing before the watching and hostile world that you are now a slave to Christ, you sit comfortably surrounded by other Christians. These folks then applaud as you are dipped in water that is pleasantly warm and overly clean. There is no threat from ruling authorities. There is rarely any examination of you to see if you can articulate even the basics of the faith.

Baptist Get it Wrong Too

When questions are asked, they are normally overly simple yes or no questions that do not elicit a thoughtful response. In recent conversations about baptisms and the differing views, one person protested that the Presbyterian view of baptism seems to give people license to feel secure in their baptism. This can certainly be the case.

However, I can speak from three very profound personal examples of people I love dearly that have rejected the faith and become disobedient rebels against God despite being “baptized” the Baptist way. In one of those cases the recipient of the baptism was asked the same route questions as everyone around them. In another case I was asked to baptize the man who then turned and baptized his wife. All three have now abandoned the faith.

Does the blame for this falling away lie with those doing the baptizing? Absolutely not. Yet, there is some blaming to be done. When we consider that most congregations do little to no examination of the person being baptized I believe that we Baptist are running almost the same risk if not more risk than others.

Stop Hand-holding Those Receiving Baptism

When we settle for shallow affirmation and unbiblical language such as below:

“Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?”

“Have you asked Jesus into your heart?”

“Did you make a decision for Christ?”

We are settling for far too little when it comes to our Lord and Savior and what it means to identify with His life, death, burial and resurrection. Look, I am not talking about a Calvinistic litmus test before baptism. Salvation by sound doctrine is salvation by works.

However, what I am talking about is a time to sit back and examine a candidate for baptism. These decisions should be made with solemnity and severity. They need to understand the repercussions of identifying with Christ. There needs to be a protracted period of time where each candidate is asked hard questions. They need to display signs of new life in Christ, not mere lip service. The pastor, or whoever is doing the baptism, needs to get out of the way. If the person who is about to be baptized cannot articulate their reasons for desiring to be baptized then they should not be. If they cannot articulate the Gospel, then baptism can wait.

By-and-large, Baptist, especially the Easy-Believism types and Fundamentalists, are solely responsible for making many people twice fold the sons of hell.

In Conclusion

When we consider that WCC looks little like the Ancient Church, or even little like most of the rest of Christendom, we should be convicted. Christians seeking to be baptized in China today, risk great loss. Being baptized in Saudi Arabia can lead to death.

There are people passing themselves off as pastors today that have no grasp of sound doctrine. Moreover, they do not preach the whole counsel of God when it comes to the Gospel. The Justice, Wrath and Holiness of God no longer fill the preemptive measures before the declaration of God’s love and mercy and grace.

Jesus is passed out to people like a sweet candy treat. These hirelings say such things as, “Try Jesus on. He will give you a happy life and deliver you from the earthly and material consequences of your sin.”

These days repentance is missing from the Gospel call and sin is made little by calling it mistakes and poor decision making.

Instead of being a place where sound doctrine permeates the teaching the pulpit instead has become a place where congregants are given self-help motivational speeches.

This is the light in which people are “making decisions for Jesus” and then being baptized.

Until such a time that this kind of dumbing down of Christianity is done away with, we will continue to see false converts coddled and comforted through the waters if baptism. They then walk away often time twice fold the sons of hell.

A Final Thought

In a recent conversation with someone I love dearly, I was told that that it isn’t necessary to tell people that they will face persecution for their faith. Instead they can be told that life won’t be easy. It pains me to say this and truly gives me no joy. However, this is precisely the problem we face in WCC and it ties into baptism. The first great promise of the cross is salvation from the wrath of God and the due reward of hell.

The second great promise of the cross is, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The Greek word for persecuted is diōkō. It literally means to be made to run or flee. Put to flight or drive away. If we are not willing to tell people of this reality, then we should refrain from preaching the Gospel. Furthermore, if we must refrain from this truth and therefore refrain from preaching the Gospel, we have no business baptizing people either.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

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