Any time any person (usually a christian) says “Changing this will lead to that,” they are scorned for espousing the slippery slope theory. Sadly, human nature being what it is, the slopes are often slipped.
We see this already in Australia. Just one year after the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite, which we were told would not affect anybody, we find that attacks are being made on the rights of religious schools to teach their beliefs about human sexuality. They said, “If you don’t like same sex marriage you don’t have to have one,” but already the pressure is building for schools and, soon, churches to buckle under and negate their own faith.
People around the world have been shocked by the decision in New York State to allow abortions right up until birth. A baby now has not even the right to live right until it is safely born. The city was lit up in pink in an obscene celebration of this event.
But it gets worse. In the state of Virginia similar legislation is being introduced. The Governor of that state has been reported to have coldly described a scenario in which labour starts before an abortion is completed. The baby is born naturally and then made comfortable while the doctor and the mother decide whether to kill the baby or allow her to live. In normal societies this is called infanticide and fills people with revulsion.
Whenever people decide to live their lives separate from God, it always results in a death culture. Whether it is the traditional pagan human sacrifice or its modern versions of abortion and euthanasia, humans will be sacrificed.
Fifty years ago this would have prompted outrage but now we are not surprised as the slopes continue to be slipped.
A number of times in the scriptures people are given choices and exhorted to “choose life.” Have you ever wondered why they had to be told to “Choose life”? Isn’t that a normal desire?
No. Sin, our built in rebellion against God always drives us towards death. A culture that ignores God will always, in the end, choose death- even the deaths of newborn babies.
Talking about Jesus, exchanging Christmas cards and encouraging Christianity have been targeted under an unofficial policy from education bureaucrats that takes aim at junior evangelists in Queensland primary school yards.
Christian groups and free-speech advocates have expressed alarm at the recent edict from the Queensland Department of Education and Training contained within its latest review into religious instruction materials and warning that principals were expected to take action against students caught evangelising to their peers.
“While not explicitly prohibited by the (legislation), nor referenced in the Religious Instruction (RI) policy, the department expects schools to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in RI are evangelising to students who do not,” says the department’s report into the GodSpace religious instruction materials, released earlier this year.
“This could adversely affect the school’s ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive environment.”
Departmental policy defines “evangelising” as “preaching or advocating a cause or religion with the object of making converts to Christianity”.
Examples of evangelising cited in the review, as well as two earlier reviews into religious instruction providers, include sharing Christmas cards that refer to Jesus’s birth, creating Christmas tree decorations to give away and making beaded bracelets to give to friends “as a way of sharing the good news about Jesus”.
How can Leftist bureaucrats claim to want a “safe, supportive and inclusive environment” when they ban, discriminate and persecute?
Is there a similar schoolyard ban on students discussing green ethics, global warming evangelism, animal rights, Buddhism, Islam or the new tribalism – all of them far more troubling ethically than Christianity?
This is not just an attack on the free speech of students. It is also an attack on a faith that is life-affirming and preaches a system of ethics that actually underpin this “safe, supportive and inclusive” culture of ours.
These Leftist educationalists are in fact waging a suicidal war on the faith that best guarantees the freedoms and values these hypocrites claim to uphold.
Bill Miehlenberg nails it again- to be a follower of Jesus means we are to be different from the people who are not following Him. Not weird or super-spiritual but holy, loving, compassionate.
Yes, Christians Are To Be Different
Jul 25, 2017
Here is my thesis, short and sweet: if you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but you are living just like everyone in the world is, then chances may be good that you really are not a Christian at all. I do not say this by my own authority of course, but by the authority of the Word of God.
Everywhere Scripture highlights how God’s people are to be living lives radically different from those who are not God’s people. Thus if the life you live is indistinguishable from what any non-Christian lives, then it may be time to ask yourself some hard questions.
And when I say different, I don’t mean in a superficial or nominal way. Some Christians are different all right, but mainly because they are just plain weird. It is not that they are holy and Christlike, just odd and perhaps too religious. They may have all sorts of man-made taboos, habits and things they run with, but they demonstrate no real godliness or Holy Ghost spirituality.
But the born-again Christian will think differently, act differently and relate to others differently. I will explain what this looks like in more detail in a moment. But let me first mention why this article has come about. There have been two main reasons for writing this piece.
The first is something I just caught a glimpse of on TV, while the second is an author I have been reading through of late. The first can be covered quite quickly: it turns out to have been a UK documentary on cam girls. The 60 seconds or so that I saw was enough to leave me all rather gobsmacked.
One moment it was showing what this gal was doing for her paid customers, and the next minute it showed her with her flatmate at the dinner table praying. (Was it perhaps her lesbian partner? I did not stay around to find out.) But it showed them before the meal praying together, asking God’s blessing on all they did.
As I say, I was just floored. Here we had sleaze and sexual sin at its most blatant, yet the folks involved actually seemed to consider themselves Christians with whom God was perfectly happy. Um, yes, we can speak about God’s pleasure and blessing on an ex-cam girl, or an ex-prostitute, or an ex-sex-worker, or an ex-murderer, etc., but not on those still proudly living in known, overt sin.
I thought this was just so utterly bizarre, and reflected on it for a few moments. It occurred to me that there are likely millions of people who live just like the world, or live just like the devil, who have convinced themselves that they are nonetheless just peachy Christians whom God is perfectly happy with. This is deception of the highest order.
The other thing I was doing at the time offered a very nice counter piece to all this. I was reading some of John Stott’s writings. He was terrific in almost everything he wrote, and was such a champion of biblical Christianity. See my introductory article on him here:billmuehlenberg.com/2011/07/28/notable-christians-john-stott/
I have around 25 of his books, and they are always worth pulling off the shelves and rereading. So I was looking at his short but really excellent 1978 commentary on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Of interest, he subtitled the book,Christian Counter-Culture.
Of course that is a concept I am fully familiar with. I was part of the original secular counter-culture of the late 60s and early 70s. We radical lefties, hippies, druggies and peaceniks really did think we could set up a counter-culture to replace what we considered to be the corrupt, authoritarian, violent, patriarchal, hung-up middle class America.
Stott picks up on this theme and argues that the real message of the Sermon on the Mount is that we Christians are to be a genuine counter-cultural force. We are to be different. That is the major emphasis of these three chapters. Let me offer some lengthy quotes from the opening pages of this excellent commentary.
He begins by speaking about the great tragedy of the church conforming to the world. He says this:
No comment could be more hurtful to the Christian than the words, ‘But you are no different from anybody else.’ For the essential theme of the whole Bible from beginning to end is that God’s historical purpose is to call out a people for himself; that this people is a ‘holy’ people, set apart from the world to belong to him and to obey him; and that its vocation is to be true to its identity, that is, to be ‘holy’ or ‘different’ in all its outlook and behaviour.
He notes how this was certainly the case with the people of Israel: they “were his special people,” they “were to be different from everybody else. They were to follow his commandments and not take their lead from the standards of those around them.”
But sadly they did not do what was demanded of them, and soon enough they were saying, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world” (Ezekiel 20:32). Stott continues:
All this is an essential background to any understanding of the Sermon on the Mount. . . . It portrays the repentance (metanoia, the complete change of mind) and the righteousness which belong to the kingdom. That is, it describes what human life and human community look like when they come under the gracious rule of God. And what do they look like? Different! Jesus emphasized that his true followers, the citizens of God’s kingdom were to be entirely different from others. They were not to take their cue from the people around them, but from him, and so prove to be genuine children of their heavenly father. To me the key text of the Sermon on the Mount is 6:8: ‘Do not be like them.’ It is immediately reminiscent of God’s word to Israel in olden days: ‘You shall not do as they do’ (Leviticus 18:3). It is the same call to be different. And right through the Sermon on the Mount this theme is elaborated. Their character was to be completely distinct from that admired by the world (the beatitudes). They were to shine like lights in the prevailing darkness. Their righteousness was to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, both in ethical behavior and in religious devotion, while their love was to be greater and their ambition nobler than those of their pagan neighbors. There is no single paragraph of the Sermon on the Mount in which this contrast between Christian and non-Christian standards is not drawn. It is the underlying and uniting theme of the Sermon; everything else is a variation of it.… Thus the followers of Jesus are to be different – different from both the nominal church and the secular world, different from both the religious and the irreligious. The Sermon on the Mount is the most complete delineation anywhere in the New Testament of the Christian counter-culture. Here is a Christian value system, ethical standard, religious devotion, attitude to money, ambition, life-style and network of relationships – all of which are totally at variance with those of the non-Christian world. And this Christian counter-culture is the life of the kingdom of God, a fully human life indeed but lived out under the divine rule.
This my friends is the normal Christian life. But we do not hear this sort of teaching anymore, so it sounds strange, harsh, austere and even unChristlike. We think we can live any way we like and God is fully happy with us. We even think we can strip and gyrate before lustful men as a cam girl and still ask God for his blessings.
As I said above, if you are living just like anyone in the world is living, you may be in desperate need of a spiritual check-up. It is time we all get back on our faces before God and seek him afresh. Reading the Sermon on the Mount while on our knees in an attitude of humility, brokenness and penitence would be a good way to begin.
The ABC has been making misleading reports about how evangelical men are the most likely to abuse their wives. It’s simply not true. The report actually said that men who occasionally attend an evangelical church are more likely to engage in violence than men who don’t attend church- that’s a whole different bunch of information. But the ABC never lets the facts stand in the way of a good opportunity to bash christians.
Recently the (Australian) ABC reported that the men most likely to beat their wives were evangelicals. It’s not true, they made it up. There is no evidence. What evidence exists points to the transforming power of the gospel.
Marxist feminist Elizabeth Brusco set out to study the impact of evangelical conversion on family life in Columbia. Here’s what she discovered by careful research:
The asceticism required of evangelicals brings about change in the behavior of male converts, particularly in relation to the machismo complex in Latin America. Drinking, smoking, and extramarital sexual relations are forbidden. By redirecting into the household the resources spent on these things, such changes have the effect of raising the standard of living of women and children who are in varying degrees dependent on the income of these men.
My data on Colombian evangelical households support the conclusion reached by virtually every other analyst of Latin American Pentecostalism, that is, that conversion of both a woman and her husband improves the material circumstances of the household. Quite simply, no longer is 20 to 40 percent of the household budget consumed by the husband in the form of alcohol. Ascetic codes block many of the other extra-household forms of consumption that characterize masculine behavior in Colombia: in addition to drinking, smoking, gambling, and visiting prostitutes are no longer permitted.
Furthermore, an emphasis on male as well as female fidelity within marriage prohibits a man from keeping a woman other than his wife, and so a man’s limited resources are no longer split among two or more households dependent on his wage.
In re-forming male values to be more consistent with female ones (i.e., oriented toward the family rather than toward individualistic consumption) the movement provides a “strategic” challenge to the prevailing form of sexual subordination in Colombia. [pp 5-6]
The tangible changes and improvement in the standard of living of women and children in dependent households is only a symptom or an indicator of something much more remarkable that is happening.
With conversion, machismo is replaced by evangelical belief as the main determinant of husband-wife relations. The machismo role and the male role defined by evangelicalism are almost diametrical opposites . Aggression, violence, pride, self-indulgence, and an individualistic orientation in the public sphere are replaced by peace seeking, humility, self-restraint, and a collective orientation and identity with the church and the home. [p 139]
Jesus said the truth sets us free. But the opposite is also true: Lies put us in bondage—even if the lies are spoken from a pulpit by a sincere minister or a Christian celebrity.
In my international travels I’ve sat in countless meetings and heard countless examples of bad theology. While traveling in Romania, for example, I discovered that women are sometimes told they cannot receive communion if they are having their menstrual period. (No one could explain to me how this prohibition is actually enforced.) In some Nigerian churches, it is taught that a pastor shouldn’t have sex with his wife the night before he is scheduled to preach.
These are extreme examples of twisting or misunderstanding a Scripture (usually from the Old Testament) to create a religious rule. But this butchering of the Bible doesn’t just happen in developing countries. It happens everywhere, creating religious superstitions that make us look silly to the world. Some of these concepts are repeated so often that they become a part of our Christianese lexicon. People nod and say “Amen” without realizing these statements have no basis in Scripture.
It would be impossible to list all of the quirky doctrines I’ve encountered during my years in ministry, but I’ll start with these:
1. The children of ministers must carry on their parents work. David passed his inheritance to Solomon, and Solomon gave his scepter to Rehoboam. Then somewhere along the way some pastors invented the idea of a monarchy in the church—teaching that ministers must be succeeded by their sons or daughters. This certainly can happen. But nowhere in the New Testament are we told it is a rule. Leaders are appointed and anointed by the Holy Spirit, not determined by family lineage.
2. Don’t touch the Lord’s anointed. David refused to kill King Saul when he had the opportunity because he feared God and waited for Him to vindicate him (see 1 Sam. 24:6). But this verse has been manipulated to discourage church members from asking honest questions about a leader’s behavior or decisions. We are called to submit to our spiritual leaders, but it is not wrong to disagree with them as long as we have a respectful attitude.
3. Christians who commit suicide go to hell. This idea has created untold pain in the church, especially in families with loved ones who suffer with mental illness. The idea is that a person can never be forgiven of suicide since they can’t pray for forgiveness after they commit the sin. But the whole message of grace in the New Testament teaches us that God’s love is greater than our moments of weakness, depression or mental instability. If our salvation totally hinges on whether we immediately pray for forgiveness after every transgression, then we are all doomed. Jesus paid for our sins, and those who trust Him will enter heaven in spite of their frailties and bad decisions.
4. The husband is the priest of the home. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this statement from a pulpit. Contrary to what many Christians believe, this is not a Scripture. Actually the Bible teaches clearly that we are all priests (1 Peter 1:9), and husbands and wives function together as priests for their family. It is a heresy to suggest that a wife must go “through” her husband to approach God. The Bible does say the husband is “head of the wife” (Eph. 5:23), but this implies connection and oneness, not domination or control.
5. Christians can receive “mantles” from other people. The prophet Elijah threw his mantle on his disciple Elisha so he could carry on his ministry (see 2 Kin. 2:13). Ever since this isolated incident occurred, people have been asking famous preachers to pray for them so they can “receive their mantle.” Recently it was reported that some charismatics were going to the graves of revivalists to pray for their anointing to come upon them. That’s silly. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit imparts his anointing. Someone may lay hands on us, but they don’t have to be famous or have a big following. Let’s stop worshiping people and seek the Holy Spirit’s power instead.
6. “Jesus only” baptism. Early Pentecostals began a famous dispute during the early 1900s over the proper formula for water baptism. Some insisted that people should be baptized “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19. But a breakaway sect of “Oneness” Pentecostals insisted then, as they do today, that people must be baptized only “in the name of Jesus,” as Acts 2:38 instructs. And Oneness believers teach that people who are not baptized according to their formula will not go to heaven. It’s time to retire this hair-splitting argument and recognize that Christians are saved by their faith in Jesus alone, not by words recited at their baptism.
7. People with strong faith don’t suffer. The oldest book in the Bible is Job—the ancient story of a faithful follower of God who endured suffering. Yet today we have dozens of famous televangelists who tell audiences they can confess their way out of trails and tribulations simply with positive thinking. Some even suggest you can buy your way out of difficulties by giving in their “miracle” offerings.
Never trust a preacher who promises you a shortcut around suffering. We must stop promoting a false gospel that offers instant success, fame and wealth. Jesus promised we would have trials (John 16:33), yet He gave us assurance that our faith in Him would help us overcome in the end. Let’s preach the truth, expose the lies and break free from Christian superstitions.
J. Lee Gradyis the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. Check out his ministry atthemordecaiproject.org.
The churning, tempestuous world looks remarkably different than many imagine. This is undoubtedly true if you’re an average American.
In the darkest corners of the Middle-East there’s a revival beginning that’s unprecedented in the history of world missions. I’ve previously reflected on it hereand here, but I wanted to take this amazing story further than before.
I hope that you’ll journey with me as I explore unbelievable developments in the expansion of Christianity in the Middle-East.
Reliable reports suggest more Muslims have become followers of Jesus over the last two decades than in Islam’s combined 1,500 year history. Based on the accounts of several missiologists, it has been surmised that “more Muslims have committed to follow Christ in the last 10 years than in the last 15 centuries of Islam.” In spite of great difficulty and turmoil, Christianity is unquestionably expanding throughout Islamic world. God is up to something amazing in a region that many have thought was unreachable.
Rosenberg’s Insights Into The Middle-Eastern Revival
Joel Rosenberg, an Evangelical researcher, author, and resident of Israel has documented the recent upsurge of Christianity in the Middle-East. Through first-hand reconnaissance, coupled with reports from Arabic nationals, Rosenberg demonstrates that Christianity is rising rapidly in the world of Islam.
Some of the particulars can certainly be debated, but in many of the Mediterranean nations, Christianity is making extraordinary inroads. Though the subsequent conversion figures are impossible to confirm, even in their imprecision, they provide a snapshot of what’s transpiring in the Middle East.