Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Trap of the Dishonest Skeptic


It was a spring day in Savannah Ga probably over 10 years ago.  I was preaching in the park to a scattering of mostly college-age kids  enjoying the lovely weather and the aftermath of the St. Patrick's Day Festival.  They were seated on benches and some on blankets in the grass, lounging around, talking amongst themselves and generally behaving as if I wasn't there.  One of their number, however, decided that he had endured quite enough of me. He rose to his feet and   presented himself between the crowd and myself.  With a loud voice and appropriately dramatic hand gestures he told the crowd "This man's god would burn me for all eternity  simply because I don't believe in him. What kind of god does that?"  He went on to accuse the God of the Bible of being a petty tyrant who would rather destroy his creation than be ignored by it. By this man's reckoning, "God" was the worst sort of monster; an entity who presents man with either  the option of absolute obedience to His every trivial whim, or  unending torment.
  While its true that a good heckler is worth his weight in gold, sometimes a judgment call must be made. Do you engage, or do you ignore?  For reasons long forgotten to me, I opted to ignore him.
  I use that man as an example of what I call 'the trap of the dishonest skeptic'.   There is an honest skepticism that causes one to carefully evaluate the claims of others and not throw your hat in until you have all the facts.  That's not what I'm talking about.  Most people who call themselves skeptics actually deploy a dishonest kind of skepticism; a suspicion or incredulity towards things they already don't like.  A dishonest skeptic will spend a lot of time being a smart-aleck railer involving things he has a prejudice against while telling himself and all his like-minded cronies that he is more intelligent or more logical or more enlightened than his ideological adversaries.  The internet is full of this sort of thing, and  truth be told, all of us do this to some degree, and to whatever degree we indulge this part of our flawed nature, we blind ourselves to the truth.
  Returning to our heckler in the park, his basic premise was that the God of the Bible was somehow unfair or unjust for instituting eternal consequences for unbelief.  Now while it's true that unbelief is a sin, this man in the park took his limited understanding of his predicament, filtered it through the darkness of his own heart, and missed the point.  Let me explain.
  First of all, we must address unbelief. The Bible says "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard."  According to scripture, creation is self-evident across every kindred and tribe and tongue.  A man who rejects creation rejects the evidence of his own eyes.  The Bible goes on to say in the book of Hebrews "...he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him".  Somebody made everything you see, and He can be found, if He is sought on His terms.  It stands to reason then that if a man doesn't find Him, it must be because he didn't look properly. Why would a man not look? The Bible addresses that too, saying in John 3 "light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.". Men don't seek the God of the Bible because they somehow instinctively understand that His very existence is a reproach to their sin, and they love their sin. They would rather walk "...in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness."  Job says men drink "iniquity like water" and love it.   Unbelief is a sin because of why the unbelief exists; as a cloak for your sin.  A man who rejects God as he has revealed Himself is a man who has chosen to disregard reality itself and instead embrace the  warm comfort of his own self-centered filthiness.  Unbelief is not just an insult to God, it's a crime against yourself.
  The reasons for unbelief carry a penalty as well. The Bible says "the wages of sin is death". Your lies, your adultery, your pride, your self-centeredness drove you to unbelief, and that same unbelief cuts you off from the solution.  While you pat yourself on the back for what an open-minded skeptic you are, you have closed your mind off to He who is truth itself.  You congratulate yourself on how free you are from the trappings of belief even as you bind yourself up with the cords of your own iniquity and stubbornly refuse the only One who can help you. You carry on, making  little internet memes that poke fun at God and mock Jesus, never realizing that you are destroying yourself.  In fact, according to the scriptures, "... after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds"  
  The God of the Bible looked down at you in  your pathetic, filthy, unrepentant, self-deluded, self-destructive state and took pity on you.  He  took on the "likeness of sinful flesh" and became "as a servant". He went to the cross and bore your sin and your shame  in his own body, and took the punishment for your sins on Himself. He rose from the dead, and has secured your justification and your reconciliation  with the only condition being "repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."  With that sort of unfathomable grace staring you in the face, would you really rather stand in a park and bellow out about how unfair he is?
 You see, the real issue with a  dishonest skeptic is that he's dishonest. The motivations he presents , perhaps even to himself, are so intertwined in his own self-love that he is literally willing to commit intellectual suicide and  earn eternal damnation rather than forsake it. Why should you take a good hard look at the God of the Bible, Mr. Skeptic? Because He's the only hope you have.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dear Mr. Pastor


 I've been saved, and in church and in ministry for 21 years now.  I try to be a keen observer of all things ministry and let me tell you, I see some pretty troubling things on the horizon.  Foolishness and excess appears to be the order of the day among 'Bible Believers', and a certain amount of blame for this must be laid at the feet of men who occupy a pulpit. But beyond assigning blame, I think we, as the body of Christ need to  engage in some reflection and self-correction  so that all of us can move forward in the victory God has for us.  I write this, and say this as an absolute nobody. I am not a pastor, and the odds are I never will be. But I do pay attention, and I do consider what I see.  So here, in no particular order, are some things you , Mr. Pastor, ought to keep in mind.

1. Pastors are not the head of the church. Jesus is

  The Bible says, in Ephesians 1 "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
  Make no mistake, pastoring is an important position, but the pastor is not the head of the church, nor should he seek to be, as that position is already taken.   I've seen men strut and preen and swagger and boast about their pastoral authority. I've seen men , under the auspices of  'pastoral authority' order their deacons to stand up or sit down and lift one leg to  to show everybody that they, the pastor, are in charge. It has been awkward and embarrassing every time I've seen it.
  The truth is, the pastor is a servant.  Mr Pastor, the  church of Jesus Christ got along just fine before you came along, and the church of Jesus Christ will still be going strong when you are gone. God has placed you in a position of oversight and servitude for a very brief period of time in the big scheme of things. You are expendable. You can be very easily replaced, and if its been a while since anyone has told you that, somebody needs to.
  I understand a man taking a certain amount of responsibility for the ministry that he is entrusted with, but when you take it beyond that and grab authority that isn't yours, you are acting out of pride, and you are in the wrong.

2. Pastors aren't the  shepherd, Jesus is

 In John 10, Jesus says "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
  Not much commentary is necessary here.  There is one shepherd, and Jesus identifies this as Himself.   And yes, I am aware that the word 'pastor' is derived from the same word as 'shepherd', but Jesus said that there is one shepherd and that He is it.  Argue with Jesus if it makes you feel better.  Explain to Jesus how you are the 'undershepherd' or 'the shepherd in God's stead'. Let me know how that works out for you.
  Once again I appreciate men who take responsibility for the stewardship of a ministry, but I have heard men say things like "Bless God, son, I'm the pastor here and you aren't. I was here before you came and  I'll be here after you're gone."  The sentiment was clear; I'm the big dog, and you are beneath me.
  Mr. Pastor, please remember that Philippians 2 says "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves."


  3.  Pastors aren't the final authority, Jesus is.

  In John 5, Jesus says  "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man."
  Sometimes preachers repeat things they hear other preachers say, and  as a consequence, I've heard more than one man make a statement to the effect that if God ever spoke to you audibly, He would sound like your pastor. That is a ridiculous and scripturally indefensible statement.  Plus its a little weird. I mean, do you really think God would condescend to sound like you?
  Mr. Pastor, your opinions, preferences and convictions are absolutely meaningless in the light of scripture, as are mine.  God wrote down how he wants things done, and if you exceed those provisions regardless of your intentions, you are , as the saying goes 'off the reservation'. 
  Keep in mind that the people sometimes make it very easy for this line to be crossed. when you have a congregation that doesn't read the Bible for themselves, and doesn't pray for themselves, they rely heavily upon you.  That's no excuse.  The Bible says "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." You sir, are nothing, just like me.

4. Pastors are not above  rebuke or correction 

 "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits." (Romans 12:10-16)
  Romans 12 presents the model of a group of people laboring together as equals, under the same head, taking direction from the same Shepherd, fulfilling their role in the body of Christ.  Does that sound like your ministry, Mr. Pastor?  Or are you above the people, above rebuke, and above correction?
  I heard a pastor say once "The sheep don't correct the shepherd". He was referring to himself as the shepherd, obviously. I've heard men say that pastors can only be corrected by other pastors.  That's an interesting way to  divide up the body of Christ. In fact, it sound like the doctrine of the Nicolaitans to me.
  If you are in the wrong, any brother in Christ ought to be able to take a Bible and present you with the scriptures in regards to this matter. They should do so in a scriptural manner.  After all, just a bit earlier in Roman 12, Paul writes "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." Your office does not put you above anyone else, and it certainly doesn't make you infallible..

5. Pastors have a very specific job description.

 "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 1 Tim 4:12
  There is so much in that one verse, and you could delve into all of that for weeks, but the core of it is this; be an example. That is your job.  People being what they are, they need a visible physical example in front of them. If you know the Bible says we are all to love the brethren, then you need to be an example of that. If the Bible says we all need to be humble and prefer others above ourselves, then you cannot be an example of that if you  strut around telling everybody how much closer to God you are than them.  If the Bible says we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel, you are to be an example of that. If the Bible says we are to study to shew ourselves approved unto God, you ought to be the example of that.  You are to be an example of what everybody in the body of Christ should be doing all the time anyway.

 6. Pastors have less in common with Moses than they think 

  I wish I had a nickel for every virtually identical sermon I've heard preached out of Exodus 17.  It's always presented the same way; I, the pastor have a really hard job, and you, the congregation are supposed to some along and hold up my arms while I labor, lest we lose the battle.  I've even seen men bring their deacons or whatnot up on the platform to  hold up their arms while they preach with a  broomstick or rod in their hand.  It's a cute application, and it's a visual way to reinforce people's loyalty to you, but that's not what's going on in that text.
  Everybody forgets about Joshua when they read that story.  While Aaron and Hur were up on the mountain with Moses, Joshua was down fighting the battle, and the Bible calls Joshua Moses' "minister".  If you're anybody in that story, you ought to be Joshua, and Joshua wasn't on the mountain; Joshua was down laboring alongside the common soldier.
  The tendency to want to be Moses in the story, I think, has to do with pride. After all, reasons the proud pastor, I go into the presence of God, and bring the word of God down from the mountain and present it to the people.  I labor night and day for the people. I intercede on their behalf to God. Well, umm..thanks.  But you still don't get to be Moses. The battle has already been won, and we're not counting on you standing there with a broomstick for this to work out.  Just a little perspective, Mr. Pastor.
  The 'church in the wilderness' was, for the most part, a one-man show, and I understand the parallels because people are still people.  But if your New Testament assembly  resembles an Old Testament theocracy, then we may have larger problems.
Take a deep breath.
We're all friends here.

7. They arent you're people, they are God's people

 1 Cor 7 says "For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men."
You would think that, since you're not the head, and you're not the shepherd, that this one would be obvious. But once again, I have seen many a man  behind a pulpit proclaim that the people in the crowd are "my sheep" and he sees himself as the man who decides where and on what the sheep will graze.  He sees himself as holding the rod of correction. I have seen men be convinced of a certain truth from the scriptures, but decide to withold that truth from "my people' because after all 'they can't handle it'. And who decides that? Why, the shepherd, of course!
 
8. We are all on the same team. 

Paul starts out Ephesians 4 saying "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."  This is crucial. We really are all on the same side.
  I've been in church a long time, and I know how church folk can be.  As the 'face' of the ministry, the pastor and his family can live a life of isolation even among the brethren, but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn't be. That's not normal Christianity.
  Another red flag is an 'us vs them' mentality.  If you find yourself regarding every difference of opinion as a foe to be  conquered, you are drifting out of scriptural waters.  If you feel you have to keep your distance from the brethren because after all 'familiarity breeds contempt', then you do not understand the idea of unity of the Spirit of God.
 Look at Phillipians 1; "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." See the order? Saints, bishops and deacons, all working and laboring together, and being addressed by the man who wrote most of the New testament who simply calls himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ". Would to God we would all have that attitude!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Matthew 24 is Not the Rapture of The Church



  As I've said before, it's hip to be post-trib these days and if you discuss the scriptures with a post-tribber , invariably you will find yourself in Matthew 24. For someone who is post-trib ( or if you prefer, pre-wrath)  Matthew 24 is the 'proof text' that unequivocally spells out the timing of the great catching away promised to the church.  The only problem is that Matthew 24 does nothing of the kind, and is instead the future description of an entirely separate event happening to an entirely separate group of people.  Let me explain.
  There is a very basic rule in Bible study that goes like this; things that are different are not the same.  In fact, life itself is chock-full of things that are similar, but different. A cat has  fur like a dog, four legs like a dog , and is kept as a pet like a dog, but is not a dog. It is the differences that are significant, not the similarities.  The same is true in Bible study, and it doesn't take a great intellect to recognize the differences between Matt 24 and 1 Cor 15,/1 Thess 4; it merely take a side-by-side comparison.




1. Living or dead?

   This is probably my weakest point. I reasoned within myself that I would put it out there first to save lazy people the trouble of reading the entire article before they dismiss me.
  But first, the issue. In 1 Cor 15, the Bible says , starting in verse 51 "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." I Thess 4 says, beginning at verse 13 "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep."  From these two passages something becomes very clear; dead saved people and living saved people will be raised up as a future event, with the dead being raised first.
  Now take a look at Mathew 24. Verse 31 says "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Now we'll be taking a deeper look at verse 31 later on, but jumping down to verse 40, we read "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." A parallel passage in Luke 17 mentions also "I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left."  Taking these verses at face value, we see that, at the  time of this future event there will be people working in the field, people working at the mill, and people in bed.  So my question to you is this; where are all the dead people in Matthew 24? Or Mark 13? Or Luke 17?
  Now if your response is "Just because they aren't mentioned doesn't mean they aren't there", then I will acknowledge the point. Of course, if that was my only point, then this would be a much shorter article.  In the meantime, just tuck it away in your brain that there are no dead people in Matt 24 , and we'll move on.





2. Who is the source of the 'trump'?

Returning to 1 Cor 15, we see in verse 52 "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Verse 16 in 1 Thess 4 says "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:"  Once again, something is happening and it is very clearly explained. The Lord himself will descend, and he will have as his possession with him a "shout", "the voice of the archangel" and "the trump of God". All 3 of these sources of communication are related to his voice.  Cross reference Rev 1 and Rev 4 and you will see that the voice of Jesus Christ sounds like a trumpet, so it's possible that all 3 of the things listed in 1 Thess 4 are the same thing, but regardless of whether they are one thing or three things, the Lord Jesus Christ is the possessor of all 3, and the originator of all 3.
  Now we run back to Matthew 24, where verse 31 tells us "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." In Matthew 24, Jesus isn't the one blowing the trumpet.  Now I will  acknowledge that, grammatically, the case could be made that the trumpet is blown by Jesus, and it's the trumpet that dispatches the angels.  Even so you wind up with an interesting quandary in that the Matt 24 trump dispatches the angels while the 1 Thess 4 trump directly raises the dead.  
  I submit to you that these two trumps accomplish two different things because they are two different trumps and are heralding two different events. 





3. Who is gathering people up?

  Taking yet another look at 1 Thess 4, we see "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." These verses are, as the saying goes, hard to believe but easy to understand.  Jesus Christ is returning in person for his church, and He will gather them up in a resurrection, with the dead rising first. We will go from whatever state we are in to being with Jesus, with no intermediary process mentioned in the verses. We find the same events and same sequence of events  mentioned in 1 Cor 15 which says "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Both verses lay out the personal, intimate involvement of the Lord Jesus Christ in the resurrection of the saved.
  Matthew 24 lays out a very similar scenario, but with a key difference. Verse 30 begins "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."  In Matthew, the ones caught up aren't summoned up directly by the Lord Jesus Christ; they are gathered up by angels.  The 'gathering' in 1 Cor 15 and the 'taking' in Matt 24 are accomplished by two different methods because they are two different events.





 
4. What happens to the evil servant?


Tucked away at the very end of Matthew 24 are two men; the wise servant and the evil servant. Starting in verse 44, it says "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  
  I must admit, I don't have a whole lot of insight into who these men are supposed to typify. The wise servant has been put over the lord's household (past tense) and  is promised more authority upon his lord's return, which is interesting.  But if this wise servant is supposed to be a Christian, then who is he in charge of?  He is in charge of a household, but it can't be the household of faith in Galatians 6 or else some Christians would be in charge of other Christians, and that doesn't appear anywhere else in scripture.  Now we could be just silly and make the wise servant a pastor or something, but there's just not enough there to make the case, plus you run afoul of other scriptures.  So although I cannot determine who the wise servant is, I think the case can be made for who he is not; he is not the church collectively or individuals within the church.
  Of course the case of identity becomes even more problematic when you get to the evil servant. He can't be a lost man because he's a servant, albeit an evil one. Mark's gospel also seems to indicate that both servants enjoyed some authority, saying "For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch." He has access to other servants, and he beats them because he has convinced himself that his lord is not coming for quite some time. This evil servant , by all indicators , dies and goes to hell because he wasn't prepared for his lords return.
  Now I am saved, and eternally secure in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been made bone of his bone. I'm a joint heir with Jesus, and I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. He who cannot lie has promised that he will never leave me nor forsake me. I literally cannot go to hell, and even if I forgot the rapture or was never taught the rapture or neglected teachings on the rapture , I still cannot go to hell.  Ergo, whoever the evil servant is, he isn't me, and if you're saved he isn't you.
  If Matthew 24 is about the church going through the tribulation, then who are these servants, and why can't we make them match up to anything that we know to be true about the church of the living God?  Wouldn't it make more sense that these two servants typify some other group that experiences some other event that is not the catching away of the church?



5. Wheat and Tares?

  We have established in previous points that, in both 1 Cor 15 and 1 Thess 4, the dead rise first. With that in mind, take a look at Matthew 13, another rapture-ish event. The Bible says "Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.  So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
 Jesus explains later on that the reapers are angels and that the harvest is the end of the world, which seems to make it run parallel to Matthew 24.  If that's true, then in Matthew 13, the lost are typified by the tares, and the tares are gathered first. Interesting, isn't it? 



6. The fig tree?
  
  In the middle of a discourse (according to post-tribbers) on how the body of Christ will go through the tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ makes an interesting comment.  He says in Matt 24:32-33
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors." I won't waste your time or mine using these verses to set some sort of 'date' for the blessed hope. Smarter men than I have fallen into that trap already, and there is no reason to compound their errors with my own. Suffice to say that in all of Jesus's parables, everything in the parable stands for something else.  What does the fig tree stand for?
  Well, by comparing scripture with scripture, we learn that the 'fig tree' stands for the Hebrew people.  It's worth a study in and of itself, but the connection always seems to be a reference to Israel dwelling safely and prosperously in the land God gave to their fathers. Examples of this are found in Deut 8, Judges 9, 1 Kings 4, Psalm 105, Song of Solomon 2, Jeremiah 5, Jeremiah 24, Hosea 2, Joel 1, Micah 4, Zechariah 3, and Matthew 21, among other places. 
  Why, if Matthew 24 is the rapture of the church, would Jesus interrupt himself with a seemingly unconnected comment about Israel before he launched back into a warning to the church?  I mean, I know I get off track and make unrelated comments while I'm preaching, but I assume Jesus doesn't have that problem.  I suppose we could  reverse-engineer our theology, making the church and Israel synonymous, but that would be just sloppy handling of the scriptures.
  I offer as a much simpler, and more coherent explanation this missive; Jesus isn't interrupting Himself, he is continuing a thought directed towards the same group of people, and that group of people is not the church.

  Now, I don't expect my post-trib brethren to be able to address or explain every little jot and tittle of what I've covered here, because frankly, neither can I.  The whole story isn't contained in these three chapters, nor should anyone claim that it is.  Some post-tribbers have some interesting takes on some of the outlying issues in all this, and as I told a friend of mine; "This is the biggest puzzle in the world, and I'm not sure that anybody has all the pieces.". But  there are glaring differences between the events in Matthew 24  and the events in 1 Cor 15/1 Thess 4.  I think those differences are both significant and fundamental in nature. If we fail to acknowledge these differences,  we set ourselves up for a whole slew of faulty conclusions and extrapolations going forward.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What I Would Have Preached at the Burlington Revival

(Note: I was not invited to the 11 week revival in Burlington NC orchestrated by C.T. Townsend, though I am personally acquainted with most of the principle players that were there. Believe it or not, I'm not bothered by that in the least. Many of the men involved in that event I happen to like personally, however much I may disagree with their methods. I have no reason to question their motives, and I am not mad at them.  My phone did not ring, nor did I expect it to. There is a reason I call this blog 'Outside the Camp', after all.  But had I been brought in as a speaker, this is what I would have said.)

Photo from the Burlington revival Facebook page


  Good evening.  I appreciate the chance to  share some things with y'all tonight.  This meeting has been going on for some time now, and some pretty amazing things have been said about it.. I thank God for how God has dealt with people's hearts in what  has been dubbed 'The Burlington Revival'. 
  What's interesting to me is that while we use the term 'revival', we don't have a very unified  definition of what revival is, or much of an agreement on what it looks like.  The word 'revival' isn't in the Bible, but the word 'Bible' isn't in the Bible, either. Some would say that 'revival' means people are getting saved, and that's certainly a blessing.  Some would say that 'revival' means that saved people are getting excited, and I'm a big fan of excitement, and zeal.  But since we don't have a clear biblical definition of revival, or even any real biblical examples of it, all of these definitions might be true, and none of them might be true. In fact, in the absence of any clear definition from the Bible, my definition is just as valid as yours.  Here's my definition then: 'revival is acknowledging what's wrong, and fixing it'.
  I got saved as a result of the ministry work of an independent Baptist church. I was discipled by independents, and I have to say, for better for worse, that's my crowd.  I know not everybody here is of that flavor, and that's fine.  If you're saved, then I am your brother in Christ, and you are stuck with me. Y'all are my family, and I speak to you as a member of that family.  But since so many of the people here are independents, and that's the crowd I am most intimately familiar with, I think we owe it to ourselves , in the midst of all the excitement, to be honest, and talk about what's wrong with our crowd. We do that so that we can fix it. We do that so that we can honestly and sincerely seek God's help.  The independents arose because a group of men and women saw the erroneous drift of mainstream Christianity and sought to separate themselves from it so that they might live lives pleasing to God. That is our heritage, and we are their legacy.  But brethren, we are messing this thing up 9 ways to Sunday. We owe it to our forefathers, and we owe it to the body of Christ, and we owe it to our Saviour, to fix it, even if it means we rip out what we've been doing, and start over.
  Hopefully you brought your Bible to church with you tonight, and if you did, turn to 1 Corinthians 3. The Bible says, starting in verse one, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" The biblical definition of carnality is being unable or unwilling to get along with other Christians, and my brothers, we are thick with it.
  Now let me cut some of you off at the pass. Biblical separation from erring brethren is a legitimate thing, and that certainly deserves a message all by itself, but that's not what we're talking about. I'm talking about the infighting and the bickering and the division that marks the independent Baptist crowd in the year 2016. I'm talking about how the Hyles crowd doesn't get along with the BJU crowd, and the PCC crowd doesn't fellowship with the PBI crowd. I'm talking about how good men slander and snub their brothers in Christ and , depending what crowd you fall in with, there is a tendency to reflect that prejudice even if you don't know what the issue is, or was.  Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. No seriously, I bought a t-shirt while I was there.
  We made a trip to Pensacola years ago, and I had never been to PCC.  That's because I was heavily influenced by Dr. Ruckman, and I had heard him lambast them for years as this  horribly liberal and apostate place. But we were in town and my wife wanted to check out the bookstore. I'm telling you, based on  my pre-conceived carnal notion, I expected everything just short of rock music and mini- skirts.  My notion was wrong.  Yes , PCC has taken some stands that I disagree with.  Yes, I think they are wrong in some areas.  But the Bible says "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."  A lot of our separation isn't Biblical, its fleshy wicked carnality, and we need to repent of it.
  Turn to Romans 15.  In verse 4 it says "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."  I'm going to say this as  nicely as I know how; as a group, our biblical ignorance is embarrassing.  We spend an inordinate amount of time strutting and crowing about our precious King James bible, and scant time reading it, meditating on it, or preaching it. You men here that preach, please let me admonish you as a brother.  There is a difference between preaching the Bible and merely using the Bible while you preach. If your messages are a mile wide, and an inch deep, you should repent. If the people you are preaching to aren't either learning something new about God or being reminded of something they already knew about God, you are wasting everyone's time, and should repent.  I speak as one who has wasted peoples time, and as one who has had his time wasted.
  The scriptures are sufficient in themselves. We say that, and then we use them as a launching pad to project our own issues onto God's people. The preaching that goes on in MOST independent Baptist circles is a reproach to the term.  I could give you example after example of messages I've sat through that were no more messages from God than they were messages from Kermit the Frog.  The root of that is laziness. We are biblically lazy.  It's hard to preach correctly. It's hard to expound on a subject and give a balanced treatment from the scriptures, week after week, month after month, year after year. But it must be done.
  I've said this before, that I think sometimes, in some areas, those of us that got saved as adults have a certain advantage. We have issues, and baggage, but we also have advantages.  You see, when I got saved, I just assumed that everybody that was already saved knew all this Bible stuff, and that I was behind the curve. I felt like all these church kids were ahead of me, if that makes any sense, and that I had to work extra hard to catch up. So I read my Bible over and over again. I sucked up  all the teaching I could find.  It was years before I realized most church kids don't know any Bible, and all indicators are they are ok with that. Some of the blame for that must rest on the pastors of our churches, but some of that blame rests with the rest of us.
  Church member, your pastor is not your priest. You need to read your Bible on your own, for yourself.   You're not a baby anymore, feed yourself.  You don't need to go to the next camp-meeting or gospel sing as badly as you need to read your Bible. You don't even need preaching as badly as you need Bible. If you have been saved 3 or 4 years and you still haven't read your Bible all the way through, what's the hold up?  Be a grown-up Christian, and fix it!
  Ok, take a look at 1 Timothy 3, starting at verse 1."This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things."   In case you were wondering, 1 Timothy 3 is one of the reasons I'm not a pastor, and my hat is off to the men who day-in and day-out live 1 Timothy 3. I think you really are worthy of "double honor" like the Bible says.  I also think you are very very rare.
 But back to the passage. There is frankly, a ton in these verses, more than we have time to accurately expound, so let's zero in on this. The bishop is supposed to be an example , according to 1 Timothy 4, so the things that God requires of them God also requires of everybody else.  The bishop is supposed to be "grave" and "sober".  His children are supposed to be "in subjection with all gravity".  His wife is supposed to be "grave"  and  "sober" and "faithful".
  If all that's true, then where do we get this weepy,  flaky, emotionally-driven Christianity so common in our circles?  Where did we get the notion  that running, shouting, screaming, wailing, etc..are the marks of the Holy Spirit?  The mark of the Holy Spirit, according to the Bible at least, is self-control, and sobriety.  I'm all for happiness, and I'm all for zeal, but what we are seeing more and more often in our camp-meetings and revival meetings and tent meetings is absolute foolishness.  You may not like me very much, and I might even be inclined to agree with you, but you cannot take a Bible and justify any of that.
  Hey, look up here. I get it that you're mad.  But we need to fix this.  We're supposed to be the ones that have the truth. We need to stop acting like clowns.
 1 Corinthians 10 is our next stop. The Bible says, in verse 13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.  Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." Now think about this for a minute. The Holy Spirit is talking to saved, blood-washed church folks about temptations that are common to man, and  the first one he mentions is idolatry. You see, most of us don't connect those two verses, but there's a 'wherefore' right there at the beginning of verse 4.  Idolatry. Interesting, isn't it?
  We know from Colossians 3 that covetousness is idolatry, and we know that  idolatry is listed in a pretty ugly list in Galatians 5. We know that some of the things that the nation of Israel did in the wilderness are called idolatry, including rising up to play.  Part of idolatry is doing things your way instead of God's way.  Part of idolatry is putting your desires above God's desires. I heard a man say once that we were guilty of 'worshiping the worship". You could do a whole study on that, which we won't, but let me just throw this out there; in our circles, we worship our emotions, and our experiences and our traditions, and our heroes, living or dead. We elevate them higher than they deserve, and they become the standard, instead of the Bible. I'm just going to leave that there for the  two or three of you that aren't mad yet to think about.
  My last point is found in Mark 16, verse 15, which should be very familiar to you. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." One of the things that my crowd, and your crowd needs to fix is we do not, as a group, practice biblical evangelism.  Evangelism is not gimmicks. Evangelism is not church inviting. Evangelism is not having deacons swallow goldfish to boost attendance.  Evangelism is not preaching to people who already agree with you. Evangelism is not  an emotional sales job where the choir sings 37 verses of "He Knows My Name" until some weepy church kid hits an altar or hugs his moms neck or something. Biblical evangelism is dealing with lost men and women, on their own turf, about matters of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.
  Their own turf might be the gas station, or on the job, or even in your own house if you have kids.  Lost people deserve a thorough, biblical explanation of the trouble they are in, and how Jesus Christ is the solution. The Bible calls that gospel "glorious".  God gave a knucklehead like you something glorious. We literally have the cure for death, and we handle it so sloppily and so carelessly that we ought to repent of how we conduct the ministry of Jesus Christ.
  We even have men who have taken the title of 'evangelist', and who run around on other peoples dime preaching to people who already agree with them, and they never once preach to a lost person that somebody else hasn't hand-delivered to them. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for what we have turned the ministry into, and for what we've let it become.
  Well, there you go brothers and sisters. A lot of you have driven a  long way, and spent a lot of money to be here. This is my advice. You want revival? Repent of your foolishness. Fix your life, and then go back home to your community and live for Jesus Christ the rest of your days.   Not only would that be revival, in my book, but it might qualify as a miracle.