Christian Leaders Who Drift and a God who Never Will…

It’s been a week filled with all kinds of hoopla in Christian blogger-land. I believe the issue is much bigger than the players involved, so I’ll stick to the bare facts for starters. On one side, we have an ultra popular Christian author for (Jen Hatmaker) who came out on her blog in support of traditional marriage last year but has since deleted said post and apparently done some rethinking. She did an interview affirming her support for gay unions, and lamenting the Christian church’s response to them as a whole, not being inclusive enough, etc. Not surprisingly, she got called out. Lifeway dropped her books. Other Christian bloggers countered her arguments. And it takes off from there.  I really want to address the bigger issue of what is happening right now which is the idea of Christian compromise. Is it the crazy election year that seems to have brought all this bubbling to the surface? Perhaps. As the world demands more “tolerance” out of believing Christians, the shake up is inevitable. The days of just drifting by are coming to an end. Christians are either standing up or walking away – those really are the only two choices. Can we stand up for truth and not be hateful? Yes. It’s not up to us if the world receives the message or not, but it is not hateful to disagree, it is sometimes necessary.

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” DA Carson

Like a steady rain shower, the slow but relentless stream of compromise is eroding our very foundations. What started out as well-intentioned tolerance has become full-fledged spiritual dilution. We’ve been told our beliefs are passé at best, hateful and bigoted at worst, so we stop. We quit speaking truth in love. Attacked from every side, we cave. Not because we don’t love God or desire to be a light for Him, we simply don’t value His word above the worlds voice. Period. The truth seems harsh. God’s way is confusing to a world so given over to selfishness and sin. It requires surrender.

I’ve read enough of Jen Hatmakers books and blogs to know that she has a heart to help people who are hurting. She has a magnetic wit and humor and compassion for people that most of us wish we could muster up. Thats a calling.

Here’s the inevitable “but”… When we live man-centered instead of Christ-centered, we are bound to go down the road of compromise. Well-meaning Christians can empathize to the point where they actually take on everyones burden. Instead of walking along side someone and directing them OUT of their sin (through prayer and God’s Word), it’s more acceptable (and easier) to SIT DOWN with them in the midst of it and embrace it for what it is, accepting it and sometimes even celebrating it.

Timothy warned us of this compromise saying many would come who “have the appearance of godliness, but denying it’s power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) People who claim Christ but deny His power to do anything to really help the situation. The logical conclusion to that thinking is to just embrace the sin and compromise your once held beliefs.

This isn’t just about Jen Hatmaker or about the gay rights debate. This is about how we as Christians deal with sin and compromise. It’s increasingly difficult to reconcile what God’s Word says with a world so diametrically opposed to Him. Every time we compromise some of His truth to fit the world’s ever-changing idea of what is acceptable, it gets more fuzzy. Suddenly, here we are. Well-respected Christian authors and leaders jumping ship and changing their tune to the dismay of some, and the relief of others.

When we don’t abide in God’s Word, the world comes to abide inside us, and the world is hostile to Jesus. We drift. We absorb whatever comes at us. We seek out other truths. As crazy as it sounds, we begin to embrace the world’s sin and question whether Jesus really meant what He said.

We don’t need to smooth out the gospel for anyone. We also shouldn’t ever put so much stock in one human beings opinions and writings as to be totally knocked over when/if they stumble.

Perhaps the Jen Hatmaker ‘debacle’ of this week can teach us at least this – we are all human and susceptible to drifting towards all kinds of idolotry when Jesus isn’t in His proper place in our hearts and lives. This world (and modern progressive Christianity) will squeeze us dry if we let it. We must thirst for the Truth and understand that “God does not lower His standards to accommodate us. He will not tolerate a compromise of character” (RC Sproul). Jesus said it is the TRUTH that sets people free, and I think He meant it. Like a plant that isn’t getting enough water or sunlight, we suffocate under compromise and watered-down Christianity.

 

Friends, we are called to be salt and light. Truly knowing God and His character leads us to desire holiness. Real love never rejoices in sin but in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Don’t be rendered passive, church. Compromise can be seen a mile away if we are rooted and grounded in Jesus and His Word. Never allow anyone’s words to have more power over you than those spoken by the One who created you.

Unity at all Costs?

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“You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold ’em

Know when to walk away, know when to run…”

Thanks Kenny Rodgers, this is some wisdom right here. I’m going to tie it in with some Charles Spurgeon, so bear with me here…

The idea of compromising in order to win people to your cause seems pretty relevant today. Prophets turned promoters, teachers whose sole focus is on loving and embracing everything are pretty mainstream these days. Is God really asking us to unite no matter what and avoid division at all costs?

“If good men were all for union and bad men for division, or vice versa, that would simplify things for us. Or if it could be shown that God always unites and the devil always divides it would be easy to find our way around in this confused and confusing world. But that is not how things are. Light and darkness are incompatible; to try to have both in the same place at once is to try the impossible and end by having neither one nor the other, but dimness rather, and obscurity.

Truth is slain to provide a feast to celebrate the marriage of heaven and hell, and all to support a concept of unity which has no basis in the Word of God. When confused sheep start over a cliff the individual sheep can save himself only by separating from the flock. Perfect unity at such a time can only mean total destruction for all. Power lies in the union of things similar and the division of things dissimilar. Maybe what we need today is not more union but some wise and courageous division.” Charles Spurgeon

Unity at any and all costs isn’t Biblical. Unity amongst believers isn’t the same as unity with the world. We are many times warned against it:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

In John 17, Jesus is praying for His disciples and repeatedly acknowledges that “they are in the world” (v.11) but “they are not of the world” just as He is not (v.16) It’s a popular Christian saying, I think there’s even a popular song about being “in it not of it…”. But Jesus follows up this distinction with something pretty important: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (v. 15) He continues by saying that He has actually SENT us INTO the world (v.18).

So we are in the world, but we do not really belong to the world. The danger isn’t our existing here, it’s that we are living side by side with evil. His prayer for us is not that we be plucked out of the world, but that we be kept from the evil one. How is that accomplished?  Discernment.

Spurgeon reminds us that light and darkness cannot “coexist”. We are inhabitants of this world but we are never once asked to conform to it or compromise with it. We are sent to speak the truth in love, but that truth cannot be compromised to please the masses. Promoters are all about publicity,  popularity and pleasing the masses. Disciples bring the truth, regardless of circumstances or how it may be received.

The concept of “shaking the dust off your feet” is given to us by Jesus in Matthew 10 as a way to deal with those who reject the message. It’s ok to fold ’em and walk away. In 1 Timothy we are warned to withdraw ourselves from men who suppose that “godliness is a mans of gain” (v.5). 

If we want to avoid being an offense to the world, we are in the wrong business. The gospel is more often like a surgeons knife than a band-aid. It’s often bitter before it’s sweet. It cuts to the soul and calls all the darkness inside us out to the light. If we cling to His truth and know when to walk away from what is not of Him, we find our sweet spot. Not all unity is blessed – and not all division is bad. Truth makes us grow, while compromise kills.

Lets see what can happen when we let God show us what to hold and what to fold.

The Old Cross and Modern Thought

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“Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.” Charles Spurgeon

“There has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.” AW Tozer, The Old Cross and the New

There’s a noticeable and growing hesitation lately in Christian circles, to take a stand for the truth. A  watering down the true gospel in exchange for something more comfortable and less demanding. Believers are in quite a bind, stuck between a culture that is perpetually offended at the basic beliefs of Christianity and Christians who have tossed aside truth for this “new cross”

Tozer speaks of CONTENT and EMPHASIS. Just think about how this plays out in todays Christian churches or bookstores. The new cross idea makes no demands but as Tozer says “offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better. The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.” 

Yikes.

Read any of the best-selling Christian books lately? Attended any conferences? Is the emphasis on Jesus at all? Our need for Him? Or does it seem like a big bunch of feel good, self-help bumper stickers that tell us to embrace our disastrous selves and love our messy lives?

Life is messy. We are at times, giant disasters. We live in a world given over to sin and selfishness and it gets worse by the day. The answer to all that, the remedy to our sin, is Jesus and what He did for us. It’s not going to be found in this new cross.

My heart breaks to see so many well-intentioned believers (women especially) taken down this dead-end path of almost cult-like adoration for certain books and authors who promote this grey-area discipleship. People want less teaching and more funny stories. Fewer Bible verses, more Bible coloring. Why? Because it’s easier than addressing what’s happening in our hearts or our lives. It’s hip to be a hot mess. While the stories are engaging and often times hilarious, there’s a sense that we all just are supposed to embrace the crappy stuff and hug it out, because this is life. The new cross doesn’t come with much hope.

Jesus said He came to give us LIFE and give it ABUNDANTLY (John 10:10). He never implies the absence of problems, but it does say there’s a way to thrive in spite of them. If you aren’t directing someone to the cross, to Jesus Himself and to the supernatural power of His saving grace and love… where are you directing them to? To themselves? Back to yourself? To your latest book? To the next conference? Those may all be good and useful things, but it’s like feeding a child nothing but candy. Eventually, without any nutrients, they’re going to crash.

Christians following this new cross are heading for a crash. It’s unfulfilling at best, and totally destructive at worst. Tozer writes, “this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. it is false because it is blind. It misses completely the meaning of the cross.”

Content and emphasis. Are we emphasizing staying on good terms with the world? With sin? These are long and winding roads that all lead to a dead end.

Jesus loved without compromising the truth. He taught without modifying the message.  We live in a “sin-mad” world where the truth changes daily. Honestly, I can’t keep up. The new lists of micro-aggressions and trigger-words grow daily. The world’s truth alters constantly. But the Truth with a capital “T” cannot change. That’s why it’s so important for us to feed on more than just candy. Christians must know Jesus for themselves and point others directly to Him. That’s ministry. The fanfare and fluff may be entertaining, but hurting people need Jesus. Period.

“That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it.”

If we want to make a difference, lets start by pointing people to Jesus. We have enough distractions. Someone will always say it better or write it more eloquently. Jesus doesn’t need us to shine Him up or repackage Him. He needs us to be true to the message that has held since time began. That old cross may not be as hip or fashionable these days, but it’s the one that holds the power to transform lives. Rugged and true.