I had an “aha” moment as I read a chapter from JI Packer’s “Knowing God“.
Salvation comes, not as someone comes to “accept Christ”, but rather as someone comes to be accepted by Him.
This turns on its head a lot of our evangelism training by showing our need for being accepted, rather than being in a position to accept Him.
That may not seem like much to you, but it was eye-opening to me just now.
Recently on Facebook, a longtime friend posted a rebuke of Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life.
“Hey, Rick – “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” 2 Cor 6:14-15” She linked to http://www.ocregister.com/articles/muslims-341669-warren-saddleback.html, written by a secular journalist, which appears say that Rick Warren believes Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. The same day, someone else linked to the same article, requesting my feedback.
My longtime friend added in her next comment, “And what is so flagrantly missing from this article? That’s right… ANY mention of the Lord Jesus Christ.”. A mutual friend posted a link from Ed Stetzer (https://www.edstetzer.com/2012/03/rick-warren-interview-on-musli.html), which I “liked”. In that article, Warren himself clearly expresses his view that Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same God. The first friend responded,
“Thanks for popping in and also for the link. Say, for instance, that I were to concede that everything RW says in this *particular* article is true, unfortunately, there remains more than enough evidence to indict him on this and other counts. He has proven over and over again that he is quite the chameleon when it comes to what he believes. For example, when he was interviewed by John Piper, one would have thought he was an original reformer the way he waxed on so eloquently about reformed theology, Calvin, etc.”
After several more paragraphs, she concluded,
“RW is a wolf. He may be the nicest of men, but he is a false teacher. Wolves don’t blast in wearing red and carrying a pitchfork; they rise up from among us, and they creep in unaware. If he truly “loved Jesus” then He would be about the business of unashamedly preaching Christ crucified.”
The next day, she “mentioned” our mutual friend and me, requesting a response. She noted, “as ministers of the gospel, there is no way you should be supporting RW in any way, shape or form.”
For almost a week, I have pondered how I would respond, if at all, as Rick Warren’s name has come up before with this friend. Several months ago, I stated that I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Warren has said, but that he does have some very good things to say, which I often Tweet and post on Facebook. He has been instrumental in bringing more lost souls to Jesus than I probably ever will. (Phil 1:18)
Here is my response (and it has little to do with Rick Warren or any other specific pastor/teacher):
I have grieved as I have read the tone of your posts on Facebook. It is vitally important to expose heretical theology and unhealthy emphases in the church, as well as those who propagate them. If we hold the Bible to be our rulebook, we must deal with things biblically. There is a time, place, and manner to deal with these things. Facebook (and the blogosphere) is not one of them. But since you have opened the conversation in this environment, I feel that I must respond in turn.
In every instance in the Bible where church discipline is mentioned, the context is the local church. In a previous e-dialogue, I pointed out that Rick Warren is subject to the leadership at Saddleback and that you should take up your concerns with the elders there. Granted, times have changed and we no longer have an overall structure, as in the book of Acts, to deal with discipline, therefore we need to find new ways of application. But it should still start and end in the local church.
Biblical Church discipline will always have redemption as its goal. Now, I qualified my previous sentence with the word “Biblical” because most “church discipline” I have seen has been far from redemptive. The tone of all of your remarks about Rick Warren has consistently been punitive and downright hateful.
Unfortunately, Christians who hold to a “reformed” theology have a reputation for being prideful, mean and hateful. Your accusations and comments are exhibitive.
Yes, we should speak the truth, but we should speak it in love (Eph 4:15). Everything we say should be for the purpose of building up one another (Eph 4:29). Our conversation is to be full of grace (Col 4:6). We should always be ready to tell other people about our Hope with gentleness and respect (1Pet 3:15). Finally, it must be noted that love is the distinguishing mark of a disciple of Jesus (John 13:35), not espousing a correct theology or insisting on using any type of shibboleth.
Whether or not Rick Warren, or any other pastor/teacher, is being “heretical”, we must deal with such issues in the proper time, place, and manner. Airing our dirty laundry in a hateful manner in view of the world does nothing to further the Kingdom Cause. God is not glorified in that.
Perhaps we (all of us) should spend more time praying for those with whom we differ as opposed to Facebooking and blogging about them. In that, God would be most glorified.
Respectfully in Christian love,
Don’t rest on past reading. Read your Bible more and more every year. Read it whether you feel like reading it or not. And pray without ceasing that the joy return and pleasures increase.
Three reasons this is not legalism:
- You are confessing your lack of desire as sin, and pleading as a helpless child for the desire you long to have. Legalists don’t cry like that. They strut.
- You are reading out of desperation for the effects of this heavenly medicine. Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, can cure this terminal disease.
- It is not legalism because only justified people can see the preciousness and power of the Word of God. Legalists trudge with their Bibles on the path toward justification. Saints sit down in the shade of the cross and plead for the blood-bought pleasures.
So lets give heed to Mr. Ryle and never grow weary of the slow, steady, growth that comes from the daily, disciplined, increasing, love affair with reading the Bible.
Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time they are being produced.
Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading. (J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 136)
In Judges 17, we come across a young man named Micah. Micah’s name means, “Who is like God”. But Micah isn’t much like God. He steals silver from his mother and then when he ‘fesses up, his mother dedicates some of the silver for Micah to make into two idols. Micah hires out a Levite to be a father-figure and priest for his private shrine. He is convinced that God is pleased and will prosper him for having a Levite for a priest.
But is it?
Two things emerge as noteworthy.
1. A “man of God” allows himself to be bought to aid in someone’s sin.
2. A “believer” feels that God will bless him in his sin because he has a good luck charm in having a “man of God” assisting him.
A few questions:
What would cause a “man of God” to compromise his integrity and his calling? Perhaps he was burned out from the work of ministry. Perhaps he had been terminated from his previous position. Regardless, here was a man who needed work and Micah offered him a regular paycheck.
How could someone knowingly run headlong into sin, expecting God’s blessing?
In answering both of these questions, let me just say that it happens every day in the Twenty-first Century for the same reasons. As Solomon wisely said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
People see their vocation simply as an occupation rather than a calling. Since it’s merely a means to the end of putting food on the table, they don’t see anything wrong with using their God-given abilities to make a quick buck. The sad thing is that it is worse when the vocation is “ministry”.
As a case in point, in my lifetime we have seen an agenda emerge from a minority group in our society. We were told that 10% of our population is “gay”. Because we bought this lie, we were told that we needed to tolerate their existence. Next we were told that we needed to accept their lifestyle as normative. Currently, we are being told that we need to endorse homosexual unions by changing the centuries-held definition of marriage and promote adoption of children by these “loving couples”. After all, we are told, orphans are better off being raised by a loving homosexual couple than a dysfunctional heterosexual couple. The implication is that there are few non-dysfunctional heterosexual couples, and that because they have had to overcome society’s intolerances, homosexual couples are more committed in their love for each other. Some of the most outspoken supporters of “gay marriage” are members of the clergy in mainline denominations like the United Methodists and Episcopalians. These denominations have been rocked by division as they have begun ordaining/endorsing clergy who live openly as homosexuals. Somehow, homosexuals expect God’s blessing by having members of the clergy assisting in their pursuits toward legitimacy of sin. Like I said, Solomon was right: nothing is new. We just change the words.
People try to manipulate God all the time in an attempt to get His blessing. They would probably deny it, but people frequently try to make deals with God. “God, I’ll go to church, read my Bible, go to the mission field, etc. if You will bail me out, answer my prayer, etc.” And how much of this deal-making actually involves an expectation of God’s blessing of sin?
According to Joshua 1:9-11, God’s blessing comes through obedience to His written Word. So how can people expect God blessing when they actively oppose what is clearly taught in the Bible?
Application: In what areas are you compromising your integrity and calling? What lies have you believed? In what ways are you attempting to make deals with God?
There is grace, forgiveness, and blessing as we submit ourselves in obedience to God. And having experienced God’s grace, forgiveness and blessing, we can — and should — extend grace and forgiveness to others who live in disobedience, helping them to line up their lives with God’s plumb line.
We come to Acts 15 and find a group of believers who felt that grace wasn’t enough to save someone. They said that you must be circumcised in order to be saved.
This was a great concern to Paul and Barnabus, as well as the other disciples. After praying about the matter, the apostles decided that grace was enough; the brothers from Judea were wrong in requiring Gentiles to become Jews to be considered Christians.
What do you consider is required to be a “good Christian”? Church attendance? Baptism? Adherence to a code of conduct (prohibition of dancing, drinking, etc.)? Being a member of a particular denomination (or non-denomination)? Holding a particular theological position? Aligning with the teachings of specific group of teachers, preachers, writers, or denominational leaders? Aversion to the teachings of specific group of teachers, preachers, writers, or denominational leaders?
Application: Be careful. Be very careful as you view other believers through your personal preferences. Be careful what labels (“liberal”, “fundamentalist”, and especially “false prophet” and “heretic”) you apply to someone with whom you disagree. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col 4:6 (NIV)