“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:1-15
The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy not only to give him instructions, but also to encourage him to persevere in the truth in the midst of difficult days where godlessness would run rampant. He gives clear insight to Timothy regarding the evil that would increase, accompanied by the deception of impostors, and persecution of those who would hold to the truth. Paul encourages his young disciple to remain steady and hold firm to the truth of the Scriptures, the sacred writings that Timothy had learned from childhood and come to believe.
Paul reminded Timothy that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
And it’s a good reminder for us as well, especially in a day when the inerrant, infallible, inspired, and authoritative word of God has been attacked not only by those who are hostile to the Christian faith, but even by some within the Church who profess to be followers of Jesus. With progressive Christianity, however, it shouldn’t be shocking since the very label itself (according to those who hold a progressive Christian view) implies that to mature in faith it must be an ever-evolving faith; an enlightened faith as we grow in our understanding that this antiquated book (the Bible), and narrow theology have seen it’s day, and there is a new and much more compassionate faith that has come.
Without a doubt, our faith grows deeper the more we follow Christ in obedience and submit to the authority of His word. However, Christ never progresses or changes, nor does His word. He changes us by the work of His Spirit and the eternal and unchangeable truths of His word, leading to a transformation that is consistent with His word and the character of Christ.
Within the progressive Christianity movement, however, the authority and whole counsel of Scripture does not inform or give form to their beliefs and practices, rather the opposite is true. It’s become clear that lived experiences and feelings take precedence, and are seen as valid in reinterpreting, or even cancelling, the Scriptures. If you can’t accept the truth of Scripture, just cancel it. In other words, if God’s story doesn’t fit the narrative of progressive Christianity, just change it, get rid of it, or excuse it away. That’s what is happening in progressive Christianity, and it is becoming more prevalent within the Church.
But why is it becoming more prevalent? There are several reasons, in my opinion, but for now I’ll give you a couple to think on:
Although I’ve served as a pastor for over 30 years, you don’t have to be a pastor to identify woke-ness within the Church. There are a couple of reasons, in my opinion, why I believe many churches have become woke in these days: 1) they want to give the appearance of being loving and engaged when it comes to trending issues–in other words, virtue signaling. As a caveat, I do believe some are genuinely seeking to be sincere and truly do want to affect change. They want to engage in cultural issues, yet without compromise. They are few and far between, though, from what I’ve witnessed.
But for the woke-church that cares more about virtue signaling, it’s no different than the Pharisee standing on the street corner proclaiming loudly and thanking God that he or she is not like others. 2) they fear being “cancelled” by culture. Here’s what that looks like: a drop in attendance, a lack of giving, and a reduced platform. God forbid you lose Instagram followers or find yourself in Facebook jail for preaching the whole counsel of God’s word. (Disclaimer: I understand and am aware of the argument of building an audience in order to reach more with the message. But let’s be real, truth is what people hunger for today, not pandering.) I don’t think Jesus was concerned much with keeping an audience; He was looking for followers not admirers.
Listen to what Jesus said in the gospel of John: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’ So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, “And they will all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.’ Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’ After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:35-66 That last verse I just read blows up the misguided reasoning of “soften the message to reach the masses.” Jesus is after followers, not admirers.
As a matter of fact, there were several statements Jesus said, and conversations He had, that many today wouldn’t consider loving. Here’s just one example: “As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62
Talk about being unloving. Wow. How insensitive was that? Or, was it? Was this something that Jesus was saying that was actually very loving? (Shameless plug here, but beginning next week I’ll be having a series of podcasts on the Hard Sayings of Jesus.)
In today’s culture, being loving is often equated with not offending. But that’s erroneous thinking. Just ask any responsible parent. Many a child has been offended because a loving parent was willing to appropriately discipline for the good of their child. As a parent, you don’t look for opportunities to offend; quite the contrary. In the same way, we are not to seek to offend, but as the writer of Proverbs reminds us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6.
To not speak the whole truth of Scripture, even when it offends the conscience and penetrates the heart, is the greater offense. And, it certainly isn’t loving.
Would you rather be known for being partly loving or completely loving?
If a train were coming and you were standing on the tracks unaware because you couldn’t hear, since you had your Air pods in on noise cancellation (those things work really well), and you were seeing how many people loved your photo of train tracks you just posted on Instagram, and after yelling at you trying to get your attention with no success, I ran and shoved you off the tracks, would you be upset?
Or would you have rather me stood by the tracks making heart-shaped hand gestures to you, mouthing the words “I love you,” and “I’m here for you,” so as not to interrupt your “me time” on the tracks even though I was aware of the oncoming danger, but you weren’t?
Tragically, there are some who would rather throw up hand-gestures and mouth the words “I love you” rather than risking that someone might be offended because you pushed them off the tracks. After all, that’s the safe way. It’s the non-offensive way. They may not like you for a moment, but maybe when they’re able to make their next Instagram post, they’ll realize you did them a favor because you really did love them enough to push them out of harm’s way. But know this, sometimes you may end up losing your life, so to speak, on the tracks because those you push out of harm’s way may get mad that you shoved them and made them lose their Air pods, never acknowledging that you sacrificed much to help rescue them. If so, what you did wasn’t in vain, because real love is never futile.
I get it. Love does not always call for that type of action. But when it does, love does not stand and watch. Love acts. And I realize that illustrations break down, but hopefully you get the point. Personally, I’m thankful for those who have loved me enough to push me off the tracks in those moments when I was on the tracks. Their shove seemed harsh, and the fall was painful, but I discovered that it gave me another opportunity to breath again and learn not to stand on the tracks.
I love reading about the early church, and long to experience the outpouring of God’s Spirit once again. The Church we read about in Acts wasn’t a woke church; they were an awake church. Without a doubt, they weren’t perfect. But don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Awake churches aren’t perfect; they are fully aware of their imperfection yet willing and desire to submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, as well as to the proclamation of the complete gospel. By that I mean that the gospel is explicit not just in exemplifying love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, but also it’s call to surrender, repentance, pursuing holiness, speaking truth, and suffering for the sake of righteousness.
The early Church leaders like Peter, James, John, Stephen, and others were bold in their proclamation of the scriptures and call to repentance, as much as they were in meeting the needs of others. I’m sure that there were the naysayers, apart from the religious elite, who criticized them for being unloving in what they said. After all, if you speak hard truth and I feel convicted, you’re cancelled. Interesting thing though about those who spoke the bold truth of Scripture in the early Church (which was the Old Testament by the way), and shared the accounts of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection . . . thousands of people were saved and the Church experienced exponential growth. It’s the whole counsel of the truth of Scripture that sets people free, not a revised or cancelled version.
And it’s not just cancelling or revising the scriptures that reveals woke-ness, it’s also avoiding teaching the whole of Scripture through which God’s Spirit speaks and works to lead unbelievers to salvation and believers to be conformed to the image of Christ.
When’s the last time you’ve heard biblical preaching on the wrath of God poured out on sin? Even in reading this, or hearing it, there are probably some who are thinking, “Here we go with the hell-fire-and brimstone teaching.” I would agree that there have been pastors who have used this to scare people into heaven, and some who seem to act as though they like preaching such a message rather than preaching it with a broken heart. However, that is the biblical view of eternal punishment for those who refuse the salvation God graciously offers in Christ. But here’s the point: without a biblical understanding of sin and God’s wrath poured out on sin, grace becomes a cheapened imitation of what grace really is. When we become fully aware of the depravity of our sin and God’s righteous anger towards sin and His grief-filled brokenness over our sin, the gospel of God’s grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation are better and more fully understood. Actually, it’s overwhelming. It is then that we begin to see the worth and greatness of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. When our eyes open to that truth, our response is worship.
With progressive Christianity, to speak of the wrath of God and eternal punishment in a literal Hell is too offensive. In their mind, the God they want and seek to create would never be wrathful or so unloving that He would banish people to Hell. However, in denying such justice, which God not only demands but will also execute, progressive Christians contradict their own ideological construct of social justice, which is really not justice at all. Again, they deny the whole counsel of God’s word to satisfy their woke and flawed theology, and sadly they miss that it was on the cross where Jesus willingly laid down His life, substituting Himself on our behalf, that justice and mercy kissed.
We need awake churches, led by shepherding pastors and spiritual leaders, that will be courageous enough to say as Peter and John did, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19:20
But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe there are too few who are seeing what God is doing and hearing what He is saying. Could it be that we have been leaning in and listening more closely to the culture-speak, rather than leaning into God’s word and listening to what God is saying? Maybe we need to take the counsel Jesus gave to the churches in Revelation when He said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Pray for your pastors and other pastors around the world, that they would unashamedly and boldly preach and teach that all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Pray for God to let the truth of His word be like fire in their bones. Pray that their eyes would be open to the enemy’s schemes and his lies. Pray that they would be courageous and not fearful. Pray that they would have a love for God’s word. Pray that they would seek God daily in prayer. Pray that God would deliver them from the temptations of the evil one. And pray for your church, and churches around the world, to awaken to the truth of the Scriptures and hear what the Spirit of God is saying.
I’m going to go ahead and say this: Too many are accepting as truth what is posted on social media, and preached in pulpits without “examining the Scriptures,” as the Bereans did in Acts 17, to “see if these things were so.” That, my friends, is apathy that leads to spiritual atrophy.
That’s like going to the gym to work out, asking someone to lift weights for you, and you expecting to receive the reward of being physically fit. It doesn’t work that way. I know many of us wish it did. Or, maybe a better analogy, asking someone to study for your final for you while you watch Netflix, and believing that their efforts will somehow translate into you acing the test. Not happening. Although you may not be in school and facing exams any more, there’s a pop quiz everyday in life and knowing the truth of God’s word is essential if you want to know the answers.
Some will say, I’m sure, that it’s more about practically living out your faith. And to that I say, “Amen!” But you can’t practically live out what you practically don’t know. Knowledge without practice leads to a weak faith. Practice without knowledge leads to a woke faith.
According to the State of the Bible 2020 report released by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society, U.S. adults who say they read the Bible daily dropped from 14% to 9% between early 2019 and 2020.
The study also revealed that the proportion of Americans who read the Bible daily also fell to fewer than one in 10 (9%), the lowest number on record during the 10 years of the State of the Bible research study.
The truth is, though, I don’t know that we need a study to tell us this. And although it sounds simple, if you don’t read God’s word you won’t know God’s word. The number of those who profess to be Christians who are abandoning a biblical worldview for a worldview that is more progressive is becoming glaringly clear.
When it comes to the Scriptures, it has become normative for those who do not agree with the biblical text to redefine it, reframe it, create a new narrative, or just cancel it altogether. Rather than taking the Old Testament and New Testament as the whole story of God that has been given to us through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the scriptures have become categorized into what is relevant for today, and what is deemed not relevant. Often those categorizations are driven by lived experiences and feelings rather than what is true biblically.
Let me share just a couple of examples that have conveniently been redefined as political issues, when in fact they are biblical issues, and foundational at that. (See Genesis 1-2)
Sanctity of Life
Is God’s word clear about the sanctity of human life? Absolutely it is. There is no ambiguity with God on this. Every person has been created in the image of God, which means every person has a sense of purpose, value, and identity that is God given, not contrived by man. Because this is true, to take the life of a pre-born child is nothing less than taking the life of an image-bearer of God. For one who professes to be a follower of Jesus, yet justify that abortion is acceptable is to go against the very nature and design of God. There is no justification, only an errant distortion of God’s word. Although the argument is sought to be made that this is an issue of healthcare for women, ultimately it is not. What about the health of the child? Recently the Biden administration, and all but three Democrats, blocked The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act which would have required that “any health care practitioner present” at the time of a birth “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.” In other words, a baby who survives an abortion procedure can be denied medical care to insure the child can live. So much for many progressive Christians pseudo-compassionate belief that “pro-life” is about womb to tomb. (Note: For more on this issue and what Scripture teaches, you can listen to my podcast, “The Fallacious Argument of ‘From Womb to Tomb’”) Scripture is clear, but when there is a lack of knowledge and when God’s word is redefined, reimagined, and removed, as it is in progressive Christianity, the people perish. (Hosea 4:6)
I do want to say, though, for anyone who has experienced the pain of going through this, or a father who has participated in the decision regarding abortion, although there are consequences that come with all sinful choices, God is a merciful and gracious God who is willing to forgive and take away the guilt and shame, because of what Christ has done for us on the cross. If you’re carrying that, I sincerely pray you will turn to Jesus and find healing in His forgiveness and love for you.
Is God’s design for marriage to be between a man and a woman? According to God’s word, absolutely. Once again, there is nothing vague about what God is saying in the scriptures. Listen to what is written to us in Genesis 2: “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him . . . So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:18, 21-25
As with progressive Christianity, there have been numerous attempts to try and justify same-sex relationships and marriage often at the expense of very poor and errant hermeneutics. Yet, not only was God clear in what was written in the Old Testament, Jesus was clear about it as well when He quoted the Old Testament regarding marriage between a man and a woman. Again, Scripture is very clear. For a professing believer, this should not be an unsettled issue as it pertains to what God’s word says and right belief.
These are just two examples that have become controversial issues, not only within our culture (although they seem to be widely accepted), but also within the Church. And even though they should be discussed, and conversations should be had, these should not be controversial as to what God’s word says and where we should stand.
The bottom line is simply this: either you believe that the word of God is God’s word given to us, or you don’t. There is no middle ground. The Scriptures aren’t like a buffet at Denny’s, where you can choose what you like, and leave out what you don’t like. That’s the dietary plan, so to speak, of progressive Christianity, and it’s never satisfying.
All Scripture is God-breathed, even Leviticus, which means that all of God’s word matters and is relevant as much for today as when it was given, or as it will ever be.
And it means that, regardless of what progressive Christianity falsely teaches, God’s word can never be cancelled.