The Seven Statements of Christ from the cross (pt. 3): “Woman, Behold Your son”

As Jesus was on the cross, He made seven statements that are as significant for us today as they were on that Friday He was crucified. In this episode of Crossroads & Culture, we look at the third statement Jesus made, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ (John 19:26-27) As Mary, Jesus’s mother, and John, His disciple, stood at the foot of the cross, what compelled Jesus to make this statement, and what hope did it give them in their darkest moments? And, what hope does it give to us?

The Seven Statements (Part 2): Today you’ll be with me in Paradise

You are not so far gone that you are beyond the reach of God’s great salvation. That was true for the thief on the cross, and it’s true for you and me as well. Because of what Christ has done on the cross, God can take what has been wrecked by the brokenness of sin and do wonders. And that is great news.

In this episode of Crossroads & Culture, you’ll discover that regardless of the life-circumstances you find yourself in, Jesus’s death is a reminder of the hope He offers in life’s darkest moments.  

the seven statements of christ from the cross: finding hope in life’s darkest moments (Part 1)

Jesus had a week that, without a doubt, was the week of all weeks when it comes to facing dark moments. It would involve the joy of a last supper, the pain of betrayal, the rejection of denial, the brutality of scourging, and the suffering of crucifixion. It would leave Him wounded and bruised. Ultimately, He would taste the sting of death. From eternity past He knew what He would face, yet He knew what had to be done.

Enduring the week of all weeks and facing a cross that would be the instrument of His death, Jesus was committed to loving us to the end. If there is anything you can be certain of, it is this: Jesus has loved you to the end that you might know a love that never ends, even in your darkest moments.

That kind of love gives hope, and hope is what we all desperately need.

Life as a christ-follower in Hollywood

If there is one area where followers of Christ need to have more influence, it’s in the entertainment industry of Hollywood.  It’s not easy being a Christ-follower in Hollywood, and staying grounded in your faith.  So, how do those who are in that industry handle the daily challenges and struggles they face in pop culture?     

On this episode of Crossroads & Culture, I sit down with Cole Ewing, who has appeared in several commercials and TV Shows – most notably Disney’s “Lab Rats” & Nickelodeon’s “Bella and the Bulldogs,” and discuss what life is like being a follower of Christ in Hollywood.      

CLARITY OF VISION

Crossroads & Culture Podcast

Be sure to check out and subscribe to the Crossroads & Culture podcast, where I discuss issues relating to life, ministry, and culture. On occasion, I get to have conversations with guests so as to learn from them and their experiences by getting to know their background, struggles, and successes, as well as gain insights that will be helpful for this journey we are all on.

THE EQUALITY ACT: A FUTILE ATTEMPT TO RE-DESIGN THE DESIGN OF GOD (Podcast)

In the Garden, the shrewd and cunning serpent, evil in every way, slithered close enough to whisper, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God . . . “  And they died.

Yesterday, what the enemy whispered in the ears of the governing leaders of the United States House of Representatives has now been loudly boasted throughout the garden of our nation. A new bill, called The Equality Act, was passed by the House Democrats and three Republicans, which would, according to the legislation, eliminate the legal definition of biological sex, acquiesce to non-scientific gender ideology, and vilify defending the unborn as pregnancy discrimination.

On this episode of Crossroads & Culture, we discuss what The Equality Act is all about and what that means for followers of Jesus. 

THE EQUALITY ACT: A FUTILE ATTEMPT TO RE-DESIGN THE DESIGN OF GOD

And the shrewd and cunning serpent, evil in every way, slithered close enough to whisper, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God . . . “

And they died.

Today, the serpent still whispers lies in the ears of willing listeners, offering sin-poisonous fruit that entices their god-like egos.  Though already defeated, he will be silenced soon by a final crushing from the bruised heel of the Righteous King.  

Until that day, we must tend to the garden we have, marred as it is, and be ever watchful of the enemy who is as cunning as a serpent and as destructive as a rogue lion.

Yesterday, what the enemy whispered in the ears of the governing leaders of the United States House of Representatives has now been loudly boasted throughout the garden of our nation.  A new bill, called The Equality Act, was passed by the House Democrats and three Republicans, which would, according to the legislation, eliminate the legal definition of biological sex, acquiesce to non-scientific gender ideology, and vilify defending the unborn as pregnancy discrimination.

Dr. Susan Berry identified seven “radical demands” that can be ascertained from The Equality Act, that I want to share with you and comment on.  

1. The bill would end the federal legal recognition of complementary male and female sex in favor of gender identity.

“Discrimination based on sexual orientation includes discrimination based on an individual’s actual or perceived romantic, emotional, physical, or sexual attraction to other persons, or lack thereof, on the basis of gender. LGBTQ people, including gender nonbinary people, also commonly experience discrimination because of sex-based stereotypes. Many people are subjected to discrimination because of others’ perceptions or beliefs regarding their sexual orientation. Even if these perceptions are incorrect, the identity imputed by others forms the basis of discrimination.”

2. Since the Equality Act exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, religious schools, hospitals, and adoption agencies could face federal sanctions for upholding their teachings with regard to life, sexuality, and marriage under the legislation.

In other words, to hold to the biblical worldview of God’s created order, that being biological sex of male and female exclusively, will not only be discriminatory but also can, and will, be deemed illegal and punishable according to the law if fully enacted.  Regardless of a person’s religious belief, there is no “legal” justification for not adhering to the new legislation.  If you find that hard to believe, here is an excerpt from The Equality Act:  “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”  (http://uscode.house.gov/quicksearch/get.plx?title=42&section=2000bb 

There are numerous implications for people of faith, whether it be in social settings, as an employer or employee, and in other spheres of life and culture.  Even the Church is not exempt from the consequences of such legislation.  Here’s what that means specifically for pastors who still preach the whole counsel of God’s word, and are willing to be courageous enough to preach the truth of Scripture:  to preach Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,” or any other biblical text that speaks to God’s created order of the biological sex of male and female, would subject pastors and churches to the penalty levied by the federal government for discrimination against those who identify other than male or female.  

In addition, because there is no protection under “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993,” a same-sex, transgendered, binary, non-binary, gender fluid, genderqueer, cisgender, gender nonconforming, or agender couple seeking to be married by a pastor in a church, cannot legally be denied the “right” to do so, according to The Equality Act.  To deny such a request would be punishable according to the legislation.  Now, if you’re unfamiliar with all of these “gender terms,” which seem to transition daily, you might want to get up to speed.  Fortunately, Cosmopolitan is woke enough to offer their counsel in their article, “12 Gender-Related Terms You Should Know and Understand.”  And don’t forget that YOU SHOULD KNOW AND UNDERSTAND these, lest you be unenlightened.

Although that last sentence was a little tongue-in-cheek, this is serious.  If the Church, and the pastors who shepherd, do not begin to address this from the pulpits, the people who fill your pews (or chairs) will continue to move their tents further from Eden.  What I mean by that is that they will be drawn and seduced by the cultural “truths” they are presented (which are, in fact, not truth) and find themselves, as the apostle Paul writes, being taken “captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”  Colossians 2:8

As a matter of fact, such ideology is already in your church.  You may not visibly see it, or even hear it expressed, but it’s there.  For too long, the Church has embraced a dangerous practice of allowing anyone and anything into the community of believers.  But when you look at the Church in the book of Acts, there is something that seems to be often overlooked.  Luke records this in Acts 2, “And they (followers of Christ), devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”  Acts 2:42-44

In reading the text, the word “together” is often overly emphasized to the detriment of another word that is imperative in the life of a faith community, “believed.” The word “believed” carries with it the implication that this was a belief in Jesus Christ, and the full message of the gospel which is not only His death, burial, and resurrection, but also His teachings and His ways.  Before a people can live in true community together as it relates to faith in Christ, there must be a common belief.  Apart from believing the essential doctrines of faith and holding to a biblical worldview expressly revealed in God’s word, any sense of community or of being together becomes impossible.  In being together, as Luke writes regarding the Church, the meaning of the word speaks to unity, or having the same mind concerning Christ and His gospel.  Such a belief was the impetus to their practices of attending the temple together, breaking bread in their homes, receiving their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God, and having favor with all the people.  They experienced this, not by capitulating to those who did not believe in Christ and their cultural beliefs, but by holding fast to what they knew was true according to Christ.  As a result, God added to their number day by day those who were being saved.  In other words, people were coming to faith in Christ and being transformed because of the work of the Spirit through the lives of true believers.  Compromising the truth doesn’t lead others to Christ; quite the opposite is true.  

What greatly concerns me with the Church today is how easy it is to become part of the faith community or church family . . . or whatever term may be used.  I commend those churches that take steps to not only communicate what they believe through whatever process they have in place, but also take the time to get to know those who are desiring to be identified as part of the body of Christ within their local faith family.  To do so exemplifies shepherding the flock among you (1 Peter 5), as well as providing accountability and a willingness to be held accountable as those who believe and desire to be together in community.  

I know there are those who will disagree with me on this, and that’s fine.  But there is a popular phrase that exists in many church cultures that I believe may be well intended, but may also be misconstrued by those who seek to belong to a faith community.  It’s the phrase, “You can belong before you believe.”  The intention may well be to communicate that any person is welcome to come to church and feel like they belong.  I get that to a degree.  We certainly want those who do not know Christ, or those who are questioning their faith, to come and hear the truth of the gospel.  Regardless of their beliefs culturally, politically, theologically, as well as lifestyle choices, we should desire that all people are welcomed to “come and see,” as Philip did when He met Jesus and told Nathanael.  But when it comes to identifying with the body of Christ within a community of faith, there needs to be a common belief, which includes a confession of faith in Christ and all the gospel speaks and demands.  

As a pastor, the question you must answer is this:  “Will I preach the truth?”  And, please, don’t quickly state the obvious that we must be loving.  The truth is always loving.  How we speak truth is another important issue, but what is not loving is preaching feel-good messages that are merely injecting a false and toxic-theology that is nothing more than a slow time-release of theological poison.  If you’re needing insight, wisdom, and counsel as to how you need to lead today as a pastor, it would be wise to spend time pouring over Paul’s counsel and admonition to Timothy written in 2 Timothy 3 and 4.  

If truth is not spoken, then the lies of the enemy will continue to be perpetuated and believed.  As a matter of fact, someone once said, If you tell a big enough lie, and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”  That’s a true statement.

And just so you know, that someone was Adolph Hitler, and we know what came as a result of his lies.  

3. The bill would eliminate the traditional right to privacy of women and girls in public facilities, in favor, instead, of gender identity. 

Who, in their right mind, thinks this is a good idea?  The key phrase there is “right mind.”  As a dad of three kids (all grown now, mind you), one of whom is my daughter, there is no way in . . . well, there is NO way, I would have ever allowed them to go into a restroom by themselves knowing that a biological man could be in the same bathroom as my daughter, and a biological woman be in the same bathroom as my sons.  Even when they were younger, when common sense still had some traction regarding biological sex and scientific reality, they often (not always) did not go in a bathroom without me being with my sons, or my wife being with my daughter when we were in public.   And now, having a granddaughter, and two grandsons, there is absolutely not a chance that they will be going into a public restroom while they are with me, knowing that it is not only legal but even celebrated, that biological males and females can use whichever public facility they would like.  And remember, even if you are opposed to this, based on this legislation, you have no legal argument on which to stand.  

And if, by chance, there are some parents who are reading this, or listening to the podcast, who think that eliminating this type of privacy for women and girls, and even boys, is somehow safe and acceptable, and will allow your children the opportunity to grow and be accepting of the feelings and beliefs of others, you are not only a special kind of ignorant but are contributing to the harm of your children.  I know, I can already hear some shouting, “How dare you!”  No, how dare you. 

4. The Equality Act would eviscerate women’s and girls’ sports.

Just to show the hypocrisy and how fragile the failed argument has been that men and women, boys and girls, are the same, you might recall the rhetoric that has been championed for quite some time that women should be allowed to compete in men’s sports.  As recent as this past Fall, a young lady was celebrated as being the place kicker for Vanderbilt University.  Now, however, there is a backlash occurring over the acceptance of allowing transgendered athletes, specifically biological males who have transitioned to female, to compete against women.  The reasoning is that there is an unfair advantage.  As a matter of fact, according to a report by Duke Law, “there is an average 10-12% performance gap between elite males and elite females.”  Why?  Well, because biologically it is evident that men and women are different.  That’s a scientific fact; a phrase we have heard thrown out a lot over the past year which is only employed when it is politically and culturally expedient regarding proper appropriation.  If you’d like to see data on this, check out the report done by Duke University School of Law, here:  https://law.duke.edu/sports/sex-sport/comparative-athletic-performance/

For years there has been an effort to not only blur the lines between men and women, but to literally obliterate the lines as we have seen in The Equality Act.  As a culture, there has been a failure to distinguish the difference between equality and sameness.  Equality simply means that men and women are equal in regard to value and dignity.  We are both, men and women, created in the image of God.  As people, men are not superior to women, nor are women to men.  But equality does not assume sameness.  We are not the same biologically; we are not the same physiologically; we process things different emotionally as well.  We are different.  And that’s a good thing.  

5. The Equality Act would be used to mandate school curricula that affirm and promote sexual orientation and gender identity views.

If this isn’t further evidence of how public education is seeking to indoctrinate your children, I don’t know what is.  Without question, we have many public school teachers who are followers of Christ and strong in their faith.  For those who are, you truly are on the front lines, and the cultural war is intensifying.  That being said, however, teachers aren’t the ones who set policy nor choose the core curricula that is taught in public schools.  In light of The Equality Act, schools would be mandated to teach a distorted ideology that, once again, defies the design of God and His created order.  

In all seriousness, at what point should a teacher voice his or her concerns to the administration and school board, and take a stand against a mandate that is harmful to children? Regardless of whether or not you hold to a biblical worldview regarding God’s biological design, research has shown that depression, anxiety, suicide rates, and other mental health issues are greatly increased as a result of this issue.  And for those who are willing to look at the evidence, it is not because those who are confused regarding gender are being unaccepted by culture.  Culture is applauding, encouraging, and celebrating this; just look at all forms of media, and in the marketplace.  And now, federally, it is legislation.  This is a spiritual issue because all of us have been created according to God’s design and order.  When cultural disorder replaces God’s order, chaos and confusion ensue.     

I understand the desire to not abandon the public schools, and to maintain a Christian witness in Babylon.  For teachers who have such a calling, remain steadfast in your convictions.  Let the light of Christ shine in dark places.  But as in other professions, at some point there may come a time where you will have to choose between acquiescing to the mandates that violate biblical truth or compromising your convictions.  If, and when, that comes, are you willing to lose your job for the sake of what is right and true?  

According to Melanie Israel of the Heritage Foundation, “The Equality Act could lead to changes in school curricula, such as texts that affirm and promote controversial sexual orientation and gender identity viewpoints.  The Equality Act could also be used to override states that have prohibited sexual orientation and gender identity curricula. Where states have conversely mandated sexual orientation and gender identity curricula, parents and schools do not have access to “opt-out” options. 

She goes on to say, “If the Equality Act were to become federal law and public school curricula become further entwined with sexual orientation and gender identity ideology, Planned Parenthood is well-positioned to further its presence in public schools and take advantage of an additional avenue to promote both sexual orientation and gender identity ideology as well as the organization’s hormone treatment services.  In other words, additional sexual orientation and gender identity curricula could become yet another marketing tool for America’s abortion giant.”

Although The Equality Act does not explicitly say that these things will occur, it would make illegal any attempt to deny schools what the legislation affords.  Looking at recent history regarding gender equality ideology that is already pervasive in schools, this would encourage public schools to do so due to the legal protection that would be enforced.   

For educators who believe this curricula mandate would never come to their small-town school, or their district that is led by predominantly Christian administrators would refuse to implement such a mandate, it would only take one complaint from a parent who feels their child is being discriminated against, or that the current curricula taught is non-inclusive, to legally force the school to comply.  That’s where we are in our culture.  

For parents who have kids in school, at what point will you make the sacrifice necessary in order for you to educate your students without the fear of them being indoctrinated by curriculum that is destructive and counter to your biblical worldview?  As parents, we are the primary disciple-makers of our children.  It’s not the Church’s primary role.  It certainly isn’t public education’s role. Yet when you calculate the number of hours your child sits in a classroom at school, versus the concentrated time you spend with your child reading God’s word, in prayer, and day-to-day discipleship, the disparity is massive. 

Although teachers have the ability to make a choice regarding whether or not they stay and seek to be a witness in the workplace and among their students, children most often do not have the emotional or mental fortitude to be able to withstand and process the onslaught of such a destructive ideology.  The time may be coming soon when a choice will need to be made to do whatever is necessary to provide a better environment for your children to learn without the fear of them being fed lies from the enemy who loves to whisper in their ears. 

6. The Equality Act would be used to remove custody rights from parents who refuse to have their minor children undergo transgender medical interventions and procedure.

This isn’t what could happen, it is already happening but would present a legal framework for it to become more frequent.  In 2018, a couple in Ohio who had a 17-year-old girl lost custody of their daughter for opposing her wish for transgender medical treatments.  The presiding judge, Sylvia Sieve Hendon, gave custody to the girl’s grandparents, who fully supported their 17-year-old granddaughter’s desire to medically transition to a male.  One attorney stated, “We think the grandparents are the ones who have an open mind and will … make this sort of decision best for the child.  The parents have clearly indicated that they’re not open to it.” 

So rather than the parents knowing best, the government would be able to circumvent the God-given responsibility and rights of the parents.  That, my friends, is Totalitarianism at the core.  You don’t know what’s best for your children, we do.

And just who are those who think they know what’s best for your children? Well, one example is the Biden Administration’s pick for Health and Human Services, Rachel Levine, a biological man who considers himself a transgender woman, who is a proponent of and has supported both allowing minors to be given hormone blockers to prevent them from going through puberty, as well as surgical procedures for minors who wish to transition.  

Doesn’t it say something that “hormone blockers” have to be administered in order for the body of a child to stop developing as it was naturally intended to do?  And what about removing parts of a child’s body that are the result of their “X” or “Y” chromosome?  How is that healthy for a child mentally? Emotionally?  Physically?  The answer is that it is not healthy.  It’s destructive; and the scientific evidence reveals as much.  

According to Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), “Over 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosed mental disorder, and there is no evidence that gender-dysphoric children who commit suicide are any different.  Many gender dysphoric children simply need therapy to get to the root of their depression, which very well may be the same problem triggering the gender dysphoria.”  She went on to say, “Even in Sweden, which is among the countries most accepting of LGBT individuals, adults who undergo sex change surgeries have a suicide rate nearly 20 times greater than that of the general population.”  Twenty times greater than the suicide rate of the general public, which is in and of itself too high.  Obviously hormone blockers, and sex reassignment is not the answer to gender dysphoria. 

When humanity seeks to become like God, the result is utter destruction.

7. The Equality Act’s text that names a form of “discrimination on the basis of pregnancy” would be used to punish healthcare providers who refuse to perform an abortion or to outlaw policies that ban funding for the procedure.

The legislation reads, “Discrimination can occur on the basis of the sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition of an individual, as well as because of sex-based stereotypes. Each of these factors alone can serve as the basis for discrimination, and each is a form of sex discrimination.”

In short, it is another legal avenue that will be used against those who refuse to perform abortions by claiming it to be discrimination on the basis of sex.

So, not only is there an assault on the sanctity of life within the womb, but also on the dignity and God-given biological design of an individual.  

TEND THE GARDEN

What was true in Eden, is true now:  Satan is still whispering in the ears of God’s most precious creation.  And for all who give him a willing ear and listen to his ego-seducing lie, “you will be like God,” a rude awakening is in store.  

No matter how hard man tries, he cannot uncreate God’s created order.  It is a futile attempt that leads to more confusion, chaos, pain and suffering; the same results that happened when Eden was lost. 

The writer of Proverbs said it well when he wrote, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 16:25

I believe God is grieved over what He is witnessing in this world, and not just with the evil that exists.  I believe God is also grieving over His bride, the Church, for burying her head in the sand and in silence choosing to ignore what is clearly before her, or for embracing a distorted theology and godless ideology as being the loving and accepting thing to do.  

Navigating rightly the culture in which we live will never happen if we, as followers of Christ, do not hold to a high view of Scripture and a biblical worldview that is clearly revealed in God’s word.  To not know His word is to not know His ways, and how we are to live in such a time as this.  

Pastors, again, I beg of you to preach the truth of God’s word with conviction and passion; with brokenness and lament; with lovingkindness and mercy; with humility, yet boldness; and a confidence that God’s sustaining grace will cover you, and His faithfulness will go before you in these days. 

Church, be the Church God has ordained you to be; make much of Christ and His word, and in doing so point people to the Truth; and be the Bride who loves the Bridegroom, Jesus, and readies herself for our soon coming King. 

Until that day, tend the Garden he has given us.  And be watchful and alert.  

(Note: I highly recommend you and your church watch a great documentary entitled “In His Image,” that the American Family Association has produced. You can watch here: https://inhisimage.movie/ )

THE FAKE NEWS OF PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY: CANCELLING SCRIPTURE

“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:

Reason #1 for why progressive Christianity is becoming more prevalent in the Church:  The Woke Church/Pastor

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.  

That’s love.       

Awake-ness Over Woke-ness

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.

Reason #2 for why progressive Christianity is becoming more prevalent in the Church:  Biblical Illiteracy

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. 

Marriage

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

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. 

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