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. 

AN HONEST CONVERSATION ABOUT SEXUALITY (VIDEO PODCAST)

Without conversations, there is no understanding. When it comes to the issue of sexuality, rather than ignoring the topic or just accepting culture’s narrative of the subject, an honest conversation would be helpful. On this episode of Crossroads & Culture, I have a personal and vulnerable conversation with my son about sexuality, faith, and God’s design for us. Whether you agree or disagree with our views, my prayer is that you will be willing to have the conversation.

AN HONEST CONVERSATION ABOUT SEXUALITY

Without conversations, there is no understanding.  When it comes to the issue of sexuality, rather than ignoring the topic or just accepting culture’s narrative of the subject, an honest conversation would be helpful.  On this episode of Crossroads & Culture, I have a personal and vulnerable conversation with my son about sexuality, faith, and God’s design for us.  Whether you agree or disagree with our views, my prayer is that you will be willing to have the conversation.

IS CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM REALLY THE GREATEST DANGER?

In the movie The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya calls out Vinzini’s use of the word “inconceivable” when he says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  When it comes to the word nationalist, I think I agree with Inigo Montoya’s assessment.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a “Nationalist” is an “advocate of or believer in nationalism.”  

“Nationalism” as defined by the same dictionary, is “loyalty and devotion to a nation.”  Yet somehow in our culture, much like many other terms, the definition has seemed to be changed in order to fit a particular narrative.  You know, nationalism, like Nazi Germany; and nationalists, like followers of Hitler.  Sound familiar?

It seems all to common in the aftermath of the political storm we have come through and are still sifting through, to hear in the 24/7 news cycles as well as podcasts, blogs, and even religious websites banter about “Christian nationalism” and its dangerous affect on culture, the Church, and the saints of God.  

As a matter of fact, I’ve read several articles, and listened to as many podcasts, of those who have seemingly been quick to criticize individuals and groups, who with much fervor and conviction, have vocally and visibly supported President Donald Trump and the policies he champions.  

One contributing writer to a well-known Christian website even coined the phrase, “the cult of Trumpism,” giving a more specific picture of what Christian nationalism looks like.  I am sincerely curious, though, as to how Christians are supposed to respond toward any political candidate or leader with whom they agree.  Is supporting the platform and policies of a political party or group, or one who leads such a platform and implements such policies, sinful?  Well, if it’s idolatry then yes.  But again I’m perplexed as to how this specific pastor and contributing writer can accurately judge the hearts of those whom he does not know.  Perhaps his assessment is more general than qualified, which can be very dangerous in this “guilty-til-proven-innocent” culture we live.  I wonder, as well, if another article might be written soon about the cult of Bidenism, you know, professing believers who overlook the murdering of pre-born children by trying to justify a modified version of pro-life, the normalization of gender neutrality, the censoring of biblical truth because it is deemed to be hate speech and inciteful, and other issues that are excused for the sake of tolerance and “unity.”  For true followers of Jesus who have embraced such things that Scripture expressly addresses wrong, seems more cultish in my view.          

Beth Moore, who is a popular evangelical teacher, seemed to join the chorus when she claimed that the greatest threat to the Church, or the saints of God, is Christian nationalism.  Her exact words were, “I do not believe these are days for mincing words. I’m 63 1/2 years old & I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.”  

It could be possible, I suppose, that these views are nothing more than a caution, and admonition, out of sincere concern for those who have been labeled the religious right or christian nationalists.  However, it seems to be more of a strong rebuke than a caution.  Perhaps, if more conversations were had with individuals as opposed to a general labeling, some might come to realize that 1) there are those who are Donald Trump supporters who are not followers of Christ, and 2) those who are followers of Christ and who realize that their King is Jesus, not Trump (or any other political, social, or cultural icon) may have supported President Trump because they do love this country and believe that the policies and platform he implemented were for the good of this nation, not the demise.    

And it could be that there are those who believe that the founding of this nation was actually based on a Judeo-Christian ethic, unlike any other nation with the exception of Israel.  Our nation, like every other nation, has had its flaws; it still does.  But below the surface of our country’s founding, there is undoubtedly the strong and vast roots of Christian principles.  I’ll speak to that in just a few moments.  

Call me crazy, and some will, but haven’t we seen similar support for past Presidents?  I remember, even as teenager, a growing wave of patriotism and love for country when President Ronald Reagan became our 40th president.  Our country had just endured the dismal days of President Carter’s administration, and with a sense of renewed national fervor that seemed to be ignited by an unknown group of amateur hockey players on the U.S. Olympic team who upset the seemingly unbeatable Russians that became known as the Miracle on Ice, a wave of patriotic spirit became almost tsunami like.  And it was a good thing.  People were proud to be Americans.  Even Bruce Springsteen got in the mood. 

Many people who voted for Reagan were Christians, and there were many who weren’t.  For some reason, I don’t recall hearing the phrase “Christian nationalism,” or “The cult of Reaganism.”  I wonder why? 

When 9/11 happened, President George W. Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed.  There was a sense of being united as a nation during a time of national crisis.  People filled churches.  There seemed to be a renewed sense of love for country; love for God.  Although it was short lived, I don’t recall hearing the phrase of “nationalism,” or “Christian nationalism.”  I wonder why?

In 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected as the first African-American president, it was a great day in the history of our nation in the sense that it revealed how far our nation had come, although we still have further to go.  President Obama was elected by a cross-section of demographics.  There was a fervor expressed by those who visibly and vocally supported him as well.  President Obama had a large following, and in many ways was untouchable when it came to honest critique.   

However, unlike other past administrations, the tone, course, and discourse of our nation seemed to go a different direction.  Instead of American exceptionalism, the belief that our nation is unlike any other, the rhetoric became American deconstructionism; the belief that America as it was needed to be deconstructed systemically.

For some, I know that what I’ve just said will not rest well; sometimes the truth doesn’t.  But the facts bear witness of this shift.  According to the Pew Research Center, “Barack Obama campaigned for the U.S. presidency on a platform of change. As he prepares to leave office, the country he led for eight years is undeniably different. Profound social, demographic and technological changes have swept across the United States during Obama’s tenure, as have important shifts in government policy and public opinion.”  For more research, you can find the Pew Research Center’s study here:

For eight years, when religious liberty had not only been threatened, but in many cases deemed discriminatory; when apology tours to countries led by dictators were becoming common; when the biblical and traditional view of marriage was not only challenged but demonized; when abortion was championed and cheered; when the two primary political parties became even more divided and divisive; and, in my opinion, when our country lost its sense of national identity, many Americans were desperate for something different.  There was a desire for a change of direction.      

Enter a new President who broke the succession of political insiders.  Donald Trump, who was laughed off by the media pundits who would become, and still are, his most ardent antagonizers, shocked the world with his election as the 45th President of the United States.  Clearly his character was not much different than many of his predecessors, and his rhetoric was less than diplomatic.  But if there is anything that 75-80 million votes during this past election reveals, it is that over the past four years many of President Trump’s policies worked and were undoubtedly reflective of many of the values and ideals that America had been founded upon, and that a vast majority of Americans still embrace.  

Personally, I haven’t necessarily been a fan of his personality or his verbal attacks, but I have been supportive of a good number of his policies.  As with other Presidents, there have been decisions made, and a great number of comments made, that I disagree with wholeheartedly.  If there is anything, though, that history teaches us it is that personality doesn’t shape a free republic, policy does.  And if you don’t think that is true, just wait and see what takes shape over the next four years.  

No, in my opinion, I don’t think the greatest danger is the cult of Trumpism, or Christian nationalism.  I believe the greatest dangers as a nation may be willful ignorance and indifference:  ignorance regarding our history as a nation that has been founded upon Judeo-Christian principles, and indifference toward how we are to steward well what we have been entrusted.   

Sadly, many professed Christians seem to have a “hands off” approach when it comes to difficult topics that on the surface seem hard to reconcile, such as politics and religion; just let life happen and trust God.  And to that I say, yes, trust God but again don’t forsake what God has entrusted to us like freedom and a responsibility to steward well, not just this planet, but also everything else He has given us.          

Dr. Mark David Hall, who is the Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics at George Fox University, in his article “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” writes,

“History is complicated, and we should always be suspicious of simple answers to difficult questions. As we have seen, there is precious little evidence that the Founders were deists, wanted religion excluded from the public square, or desired the strict separation of church and state. On the other hand, they identified themselves as Christians, were influenced in important ways by Christian ideas, and generally thought it appropriate for civic authorities to encourage Christianity.  

What do these facts mean for Americans who embrace non-Christian faiths or no faith at all? Although the Founders were profoundly influenced by Christianity, they did not design a constitutional order only for fellow believers. They explicitly prohibited religious tests for federal offices, and they were committed to the proposition that all men and women should be free to worship God (or not) as their consciences dictate. 

Yet it does not follow from this openness that Americans should simply forget about their country’s Christian roots. Anyone interested in an accurate account of the nation’s past cannot afford to ignore the important influence of faith on many Americans, from the Puritans to the present day.

Christian ideas underlie some key tenets of America’s constitutional order. For instance, the Founders believed that humans are created in the image of God, which led them to design institutions and laws meant to protect and promote human dignity. Because they were convinced that humans are sinful, they attempted to avoid the concentration of power by framing a national government with carefully enumerated powers. As well, the Founders were committed to liberty, but they never imagined that provisions of the Bill of Rights would be used to protect licentiousness. And they clearly thought moral considerations should inform legislation.

America has drifted from these first principles. We would do well to reconsider the wisdom of these changes.” 

NATIONS, KINGDOMS, AND KINGS

Look throughout Scripture and you’ll see that God has established nations, kingdoms, and kings.  That must mean something significant.  As a matter of fact, listen to God’s word: 

“He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;”  Daniel 2:21

Daniel, charged by God to reveal the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, said, “You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.” Daniel 2:37-38

I could go on and speak of the multitude of verses in Scripture that speak to how God has ordained nations, kingdoms, and kings for His work and for His glory.  The point is that these matter, and our nation matters.  As I mentioned earlier, we are to be stewards of what God has entrusted to us.  That’s not nationalism, that’s obedience.

I can hear it now, those who like to quote the verse when Jesus put the Pharisees and Herodians in place by saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Mark 12:17  In that verse, however, are two implications:  1) we have a responsibility to our governing authorities, which means we must steward well and rightly that for which we are responsible, and 2) God rules over all, even our governing authorities.  (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2). With that being said, it seems as though it matters to God.  

Without exception, there is only one King.  And Beth Moore is right, it’s not Cyrus. But I would add it’s not Obama, or Trump, or Biden; it’s King Jesus.  Any king we exalt above King Jesus is an idol, and is sin.  Any nation we set above allegiance to King Jesus is an idol, and is sin.  But devotion to a nation, or a leader isn’t necessarily idolatry.

Based on how some have defined Christian nationalism, I would have to think that David’s mighty men would have been accused and considered Israeli nationalists.  They supported King David and were with him to the death.  As a matter of fact, they were, and are, God’s chosen people.  There’s much more that could be said about that and unpacked, but not in this podcast.  Being God’s chosen people, I would guess, could carry with it the perception that Israel, the Jewish people, considered themselves as superior to other nations.  I’m sure there were those who did.  But God, in His sovereignty, chose Israel as His people to be a light to the nations.  There was a bigger cause than nationalism.  And in the same way, although certainly not taking the place of Israel, I believe that God has sovereignly ordained America to be a light to the nations.  As I mentioned earlier, no other nation has been founded upon such principles and ideals as was this country.  There is a purpose for why we are the most advanced nation in the world and considered the leader of the free world, and it most definitely wasn’t because of any person, leader, or political party.  

No, I don’t believe the greatest danger to the saints of God, the Church, is Christian nationalism.  I believe the greatest danger is Christian secularism; or Christian materialism; or Christian narcissism; or Christian woke-ism; or to put it more succinctly, Christian progressivism.

Not once have I read where Jesus warned the Jewish people against Jewish nationalism.  When I look at Scripture, and Jesus’s warnings, I do, however, read much about His warning against false prophets and teachers, the Pharisees and other religious elites, greed, pride, and deception.  

What this comes down to is not political affiliation, but rather worldview.  How do you view the world in which you live, and what are the lenses through which you will look that shape your perspective?  The Scriptures aren’t meant to be an additional lens, or attachment, but rather the one lens which is to be superimposed over all others.  It is the corrective lens for an astigmatic soul.

It would be much easier if life could be compartmentalized into categories (religious, social, political/governmental, economical, biological, vocational) that we could choose to engage in or not.  But having a biblical worldview, which I believe is the correct worldview, means that we look at these through the lens of Scripture, not culture alone.  God’s word doesn’t just shed some light on these, but it gives us clear vision as to how we are to live and respond in each of these overlapping realities.  I don’t believe this only speaks to America, but to the world.  Scripture is true at all times, for all people, in all places.  And Scripture should inform every area of our life, not all except politics.  

To my brothers and sisters who are in Christ who may think that politics and religion should never meet, that’s like saying to God, “You can have every area of my life except my view of politics.”  That’s not what a life surrendered to God looks like. 

All of Scripture should inform all of life, especially in the life of a Christian.  If you disagree with that, and can qualify your belief based on the word of God, I would genuinely love to have an honest conversation.     

But truthfully, I believe that is where the disconnect is.  It is not a secret that the Church, generally speaking, has become woefully illiterate when it comes to the Scriptures, both in knowledge and application.  The truth is that it is impossible to be literate in anything without knowledge or careful study.  

Because of the lack of knowledge of God’s truth, it is no wonder why many professed Christians are accepting the deceptive teachings of progressive Christianity.  In the book of Hosea, the prophet who spoke on God’s behalf to the people of Israel said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . .” Hosea 4:6  God wasn’t referring to general knowledge, but rather a knowledge of Him and His ways.  When there is a void of God’s truth in your life, Satan is quick to fill it up with lies.    

When the foundational truths of the dignity and sanctity of life; the sacred institution of marriage between a man and a woman; the fall of mankind and that all have sinned against God; the wrath of God poured out on sin; and the grace of God provided in His great salvation, that we find in just the first eleven chapters of Genesis, when these are abandoned and replaced with progressive theology, the result is false teaching that leads to a distorted worldview and spiritual destruction.  

What is most dangerous to the saints of God, His Church, is abandoning the truth of God’s Word and justifying as good what God has called evil.  Although it may seem good and noble, and even Christ-like to speak love, and peace, and grace, and unity, it is never to be at the expense of the truth of His word and His righteousness.  It is because of Christ’s righteousness that we can know and display true love.  It is because of His righteousness that we can know and have peace.  It is because of God’s righteousness that we can experience grace that leads us in hot pursuit of His holiness.  It is because of His righteousness that we can know and experience true unity.  

I do believe that the vast majority of people, followers of Jesus and those who are not, desire unity and peace.  As for me, I certainly do.  I will continue to pray for our national, state, and local leaders that they might lead rightly.  In the book of Proverbs, God’s word reads, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”  Proverbs 29:2  The word used for “rule” in this text speaks to those who rule in a position of authority as over nations or any other entity.  We should pray that righteousness would increase, and that God would expose the evil that grieves the heart of God and causes all humanity to groan.    

I pray Joe Biden will come to understand his need to repent of that which is sinful, and turn to Christ for the forgiveness of his sins.  I pray that he will acknowledge that every person is created in the image of God, by the One true Creator God, and will do what is right in honoring the sanctity and dignity of all human life, from womb to tomb; that he will affirm the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman; and that he will protect and affirm religious liberty for all people.  Just as I have prayed, and do pray, for Mr. Trump, I pray for Mr. Biden. 

As the true follower of Christ, I would ask you, what is the reason you are here in this nation, in this world, and at this time?  It’s no different a reason than those who came before us had:  we are to live in such a way so as to make much of Christ by living lives set apart for His glory, and in doing so point others to the hope and life that is found only in Him.  We weren’t created to establish a utopia here, which in reality is futile, because God has promised something far greater.  While we are here, however, the footprints of our lives should lead to Christ, and as we sojourn in this life it should be our aim to leave it better than we found it.  That is why I seek to make much of Christ and hold fast to His word.  It is also why I seek to speak up for that which is right and good, and noble when it comes to every area of life, be it religious, political, or any other sphere of influence that we are called to steward well.  

As Jesus told His disciples, which includes every follower of Christ, “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16

We are the light of the world because Jesus is the true light who dwells in every true believer.  And because we are called to be in this world, but not of it, every sphere of influence needs the light of Christ lived out through the light bearers we are called to be, including government and politics.  That’s not Christian nationalism, that is the  Kingdom mentality.  

THE FAKE NEWS OF PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY: ANOTHER GOSPEL?

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the believers in Galatia, was troubled and concerned that they were “so quickly deserting” the gospel of the true grace of Christ and turning to a “different gospel.”  It was a false gospel.  Here’s what Paul wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again:  If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9

Those are strong words, and rightly so.  His concern was that they were abandoning the truth for a lie, one that was (as with all false teachings) culturally acceptable and approved.  John Piper said this concerning the false gospel that had infiltrated the Christian community within Galatia:  “And what makes that underlying truth in the text so powerful is that the “different gospel” in the churches of Galatia was not a religion from a foreign land. It was a close counterfeit to the real thing. The people in verse 7 who were perverting the gospel were professing Christians. They probably belonged to the church in Jerusalem and knew its leaders (Galatians 2:12). This “different gospel” was not on the order of Buddhism or Hinduism or Islam. It was an in-house distortion. It was promoted by men who called themselves Christian “brothers” (Galatians 2:4).”

With progressive Christianity, it has become, as Piper says, an “in-house distortion.”  This issue was of such grave importance that Paul repeated what he said about those who preached a different gospel, be it men or even an angel from heaven, and he used strong language to indicate the destructiveness of such a false gospel.  Paul used the Greek word “anathema,” which means that they are cut off from Christ.  That’s harsh, but if nothing else it reveals not only the worth of the gospel, but also the great cost of the gospel through the substitutionary atonement death of Christ. 

Richard Rohr, who is a Franciscan priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, as well as the author of several books, has gained an audience with those who have become disenfranchised with and disillusioned by the evangelical Church, many of whom are Millennials.  His influence has marked the lives and teachings of notable “Christian” leaders such as Rob Bell, Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, William Paul Young (author of The Shack) to name a few.  

In a blog post entitled, “Jesus and the Cross,” Rohr said of the crucifixion of Jesus, “Salvation became a one-time transactional affair between Jesus and his Father, instead of an ongoing transformational lesson for the human soul and for all of history. I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is a revelation of the infinite and participatory love of God, not some bloody payment required by God’s offended justice to rectify the problem of sin. Such a story line is way too small and problem-oriented.”  In other words, Rohr denies what Jesus validated in the Scriptures.  It doesn’t take long to see, as you read through Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 53, and the gospel accounts as well as, that the prophets and Jesus spoke of His death as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. 

Author and social critic, Os Guinness quoted theologian Reinhold Niebuhr to describe Rohr’s version of the gospel when he said, “Rohr’s cross is the very different cross of modern liberalism that Reinhold Niebuhr described so perfectly as ‘a God without wrath bringing men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.’”

In essence, Niebuhr concisely summarized the core belief of progressive Christianity:  a God without wrath toward sin, a Kingdom without walls, and a cross-less gospel.  That, my friends, is not the gospel of the Bible.   

In addition to denying the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ, another aspect of the salvation theology of those who consider themselves to be progressive Christians is universalism, which basically says that all people will, in the end, be saved.  

In his writings, Rohr says, “salvation is not a question of if but when,” and “We are all saved in spite of our mistakes and in spite of ourselves.”  Rob Bell in his book, Love Wins, writes: “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided, toxic, and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.” (Love Wins, viii.)

Jen Hatmaker, who is a talented writer and seems genuinely nice from what I can tell, is  admittedly greatly influenced by the teachings of Richard Rohr, which I believe is greatly problematic for the reasons I’ve stated.  I do not disagree with having conversations with or interviewing those who hold different beliefs than what is biblically true.  As a matter of fact, I believe those conversations are crucial in order to gain understanding, as well as an opportunity to present the truth of Scripture.  

It is altogether different, however, when a person’s errant view or theology is accepted and even celebrated under the false pretense of seeking “unity.”  Light and darkness cannot be unified.  As Paul asks, “ . . . what fellowship has light with darkness?”  2 Corinthians 6:14  

This is some of the introduction to her podcast interview with Richard Rohr:  

“Speaking of heroes, if you know my guest today, you are probably freaking out because I am too. When I say he’s one of the greats, I mean, that in the most sincere possible way.  If I sound a little verklempt right now, it’s because I just finished the interview. I am now recording the intro, and I finished this interview by crying my eyes out, trying to tell him how special and important he is to all of us. I’m not over it yet because today we have on Fr. Richard Rohr.  He is a Franciscan priest. He’s the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. He’s known around the world, I mean, around the world for the way he teaches about contemplation, and radical compassion, and social equality. He’s been on the front lines of social justice thought for decades, and he is literally one of our best teachers.  His newest book is called The Universal Christ, which just came out, and we’re going to talk a bit about it and hear his thoughts on it . . .It’s not an exaggeration to tell you that Richard Rohr’s work has been so deeply meaningful to me and has shown me truly things like I didn’t even have the imagination for, frankly.” (Series 16, Episode 6)

There are other aspects of her beliefs (on sexuality/gender, authority of Scripture, etc.), as with those who hold to a progressive theology, that simply don’t align with the whole counsel of God’s word.  For one who professes to be a follower of Christ yet not accept by faith that all Scripture is God-breathed, as the apostle Paul affirms in 2 Timothy 3:16, is to dismiss Christ’s high regard of the Scriptures (the Law, the Prophets, and Wisdom writings of the Old Testament).     

I could give more examples of this, but I hope you are seeing the dangers of the heretical views of progressive Christianity.  Again, don’t take my word for it, rather measure what you read, hear, and see over and against the whole of Scripture, and not just a few select verses that are carefully cherry-picked to justify a comfortable theology.   

Those who proclaim these heretical teachings are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing, cloaked as shepherds along a road that leads to a false salvation, which is not salvation at all.  It’s just the opposite.  These are the ones who the apostle Paul referred to when he asked the professing believers in Galatia, “You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  It’s as though Paul is saying and asking, “You were running this race so well, embracing and obeying the true gospel.  Who put stumbling blocks in your way that caused you to abandon the truth and choose a path that leads to destruction?”  

When I think of what Paul is saying, it reminds me of a cartoon I used to watch when I was a kid.  It was the Bugs Bunny Roadrunner Show, and specifically the episodes of Wyle E. Coyote and Roadrunner.  Every cartoon was the same theme:  Wyle E. Coyote was always scheming to try and trick and capture the Roadrunner.  And every episode ended the same way:  Roadrunner always outsmarted Wyle E. Coyote.  In one particular episode, the coyote painted a detour sign that was meant to lead the Roadrunner over a cliff.  The sign worked, but the desired result failed.  

In the same way, those who are seeking to persuade you with a false gospel are holding up “detour” signs that seem helpful, not harmful, but in reality are leading you over a theological and spiritual cliff.  To be clear, though, unlike Wyle E. Coyote, I don’t think they are seeking to be diabolical.  They, more than likely, are nice people; the kind with whom you could sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee.  But nonetheless, the different gospel they preach is from one who is diabolical and seeks nothing more than to trip you up and convince you that the detour sign he’s holding is legit.  Trust me, it’s not.  

Paul wrote this to the Galatians, and it is just as applicable to us today:  “This persuasion is not from Him who calls you.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  Galatians 5:8

This persuasion is from the enemy, Satan.  And he loves to take the gospel and try to reinvent it as a cheap knock-off.  It only takes a slight change to make what is genuine, counterfeit.  The only way you can often tell what is fake from what is genuine, or what is a lie from what is true, is by careful examination and knowledge of what is true and genuine. 

Tim Challies, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Canada, after visiting the Bank of Canada to see, if in fact, the illustration often used regarding the best way to detect counterfeit money is by knowing what authentic money looks like, said, “Training in identifying counterfeit currency begins with studying genuine money. There are certain identifying characteristics that are added to each bill printed by the Bank of Canada. These characteristics are necessarily difficult to reproduce. Some are intended to stump the casual counterfeiter, armed with no more than a scanner and color laser printer, and some will stump the more serious counterfeiter, even if armed with expensive, high-tech equipment. The currency expert at the Bank of Canada summarized the approach to distinguishing a genuine bill with the phrase, ‘touch, tilt, look at, look through.’”

Talk about a great grid through which to look at any teaching over against Scripture so as to know the truth.  What if we took time, consistently (which is more than just a Sunday morning) and touched, tilted, looked at, and looked through the word of God?  Without a doubt we would grow in our understanding of God, grow in our knowledge of the truth, and thus be more discerning as to what is counterfeit.  In addition to that, we would be transformed by His word, conformed to the image of Christ, and more effective in our witness to the world because the Word examined, studied, meditated, and obeyed always produces Christ-like character and Christ-exalting awe.

Every follower of Christ should examine and test what they see, hear, and read to see if it aligns with all of Scripture, not just verses taken out of context.  As well, cleverly said statements and creatively written words need to be parsed and evaluated rather than quickly embraced.  The mystical and mysterious has a way of drawing us in and intriguing us, but not all that is mystical and mysterious is of God.  As a matter of fact, God has not made it hard for us to know Him and the gospel hope He has revealed to us in Christ and His redemptive work.  

There are many ways in which the enemy seeks to deceive us, one of which is theology that seems unifying and utopic, but in truth is divisive and destructive.  Deconstructed truth is always easier to embrace and swallow.  But in reality what you embrace is the bondage of deception’s chains, and what you swallow are the toxic lies of an evil foe.

So, dear friends, contend for the faith by knowing the truth.  Hold fast to what is biblically true, and quickly let go of what is not.  Please know that I’m not attacking the persons of Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, Jen Hatmaker, or any other who holds to a progressive theology, but I most certainly will attack the false teaching they proclaim.  I pray that the Spirit of God will draw them deeper into the Word, and that as He illuminates the whole counsel of the Scriptures their eyes may be open to the truth.  I pray that will be true of each of us as we seek God in His word. 

THE FAKE NEWS OF PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY (PART 2)

There are many ways in which the enemy seeks to deceive us, one of which is theology that seems unifying and utopic, but in truth is divisive and destructive. Deconstructed truth is always easier to embrace and swallow. But in reality what you embrace is the bondage of deception’s chains, and what you swallow are the toxic lies of an evil foe.

On this episode of Crossroads & Culture, we continue the discussion on the false teaching of progressive Christianity.  

%d bloggers like this: