You Might Be a Cultural Christian If ______________

50e05749-b250-4144-87b5-a80cebec79371. Worship, to you, is just that part in a church service where songs are sung

“So how was church,” you ask. “The sermon was okay, but the worship part of  the service was awesome!” That is the false dichotomy echoed among cultural Christians. We have “worship leaders” and “worship bands” that are somehow distinct from the rest of Sunday morning’s worship service. While the songs we sing unto God are a part of how we worship, the reality is that worship is a lifestyle, not merely a moment of song and dance.

Paul, beginning in Romans 12, calls us to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1, emphasis mine). Worship is the way in which we live our lives. Everybody worships, the greater question is, what or whom? Christians are called to worship God, by devoting every area of our lives to glorify Him. That’s worship.

2. You’ve professed your faith to the Census Bureau but never to an actual human being.

If the only time you profess Christianity is when the Census Bureau comes a’ knocking at your door, asking you to fill out a census form, which includes your religious preference, there is a serious problem with the state of the very faith in which you profess.

Christ did not call you for you to couch your faith, but to be proactive in sharing His marvelous Light with others. You are called to be Salt and Light, but how can you season the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if you never open your mouth about Him? People do not “light a lamp and put it under a basket.” Neither should you. Let your light shine in the darkness of this world so that the world will see it and give glory to God (Matt. 5:14-16).

3. You know and love those mostly-unbiblical clichés like “God would never give you more than you can handle”

It sounds good when they say it, and the person saying it certainly means well, but the problem is that such a statement is unbiblical. God doesn’t call us to “handle” anything in the midst of trials and tribulations, but to cast our cares upon Him. We are called to depend upon Him, and to trust in Him. In fact, often times God allows struggles to occur in our lives so that we would learn to lean on Him, and not our own understanding.

At the root of this issue with clichés among cultural Christians is their lack of knowledge and reverence for the Word of God. It is imperative, therefore, that we be a people under the authority of God’s Word, as students of Scripture, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), testing what others say, and searching the Scripture for God’s revealed truth ourselves. Christians are called to trust in God’s Word, alone, as sufficient for equipping us to live lives pleasing to Him (2 Tim. 3:16).

4. You Church-hop on Sundays and Bar-hop on Friday’s

You may go to church. You may pay your tithes. You may know all the right things to say and do. Heck, you may even have memorized the entire New Testament. But at the end of the day, if your life doesn’t reflect the faith you profess, your faith is dead (James 2:17). Meaningless.

1 John gives us some solemn warnings, and is a great go-to-book to measure ones spiritual vitality. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The “world,” here, is not the same “world” of John 3:16. The “world” in this verse is not talking about the people of this world, but rather the patterns of this world. Simply put, do you love the things of this world more than you love God? Sex, money, entertainment, food, or whatever it may be, are all good things, no doubt. But a good thing can become a bad thing when to you it becomes god. You’ve been saved by faith, for good works. Now walk it out (Eph. 2:10) and be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

5. Christianity, to you, is synonymous with American.

I’m sorry to have to be the one to break it to you but Christianity is not an American religion. It’s not even a Western religion. It was a bloody, Jewish, Middle-Eastern Messiah—whom you, as the arrogant and ignorant American, would probably report to TSA at an air terminal—that established the Christian faith.

Besides, you are in for a rude awakening as the tide of Post-Christian thought comes rolling in from Europe, permeating American society and institutions of higher learning. And it is because of you, cultural Christian, that they will become more effective.

Learn and know the faith that you claim to stand upon. And learn to contend for it, whenever and wherever necessary (Jude 1:3).

6. You say awesome—a lot.

You are not awesome. Your friends are not awesome. That steak from Ruth Chris’ is not awesome. Even that latest edition to the X-Men film series is not awesome. I’m afraid that such a light-hearted usage of the word “awesome” has given way to irreverence for what is truly awesome: God Himself.

Rather, let us sing, with the Palmist, “awesome is God from His sanctuary!” (Psalm 68:35, emphasis mine)

Amen.

 

Obviously I could not fit all of the ways in which cultural Christians manifest themselves into this brief post, but feel free to add some of your thoughts in the comment section!

How’s Your Prayer Life?

child_prayingHow’s your prayer life? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that it is not very good. After all, we are still sinners, who, at our very core, struggle forward in our relationship with God. We set our alarms to wake up an hour early, re-dedicating our lives to be devoted to prayer, and time with God.

But then we wake up and hit the snooze button.

Or maybe your prayers don’t lack consistency, but certainly lack substance. You pray the same rigid and repetitive prayers you’ve been praying for years, and have become quite shallow in your prayer life, which, ultimately, has affected your relationship with God.

Prayer is the means whereby we communicate with God, cast our cares upon God, confess ourselves before God, and exult in His glory.

Prayer should be done, even when we do not feel like it, because it is precisely when we don’t feel like it, that our relationship with God is open to compromise. Jesus tells His disciples, in the Gospel according to Matthew, to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41, emphasis mine).

Yes, do come to God with your petitions, and yes, do thank God for His healing power, or even for that new promotion at work. Thank God, through prayer, in all things. Come to God, in prayer, for all things. But come to God in prayer, nonetheless.

Christ, our Great High Priest, through the shedding of His blood, has secured for us unlimited access to the presence of God. Therefore, we may boldly go where no one before Christ has gone before (unless, of course, you were a Levite, chosen as the High Priest).

The book of Hebrews reminds us that “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near [to God]” (Heb. 10:19,22).

Be confident that Christ has paved the way, for you, into the presence of God, and pray. Pray often. Pray when you do not feel like praying. After all, quality time in prayer really only comes through the quantity of time you spend praying.

Tim Keller, in his new book entitled Prayer (a must read!), writes the following:

Just prior to giving his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus offered some preliminary ideas, including this one : “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. . . . But when you pray , go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen . . . in secret” (Matt 6: 5– 6). The infallible test of spiritual integrity, Jesus says, is your private prayer life. Many people will pray when they are required by cultural or social expectations , or perhaps by the anxiety caused by troubling circumstances. Those with a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father, however, will inwardly want to pray and therefore will pray even though nothing on the outside is pressing them to do so. They pursue it even during times of spiritual dryness, when there is no social or experiential payoff.[1]

Do you even want to pray? Keller is saying that if we do not desire to pray, then something is detrimentally wrong with our spiritual state. Our relationship with God depends upon the time we spend with God, in prayer. Prayer is essential to our spiritual being.

So then, what’s left to do but to pray?

[1] Keller, Timothy (2014-11-04). Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (p. 23). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Does God Actually Say No to the GLBT Community?

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NOTE: This article is meant to address the decisions of the church in dealing with, and allowing such sins as homosexuality and gender confusion, and does in no way devalue the need for loving and evangelizing those who are dead in such sins. All of us need Jesus, our only Lord and Savior.  

 

This week, the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) gathered together to vote on severing ties with one of Louisville’s local KBC-affiliated churches. What was the reason behind their decision to release the church from affiliation? The church, Crescent Hill Baptist Church, made the choice to affirm and perform same-sex marriages. As if that was not bad enough, Crescent Hill also decided to ordain members of their church, regardless of ones sexual preferences or gender-identity. This would allow homosexual or transgender men and women to serve and lead from within the church (you can read more here).

So, what’s the problem? It’s the 21st century, and shouldn’t we be over this sort of rigid fundamentalism by now?

Sure, if your desires and actions are motivated by the culture, rather than God.

But God loves everyone, doesn’t He? Surely He wouldn’t allow for such condemning and judgmental behaviors from within His own church?

Well, let’s see.

Here is a list of passages of Scripture that clearly condemn homosexual activity:

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination (Lev. 18:22).

If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them. (Lev. 20:13).

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper (Romans 1:26-28).

These passages, when taken within their rightful context, leave no room for speculation. Homosexuality is a sin, like every other sin mentioned in the Bible, in that it is punishable by death (Romans 3:23). Yet homosexuality is unique because it is the supreme example of distorted and disorderly worship. Homosexuality, and to deny ones God-given identity, is to deny the very image of God in which they were created. This is not to say that man’s sinful nature does not produce unwanted desires and attractions in us; but they can be overcome, in Christ. For the Christian, they must be overcome, as we are to no longer live according to the flesh (Romans 8:12-13). Furthermore, nowhere does the Bible affirm same-sex relationships, let alone condone the appointment of unrepentant homosexuals to the office of deacon or elder (See biblical qualifications in 1 Tim. 3, Titus 2).

To reject these truths of scripture is to reject God’s Word, and to reject God’s Word is to reject God himself. What Crescent Hill church has done, is taken a ride down the slippery slope of biblical liberalism. When being politically correct becomes more important than being biblically sound, you have degenerated from the very will of God.

At the heart of this issue between the KBC and Crescent Hill, is the question: did God actually say no to homosexuality? In fact, this is the very question posed to Eve, in the Garden of Eden, that deceived man into rejecting God’s Word, while choosing the creation over the Creator. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) This is the very question that is being answered wrongfully by so many professing Christian denominations across the globe. But God does say no to homosexuality, same-sex relationships, and all-of-the-above, as clearly revealed in His inerrant and authoritative Word. To deviate from God’s Truth is to deviate from the standard of faith, as measured according to scripture, and practiced and affirmed by over two thousand years of historical Christianity.

Crescent Hill, and others, must realize that when it comes to God’s Word, you must either believe all of it, or none of it, but it must not be just some of it. This is not a gray-area issue like whether or not Christians can drink alcohol or dance—the integrity of God’s Word is on the line. Once Christians begin to reject fundamental truths concerning the institution of marriage and being made in the image of God, it isn’t too long before the Bible itself is rejected. Sure, they may say they believe in God, but it will not be the God of the Bible! The truth of the matter is that you will either stand on the Word of God, or you will fall by the Word of God.

So, Christian, where will you stand?

To listen to Dr. Albert Mohler of The Briefing, and President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, weigh in on the issue, click here.

Cut It Off, and Pluck It Out: Preventing Sexual Immorality

Cut-It-Off-Pluck-Out-Matthew-18.8You love Starbucks. In fact, you go to Starbucks everyday. Not because you love the coffee, but because you love meeting the young college girls who go there, thanks to a nearby campus. You look at them and lust after them, convincing yourself, as a Christian, that as long as you don’t have sex with them, it’s okay.

You can’t wait until your wife goes to bed. You’ve been fantasizing all day about the girls you see online. The unlimited access to thousands of beautiful—and naked—women that you have, right at your fingertips. You look at pornography daily, and masturbate excessively. Your wife has no idea, even though your pornography addiction is the very reason that your marital sex-life is dwindling. You love your wife—or so you say—and reason that masturbation is okay, since your not actually having sex with another woman. Even still, you dread the day that your wife walks in on you and catches you in the act.

The mind that becomes imprisoned by lust gains a couple of cellmates named Denial and Rationalization. We love to mask the behaviors we know to be sinful; denying them for what they truly are: sin. We rationalize our behavior, measuring our lives against those around us, considering that because they are doing it, it must be acceptable. We work to minimize our sin, and reject the devastation it has, or will, cause us, and others. But the message of Jesus Christ goes beyond any act of sexual immorality, and cuts right to the heart of the issue. Literally.

Sexual immorality is just another manifestation of your heart condition. Jesus, in Matthew 5:28, says that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (emphasis mine). To look at a woman with lustful intent is to gaze upon another person with sexual gratification in mind. We turn our sisters, His daughters, into objects of our own sinful desires. We dehumanize them. When we lust in our minds, we sin in our hearts. Jesus says we’ve already committed adultery.

So how do we avoid it? Jesus goes on to say that “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away … And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matt. 5:29a, 30a).

Recently, I was talking with a friend when the fact that he did not have the Internet came up. What? Who doesn’t have the Internet these days? Apparently him. Curious, I asked him why. His reason astonished me—but not as much as it encouraged me. He said that he did not have the Internet because he “had problems looking at things he shouldn’t be looking at.” He struggles with pornography. Acknowledging this struggle, and born out of his desire to please God, he chose not to get the Internet. He dismembered himself from pornography by plucking out his proverbial eye. He took preventive measures against his sin. This is what Christ calls us to do.

In the concluding verse of the passage on adultery, Jesus gives us the reason as to why we should take such preventive measures against our sexual sin. “It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:30b). What Jesus is saying is that it is better to separate our selves from the temporal pleasures of sin, rather than be separated from God for eternity.

If going to Starbucks, or any other place, sets you up to stumble after the lust of the flesh, don’t go! If you struggle with addiction to pornography, get rid of the Internet, or take preventive measures to ensure that you are not alone in front of a computer that may have access to pornography. Cut if off, and pluck it out.

Suffer Well: The Call of Christ in Missions

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In his general epistle, written to the church at Philippi, Paul ensures his audience that it “has been granted to [them] that for the sake of Christ [they] should not only believe in him but also suffer for His sake.”[1] This same truth given to the Philippians, applies to us, as believers, today. The ministry of the Apostles and the expansion of God’s Kingdom came on the heels of much suffering. Suffering for the sake of Christ, to the glory of God, is the mark of obedience to the will of God. Jesus Himself reminds us “a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”[2] The way of the cross is the way of suffering. And one cannot carry out the Great Commission without taking up his cross, and following Christ on the road to Calvary.

Dr. Arthur Glasser asserts that “the gospel cannot be preached and the people of God cannot be gathered into congregations within the nations (John 11:52) without individuals ‘completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions’ in order to accomplish this task (Col. 1:24).”[3] It is nonsensical how Bible-believing missionaries overseas are withdrawing, or being withdrawn, amidst severe persecution (ISIS, etc.), so as to protect their own lives, while many natives of foreign lands—whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ—are being slain daily. The Christian is called to suffer and to endure such persecution for the glory of God. To avoid what is the inevitable call of Christ—to come and die—is to avoid the very will of God, and diminish the glory of God among the nations.

The way of the cross is a fundamental part of Christian missions. A valuable lesson, to count the cost, may be learned from the Apostles, and those who have gone before us: “do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord … but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”[4] When you suffer, you suffer for the gospel. Suffering for God, glorifies God, and aids in the advancement of His Kingdom. Our suffering in this world, points to our suffering Savior, whom died for this world, that the world might be saved. Therefore, beloved, let us suffer well, and, holdfast to the words of Paul: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”[5]

           

[1] Philippians 1:29. All scripture quotations cite the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

[2] John 15:20.

[3] Arthur Glasser, “The Apostle Paul and the Missionary Task,” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009), 153.

[4] 2 Timothy 2:8.

[5] Colossians 1:24.

Photo taken from SBTS.edu