Mar 10, 2011

Walk before God, not after Him

I was really blessed recently in my study of Genesis 17. When studying this chapter, it’s pretty common to focus on the name changes from Abram to Abraham and from Sarai to Sarah. It’s also common to examine the significance of the covenant of circumcision. That can be very heady stuff – at least for me.

But, as I studied, I was taken by something that I’ve never considered before. In Verse 1, I made an amazing discovery for my personal process of sanctification. Look at the verse:
Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.” (Gen. 17:1)
Christians often refer to their lives as a walk. It’s a good metaphor. Notice in this verse, walking is the picture God uses in this case, too. But, what struck me was the position of where God is in this picture. God tells Abram to “walk before Me.” That’s a much different notion, to me, than following God.

As I discussed this with my adult Sunday school class, we came away with two applicable ideas from this. One – all we do is in God’s view. Two – we have free will to make choices on the direction of our lives.

Now, in context, Abram has been given clear guidance by God on where he should be and once in that obedience, Abram had the full assurance of God behind him. Yet, in his relationship with God, Abram had freedom. And Abram lives out this freedom under the watchful eye of the One who just called Himself El Shaddai – God Almighty.

I confess that I like the notion that I have the Heavenly Father who is fully sufficient and all capable looking over me … and if I’m attuned to His Spirit, I can continue my process of sanctification for His glory and my edification. I’ll make mistakes, just as Abram did. However, I know God is behind me and I must walk blameless before this Almighty God.

Mar 7, 2011

Populist and felt-need preaching

“I really would like to enhance my marriage,” the church member said. “Pastor, that’s what your next sermon series should be about.”

“You know, that’s a good idea,” the pastor replied. “I’ve been reading a lot of books about the modern relationship and it would be a good opportunity to develop sermons around that.”

If you attend a church where a conversation similar to this is common, then I suggest you seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to determine if that church is where God wants you.

Many churches today have filled their pews and enlarged their budgets by preaching and teaching based on the members’ felt needs or a popular issue. Though preaching to felt needs will make a pastor popular, it weakens the spiritual life of his flock.

Fellow blogger George Cannon puts it this way in a recent posting at West Branch Ramblings.
Populist preaching keeps people shallow in their faith. They can quote their preacher’s position. But there usually is no depth beyond the popular issue of the day. Populist preaching solidifies biblical ignorance. There is no need to exercise their faith, since the preacher is fighting “the fight for the Kingdom.” Also the listener tends to confuse the work of the gospel with the work of the populist message. Populism is popular. But the minister of gospel needs to recognize that our message is not one that is popular. In fact, populist preaching is a sign of the coming apostasy.
I was a member and teacher in a church just like this and I’ve personally witnessed the devastation preaching to felt needs can cause. When questioned about it, the lead pastor became defensive and suggested I leave the church.

At first, I thought I must have missed the point in American church history when preachers felt their job was to entertain and give the people what they want instead of what God wants to give them. However, I realize that this is nothing new and the Apostle Paul was cautioning against this kind of thing when he wrote to Timothy.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
As George Cannon mentioned, this kind of thing will only grow as we draw ever closer to His coming.

Mar 3, 2011

Pope apparently confused

Praise continues around the world for Benedict XVI for stating the already known truth that Jews as a people aren’t to be blamed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Anyone with only cursory study of the Bible would know that it is, in fact, all mankind and its sin that caused Christ to be sacrificed.

However, based on the excerpts that have been released, the content of the pontiff’s new book about Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, must be considered suspect when he makes exegetical claims that are simply wrong.

For example, in a passage commenting on a Gospel account of the scene where the crowd is clamoring for Jesus’ execution and shouting for Christ’s blood, I believe Benedict is confused about the meaning of what the people said regarding their call for His crucifixion and Christ’s blood being on them and their children.

The pontiff writes that the chant from the crowd, "His blood shall be on us and on our children," really means that "we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation."

Does he really believe this? Or, does he believe that Matthew is writing some cute doublé entendre?

Yes, all mankind is in need of the purifying power of Christ’s shed blood. But to claim that the clamoring crowd was shouting for the application of Christ’s purifying blood is simply wrong. Apparently, Benedict didn’t read the immediately preceding verses which helps us know what they were talking about.
Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Crucify Him!" And he said, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they kept shouting all the more, saying, "Crucify Him!" When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves." And all the people said, "His blood shall be on us and on our children!"  (Matt. 27:22-25)
Whether the Jews are being punished for this or not isn’t my main point. My point is that the Pope’s interpretation of this passage is so far off that it reveals a problem.

This latest blunder by the pontiff is evidence of the invalidity of the church’s claim that a pope is inerrant regarding theological issues.

Benedict’s claims about the accusers of Christ are poorly shadowed attempts at an ecumenical truce with Jews. I hope that most Jews aren’t fooled by this and realize that the church of Rome, and Pope Benedict XVI, are no friends to the Jewish people nor to the true state of Israel. The Vatican and its inhabitants have long been anti-Zionist. Regardless of any rhetoric, the actions of past and current leaders of the church of Rome speak very clearly against God’s chosen people, their homeland and their future promised by God.

This recent exhibition of erroneous interpretation should illuminate the fact that this man and his church can maintain no credibility.