About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Where Do We Go From Here 
Part 2


In the mid 1970's I attended Elim Bible Institute, in Lima, New York.  I bought costly text books and I typed on a typewriter.  I used lots of white-out to fix my mistakes, which there were many.  When doing research I spent hours pouring over information in countless books in the library.  Things have changed since then.  Last week I purchased in e-book form 15 of Martin Luther's books that comprise 1476 pages for $1.76 U. S..  My Kindle Fire reads these books to me.  My fingers now type on a computer keyboard where a spell check fixes most of my mistakes.  Technology has enabled us to be the most Biblically literate Christians in history, but we're not.  This leads me to the next step church must take as we maneuver our way into the future. 


Acts 6:2 says, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God to wait on tables".  The apostles distributed food to the poor in the early church.  As the church grew in numbers this job became unmanageable so certain men were chosen for this job.  This allowed the apostles to devote themselves to the Word of God.  It wasn't that food distribution wasn't important.  It just wasn't the apostles' calling.  Food distribution was important.  That's why specific men where chosen to distribute the food.      


The Apostle Paul tells us that pastors must be capable of teaching the Word of God. (1Timothy 3:2)  The first apostles were capable and that's why the believers "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching". (Acts 2:42)  Paul also told Timothy that he must "correctly handle the Word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)  The prerequisite for correctly handling the Word of truth is to approach the Bible from a proper hermeneutical perspective.  This means that pastors must incorporate context, history, culture, original languages, and more, into their Bible study.  Such study of Scripture is becoming noticeably absent these days.  Many Evangelicals are unknowingly buying into our culture's dumbed down mentality that rejects intelligent thought.   


Evangelicals don't seem to be taking the Bible as seriously as they once did.  Messages that are meant to inspire are more popular than messages that are meant to instruct.  We've separated Biblical proclamation into inspirational preaching and instructional teaching, a separation that the Bible knows nothing of.  In Biblical terms, preaching is instructive.  Preaching is teaching.  New Testament leaders instructed the church in Biblical truth and left the inspiring up to the Holy Spirit because that's His job.  Our emphases on inspiration and de-emphasis on instruction has led many to be Biblically illiterate.  I call this "inspired ignorance".       


Inspired ignorance won't get us far in the days ahead.  In fact it is leading some astray right now.  Some Evangelical pastors are leading their congregation in joint worship with Muslims. We know from countless Biblical passages that God detests such paganization of His people.  Other pastors perform same sex weddings.  They clearly mis the meaning of Romans 1.  


I know the word "doctrine" has fallen out of fashion, but good doctrine, or good Biblical teaching, is important to Jesus.  In Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, Jesus was so irritated with certain church leaders' lack of sound doctrine and their tolerance of false doctrine that He was about to wipe them off the spiritual map. (Revelation 2:5 6, 2:14 16, and 20 - 23)  The Laodicean church of Revelation 3:14 22 was caught up in the false doctrine that some of us call the "Prosperity Gospel".   


I think Evangelicals are devaluing the Bible as liberal denominations did in the late 1800's by adopting German liberalism.  The demythologizing of the Bible as it was called removed all supernatural content from the Bible, leaving it a book of mere moral stories.  They believed the Bible was meant to inspire, not instruct.  Ironically, today's "Emergent Church" that has grown out of Evangelical conservatism believes the same.  Brian McLaren, one of this movement's leaders, maintains the Bible is not a book to instruct us how to live, but a book to inspire us.    


Like the seven churches of Revelation, Jesus has allowed these liberal denominations that have decimated Biblical truth to dwindle away into obscurity.  Those groups that still exist entice newcomers by incorporating humanistic elements into their meetings.  One group in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, structures its Sunday meeting around Elvis Presley.  They sing Elvis songs.  Elvis lyrics form the text of the sermon, and everyone dresses like Elvis.  I like Elvis but I can't imagine singing "Jailhouse Rock" or "All Shook Up" in worship to Jesus.  Can you imagine that?       


Don't take my word concerning this.  More important Evangelicals than me hold to the same thinking.  I recommend you read Erwin Lutzer's book entitled, "Hitler's Cross".  He is the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, one of America 's most Evangelical conservative congregations.  You can't get more Biblically conservative than Lutzer.  Without putting words into his mouth, even he sees the Evangelical light dimming.        


In order for church to be the counter-cultural movement that it needs to be in the days ahead, pastors must devote themselves to the study and implementation of Biblical truth.  It's their job to correctly handle the Word of truth as they teach God's people.  That being said, if I were you, I wouldn't wait around.  With all of your heart, soul, and intellect, devote yourself to Biblical truth.  It will save you from believing the lie that Paul said would inflict many at the end of this age. (2 Thessalonians 2:11)   


The first step for church towards our uncertain future is for individuals to reignite their love for Jesus.  The second step is for both pastors and people to devote themselves whole heartedly to what He has instructed.  The third step is to be the community of believers who are networked together in functional relationships in the Body of Christ.  Church is meant to be a counter cultural movement that will fearlessly stand strong in the face of an anti-Christ culture.  I'll speak to this issue next week.


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