Why Love Isn’t Christianity In Its Most Basic Sense

Nov 07

Why Love Isn’t Christianity In Its Most Basic Sense

I preach a different sermon every Sunday. One of my fears is that while doing so, I’ll miss out sharing what is most important–the foundation of Christianity. What if I had only one sermon to teach people what Christianity was all about? What would the message be? It goes without saying that the central message of Christianity is Jesus. But what about Him? Well, my mind immediately goes to 1 Corinthians 13, where it says “These three remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.” So it would make sense that love is Christianity in it’s most basic sense. But I’m not sure that would be accurate. Most people consider themselves loving persons. “I love God. I love my family. I even try to love people who don’t like me.” Is this person a Christian? What makes someone a Christian? Is it love? While the greatest of these is love, it is not the first thing. One of the reasons love is “the greatest of these” is that it continues on through eternity. What first separates a Christian from a non-Christian is not whether they show love or not, but whether they have faith in Jesus or not. Faith and hope, however, are only for this life. In eternity, we will see Jesus with our eyes, not by faith or hope. But while we are on this earth, what first separates a Christian from a non-Christian is not whether they show love or not, but whether they have faith in Jesus or not. I am afraid that in today’s sensibilities, we have convinced ourselves that God ought to save those who are “loving” and “kind.” He should simply look past all the sins of people, and see only their good side. This is our idea of grace. In this view, one does not need to be a Christian to go to heaven. One must only be “good enough.” Or, another option in this view is that God will allow everyone into heaven. But Christianity does not teach either of those things. It teaches something completely different:  Repentance and faith. God’s looking for people who are willing to get real with their sinfulness and look to...

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Which Denomination Am I?

Nov 04

Which Denomination Am I?

I think there are many Christians who are a little frightened by how many different denominations there are out there, and so they just pick a church that has the worship style they like, and don’t pursue it further. Or perhaps they just pick a non-denominational church to play it safe. But in the back of their minds they wonder…which denomination would I belong to if I knew what their differences are? Which one best represents what I think the Bible teaches? So I decided to create a chart that lists some of the theological differences. To be fair, I had to generalize. And I couldn’t list all the differences–just some main ones. And the chart doesn’t take into account worship style differences or how churches operate (does the congregation vote? do they have elders who call all the shots? does a bishop have authority over local churches?). So let me know what you think. Would you change any of the descriptions? Do you think another denomination ought to be included? (I didn’t include Orthodox Christians, so if someone wants to suggest how to fit them in, go for it.) Here are the denominations I included: Assemblies of God Baptists Calvary Chapel Catholic Charismatics Charismatic Baptists Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) Episcopalian Evangelical Covenant Church Evangelical Free Church Freewill Baptists Lutheran (ECLA) Lutheran (Missouri Synod) Nazarene Churches Non-Denominational Presbyterian (PCA) Presbyterian (USA) United Methodist Church Vineyard Movement Wesleyan Church So let me know which one you turned out to be! Without further ado (click to enlarge)…  ...

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Classes Pastors Take

Jul 09

Classes Pastors Take

Yes, congregants, you’ve always wondered if this were true, and now you have the proof. I’m spilling the beans. Here are the courses pastors take to get their ministry degree, and the content given in those classes: How To Make Yourself Look Like You Know A Lot About The Bible 101 –using Wikipedia for historical information –learning how to convincingly use the phrase “…and in the original Greek…” without actually knowing the language yourself –modifying John MacArthur sermons enough so that it isn’t plagiarism How To Keep Your Congregation Engaged For 45 Minutes Without Really Saying Anything 202 –telling hilarious jokes and tear-jerking stories for 40 minutes means you only need to say something substantive for 5 –how pausing throughout your sermon for dramatic effect means you can cut your sermon content (and therefore, sermon prep time) in half –modifying Joel Osteen sermons enough so that it isn’t plagiarism How To Bore Your Congregation Within 5 Minutes 101 –5 easy steps to “wing it” every Sunday (if you start to feel guilty, see the appendix on how to prepare a sermon Saturday night) –how to convince your church that you don’t need to study or plan when you have the Holy Spirit –the wonders of monotone –how to preach the same sermon all year without anyone else realizing it –actually reading what the Bible actually says How To Downsize Your Congregation Fast 205 –stop preaching against the sins of the world and start preaching against the sins of your congregation –stop doing all the work in your church and expect your congregation to do their fair share –preach about money –stop talking about evangelizing your community and start actually doing it –making your worship services largely bent around prayer –seeing to it that church membership actually requires something –calling for repentance –how to find that one, insignificant thing that really shouldn’t matter much, and changing it –teaching what the Bible actually says about what it means to truly follow Jesus Building Campaigns 301 –101 catchy slogans like “Together We Make A Difference” or “With God All Things Are Possible” or “Rebuilding The Wall” –how to effectively motivate your congregation to give a ton of money to state-of-the-art buildings instead...

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A Hope That Doesn’t Disappoint

Mar 01

A Hope That Doesn’t Disappoint

Awhile back, several of us from our church made a group decision to invest heavily into a certain segment of our church. We believed that if we presented the truth of the Gospel not just in words only, but also in an extreme sacrifice of ministry to them…that there would be fruit from that–that lives would be forever changed by God’s Spirit. That isn’t what seemed to happen, and several people from the ministry team have shared their feelings of disappointment. I, too, was disappointed. What does it take for people to see the light of the Gospel, and be forever changed?? Over time, though, there have been other people in the church who have “caught the flame” of what it means to follow, serve, and love Jesus. It has been awesome to see the beginnings of this work of God in the lives of people within our church. But I keep coming back to those whom we attempted to heavily invest in. We had such great hope. And now there is a great disappointment there. Paul says in Romans 5:5, “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Although Paul says that this hope doesn’t disappoint, we might beg to differ. And sometimes, this disappointment makes you want to give up. Why? Because we all know that only God can change someone’s heart–we can’t do it. So when you give it your all, and strive to depend on God for the results, not your own abilities, and then still nothing happens…well, if God’s not going to come through on His end of things, why should we try anything on our end? Awhile back, I had a conversation with a friend about my struggles to understand why it seems that so many people who go to church regularly just never seem to “get it,” no matter how many times you preach the message, no matter in what ways you present the message, no matter how well you live the message. It really makes you feel like, “God–what else can I do? It has to be You who does it. And yet it...

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Stop Being Yourself And Try To Fit In

Jan 15

Stop Being Yourself And Try To Fit In

So I’ve been hearing a repeating message lately, and when that happens, I start to wonder if it’s God talking. Either way, I’m paying attention. The message is this: whatever happened to Christian community? I’ve heard this question asked 3 times in the past 5 days from three different people. The first time was last week talking to someone from our church. She had visited another church in Nebraska (I think), and experienced such warmth from the congregation–she could tell that they truly loved one another and enjoyed being around each other. She immediately felt welcomed and among family. The second time was this past Sunday after church. A new couple visited our church for the first time, and they were questioning why people (Christians) out here in Colorado don’t like to hang out together. It seems that if anyone has free time, they whisk their family away to the mountains or something along those lines. Whatever happened to Christians getting together for a fun time? They were reminiscing about their church back from the midwest that was much more communal, where it was fun to be around each other. Ironically, their church back in Chicagoland was the same church I attended when I lived back there. That was pretty cool! The third time I heard this was today at a video deposition–the court reporter. I found out she was a Christian, but hasn’t been able to find a church in the area where she senses real community. They had great community at their church when they lived in Hawaii, but here it’s another story. She and her husband have found plenty of churches in Colorado that “preach the Word” or are “Spirit-led,” but none where they felt that the people just enjoyed each other. I’ve decided that it’s just the culture “out West.” I’ve lived in three different American cultures so far: midwest, deep south, and now the west. Each is different. In the deep south, everyone gets into your business. In the west, everyone leaves you alone. Neither equals community. I grew up as a child in the midwest, so I can’t really judge it objectively. After all, children/youth tend to be very communal. So out of...

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The Pathetic Gospel and Election

Nov 17

The Pathetic Gospel and Election

No, this isn’t a post on Calvinism or predestination. Instead, I’m referring to the recent election we had in the U.S. I was surprised by the level of surprise voiced by evangelical Christians after the results of the election came in. Whether on the news, or friends via Facebook, or the comments I heard audibly–Christians were upset, shocked, and perplexed. This perplexed me. And it shocked me. And it made me upset. Why? For a couple of reasons. First, it seems to me that Christians are living under a rock. We don’t seem to have a realistic pulse on the attitudes and opinions of our culture. In addition, we think that our opinions should hold more weight than the opinions of others–and that we can somehow force our convictions on the rest of society. Reality check: now that Obama is elected, gay marriage is legal in a few states, etc…the country is NOT now going to hell. Reality is, our country was going to hell well before this election. And it has little to do with who is in power or what legislation is passed. Regardless, these election results shouldn’t be surprising, unless you have your head in the sand. Second, it seems to me that Christians should NOT place their hope in politics, but in the Gospel. Politicians and laws have very little power. The Gospel, however, is the very power of God unto salvation. Even if you so convinced that our government is becoming more and more anti-Christ…well, that’s when the Gospel thrives! Those Christians who are afraid that our country is now on a downward spiral–wake up! This is true for the whole world and has always been true since the beginning of human history. The problem doesn’t rest with politicians or policies or government, the problem lies with Christians. If our country is going to hell, it’s because we aren’t making disciples. Let’s look at a few facts. What do you think is the percentage of American Christians who have made even one disciple for Christ? (I’m stealing the definition for “disciple” from a recent simulcast I attended. Disciple = someone who makes disciples for Christ.) So, using that definition of a disciple, how many...

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Once-And-Done Salvation Is No Salvation

Oct 19

Once-And-Done Salvation Is No Salvation

Let me preface what I’m about to say by stating that I believe salvation does indeed come in a moment of time, when a person repents and believes in Christ. At that very moment, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of them, and as a result they are made holy and have become a new creation. It isn’t based on works, but it comes by faith on the basis of God’s grace. However, we have often taken this core teaching of the Gospel to an end that really is an end. And that end is destruction; not salvation. We often teach that if you come down the altar, say a prayer of repentance, and profess Christ, you are saved. Not necessarily true. We all know that to become a Christian, one needs to do two things: repent and believe in Jesus. Yet are those things “once-and-done”? Clearly not. By definition, to repent means that you change directions. To say that you turn around toward God at one instant in time, and then turn back to the world for the rest of your life–how is that repentance? That is fake repentance. Or to say that at one moment in time, you decided to trust Jesus to save you, but you don’t trust Him with your day-to-day life–how is that really trusting Jesus? To put it another way, 1 John 3:23 says, “This is His commandment, that we 1) believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and 2) love one another, just as He commanded us.” Does that mean that we can simply, at one moment in time, love some given individual, and then go on living selfishly, and thus say we have fulfilled this obligation? Surely not! If that is the case, how can we say that we can “believe in Jesus” in such a way? The problem with once-and-done salvation isn’t that it leaves out works–it actually promotes works! It turns salvation into merely a momentary human decision (works!) instead of salvation being a genuine, inward change that is brought about by God. Salvation happens when a person’s heart is gripped by the conviction of the Holy Spirit that they must let go of the life...

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