Definitely a great topic for discussion. Is the nation’s capitol sacred, and if yes or no, why/why not?
Perhaps one of the best explanations of the Doctrines of Grace available for the average reader. My personal journey into Reformed theology began and still rests in Holy Scripture. During the journey I have of course consulted many other resources, including listening to an entire lengthy series of teaching concerning the History and Theology of Calvinism by Curt Daniel, available online free of charge. I had known just enough about Calvinism to hate him. I attribute that hatred to the worship of autonomous human free will. I will gladly entertain thoughtful questions.
This is an excellent treatment of this critical subject! – Dan C. It’s length, but worth a good read!
The Gospel and Politics
by John MacArthur
For us, as Christians in the United States, it’s easy to get caught up in all the political fervor. It can even be tempting to think that legislation is the key to solving the moral problems that plague American society. But is that a right perspective? John MacArthur addresses this important issue and underscores a biblical response.
There was a time (in the days of our Puritan forefathers), when almost every soul in America acknowledged the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of ethics and morality. Today most Americans can’t even name three of the Ten.
There was also a time (not so long ago) when Americans universally disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and divorce; they believed sexual promiscuity is absolutely wrong; they regarded obscene language as inappropriate; they saw abortion as unthinkable; and they held public officials to high moral and ethical standards. Nowadays, most of the behavior society once deemed immoral is defended as an inalienable civil right.
How times and the culture have changed! The strong Christian influence and scriptural standards that shaped Western culture and American society through the end of the nineteenth century have given way to practical atheism and moral relativism. The few vestiges of Christianity in our culture are at best weak and compromising, and to an increasingly pagan society they are cultic and bizarre.
In less than fifty years’ time, our nation’s political leaders, legislative bodies, and courts have adopted a distinctly anti-Christian attitude and agenda. The country has swept away the Christian worldview and its principles in the name of equal rights, political correctness, tolerance, and strict separation of church and state. Gross immorality—including homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and other evils—has been sanctioned not only by society in general but in effect by the government as well. A portion of our tax dollars are now used to fund programs and government agencies that actively engage in blatant advocacy of various immoral practices.
What are Christians to do about it?
Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved without a political strategy. During the past twenty-five years, well-meaning Christians have founded a number of evangelical activist organizations and sunk millions of dollars into them in an effort to use the apparatus of politics—lobbying, legislation, demonstration, and boycott—to counteract the moral decline of American culture. They pour their energy and other resources into efforts to drum up a “Christian” political movement that will fight back against the prevailing anti-Christian culture.
But is that a proper perspective? I believe not. America’s moral decline is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and its solution is the gospel, not partisan politics.
LESSONS FROM HISTORY
This is a lesson evangelicals ought to know from church history. Whenever the church has focused on evangelism and preaching the gospel, her influence has increased. When she has sought power by political, cultural, or military activism, she has damaged or spoiled her testimony.
The Crusades during the Middle Ages were waged for the purpose of regaining Christian control of the Holy Lands. Few believers today would argue that those efforts were fruitful. Even when the crusaders enjoyed military success, the church grew spiritually weaker and more worldly. Other religious wars and campaigns tinged with political motivation (such as the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, Cromwell’s revolution in England, and other skirmishes during the Reformation era) are all viewed with disapproval, or at best curiosity, by Christians today. And rightly so. The military and political ambitions of some of the Reformers turned out to be a weakness, and ultimately an impediment to the Reformation. On the other hand, the strength of the Reformation, and its enduring legacy, was derived from the fact that Reformation theology shone a bright spotlight on the way of salvation and brought clarity to the gospel.
Throughout Protestant history, those segments of the visible church that have turned their attention to social and political issues have also compromised sound doctrine and quickly declined in influence. Early modernists, for example, explicitly argued that social work and moral reform were more important than doctrinal precision, and their movement soon abandoned any semblance of Christianity whatsoever.
Today’s evangelical political activists seem to be unaware of how much their methodology parallels that of liberal Christians at the start of the twentieth century. Like those misguided idealists, contemporary evangelicals have become enamored with temporal issues at the expense of eternal values. Evangelical activists in essence are simply preaching a politically conservative version of the old social gospel, emphasizing social and cultural concerns above spiritual ones.
That kind of thinking fosters the view that government is either our ally (if it supports our special agenda) or our enemy (if it remains opposed or unresponsive to our voice). The political strategy becomes the focus of everything, as if the spiritual fortunes of God’s people rise or fall depending on who is in office. But the truth is that no human government can ultimately do anything either to advance or to thwart God’s kingdom. And the worst, most despotic worldly government in the end cannot halt the power of the Holy Spirit or the spread of God’s Word.
To gain a thoroughly biblical and Christian perspective on political involvement, we should take to heart the words of the British theologian Robert L. Ottley, delivered at Oxford University more than one hundred years ago:
The Old Testament may be studied. . .as an instructor in social righteousness. It exhibits the moral government of God as attested in his dealings with nations rather than with individuals; and it was their consciousness of the action and presence of God in history that made the prophets preachers, not merely to their countrymen, but to the world at large. . . .There is indeed significance in the fact that in spite of their ardent zeal for social reform they did not as a rule take part in political life or demand political reforms. They desired. . .not better institutions but better men. (Aspects of the Old Testament. The Bampton Lectures, 1897 [London: Longmans, 1898], 430-31)
LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE
My point is not that Christians should remain totally uninvolved in politics or civic activities and causes. They ought to express their political beliefs in the voting booth, and it is appropriate to support legitimate measures designed to correct a glaring social or political wrong. Complete noninvolvement would be contrary to what God’s Word says about doing good in society: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10; cf. Titus 3:1-2). It would also display a lack of gratitude for whatever amount of religious freedom the government allows us to enjoy. Furthermore, such pious apathy toward government and politics would reveal a lack of appreciation for the many appropriate legal remedies believers in democracies have for maintaining or improving the civil order. A certain amount of healthy and balanced concern with current trends in government and the community is acceptable, as long as we realize that that interest is not vital to our spiritual growth, our righteous testimony, or the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Above all, the believer’s political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching and teaching the gospel.
There is certainly no prohibition on believers being directly involved in government as civil servants, as some notable examples in the Old and New Testaments illustrate. Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon are two excellent models of servants God used in top governmental positions to further His kingdom. The centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13), Zaccheus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10) all continued in public service even after they experienced the healing or saving power of Christ. (As far as we know, the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus also remained in office after he was converted [Acts 13:4-12].)
The issue again is one of priority. The greatest temporal good we can accomplish through political involvement cannot compare to what the Lord can accomplish through us in the eternal work of His kingdom. Just as God called ancient Israel (Ex. 19:6), He has called the church to be a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of political activists. The apostle Peter instructs us, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
Jesus, as we would expect, perfectly maintained His Father’s perspective on these matters even though He lived in a society that was every bit as pagan and corrupt as today’s culture. In many ways it was much worse than any of us in Western nations has ever faced. Cruel tyrants and dictators ruled throughout the region, the institution of slavery was firmly entrenched—everything was the antithesis of democracy. King Herod, the Idumean vassal of Rome who ruled Samaria and Judea, epitomized the godless kind of autocratic rule: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men [concerning the whereabouts of the baby Jesus], was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16).
Few of us have experienced the sort of economic and legal oppression that the Romans applied to the Jews of Jesus’ day. Tax rates were exorbitant and additional government-sanctioned abuses by the tax collectors exacerbated the financial burden on the people. The Jews in Palestine were afforded almost no civil rights and were treated as an underprivileged minority that could not make an appeal against legal injustices. As a result, some Jews were in constant outward rebellion against Rome.
Fanatical nationalists, known as Zealots, ignored their tax obligations and violently opposed the government. They believed that even recognizing a Gentile ruler was wrong (see Deuteronomy 17:15, “You may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother”). Many Zealots became assassins, performing acts of terrorism and violence against both the Romans and other Jews whom they viewed as traitors.
It is also true that the Roman social system was built on slavery. The reality of serious abuses of slaves is part of the historical record. Yet neither Jesus nor any of the apostles attempted to abolish slavery. Instead, they commanded slaves to be obedient and used slavery as a metaphor for believers who were to submit to their Lord and Master.
Jesus’ earthly ministry took place right in the midst of that difficult social and political atmosphere. Many of His followers, including the Twelve, to varying degrees expected Him to free them from Rome’s oppressive rule. But our Lord did not come as a political deliverer or social reformer. He never issued a call for such changes, even by peaceful means. Unlike many late twentieth-century evangelicals, Jesus did not rally supporters to some grandiose attempt to “capture the culture” for biblical morality or greater political and religious freedoms.
Christ, however, was not devoid of care and concern for the daily pain and hardships people endured in their personal lives. The Gospels record His great empathy and compassion for sinners. He applied those attitudes in a tangible, practical way by healing thousands of people of every kind of disease and affliction, often at great personal sacrifice to Himself.
Still, as beneficial and appreciated as His ministry to others’ physical needs was, it was not Jesus’ first priority. His divine calling was to speak to the hearts and souls of individual men and women. He proclaimed the good news of redemption that could reconcile them to the Father and grant them eternal life. That message far surpasses any agenda for political, social, or economic reform that can preoccupy us. Christ did not come to promote some new social agenda or establish a new moral order. He did come to establish a new spiritual order, the body of believers from throughout the ages that constitutes His church. He did not come to earth to make the old creation moral through social and governmental reform, but to make new creatures holy through the saving power of the gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. And our Lord and Savior has commanded us to continue His ministry, with His supreme priorities in view, with the goal that we might advance His kingdom: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
In the truest sense, the moral, social, and political state of a people is irrelevant to the advance of the gospel. Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
THE REAL BATTLE
We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.
God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a façade of morality on the world or over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.
God has above all else called the church to bring sinful people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If we do not evangelize the lost and make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for people—no matter how beneficial it seems—is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy materialist or a gracious philanthropist—if he does not have a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes no difference if an unsaved person is for or against abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God unless he repents and believes the gospel.
When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and resources away from evangelization. Such an antagonistic position toward the established secular culture invariably leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved government leaders with whom they disagree, but also antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture—neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for, and share the gospel with. To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s perspective on political involvement:
A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity…..
American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)
By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in. You can confront the culture not with the political and social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling—and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.
HT: Pulpit Magazine
In Part 1 of this series of articles, Be Available, we shared real examples of how doors seem to just ‘open up’ for sharing the message of the gospel, and what can happen when there’s a willing and available gospel messenger ‘on location’.
In Part 3, Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, Our Highest Calling, the focus was on understanding the nature of the believer’s role in sharing Christ with the world around us.
This fourth article of the series has to do with maintaining a heartfelt burden for the lost around us, thus the title “How’s Your Weep?” That title came to mind thinking about something that happened quite some time ago (30 years?) in Ft. Ord, California.
I was attending the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, CA studying Polish and living on Ft. Ord. I had connected with the Ft. Ord chapel community and was involved in a small group weekly Bible study. During one of those evening studies (I don’t remember the exact topic), one of the young soldiers in attendance, with a look of sadness in her eyes, uttered a very simple yet profound statement:
“I’ve lost my weep!”
She was talking about her burden for lost souls. Something in our discussion that evening had triggered her sentiment. She seemed to have realized in that moment that while she once had a deep burden for the lost, for some reason it had gone by the wayside. Determined to find it again she took time off from work to get alone with God and learn to ‘weep’ again.
Hers was not an uncommon experience with Christians. We remember a time when we shared our faith, not only with excitement over what God has done in saving us, but also with a heartfelt burden for the lost with whom we live and work every day. That burden comes from knowing and understanding the dire straits of all who are living apart from Christ – “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is how the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards described it.
Then ‘life’ happens and our burden for lost souls diminishes. Perhaps it’s the hectic pace of our jobs or scholastic endeavors. Family situations might demand more and more of us. Our social lives and desire for acceptance often distract us. And of course, there’s the possibility that some of those with whom you would share Christ are complete jerks! (in temporal terms). And the list of distractions (excuses?) can go on and on forever
Then one day you realize, like the young lady at our Bible study, that something is wrong. Sure, you share Jesus with others, but without the intense burden you once had for their souls. Maybe you’ve never experienced such a burden. So how can you find what you lost? How can you discover what you might never have had?
You can get away and get alone with God, like the young lady at our Bible study. You can pray and get into the word. Those are rather broad suggestions. Can we narrow it down a bit? We’ll try.
First, revisit and remember your own condition before you encountered Jesus as your savior and lord. Apart from Christ we were:
- Dead in trespasses and sin, disobedient, under Satan’s control, concerned only with our own passions, and by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3)
- Enemies of God and unable to please God (Romans 8:7-8)
- Unable to even understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14)
- Slaves of sin (John 8:34)
- Already condemned (John 3:18)
That’s the short list, trust me. REALLY reflect on your condition apart from Christ. Read those passages in context. Let it sink deep into your mind and heart. That was YOU, that was ME! We were completely and utterly hopeless! (Ephesians 2:12).
Did it sink in? REALLY sink in? When it does. . .
Now take ALL of that and apply it to the lost all around you – to co-workers, family and friends, acquaintances, passersby. Even if they’re jerks.
As a final note, we’re not saying you must have a deep concern for or physically weep over lost souls to be an effective witness for Christ. Far from it. But just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39), and Paul had a great love and burden for his fellow Jews (Romans 9:1-9), a genuine heartfelt burden for those to we share Christ will add a sincerity that will be unmistakable to the ears and hearts of our hearers!
Blog Post – Replacing Worry with the Right Focus
— Read on www.gty.org/library/blog/B121126
The Church is More Essential than a Hospital: Responding to Criticisms
— Read on pastorgabehughes.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-church-is-more-essential-than.html
In Part 1 of this series of articles, Be Available, we shared real examples of how doors seem to just ‘open up’ for sharing the message of the gospel, and what can happen when there’s a willing and available gospel messenger ‘on location’.
This article focuses on understanding the nature of the believer’s role in sharing Christ with the world around us. Bear in mind that God, being GOD, is able to save lost sinners in any way He chooses to do so, with, or without our involvement. At the same time, it’s important to remember that God has not only provided for the salvation of His people (through Christ); he has chosen the means by which he saves lost sinners. – the preaching of the gospel (sharing Christ). This means that fur you and me (and all believers) sharing Christ with a lost world is at least three things; Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, and Our Hignest Calling!
18And Jesus came and said to them (the disciples), “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mathew 28:18-20)
You might be thinking that there is no command for personal evangelism in the above passage of scripture, I beg to differ. Jesus’ command, to ‘make disciples’, by its very nature requires sharing the message of the gospel. Disciples are only produced from saved; blood bought sinners. Jesus disciples (followers) were commanded to make disciples of those were already believers and preach the message of the gospel to those still lost so that they could then be made into disciples.
Our Great Privilege
God not only provided the way of salvation of His people in the death and resurrection of His Son, He also decreed the means whereby men are saved.
13“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)
The above passage is crystal clear. Those who call on the Lord will be saved. Calling on the Lord means believing in Him. To believe they must first hear the good news (evangel). For them to hear, someone must preach Christ to them. Those who share the good news are ‘sent’ by God to do so.
Dear friends, WE ae among those who are sent to share the good news! The Great Commission was given specifically to Jesus’ immediate disciple, but it was meant for all believers for all time.
God has chosen to use flawed you and me to share His perfect message of salvation! How is that NOT the greatest privilege bestowed on God’s children?
Our Highest Calling
I recently read an article in a local newspaper about an F/A-18 Super Hornet weapons system officer who was actually the first female pilot to bomb ISIS from an F/A 18. Here is how she described ISIS and her role in the bombing:
“They are a horrible crop of humans, with an utter disregard for human life,” she said. “To witness that, day in and out, to witness mass murder, you have such an understanding. I’d trained for so long to protect innocent people on the ground, and when I saw that violated, and to finally use my skills to do that and use weapons, there is no higher calling.” (Emphasis mine)
With no disrespect to either a fine Naval officer or anyone who fights global terrorism, I have to confess that the immediate reaction of this old soldier was “But there IS a higher calling!” – to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world around us, and often hostile culture in which we live.
In many churches these days much is made of living our best lives now, discovering our special purpose for our time on planet Earth, and even achieving our ‘dream destinies’. Friends, I suggest to you that all of those things are merely temporary at best. I also suggest to you that our duty and great privilege to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a lost world, and the eternal consequences at stake (heaven and hell), define the great commission as the highest calling a blood bought child of God has received from heaven!
“What is apologetics?” Well, the term comes from the Greek word “apologia”, which simply means “a verbal defense”. Christian apologetics would then be a verbal defense of the Christian faith. The most important passage of scripture pertaining to Christian apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15:
“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,”
There are three basic types of apologetics; classical, evidential, and presuppositional.
Classical apologetics has been called a two-step method. The first step is to prove the existence of God, using various arguments with really long names. Once the existence of God is proven, we can proceed to prove that Christianity is true.
Evidential apologetics does not attempt to prove the existence of God, but jumps straight to proving Christianity is true from various forms of evidence (historical, archeological, biblical).
Presuppositional apologists argue that we must presuppose (assume) the truth of Christianity and show that every other worldview (and religion) is false.
If you are reading this, you might have already concluded that while classical and evidential apologetics are not difficult to understand, you suffered a brain cramp when you got to the presuppositional approach. Perhaps explaining how these approaches apply to sharing our faith with unbelievers can clear things up a bit.
If I am a classical apologist sharing my Christian faith with an unbeliever I would first try and prove the existence of God followed by the truth of Christianity.
If I am an evidential apologist sharing my faith I would try and prove Christianity to be true by using various evidences pointing to its truth (history, archeology, the bible).
If I am a presupposition apologist I would begin with the assumption (presupposition) that what the Bible has to say about anything and everything is true, and allow that to inform personal evangelism.
Let’s use the existence of God as an example.
The Bible tells us in Romans 1:20-21 that all men ‘know’ God, but they suppress the truth they already know). If that’s true, why would I need to ‘prove’ the existence of God to an unbeliever?
The Bible also tells us that the natural man hates the God he knows exists (Rom 8:7-8). If he hates God he hates Christianity, and probably all religions. If that’s true, why would I spend a lot of effort trying to make attractive (Christianity) something the unbeliever absolutely hates? Think Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). President Trump could tell folks that breathing clean air is good for them, but the TDS afflicted would deny it because Trump said it.
Unfortunately, much, if not most, of today’s evangelism attempts to do just that – make Christianity attractive to the unbelieving ‘seeker’, assuming that they are seeking after someone they hate. Incidentally, the Bible also tells us that no human being seeks God (Rom 3:11). (There’s another presupposition).
So how should we share Christ with unbelievers? Might I suggest the way the Apostle Paul did?
Paul preached Christ crucified for the sins of men and left the rest to the sovereign God who opens human hearts to hear and respond to that simple message. If you want a good example, read the story of Lydia in Acts 16. Call that his ‘marketing campaign for Christianity’ – a far cry from all of today’s marketing campaigns to get unbelievers through the front doors of our evangelical churches.
You could even call Paul’s approach to evangelism ‘Calvinistic’. The TULIP (not invented by Calvin) just might express what the Bible actually teaches.
What we call the ’Arminian’ approach relies on the libertarian freewill of lost men (and women) and their ‘natural’(straight from the womb) ability to respond positively to a gospel message. That gospel message however, must be attractive to the unbeliever, meaning that the ‘offensive’ gospel that Jesus died for sin is a non-starter.
So that’s one old guy’s take on apologetics practically applied to sharing Christ. If you want to get into more detail concerning the three types of apologetics, feel free to do so. We have Goggle!
If you want a demonstration of the presupposition approach to proving the existence of God, go here.
It’s not exactly rocket science that our American culture seems to be more hostile to public expressions of Christianity with each passing day. Christian values across the board are ridiculed when they run counter to a society’s prevailing values and attitudes, and it’s nothing new. At the same time, sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is both the mission and great privilege of all believers. So how are we to accomplish this mission knowing that merely expressing our faith in public settings outside of our respective faith communities?
This is the first in a series of articles addressing this all important issue from the personal perspective of an old soldier who just wants “to leave something behind” (to quote the title of a Sean Rowe song) that might help others traveling along Gospel Highway.
As the above title states, the first step is to just ‘be available’. It sounds easy, but it might be more difficult that it sounds. While all of us have at one time or another told God (not without a certain amount of pride) that we are available to do whatever he commands us to do, who among us has not taken a step backward when faced with very real consequences of exiting the jump door of a high performance aircraft into unknown darkness. Paratrooper metaphor aside, it can be scary. So before you declare to our Savior your willingness and availability to share His gospel with the world around you, consider the cost in terms of what it will mean in your personal life. Are you ready to be open about your Christian faith, no matter what? That’s the starting point. Keeping your faith to yourself isn’t an option.
While I might not know you, I do know that if you are available, God will use you. Here are a few examples I know of from within the Special Forces community.
- ·A small detachment of SF soldiers were training in the Allegheny forest in Pennsylvania. One of the men was known by all of the men to be a Christian, although he didn’t advertise it. Another of the men, a team medic, was dating a girl from Boston who was a Christian and talked about God now and again. The entire detachment was sitting around a camp fire in the woods (non-tactical) and the medic started talking about his ‘Christian’ girlfriend from Boston and asking questions.
- ·An SF Battalion field headquarters was established in the Cape Cod area for a training exercise. During the exercise one of the SF soldiers in the Bn died when both of his parachutes failed during an infiltration operation in upstate NY. His name was Bob and he was a strong believer. The Bn Commander in the Cape Cod location wanted to have a memorial service for Bob and asked for someone who was close to Bob to visit with the local minister who was to mold the service in the field headquarters. As a result of the meeting, the entire field headquarters heard a clear presentation of the gospel message, from the commander (LTC) on down.
- ·An SF “A” Team Leader (CPT) was killed over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988 returning from an exercise planning event. The Pan Am aircraft was destroyed by a bomb. One of his Team Sergeants, an E-8, who had served his Team for a year before being reassigned to another position in the 10th SF Group, was a believer and all of the team members knew it. The former Team Sergeant attended the funeral service at the SF Chapel at Ft. Devens. When the casket bearers were walking from the chapel to the waiting hearse, the former Team Sgt’s eyes and the eyes of the casket bearers met and a silent reminder of the finality of death passed between them.
We share these examples solely to demonstrate what can happen, in God’s providence, just because you are available, without any overt actions on your part. No initiating religious conversations, passing out Gospel literature, or “I’m a Fool for Jesus, Whose Fool Are You?” bumper stickers. God opens doors. All we do is walk through those doors and let God be God. Seeds of the Gospel are sown and souls are eternally saved.
I leave you with a question.
Are you available?
Be blessed as you grow in Christ!
Today is December 26, the day after Christmas. By now most of us are recuperating from the frenzied holiday rounds of parties, shopping, driving, visiting, entertaining and of course the giving and receiving of gifts. Many of us are repentant of our avarice on the one hand, and probably all of us are sick of the commercialism and exploitation. Perhaps now is not the time to ask the question I am going to offer, “Should we do it?”
By asking that question I do not mean, “Should we be greedy or materialistic? Should we buy into the exploitation and worldly mythology?” I do not expect many Christians to have trouble with that question, even if avoiding those things is not quite so easy. But the question I want to ask is this: “Should we even have Christmas? Should we observe it at all? Should Christians, as an expression of fidelity to the God of the Bible participate in the cultural-religious phenomenon that we call Christmas? Is it a damaging and dangerous product of a godless culture that Christian parents and friends should steer clear of as being unfaithful to the Lord and unhealthy to us and our children?
There are more than a few Christians who agree with this assessment, who just say “no” to Christmas altogether and who follow their words with action. No wreaths, no Christmas tree, no stockings, certainly no Santa Claus and no reindeer. One such Christian, Dr. Alan Clifford, writing in Britain’s Evangelicals Now publication, says this:
Christmas was the result of a growing tendency of the Roman Church to meet paganism half-way… . If Christmas is without a true Christian basis, it should be scrapped.
Christmas as a “Worship Innovation” By no means is this an isolated view. Perhaps the Christians most famous for abhorring Christmas were the Puritans. We often quote Puritan writers here and generally look to Puritan Spirituality as a model of biblical Christianity. Indeed, it was their emphasis on obeying the Bible that we so admire that also led them to treat December 25th as any other day. The principle that governed the Puritans in this matter, as in many others, is the “regulative principle.” What this principle basically states is that God determines what is appropriate for worship, and He communicates this through His Word. Any human innovation, however well-meaning, is bound to be corrupted by our folly and sin and encroaches upon God’s holy prerogative. The Puritans were quite serious about this principle and often suffered persecution on its behalf. We honor their stands against the rites of the Roman Catholic church and the empty formalism of the Elizabethan Anglicans. It was because of the regulative principle that the Puritans refused to worship Christmas as they had opposed many other extra-biblical “innovations”.
Pagan Roots for Christmas?
Another strong reaction against Christmas comes from the charge that the holiday has pagan roots. The argument runs like this. December 25 was the date of the Roman Saturnalia festival, a wild orgiastic pagan rite focused on worship of the sun, and it was also correlated with various tribal pagan festivals associated with the winter solstice. As was argued above, Christmas represented just one of many Roman Catholic attempts to win over the ignorant and godless masses by putting a Christian label on an existing, idolatrous structure. Christmas, under this view, is just one of many Catholic innovations, like those that ushered in adoration of the saints and the veneration of Mary, both of which we vehemently reject.
In a recent spin through the internet, I came across a web site for witches, listed among web sites honoring Christmas, which gleely recounted the pagan roots of just about every bit of Christmas symbology. The yule log represented the wheel of time, the lights of Christmas recall the sacred fire and the birth of the Sun-King, while the evergreen was a symbol of fertility that recalls the student of the Old Testament to the Asherah pole so condemned by the prophets.
A Christian Apology for Christmas
With all of those arguments lined up, it is tempting to agree. Why not just get rid of Christmas, and with it all the materialism and greed that comes with such an unholy alliance? In response, and in defense of a Christian Christmas, I offer the following response. First of all, I do not argue for Christmas on the basis of the calendar. Scholars have long argued that it was very unlikely that shepherds would have had their flocks out during the coldest time of the year. So too, it is argued, it was most unlikely that the administratively efficient Romans would have ordered a census during the a month when travel was next to impossible. No, I do not argue for Christmas on the basis of December 25, the selection of which does seem to have been based on pre-existing pagan celebrations rather than historical accuracy.
Furthermore, I acknowledge that the great majority of Christmas symbols seem to have originated in pagan idolatry. Nonetheless, I think the holly branches, which the druids may claim for their own, also does a pretty fair job of reminding us of the crown of thorns that rested on Jesus’ brow, as well as the drops of blood that purchased my salvation. When it comes to the Christmas tree, I do not care what Germanic pagans believed. When in a darkened room I turn on the lights of my Christmas tree I hear only one voice. And it cries out with these lovely words of grace: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isa. 9:2). And I hear the words of the Apostle John, saying of my Lord, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men… . The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (Jn. 1:3, 9).
Paganism, of course, is no religion of its own. It merely crafts lies about the created order which itself testifies to God. The Old Testament often confronts idol-worshipping lies and even seizes pagan symbols for the Lord who made and owns them. The image, for instance, of the Lord riding on the clouds in power is a blatant conquest of an image widely used in the mythical literature of the idolatrous god Baal. In that respect, I smile to think of St. Boniface, one of the great missionaries to the pagans of Europe around the time when Christmas was invented, using the evergreen tree to show that what they worshiped as an object of idolatry better points to the living God and the eternal life He offers in Jesus Christ.
But even that is not my best reason for loving Christmas. My best reason comes from a gathering that took place in a park near my home in the East Falls section of Philadelphia just a couple of weeks ago. There, hundreds of my fellow citizens, the majority of whom I am sure are nominal Christians at best, joined their voices for a night of caroling. Of the 18 songs we sang, 13 were Christian hymns celebrating the birth of a Savior in glorious biblical language. I tried to keep track of the biblical doctrines that were flowing from their lips but I finally lost track: sin, atonement, the Incarnation, God’s holiness, the power of the Word, the Second Coming, the Kingdom of God, eternal life and resurrection of the dead. As Paul said about other matters we might say about this singing in the open air of Philadelphia: “Against such things there is no law.”
I respect that regulative principle of the Puritans, and even agree with it as a binding precept of our own denomination. But Scripture does permit, even mandate, the preaching of the Gospel, the singing of songs of praise, the reading of Scripture, and the praising of God in the open air. I am grateful to Christmas that many thus praise God and even worship Him fitly on this day, with hopes that they would honor Him with more and ultimately all of their lives.
I acknowledge that much about Christmas does injustice to the regulative principle, and we certainly want to be careful in this regard. But it wonderfully does justice to the redemptive principle, for which the Son of God came from heaven to earth, that He might claim and deliver a world that was lost in darkness.
© 2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Tenth Presbyterian Church.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Phil Ryken. ©2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org