Monday, January 13, 2014

Half A Bridge

I attended a church service yesterday that completely unnerved me. My wife and I are still at the trembling point about it. I'd like to share just a bit of the pastor's message and then share with your some thoughts to help you if you ever run into a similar situation.

We visited a mainline protestant denomination (read: Liberal) where one of my sons plays in the praise band. The pastor was beginning a new series about studying the Bible. He celebrated the "51% or more" of his congregation who were skeptical about the Bible (because it is a confusing, complicated, and contradictory book). He then illustrated the problems with the Bible by citing many verses out of context and mocking them, altogether.

What the pastor did is a very astute approach to verbal argument. It's called deconstruction. You pick apart something piece by piece until the audience feels like there is nothing reliable in it at all. Then you're free to overlay your own viewpoint on top of the rubble you've just created. Really, very clever.

The pastor's main point was that nowhere does the Bible call itself the capital 'W' Word of God. It is only the "word" of God. He said Jesus is called the Word of God and we should worship Jesus, not the Bible. Take a minute and think about that. What's your position on the word/Word of God?

Let's clear one thing up real fast… the pastor made a terrible error that would have gotten him laughed out of the first week of Greek 101 class. There are no lower case letters in Greek (the language the New Testament Bible was written in)! Lower case didn't come along for over 1000 years after Christ. So his distinction between 'w' and 'W' was a bit of cleverness that his flock was impressed with, but has no basis in reality.

Also, Jesus is called the "Word of God", but only once and that's in Revelation (19:13) and the pastor told his audience not to go reading books like Deuteronomy and Revelation.

Let's get a breath of fresh air here with a word, I mean WORD from our Sponsor:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14)

This passage definitely does refer to Jesus as the Word. Notice the part about "All things came into being through Him". Remember creation in Genesis 1?

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

“Let there be light” was the word of God… no, it was the Word of God according to John. Jesus brought the thought of God (light) into existence, into being. Jesus is just that, the thoughts of God coming into existence.

Perhaps you've heard this: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Inspired means, literally, God-breathed… His words coming out of His mouth. John tells us that all those words became flesh in Jesus Christ. John does not say those words were overshadowed and rendered obsolete by Jesus!!

The last thing the pastor did was tell his congregation that they should "look at the world through the lens of love". He deconstructed the whole Bible as a mish-mosh of confusing jargon and said, "let's just focus on Jesus".

Liberals do this because they can pretend Jesus of the Gospels only is soft and fuzzy. He doesn't pick on gays. He doesn't stone anyone. He just says "love one another" and "turn the other cheek" a lot. Jesus comes off as the exact opposite of the harsh, angryGod of the Old Testament and He is someone who would gladly be our friend but never make us uncomfortable with our lives. Well, sure. If I was going to invent a deity, that's what I'd do also… and one that gives me a lot of burnt ends and chocolate malts.

But the Word of God had an edge to Him, didn't he?

And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables (John 2:15)

Not only did Jesus drive the money changers (payday loan sharks) out of the temple, he took the time to braid a whip to beat them with. Where's your soft and fuzzy Jesus now? Listen to the way He spoke to some people:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)

“You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? (Matthew 12:34)

You can pretend that Jesus was anything you want, but in reality he was BOTH all loving and all righteous (He hungered and thirsted for righteousness – Matthew 5:6). And that brings us to the final point. We can "look at the world through the lens of love". That's a fine and dandy thing… for us. But let's remember, even at His birth, the Word of God had a date with Golgotha lying out in His future. Jesus, the Lens of Love, the Word of God, the Lamb of God got nailed to a rough wooden cross with rusty spikes and was left there to die. What do you think that was about?

Love is a fine thing. So is half a bridge. We diminish God when we only call upon Him to love us. God is Holy. In fact, He is "Holy, Holy, Holy". He is righteous – undiluted righteousness. He hates all unrighteousness. At the cross of Calvary, God did a swap – a cross-over.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

A prisoner exchanged happened on that bridge… We go free, Jesus goes to the cross. We experience the consequence God's love - forgiveness. Jesus experienced the consequence of God's righteousness – punishment. Jesus, the Gospel, the words/Word of God... none of it makes any sense unless God's absolute righteousness is taken into account. (See Romans 3:23 for example.)

Many Christians feel that because "God so loved they world" they should only love the world. But that's only half the bridge, isn't it? God also saw unrighteousness in the world and He did something about it. Christians should, too. In the WORD of God we are taught to "flee immorality" and to oppose it at every turn. Yes, this is the classic "hate the sin / love the sinner" conundrum. The problem is, "the lost" don't hate their own sin so they don't feel our love when we talk about sin – either ours or theirs.

Liberals have taken a sharp knife and paired the Gospel down to "love the sinner". Half a bridge. The Word of God (both on the printed page and walking around) speaks clearly that "hating the sin" is as much a part of our spiritual life as loving others.

The main thing I regret about the church service yesterday was that a couple hundred people heard the Bible – the WORD OF GOD – get mocked and diminished. There is nothing in Deuteronomy that scares me. There is nothing in Revelation that scares me. I like the truth and not just part of it. I want the whole truth. Jesus, the Word of God, is also the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I don't want half the Truth.
I don't want to get half of the Way to Heaven.
I don't want half of the Life that Jesus has in store for me.

All or nothing.
I'll take ALL.

Clark H Smith

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