The Message Goes On

The World’s Last Night by C.S. Lewis

Government oversight of God’s Kingdom?

First-century Christians were persecuted by Rome as “enemies of the state” — a charge that would have been overlooked if those Christians had just been willing to share the loyalty they had for Christ with Caesar. Rome didn’t mind if you worshipped God, as long as you paid proper respect (i.e. worship) to Caesar, too.

Empire10To their credit, many of those early Christians would have rather died than share one ounce of the adoration, to which only God is entitled, with another. We know this because many of them did exactly that — they died at the hands of a secular government that demanded of them a thing they just could not give…

…their absolute loyalty.

It is a situation that has survived to this very day — Fast forward to the 20th century.

World War I put a fresh emphasis on the loyalty one “owed” to his or her nation state. That loyalty was absolute. You must answer your “nation’s call.” And, if answering that call costs you your life, well, that’s only appropriate — you owe it.

Later, with the rise of more and more totalitarian governments like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Communist China, we see this demand on loyalty increase. And, just like their spiritual forefathers in the Roman Empire, Christians found themselves in a difficult position.

Communist governments closely monitored religion. Sermons were subject to state approval and censorship. Only state-sanctioned churches were allowed. You could participate in your chosen religion only as long as it did not interfere with your first priority — absolute loyalty to the state.

You see, everything was viewed only in light of its value to the state — including people. Christians were particularly dangerous, because they recognized something — someone — as greater than the state. Since that kind of attitude was intolerable, these Christians had to be dealt with. Those who refused government oversight found themselves in prison. Many were tortured. Many died. Just like in Rome.

This should come as no surprise, really. The 20th century theologian and writer, Francis Schaeffer, outlined this quite well…

“We must realize that the Reformation worldview leads in the direction of government freedom. But the humanist worldview with inevitable certainty leads in the direction of statism. This is so because humanists, having no god, must put something at the center, and it is inevitably society, government, or the state.”

Fast forward to the present.

china_church_stifled_1148038826_855986In China Christians are subject to the same kind of scrutiny as the Christians who lived in communist countries in Eastern Europe. There are state-approved churches. Other churches are outlawed because they have no government oversight. Everyone is expected to owe their loyalty first to the state — to Caesar.

At this point, American Christians frequently will say, “I’m so glad that isn’t true here.” Or “I’m glad we live in a free country where that sort of thing couldn’t happen.”

Really?

Please consider…

There are those who will look at evidence like this and say it’s not big deal. After all, we don’t have a state-approved church. We don’t have federal government officials attending services in order to scrutinize the content like they do in China.

No, we don’t. But, in China the Christians are actively resisting the encroachment of the state into the church. In America many of our churches freely and enthusiastically embrace statism in their services — openly glorifying another.

Dave Black, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has cautioned against this kind of thing before…

“Our God is a color blind God. Our God is a dollar blind God. Our God is a status blind God. Our God is a nation blind God. To say or to imply that America is somehow a “holy nation” is, in my humble estimation, blasphemous. The household of God (to which I belong by God’s grace) is the only holy nation on earth. It includes in its membership all Christians of all ages, all nationalities, all levels of social strata, all levels of intelligence. The lesson is clear. From the moment of my conversion to Christ, and from the moment of your conversion to Christ, we have been in fellowship with every other Christian in the world, be they American or Ethiopian or Chinese or Iraqi or Iranian. The Bible tells us “we are all one in Christ Jesus” — and that includes our guest speaker this morning who came to us from southern India.

It is here, on the national level, that we are called upon to demonstrate to a lost world the reality of our fellowship. We are bound together by a unity that goes far beyond mere geography or nationality let alone hobby or personal interest or political affiliation or denomination. Only when we learn to see ourselves as this kind of a holy nation, only when we learn to treasure that kind of fellowship, only when we experience this kind of trans-national love, will we fulfill our vocation as saints.

Beware of the sin of nationalism, my friends. A Christian is a citizen of a heavenly commonwealth because he or she belongs to the holy nation of the people of God. This, and this alone, is the only Christian nation. Other nations may contain Christians, and they may be influenced to one degree or another by Christian principles, but there will never be a Christian nation except the people redeemed by the blood of Christ.”

I pray that God will grant the church in America the ability to recognize the sinfulness of nationalism and the courage to resist it. We are, indeed, citizens of a heavenly commonwealth — one that is NOT subject to the scrutiny of any earthly government.

Let’s act like it.

The Laws of Nature by C.S. Lewis

Remembering A.T. Robertson

Today is the 80th anniversary of the death of A. T. Robertson, one of the greatest Greek scholars who ever lived. His career as a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is truly remarkable. And yet, his heart beat for the spread of the Gospel.

Read more about A.T. Robertson here.

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Some memorable quotes of A.T. Robertson’s…

“The greatest proof that the Bible is inspired is that it has stood so much bad preaching.”

“The Greek New Testament is the New Testament. All else is translation.”

“God pity the poor preacher who has to hunt for something to preach — and the people who have to listen.”

No Laughing Matter

A funny video has been making the rounds lately. In it, Victoria Osteen, the wife of feel-good false teacher Joel Osteen, speaks about the relationship between man and God in what can only be described as “worthless drivel.” This is followed by a quick 2-second response by Bill Cosby. Here’s the video…

While the Coz’s response is dead-on accurate (and funny), this is really no laughing matter. Thousands upon thousands (if not millions) of people are being deceived by the false gospel of the Osteens. Al Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has taken a more measured approach in his response to Victoria’s comments.

“America deserves the Osteens,” he said. “The consumer culture, the cult of the therapeutic, the marketing impulse, and the sheer superficiality of American cultural Christianity probably made the Osteens inevitable. The Osteens are phenomenally successful because they are the exaggerated fulfillment of the self-help movement and the cult of celebrity rolled into one massive mega-church media empire. And, to cap it all off, they give Americans what Americans crave — reassurance delivered with a smile.”

The Bible warns us over and over again to be vigilant in the teaching of the true Gospel because teachers like the Osteens are coming…

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For a time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” — 2 Timothy 4: 1-4

Paul Washer, the founder and president of HeartCry Missionary Society, called this a long time ago…

“False teachers are God’s judgment on people who don’t want God, but in the name of religion plan on getting everything their carnal heart desires,” he said during a sermon. “That’s why a Joel Osteen is raised up. Those people who sit under him are not victims of him, he is the judgment of God upon them because they want exactly what he wants and it’s not God.”

In his response to the Victoria Osteen video, Mohler pulls no punches in his conclusion about the situation. “Prosperity Theology certainly sells books and draws crowds in the United States,” he said. “But what does it possibly say to a grieving Christian wife and mother in Iraq? How can it possibly be squared with the actual message of the New Testament? How can any sinner be saved, without a clear presentation of sin, redemption, the cross, the empty tomb, and the call to faith and repentance? Prosperity Theology fails every test, and fails every test miserably. It is a false gospel, and one that must be repudiated, not merely reformatted.”

May God open eyes everywhere to this truth.

Creation Declares the Glory of God

All of creation declares the glory of God — Scripture makes that clear…

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” — Romans 1:20

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” — Psalm 19:1

But how often do we just go through the motions without once marveling at the beauty around us? How often do we stop and consider the majesty of God in little things?

One woman spent an entire school year photographing the majesty of God’s creation in a simple field. She put 180 days of photographs together in a video that clearly illustrates the beauty of God’s creation. Visit her post here, and be sure to go to the bottom of the post to view her video. It may change the way you look at the world.

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