Don’t Blame Jesus for the Weird Things Christians Do

Don’t Blame Jesus for the Weird Things Christians Do

Maybe it was that I never thought through things, but I watched high school friends who identified as Christian hoping to find fault. And I found fault. Therefore I concluded Christians were fakes and flakes.

While in the military I became a Christian myself, quite unexpectedly as I think about it now. An accident of sorts maybe, but I wound up attending a Baptist church in Fairfield, California and heard the pastor tell the incredible story of Jesus. Still a puzzle to me, in a twinkling of an eye I was converted, and almost against my will.

Guys I worked with as a medic with 2nd Casualty Staging Flight at Travis AFB found out about my becoming a Christian and watched me closely, hoping to spot a flaw. Of course, they had no trouble finding out what a hypocrite I was. Guess they thought I would be perfect just like I thought my high school friends had to be perfect. I mean, they did say they were Christians.

What was my problem?

What’s a Christian?

A Christian is a sinner who has been born anew by the Holy Spirit of God. He or she is still a sinner, but a forgiven sinner.

This Christian starts out a newborn, messy diapers, crying, sleeping, just out the chute. Then a rug rat, a toddler, little kid, pre-teen, teen, young adult, adult, mature adult, elder adult—each of us go through all the stages.

In my seventies now, I wonder if I have reached maturity yet. I don’t think so. To be honest I have been rather retarded in my growth. Not the fault of the Parent, but mine all together. I think I have been more rebellious than most, or maybe my hormones stronger than others, something, but my progress as a pilgrim has been really slow. This, however, does not mean I am not a Christian.

I have noticed that one mark of growing up into the fullness of Christ has been my desire not to sin. When I catch myself acting the “old man” I cringe and ask for forgiveness.

It is true, I have found, that it can be painful to grow up spiritually. If I had become aware of all my imperfections back then, I mean all at once, I would have been overwhelmed. Perhaps this is comparable to expecting a toddler to play college level baseball. Not going to happen.

Almost as payback, I have had non-Christians chastise me for my ‘little’ imperfections. Worse, I have had Christians do the same; after all I am a pastor of a church, and an author of Christian books. (I will sometimes say that a church can be like a minefield. One can be blown up.)

Judging others

How we love to blame and judge! It is the national pastime. Anything bad that happens, we want to know who to blame.

How do I know this is so? I find it in myself for one thing, and I am about that business constantly. And when I find cause, I stigmatize and sometimes heavily.

A little phrase I use with the high school kids I coach in baseball is, “I am here to criticize heavily.” Of course, after the first week of the season they know I do not mean it, and we all laugh when I say it. After decades of coaching I have learned that criticism, demeaning language, and putting down others, does not produce good results either with the players or members of the congregation.

I ignorantly judged my high school friends. I looked down on Vern and Don, surgery techs at Travis AFB, after I was told they were Christians, without even thinking about what I was doing. After I became a Christian, Vern and Don became fast friends and we loved to eat together at mid-night chow at the hospital as our duty hours were from 5pm to 8am.

What is weird?

Judging the weirdness, or what we consider to be weirdness, of Christians is a defensive mechanism. I was unconscious of what I was doing, and I think it was because I was beginning to feel convicted of my sin. I had to find a way to assure myself that they were wrong, probably crazy, but that I was sound of heart, soul, and mind.

When I talk with others who are not Christians and who know that I am, I will often find the same attitude toward me that I had back in my high school days. At least, when I see it I know not to react or take it personally. It is a case of “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Proof we are not perfect

John the apostle, the longest lived of those who were directly called by Jesus, wrote to a Christian audience:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

This passage is 1 John 1:8-10. Quite clear: being a Christian does not mean we do not sin. Perhaps John saw there was a danger Christians might think they had to be perfect, and if so, such thinking would not be healthy. John uses sharp language to make sure we know we are not perfect.

The Christian then confess sin and the promise is that forgiveness follows.

Here we encounter one of the Bible’s paradoxes, which refer to two truths that run parallel with each other, like railroad tracts, but never intersect. Though all our sin is forgiven since all of it, past, present, and future, has been placed on Jesus as He died on the cross. He shed His blood for us, and His blood washes away our sin. Yet, we are to continue to confess our daily sin, the sin that has already been cleansed from us, in order that we do not have it on our conscience. This is one of the most profound of all the paradoxes in Scripture. (Why, after all, would we imagine that God and His ways are easily grasped by the sinner.)

Then John goes on:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

This passage is 1 John 2:1, the verse immediately following the earlier verses.

John does not want his readers, those under his pastoral care, to sin, but if they do, and the Greek clause, a third class conditional structure, indicates they will in fact sin, their confession of sin will be heard and they will be forgiven. (This is one of the many reasons biblical Christianity is healthy.)

So then, when sin is discovered, Christians need not hide their sin nor be in fear. We have Jesus who is our righteousness.

Jars of clay

The Apostle Paul spoke of our having the “Light of the Gospel” in us. Yet this “treasure” is in jars of clay. This wonderful truth is found in 2 Corinthians 4:7:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Clay, vessels of all sorts are made out of clay. The containers hold something and in this case it is the Holy Spirit. We speak of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

Sinless perfection is not to be found on the planet. Not only do we deal with our own temptations but also there is an enemy who attempts to undo us like he did Adam and Eve in the garden. And what may be the result: Christians doing weird things. And I have to be the first to raise my hand.

Again, what did John say, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This is how it is with us. Yes, we are straining to grow up into the fullness of Christ, but it is not yet. I will still do weird and strange things.

Who’s to blame?

 I am to blame. Blame me, not Jesus.

The danger in blaming me is that you will also reject not only my Christianity but my Jesus as well. And this is the real reason for this essay since the price you will pay is beyond imagination. If you had any inkling of this reality, you would be horrified.

“What a conclusion!” must be running through your mind right now. It would be wrong of me, a sin if you will, if I did not present full disclosure.

The How and Why of Jesus the God-Man

The How and Why of Jesus the God-Man

Philippians 2:5-11 & 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. From Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi we encounter the word “kenosis,” which is usually translated “emptying.” Jesus, in the very form God, therefore completely equal with God, of His own accord, took the form of a servant. Jesus then became human, He who is “the exact imprint of his nature.” (see Hebrews 1:3)
  8. Paul is attempting to express in human terms and to human minds the greatest enigma of them all. We are not surprised that we humans can never quite grasp the full meaning of “how” God became human.
  9. The “why” comes next then. Why would it be necessary that God become human? Paul speaks of this, in general terms and as an aside, in his second letter to the church at Corinth. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  10. Numbers of other passages in both testaments bear witness to this central and core doctrine.
  11. In the Hebrew, to celebrate Passover a lamb without spot or blemish only could be used as the sacrifice, and the blood of the animal warded off sin and judgment. It must be enacted once a year.
  12. Jesus, sinless His entire life, becomes the perfect sacrifice for sin. And once for all. At the cross Jesus, our Passover Lamb, takes all our sin upon Himself.
  13. Only the sacrifice of the God-Man would suffice.

 

Amazing Grace

Paradoxes of the Bible #3

Grace versus Works

(see Ex. 20:1-17, Mt. 5:17-20, Ephesians 2:1-10)

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. The Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, is easily broken and broken by everyone.
  7. Originally, there was one law, which was quickly broken; it seems we humans are drawn to law breaking. (see Genesis 3)
  8. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it clear that the breaking of the Law is not merely in actions, but also is of the heart and mind. Indeed, all have sinned.
  9. Works, good works, we are all called to, but these do not save us. The Law is a reminder that we are all law breakers.
  10. Is there nothing to be done? Are we all doomed to an eternity in hell, separated forever from fellowship with our Creator?
  11. The whole of the Bible is the account of how we will have all our sin removed, thus opening the way into fellowship with God, both now while on the planet, and also for eternity.
  12. The Law is the beginning, the acknowledging that we are law breakers. It is not an accusation, but the initial revelation that we are utterly helpless and unable to cover our own sin. This is where we all start, seeking forgiveness.
  13. Then, and only by the working of the Holy Spirit, do we have an interest in Jesus. Suddenly we are drawn to the Son of God, and that of Jesus dying on the cross. That grizzly image, now it means something else to us. We see Jesus taking our sin upon Himself, shedding His blood to cover our sin.
  14. Now then comes the new birth, totally and completely the work of the Holy Spirit. Being unable to do a single thing, by the greatest of miracles, our sin is completely removed, all sin, past, present, and future. This is why we sing, Amazing Grace.

Jesus: The God-Man, Focus on the deity of Jesus

Paradoxes of the Bible # 1

Jesus: The God-Man

The Deity of Jesus: part 2

(Isaiah 7:14, 9:6; John 1:1-18; Colossians 1:15-20)

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer

4     Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.

  1. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  2. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  3. The mystery surrounding Jesus will never be understood this side of heaven. We are not arrogant enough to suppose otherwise.
  4. Jesus came to us as fully man and also fully God, and both at once. We have nothing to compare this with.
  5. The Logos (Word) to the Greek mind was the reason behind all that the universe is. In John 1:1 the Apostle John identifies this reason, this Word, as Jesus.
  6. John, writing to the Graeco-Roman culture, makes an absolute and incredible claim that Jesus of Nazareth, born of a human being, is at once God, thus the God-Man.
  7. Such a position challenges every spiritual or religious worldview extant, both then and now.
  8. Not a re-incarnation, not an avatar, not a highly evolved spirit, but a real human being and God, both at once.
  9. This Logos is not less than the Father, no, both are One, as Jesus makes plain in John 10:30, “The Father and I are one.”
  10. Indeed, the Apostle Paul states that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” and that “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (verses 15 & 19 of Colossians 1) What a mammoth leap for Paul, a trained Jewish rabbi, to accept.
  11. Jesus then, both God and man at once. This reality cannot be grasped; it must be revealed by the Holy Spirit.

Paradox # 1 Jesus: the God-Man, part ` Jesus the man

Paradoxes of the Bible #1

Jesus: The God-Man

Jesus the Man: part 1

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Nothing is more core to Christianity than the humanness of Jesus. If Jesus is God only, there is no death on the cross, but then merely a trick, a misperception, a lie, and worse, no atonement for sin.
  7. From the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, we see the human nature of Messiah as evidenced in Psalm 2 and 22. From Isaiah 7 we see a person born of a virgin, a miracle yet a birth of a human being.
  8. Moses instructed the people to kill a lamb without blemish, take the blood and place it on the posts and lintel of the doors so no death would come to that house. Jesus is our Passover Lamb.
  9. In the Greek Bible, the New Testament, and in a way we do not understand, God is born, the Word, becomes flesh.
  10. We see so much of the real man in Jesus. He is begotten of God (John 3:16), tempted (Matthew 4:1-11), hungry (Matthew 4:2), thirsty (John 19:28), tired (John 4:6), angry (Mark 3:5), sighing deeply (Mark 8:12 & John 11:33), crying (John 8:35), and dying (John 19:28-34).And the list could go on and on.
  11. No doctrine has been more attacked than the humanness of Jesus with the lone exception of the deity of Jesus. The reality is, if Jesus were not fully man, His death on the cross is meaningless and of no effect.
  12. If Jesus is God and not the God-man, then there is no actual death. It must be that He is both God and man at once.
  13. This is beyond reason from the human standpoint; it must be revealed and believed.

 

 

BIG BITE OUT OF THE APPLE

Image result for apple in the garden of eden

BIG BITE OUT OF THE APPLE

In 1985 I learned a few things on an HP computer. DOS was the operating system. For the next twenty plus years it was a personal computer all the way. And it worked just fine.

Then I married Katie ten years ago and she was all Apple. Now, in my office, I have two I MAC’s and a MacBook Pro. To top it off, I have hanging from my belt an IPhone X. A big bite out of the apple, indeed.

At the Apple Store in Corte Madera a couple hours ago I started talking with James who was helping me migrate the data from my Android to the new IPhone.

I called attention to the apple image on his company shirt.[1] I asked him if he knew where the symbol of the apple with a big bite out of it came from. He said no. Oh ha, I said to myself, an opening for a Word.[2]

In the Garden 

There he was, the first being created in the image of God. (Eve would come along a little later.) Everything was simply wonderful; Adam had all that he needed or would ever need, well, except for a woman.

The Great Provider gave him one simple directive: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16).

Stunning isn’t it; knowledge—certainly something to desire, and “surely die”? One thing is clear; the tree had nothing to do with a fountain of youth. It was Just the opposite, a fountain of death. The knowledge of good and evil; what could that possibly mean except that what looked good wasn’t.

Must we take this Genesis account literally or is there another way to get at it, like maybe see it as symbolic? We do not know which and it does not really matter. What we do know is a big bite was taken out of the apple.[3]

Eve is created and apparently Adam tells her about the problem with one particular tree. Eve, also apparently, did not know what she was facing when the serpent began to speak to her.[4] For some incredible and preposterous reason the Creator/Provider/Deity let evil into the garden.

This creature, later identified as Satan, the devil, here the serpent, a master deceiver gets Eve to take a bite. And before she did she quoted the warning that by eating the fruit of the tree death would result. She was completely aware of the command. Her desire for knowledge, however, overwhelmed her.

The prince of demons only wants the woman to know that there was

something to be gained by eating that which she had been warned not to eat.

The tempter, ever wise, intones, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

So enticing! Then and now.

No going back?

Adam and Eve had knowledge like God, or so they thought. The first thing they became aware of is that they were naked. So they hid, not from each other necessarily, but from their Creator. And Why? Because they were ashamed. They were guilty. They had broken the commandment. They had sinned.

So it has been ever since; we are hiding.

It was inevitable, some think, that the temptation would be too much for them. The lust for power and knowledge is what we crave, and it is all about power since knowledge is power. We want to be like the strong man, the despot, the dictator, the director. The quest goes on, but forever?

In the very chapter, chapter 3 of Genesis and verse 15, is the oldest prophetic word ever uttered. In it we find the answer to the whole of human history.

To the crafty serpent the Creator said:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and her offspring;[5]

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise his heel.

There would be war, enmity, between the serpent and the woman’s offspring. (The serpent’s offspring is the demonic hoard and all who would be deceived by the serpent.)

The woman’s offspring would deal a deathblow to the serpent while the serpent is not able to inflict such a blow.

Jumping forward some unknown millennia, we find: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b). The undoing of the serpent’s work is ongoing. It is a case of “now, but not yet.”

In the final chapters of the Book of Revelation we discover Satan’s final disposition:

And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

(Revelation 20:10)

Steve Jobs’ apple

Like Mr. Jobs, and all who preceded him, and the list stretches back to the beginning and presses ever forward to the end of it all, we want knowledge, and of both good and evil. Yes, this is only one aspect of the modern technological age, but it is a key facet of it. Not only do we want all knowledge, we want it now.

I wanted it; I wanted and needed what the machines could do for me. Did I break a command? No, not that I know of. The quest for knowledge is not in itself wrong from a heavenly point of view. After all, I am using Apple technology to do my Gospel work.

The apple with a big bite missing on James’ shirt reminded me of the Genesis account of what theologians have long referred to as the Fall. Innocence lost indeed! We know too much, and this may seem an exaggeration, since we use our knowledge to war with each other, think of the military-industrial complex, and we are not walking and talking with God in the cool of the day any more either.

The whole story of the Scripture is that fellowship with God was lost but there is a way back. Here is how Jesus put it in John 14:6:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.

All have had a bite 

In a way we will never quite grasp, when Adam and Eve “fell” we all did. At minimum we are born into a fallen world, tinged, and deeply, with sin. There is a certain sense we have of it, too, which hangs onto us as angst, dread, a knowing that all is not right.

It is not initially our fault, either. Given enough time, we do become aware of our plight. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

“None is righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:10

“No one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:12

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23a

Three chapters later, in Romans 6:23a, Paul sums up our predicament: “For the wages of sin is death” And this death is of a different kind than biological death, it is spiritual death.

Notice above the “fall short of the glory of God”? Paul means that if we die with sin unforgiven, we cannot ever be in the presence of God. (Where God is, is glory.) Like it or not, this is clearly the biblical reality.

Now then, there is a “b” to Romans 6:23: “but the free gift of God is eternal live in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That little hunk we tore of the apple, that acquiring of the knowledge of good and evil, poisoned the race. And we have been dying. But the Creator God had, and from the beginning, an antidote, the dying of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. There Jesus took all our sin upon Himself. It is the story of life out of death.

And thanks to the Internet we proclaim, and boldly, this Good News.

All forms of media may be used to fulfill the Great Commission

Our small Miller Avenue Baptist Church produces three television programs, which may be seen via YouTube all over the world. We have a publishing house, Earthen Vessel Media, LLC, and publish about three books a year and since the year 2000.[6] And for a congregation that numbers maybe 25 on Sunday morning, we thank God for modern technology.

I am thankful for all those who have contributed to the Internet and the vast array of means to access and use it. Wonderful for sure! Mr. Jobs, thank you very much.

Kent Philpott

August 2018

 

 

 

 

[1] The Beatles’ record company, Apple Corps Ltd, founded in 1968, used an apple for a logo, but it is far different from the apple with a bite missing used by Steve Jobs’ company.

[2] Turned out James is a Christian and after he played along some he came out with it.

[3] Apple? Right, the text does not say apple. How that all came about is lost in history. A fruit? Apple! probably a good guess since whatever it was, could be eaten.

 

[4] The serpent was not Satan, but Satan possessed the serpent and spoke through it.

[5] Offspring means spiritual offspring, those who belong to the serpent, and those who belong to the woman.

[6] Go to evpbooks.com or Amazon.com (type in my name, Kent Philpott) and you will see some of what we do.

The Weakness of Islam

The Weakness of Islam

In nearly every edition of major American newspapers are stories of Muslims somewhere, east or west, engaged in acts of violence—in the name of Allah. Suicide bombing, kidnapping and killing Christians, Jews, Hindus, burning churches and temples, unruly protesting of free expressions of religion and the press—such terrorist reports are routine. Is this indicative of weakness in the very fabric of Islam? I say it is.

By weakness, I mean Islam is not able to compete in the spiritual marketplace of ideas. It must instead resort to repression, intimidation, and violence. Perhaps there is a sense of inferiority, essentially that Islam is not able to stand alongside Christianity to gain influence and converts without dependence on questionable, cultic methods.

I am reminded of Paul who, prior to his conversion, vigorously persecuted the church. Many Bible scholars think that he was motivated by a fear that his religious beliefs were inadequate, or even erroneous. Paul was a terrorist while he was still known as Saul, according to the biblical account in Acts. Yet after Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Paul no longer threw men, women, and children in prison merely because they believed in Jesus. Rather, he became a simple preacher of the gospel armed only with the message of a crucified and risen Savior.

Paul learned from Jesus, who taught His disciples to turn the other cheek, to pray for their enemies, and to do good to those who treated them shamefully. Jesus taught that His followers were to love their neighbors as themselves and to do to others as they would have done to them. Jesus said nothing of killing infidels or repressing religious teachings. He did warn of false prophets whose aim would be to deceive and corrupt. Clearly, however, He did not advocate imprisoning or killing them. In one instance, Jesus taught His disciples to simply go on to the next town when opposition arose. Paul practiced this throughout his missionary journeys.

Consider a society like Saudi Arabia where even the simple recounting of the Christian message to a Muslim is a capital offense. That is weakness in the extreme.

Islamic ‘evangelistic’ strategy, if it could be called that, on the other hand, is so very often fueled by intimidation and violence. “Convert or die” has too often been the Muslim message. Am I exaggerating here? I don’t think so, since sufficient historical data supports my claim, both ancient and modern. In fact, I think that Islamic means of spreading the faith are held in check only by fear of reprisal.

Biblical Christianity has entirely different weapons of warfare. Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Such is the power of the message of Jesus.

Evangelical Christians proclaim the message of the Cross of Jesus and His resurrection. The Holy Spirit of God then convicts individuals of their rebellion against God and draws them then to the Savior, Jesus Christ, who has completely provided their salvation. No one can be forced to become a Christian; no one can even join Christianity or apply for membership. It is a work of God and not of man. And one of the great weaknesses of Islam is that it arose and continues to exist as the work of man. Few choose to join Islam, especially in recent years now that the religion was been partially unmasked. It is usually by birth that one becomes a Muslim, and especially in Muslim dominated countries, it is nearly impossible to leave it. This again is a great weakness. There is no religious freedom for Muslims to come and go, to be faithful or not; there is only fear and peer pressure. To be an apostate Muslim, that is one who has declared faith in Jesus rather than Mohammed, is to be classed worse than an infidel. The result is often death.  

Paul trusted in the work of the Holy Spirit and did not revert to his old ways of violence and imprisonment—fleshly warfare. In Ephesians, Chapter 6, he describes the “armor of God”—the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, for the feet the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (see Ephesians 6: 10-20)

This is strength. This is confidence. This is peace. This is actual dependence on and submission to God.  

Islam, in stark contrast, is weak, fearful, and violent, a religion holding millions in bondage to the teachings of their prophet through intimidation and lies. Can such a religion really be of God?

Kent Philpott

October 2018

The Holy See

The Roman Catholic Church—it is so grand, so very awesome—the magnificent cathedrals; world-renowned artists, sculptures, and musicians; and charitable work all over the world. The splendid attire of the clergy with the big pointy hats, the pomp and ceremony, absolutely unrivaled. How could one fail but be inspired by it all.

Then for generation after generation families identify as Catholic: unthinkable to leave it, this Church above all churches, which emerged out of the Holy Roman Empire and before which kings, presidents, even whole nations trembled.

But then this:

Sex abuse: A report on sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church in Germany says 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014, two leading German media outlets said Wednesday. Spiegel Online and Die Zeit said the report they obtained— commissioned by the German Bishops Conference and researched by three universities—concludes that more than half of the victims were 13 or younger and most were boys. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, both weeklies reported. Die Zeit wrote that 969 abuse victims were alter boys. (San Francisco Chronicle, September 13, 2018, page 2)

What do we make of the article above? One priest I spoke with wanted me to be sure and know that this has nothing to do with homosexuality, but with pedophilia only. Okay, I guess that means homosexuals were not involved; some will go for this, protects them against being targeted by the pro-gay folks, but most of us are not going with this assessment. Yes, heterosexuals molest kids, too, this is a given. In any case, homo or hetero, this is all going on within the Roman Catholic Church, and worldwide.

Do we see this in other Christian branches and denominations? Yes, we do, including in Baptist churches, of which I am a part.

Bigger than we know about right now

 We have been hearing about the trouble in America with the Catholic clergy, some in England, now Germany, but where this looms largest is in Latin America and Africa. In these places, abuses rarely are mentioned, but when it all breaks lose, the Roman Church will be exposed like no one could believe.

Two days ago I happen to spend some time with a woman from Kenya and a man from Mexico. The Kenyan broke right in with what is going on in the Catholic Church. Yes she said her family is Catholic, and she was raised Catholic. After this introduction, she went on to say that due to wide spread abuse of the little boys (she said nothing about abuse of girls of any age) she, her sister, and son, left for America.

The Mexican then piped up and said the same thing happened in Mexico and now all his family are Baptists. (Note: at that point he did not know I am a Baptist pastor.)

The sexual abuse is however, not the major abuse being perpetrated by the Holy See.

The fundamental error

 We go back now into the third and fourth centuries when the Christians were being embattled by any number of heresies, among which was the Gnostic twisting of Christian doctrine. To deal with the theological issues, church leaders gathered to formulate doctrinal stances.[1] Over the course of time, the head of the church at Rome became dominant. Then when the Roman emperor Constantine became head of both church and state, everything changed.

The one major change, and this is a gross reduction of a complex history, individual salvation belonged to the Roman Church to grant. And this lasted for one thousand years. We speak of this period as the dark ages when the Roman church dominated most all of what was Christian. Then in Germany, through the stance of Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century. Now, for the first time in a long time, the Scripture was available to the common people, and lo and behold, it was discovered that salvation belonged to Christ alone and not a Church.

Then followed the inquisition when the threatened religious power structure fought back against those who realized the Roman church was in error. Indeed, one of my relatives, John Philpott, mid-sixteenth century, was burned at the stake for believing and preaching that it is in Jesus Christ and His dying for our sin, the shedding of His blood that covers our sin, that we have salvation at all. And the gift of eternal life comes to the individual through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit.

Now what had been Christianity was divided, from that time until today.

Why am I writing this?

My concern is that many will turn from the Catholic Church and from Christianity all together over this dramatic disclosure of abuse in that Church. And by the way, let me be careful to say that any and all institutions, Christian based or not, are faulty, impure, and should not be looked upon as holy. I am the pastor of a Baptist Church, and let me assure you we simply stumble along.

Not only dear Catholic people but also many others will disregard anything Christian as something to be avoided. I agree, there is much to be avoided, and my plea is, before chucking the whole lot, study Jesus and see what you find.

Here is my challenge: Get yourself a Bible and find the Gospel of John, or maybe the first New Testament book, Matthew, and start reading. See what happens. You have nothing to lose, except a few hours of your time.

Instead of tossing the whole thing out, make sure this is a personal decision and not simply a reaction to the current scandal.

Kent Philpott

October 2018

[1] There is no space here to outline the history of Christian thought and doctrine. Going to Amazon.com and typing into a search, the history of Christian doctrine, one will find numbers of books dealing with the issue. It will, upon examining this material, be plain how the church swerved from biblical principles and doctrines into what became the Roman Catholic Church of today. My favorite author here is Justo L. Gonzales.

Parable of the Two Debtors

The Parables of Jesus # 19

Parable of the Two Debtors

Luke 7:36-50

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Jesus did not shun Pharisees thought they constantly opposed Him. He accepts an invitation from one of these, a man named Simon, which is a common Jewish name.
  7. Simon did not perform customary acts for a guest: cleaning of feet and anointing one’s hair with oil (olive). Dusty roads and body cleaning rather rare, but Jesus did not so receive.
  8. A woman of dubious reputation, likely a prostitute, boldly enters the dinner party. She approaches Jesus’ feet as He would be laying on His left side with head toward the low laying table in the center of the room. With tears, using her hair as a towel, she cleans the grime from Jesus’ feet then anoints His head, and at great expense, she performs what Simon did not.
  9. Jesus understood this to be a display of love and devotion for the forgiveness she had received. Simon is convinced now that Jesus is not (a) (the) prophet or He would have known what a sinner the woman was.
  10. Jesus, knowing what Simon was thinking, breaks into the situation with a parable.
  11. Two debtors, both owed a great deal, a sum they could not pay; one owed 20 months wages and the other two months.
  12. When questioned by Jesus which debtor loved the most, (The Greek word for “love” is agape.) Simon gets it right.
  13. Jesus then, based on the love displayed, says the woman’s sins are forgiven. Simon would instantly know only God forgives sin, thus a huge conflict must develop for him.

The act of the woman does not earn her forgiveness, but is an expression of the forgiveness she had received.

A Sadness Hidden in the Gospel Story

 

“Good News” is a way of defining “Gospel.” “Good” is the key word, and indeed, being completely cleansed of our sin through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and being given the gift of eternal life is Good News!

Sadness? Where Is this Sadness?

My mother and brother died without Christ. They knew the story of salvation but rejected it. There is no indication at all that they repented and believed at the very last moment. Thus, according to the Word of God, they are in hell. And this saddens me.

There have been times when I came close to falling into a depression over the above fact. Usually I ignore thinking of this reality when I come across those passages in Scripture that make it perfectly clear that hell is real.

For Example

In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13–14, we are shocked to read:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to live, and those who find it are few.”

Quickly we want to think of John 3:16 where Jesus says, “For God so loved the world…” What about that? Does John here trump Jesus?

Yes, I admit to thinking, or hoping, so. But it will not work. Yes, God loves His creation, and all of it, but the reality of sin changes things. Indeed, the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23).

There Is More

In Matthew 10, Jesus informs His disciples that they will be persecuted. Maybe they thought they would be honored and adored by the populace, given the great power over Satan they had been given plus the gift of healing “every disease and affliction” (v. 1). That they not be too elated, Jesus proceeds to bring to their attention a sharp and unpleasant reality.

Jesus informs His followers that they are sent out as sheep among wolves. They will be flogged and treated harshly by governing officials, both religious and secular.

If that is not enough, He tells them, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:21–22a).

There is more. Jesus explains, “A person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:36).

Later in Matthew, Jesus says, “Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left” (Matthew 25:40–41).

Coming to Acceptance

Let me confess that I have softened the Gospel message by not fully disclosing the difficult passages like those cited above. I simply did not want to bring negative issues up lest I cause some to stumble or walk away from Christ.

In addition, I realize why for so long I refrained from preaching through books of the Bible verse by verse. I wanted to avoid having to deal with difficult passages. I am not likely to be the only one to do so.

Despite being a Christian since 1963 and being a preacher of the Gospel message for over fifty years, I still wrestle with the fact that members of my family, close friends, and other dear people I have known and loved will spend eternity in hell.

Will I reject the Word of God because of the sadness that occasionally overtakes me?

Will I devise another salvation scenario whereby all will eventually live in the presence of God forever?

Will I advocate for annihilationism, meaning all those outside of Christ’s salvation cease to exist? No hell, no life at all, just gone?

Or, will I leave the big picture to the Creator God? Indeed, I am merely creature. I yield to Isaiah 55:8–9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

Neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are my ways higher than your ways

And my thoughts than your thoughts.

Still Sadness

Do I yet have moments of sadness creep over me? Yes, I do. For reasons I do not understand, the older I get the greater is my tendency to think of my mother and my brother. Who could not be saddened?

Kent Philpott

October 2018