Pentecostalized?

PENTECOSTALIZED

 A Short Background

Pentecostalized! It sounds strange, even dangerous, and it is both.

Please read the entire essay before you hit the delete key. You might find yourself disagreeing at first but then agreeing, or partially so, as you discover what this little piece really says.

In the first part of the essay I am using the term pentecostalized to describe false conversion. In the second part, pentecostalized means convinced of and actually engaged in what Jesus has called us to.

Part One

I was baptized with speaking in tongues in 1968. Awakened from a sound sleep, I found myself speaking loudly in what I had to believe was genuine ecstatic tongues. Whether it was an actual language or not, I do not know.

This was not a phenomenon I was expecting or even thought was valid, because at that time I was dead set against anything to do with Pentecostalism. Converted in a Southern Baptist Church at age twenty-one and taught that wild-eyed, fanatical tongues speaking was probably a demonic sign, I wanted nothing to do with that crazy language. But…

It was some time before I let on that I spoke in tongues; however, the word got out. This may sound extreme, but I was denied a ThM degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley,[1] in 1973, because I was a tongues speaker. I was similarly denied missionary support money from the California Southern Baptists. Though I still held a standard Baptistic theology, from 1968 to 1978 I was a card-carrying, full-fledged, charismatic Pentecostal.

What Can be Seen and Heard Can be Mimicked

 In 1972 I became senior pastor of an independent church in San Rafael, California. It would accurately be described as a charismatic/Pentecostal church, much like many of the churches that emerged out of the Jesus People Movement.[2]

Regrettably, from my perspective now, I was very good at getting other people to speak in tongues. If a person displayed this “gift,” then ipso facto, he or she must have been genuinely saved, since speaking in tongues was considered the clear and primary evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. If no tongues, then no conversion—this is what I believed along with most others in the charismatic camp.

Was I in for a surprise! I learned the hard way that whatever can be seen and heard can be mimicked. Tongues speaking was the gateway of acceptance into churches like the one I pastored. It proved to be akin to a wild circus act.

With the current growth of the New Apostolic Reformation (or Apostolic Movement and numerous other appellations), the confusion has only accelerated from that day to this. Now if you get a “word” or a “download,” see a vision, have a dream, speak with an angel, or walk with Jesus in the throne room, to name a few weird delusions, you are not only a real saved Christian but also a specially anointed one at that.

I Was One

 Yes, I was one of those. I received words of prophecy for people who came to me for counsel. At our services, the elders and pastors would pray for people who came to the front; we laid on hands, anointed them with oil, and received special communications directly from God. So then, where was the error and how could it go wrong?

It did go wrong, and sometimes terribly so. I will not recount the disasters that our excesses caused. It is embarrassing to recall now some of the life-altering results that arose from my “getting a word from God”— humbling certainly, and even spine chilling.

At minimum, what we were doing was unbiblical, but we thought we had a special anointing, and so we did not need to anchor our actions to the Bible. How crazy was such thinking! But never mind. If anyone called us to account, we accused them of resisting the moving of the Spirit. We—I—had moved into a cultic mindset.[3]

Cultic?

 Yes indeed, cultic, and I realize that over the last four decades I have still been feeling the impact of my years in the “movement.”

Here is how it works: We think we are more spiritual than others. We, after all, are attuned to the Spirit. Our services are wild and wonderful, though even a bit crazy. Our prayer meetings are enough to peal the paint off the walls. We are in direct and personal contact with God. We are under the anointing.

We see others who are not with us as being against us. They are standing in the way of the Spirit’s release, and these naysayers may even be guilty of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. At minimum, they are acting as the enemy’s pawns. And see, their churches and their ministries are puny. They are not travelling around the world speaking and ministering to thousands, even millions, as we are. They are not writing bestselling books. And of course, the followers of those without the anointing are not experiencing signs and wonders. Their people are not getting healed. They are not hearing from God at all.

They are losers. They have not been pentecostalized.

Part Two

The Real Pentecostal

After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to His apostles in a locked room, stood among them and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Then Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21). While they had for years been His faithful followers, this was the moment of their new birth.

Then Jesus told these apostles who had received the Holy Spirit not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the “promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). Jesus continued, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” Acts 1:5). They did stay, and they did receive, or were baptized or immersed with and into the Holy Spirit. The result was mighty preaching that saw 3,000 Jews converted, who were then baptized in water on the first day of this new, powerful witnessing.

There is some controversy about the tongues event in Acts 2. Were the apostles speaking in known or unknown tongues? The hearers were hearing in their own dialects or languages. Was the miracle one of speaking or of hearing? I am in favor of known tongues, but it really does not make that much difference. What was being heard was the message that the Messiah has come, and He is Jesus of Nazareth, who died on the cross and is alive again as Lord of the universe.

Let’s Get Back to the Bible

The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to witness boldly for Christ. We Christians are storytellers, and the promise is that the Holy Spirit works eternal salvation for those who hear the word of life. Then we are commissioned to make them disciples (see Matthew 28:19). Not all who hear are saved, but as Paul stated in Romans 8:30, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

This is the biblical process: those whom God has predestined are called. It is abundantly clear, as we read in the Book of Acts, that the calling comes by means of witnessing and preaching. The calling leads to justification; that is, due to the fact that Jesus has died for us, taking our sin upon Himself, we can be made as though we had never sinned at all. All sin is gone, buried forever. Then comes the indwelling of the new Christian by the Holy Spirit, meaning he or she is glorified. Yes, the Spirit of God actually indwells the person—this is glory.

The Great Controversy

 There is a controversy here, of course. Some say we are baptized with or in the Holy Spirit upon conversion. Others say this comes later.

Certainly, we are indwelt by the Spirit upon conversion, but is there a secondary work of the Holy Spirit, one that empowers the believer to be a witness, more powerfully than would otherwise be the case?

In my case, my baptism with the Holy Spirit followed my conversion by five years; at least that is how I experienced it that night in 1968. Suddenly, that very next day, in my street ministry in the Haight-Ashbury, I saw people coming to saving faith in Jesus on every corner and in every venue, and it was that way for years during the period now identified as the Jesus People Movement, roughly 1967 to 1972.

With that experience being so convincing, for many years we laid hands on and prayed for brothers and sisters in Christ to be baptized with and in the Holy Spirit that they might be bold proclaimers of the Gospel. And very often, they demonstrated the truth of that principle!

Do I Need to Go Back to Those Days?

My conviction, coming upon me now for almost one year, is that I do need to go back to those days. I cannot let what we see way too often these days, which is the weird departure from the true working of the Holy Spirit, prevent me from praying for others to receive the equipping of the Holy Spirit in their ministry to fulfill the command of Jesus to go and make disciples.

Therefore, I am repenting and giving testimony to this right now. I hope to be getting back to praying that others might be emboldened to preach Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to be pentecostalized!

[1] Golden Gate Seminary moved to Ontario, California in 2017 and was renamed Gateway Baptist Theological Seminary.

[2] Early on, the Jesus People Movement was not charismatic/Pentecostal in orientation. This began to change with the advent of Calvary Chapel with Chuck Smith and the Vineyard churches with John Wimber. This is not 100% accurate, but close to it.

[3] Two seminary professors at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary each invited me into their offices and explained to me the faulty concepts I had embraced. With some arrogance I rejected their wise counsel under the false notion that I was moving in the Spirit and they were not.

THE PARADOX OF GRACE VERSUS WORKS

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 7

Grace versus Works

James 2:14-26 and Romans 7:15-25

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Recite 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. Our passage is sometimes misunderstood to mean that doing good works, i.e., helping the poor, is necessary for salvation.
  8. A works-based religion, whether that work being learning, discovering, or doing good deeds, thus earning favor with God, is the common religion of human kind. All the world’s religions, with the exception of Christianity, teaches as much.
  9. James is well aware that if a person is genuinely born again of the Holy Spirit there will be good works in that person’s life. So he says that he will show his faith by doing good works. But such works do not trigger salvation, but are the proof of it.
  10. Paul, in Romans 7:15-25 confesses that in him dwells do good thing, meaning that by his own actions he cannot please God.
  11. In reading the passage in Romans 7 Paul puts himself in a bad light in order to emphasize that despite all the good he might seem to be doing, he does not do the things he wants to do but the very opposite. Few of us will admit this about ourselves. In A.A. a person says, “My name is ______ and I am an alcoholic.” The Christian says, “I am a sinner.”
  12. Paul says, “wretched man that I am!” And he then gives thanks to God through Jesus Christ. No glory given to Paul but only to his Lord and Savior.
  13. Relying on good deeds for favor with God is empty, self-deceiving, and unbiblical. We “look to Jesus.”

The Paradox of the Presence of Good and Evil

Paradox # 6

The Presence of Good and Evil

Romans 8:18-25

  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. In the ESV edition of the Bible our section is referred to as “Future Glory.” The lead verse for this section has the phrase “the sufferings of this present time.”
  8. Paul acknowledges the presence of evil yet points to the future when the glory of God is revealed.
  9. Without explanation, Paul goes on to the fact that we eagerly long for the ultimate intention of God.
  10. Indeed, and the why and how is not expressed, but that our world, and ourselves, have been subjected to “futility” and that we exist in the “bondage to decay.”
  11. Our God who loves the world, who created us in His image, allows us to live in the presence of evil.
  12. No Bible author glosses over the reality of the condition we face. Indeed we do “groan” over our circumstance.
  13. Though Satan is not equal with the Creator God, still that hideous strength is allowed to exist and exert demonic power. The fact of this is plain, and again, without explanation or apology. Full disclosure one might say.
  14. We await full adoption as the children of God. Paul even states, “For in this hope we are saved.” Only the redeemed of the Lord have this outrageous hope, and biblical hope is not a wishing.
  15. Our waiting is done patiently. Every generation of believers hopes for the soon fulfillment of the great promises of God, which is only natural. See Genesis 3:15 on this point.
  16. After all is said, either in Scripture or by Christians throughout our history, we still do not fully understand why the God who so loves the world, allows the presence of evil.

The Cultic Connection

The Cultic Connection

In the late 1960’s, the group founded by Sun Myung Moon, the Unification Church, known on the street as the ‘Moonies’ hosted weekend gatherings at a ranch in Mendocino County (80 miles north of San Francisco) replete with free food and lodging, not to mention rather unsupervised mixing of the sexes accustomed to hippie free love. It was perfect—for cult recruitment.

And, as might be suspected, our Christian ministry lost some members, temporarily at least, to the Moonies.

During the late sixties and early seventies, I was a street preacher in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. That experience with the Moonies was my first encounter with an aggressive cult whose agenda was hidden from those they made initial contact with. But, this would not be the last time. Group after group, some religious, some social/psychological like EST or the Forum founded by Werner Erhardt, emerged and employed manipulative practices to recruit members. In fact, one of my favorite definitions of a cultic group is it will use ‘mind bending’ methods to recruit, motivate, and retain members.

My sensitivity to cultic practices then has made me wary of certain methods to recruit people into the church or to make them open to Christianity. A critic or two of mine think I am being uncharitable, judgmental, or downright anti-evangelistic. Perhaps, but I would rather error, if error it be, on the side of going about the work of the Gospel in a biblical manner than to employ, however successful, processes that disguise the offensive nature of the Gospel.

We cannot avoid the peculiar nature of our Christianity. ‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing’ (1 Corinthians 1:18). However, ‘it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe’ (verse 21). Offense must come if the preacher is faithful to his calling. There will be those who are saved through the preaching—this we can depend upon. Schemes then devised to win favor and avoid the scandal of the cross are unacceptable practices and therefore to be avoided at all costs.

Let me go on to a strong point: I do not see the use of bonding techniques encouraged by Jesus, Paul or any New Testament personage. Nowhere are we urged to create bonding processes using small groups or cells. Music, in the Scripture, is to facilitate and express praise and worship—not to be used as entertainment. Not at all, nothing even close, rather the Gospel is to be presented in a straightforward way with no hidden agendas or doctrines. The full story is to be publically presented all the way from heaven and hell, law and grace, repent and believe.

This is why I am not attracted to things like the Alpha Course where food, intimate small groups, and weekend gatherings are employed to ‘introduce’ Christ to non-believers. When I see this I am reminded of the Moonies and their recruitment weekend get-togethers in Mendocino. ‘But’, my critics say, ‘people will not come to hear the Gospel preached; we need to use whatever means necessary to bring the world to Christ.’

My response is: 1. There will more likely be false conversions than genuine conversions. (How can there be genuine conversion when the fullness of the Gospel is not preached? Even us Calvinists insist on proclamation of the cross and resurrection.) 2. Bonding type conversions are short lived; where there has been no real forgiveness, no peace with God, no new birth, the ‘duped’ merely go on looking for the next experience. 3. We are not being faithful to biblical revelation when we go beyond clear practice and doctrine. The evangelical commands in the Bible are to preach the Word of Christ because that is how saving faith is made effectual. (see Romans 10:17) 4. Dependence on techniques, could I say gimmicks, is far from a trusting in the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin and the revelation of Jesus Christ as Saviour to the lost.

Not that the quasi-cultic techniques employed by some churches and ministries today are not working, that is, some pews have been filling up. (There is evidence and experience now that shows there is eventually an emptying or a recycling.) This is the deceptive aspect to it; others are using the new methods of recruitment and no one wants to be left behind or find themselves at odds with denominational superiors. Frankly, not many are able to resist.

Have I been too harsh? I suppose that is possible, but we are not talking about business strategy or working on plans for our sports team to succeed. We are talking about the ultimate ‘bottom line’, eternity, heaven and hell, we are talking about the honor and glory of God, we are talking about being obedient to the plain and simple commands of God to preach the Gospel to every nation. At the end, it is not a bankruptcy or a losing record at issue, it is what will be spoken at the judgment where Jesus will be heard either to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your rest’ or ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.’

How to Know if you are an Actual Christian

How to Know if you are an Actual Christian

What a strange topic for an essay one might say. Agreed, yet after fifty years as a pastor, I find that it is not so easy to tell if one is actually a genuine Christian, or as I like to say, born-again. Certainly there is no greater personal issue than this one. It is literally the difference between heaven and hell.

Here now is a list of changes in a person’s life, which taken together, or at least with several points in place, strongly suggest that the new birth has taken place.

  1. An interest in the Bible

Maybe you picked up a Bible a time or two and read a page or two, but like me, I didn’t get it at all. If you are like me at all, I could not even bear to hear the Bible read and I hated all those Christian movies like “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Then though, I started reading and reading, and just loved it though it was not easy reading. And to this day, the Bible is special to me and I just love to read it. This is a definite sign of genuine conversion.

  1. Want to read about Jesus

I knew the name Jesus and had some kind of idea of what it was all about, but He was just another founder of a religion. Nothing more.

Then after that time when I was twenty-one, after a moment when as far as I knew then or know now, something happened. Jesus became the focus of my attention. The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—read them over and over. Then when I got to be a preacher, the same, and now yet preaching and teaching these wonderful Gospels.

Real clear, only born-again types love to read about Jesus. And why? Simply because we love Jesus. Once we get it that He died for us because He loves us we in turn love Him. And, over the years, the relationship, the love, the attachment only grows.

  1. Not afraid of churches

There was Holy Redeemer Catholic Church on Portland Blvd. in N.W. Portland, Oregon we had to pass on our way to Peninsula Park and I would not even look at it. I have no idea why, but in a way it kind of scared me.

Again, this changed after I starting believing in Jesus. No fear of those places, instead, I would walk right in and not even think of it. I felt safe in church buildings, still do.

Not such a big deal as the first two evidences, but still a big one for me at the time.

  1. Not afraid of Christians

The kids I knew in high school, Verdugo Hills High in Sunland-Tujunga, part of the Los Angeles School District, I stopped hanging out with them when I found they were Christians. They were not the cool kids, good folk, and I definitely did not want to be associated with them. Not good for one’s rep when you are a want-a-be tough teen ager with a duck tail haircut.

And did that ever change once I was saved. Here is the evidence for this: at midnight chow at the Travis Air Force Base Hospital, I sat with the sinners. We stole stuff out the back door, thieves and rogues we were. On the other side of the dinning hall sat Vern Hogue and Don Ethridge—we all knew they were Christians.

Days after my saving experience, I was no longer welcome with the bunch I always sat with. I don’t know how it worked exactly, but I was expelled and sent over to be with Vern and Don. How that happened, how the old bunch knew I was different I cannot say. But that is how it went.

  1. Want to learn about prayer

Prayer has never been my strong suit, but I did start praying. I even had a prayer list, and I still to this day have several of them. On the far left of a half-sheet of paper I would have one column with the date, then another with the request, another with the answer, and the last column was the date of the prayer.

I learned that Christianity was mostly a relationship with God and this is what was happening to me. I was a guy who for sure would never resort, stoop is a better word, to prayer. No way. But there it was. Something dramatic had happened and I never as much as thought through it all until much later on.

  1. Desire to talk with other Christians

Across the street from me in Suisun, California where low-class airmen lived mostly, was am airman like me. His name was Charles Davenport and was also a Christian; we even attended the same church, the First Baptist Church of Fairfield, and the pastor was Bob Lewis. He was from Lake Charles, Louisiana and he was a fairly mature Christian. We talked and talked and talked.

In the 2nd Casualty Staging Flight at the hospital, that I was a part of, there were no other Christians. I worked from 5pm to 8am, and it was a lonely time mostly.

Toward the middle of my enlistment, two nurses came to our unit. They were twins, beautiful young women, and they were real Christians. After all was quiet on the unit, I would wander up the hall, pull up a chair and talk Bible stuff with these 2nd lieutenants. It worked so that for about a year, I often had the pleasure of talking about Jesus with these nurses. Their maturity as believers was much needed at that time.

Who would have ever thought as much, but here it was, I was seeking out Christians to be with when all my previous years I had been diligently avoiding them.

Another sure sign, hanging out with those weird Christians.

  1. Able to admit you were really a bad sinner

At some point in our lives we begin to not only realize but reveal that we are not as pure as the wind-driven snow. This after some maturing, too.

Mostly we cannot handle it that we have flaws. Then there is our conscience, which may accuse or excuse us. Shame and guilt can crush us and we spend considerable amounts of energy, emotional, brain energy, to insure ourselves that we are not as bad as others.

Here now the Christian, who due to understanding the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross, the shedding of His blood for us, that blood that covers all our sin, grasps us and we gain an assurance that we are completely forgiven.

Gone! No guilt, no shame, though the old enemy tries to accuse us and tell us how bad we are. But we know better.

Sure, we yet sin, and so we find out from the Scripture that we confess our sin, daily is best, and we know again that weird things of body and mind, are gone. No, this is not a license to sin, but a paradoxical truth. Forgiven, and daily forgiven. Best to study 1 John 1:8-2:2 on this point.

  1. Concern and love for others

A shift in focus comes now, little by little. Instead of thinking only of ourselves, we have an interest in the needs of other people. Normally we are caught up in seeing to our own affairs; a subtle change comes now, and a healthy one at that. Now that the only important issue is forever resolved for us, we can actually see to the concerns and cares of others.

This is where evangelism comes in. My experience has been that genuine Christians have a desire to see others come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is far and away the greatest need anyone has whether they know it or not.

For me, this was scary. I first got into personal evangelism when my pastor Bob Lewis handed out names of people, with their addresses, to visit and share the Gospel with them. I did it though I was petrified, and a several occasions I was firmly rebuffed and told to go away. In a way I still do not fully grasp, my concern, above all others, is to tell others about Jesus.

  1. Not afraid to talk about Jesus with others

Before becoming a Christian, well, we would never, ever, tell others about Jesus. This is a clear fact.

Now then, we find in Scripture that we are called, commanded, encouraged, to tell the world about our Savior. After a time, even timid people like me, start doing it and suddenly find a meaning and purpose for living that nothing can match.

After all these years, after even being punched in the face and slandered and screamed at, I am still at it and loving it more all the time. I say, “Bring it on!”

Okay, I am a preacher, seminary trained and so on, but all Christians get to do this. “Go” Jesus said, and we go. We never retire, never get laid off, never fired, always urged on, by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit—we keep boldly proclaiming Jesus and Him crucified.

How to Know you are not a Born-again Christian

This part is easy; none of the eight points above will apply to you.

Why am I so abrupt and seemingly uncaring by stating this?

Because it is time to face the truth about what is actually going on. This little essay is intended to wake you up. I hope you will see your true condition and not depend upon the big lies, which include the following:

Death is the end.

There is no heaven or hell.

All you have to do is be a good person.

Help others, be kind, and do good deeds.

All paths lead to God.

You will have other life times to become enlightened.

Who cares anyway; you want to be with your friends in hell.

Last word to you: Stop everything and ask that if God is real, He would reveal Himself to you. In a prayer, aloud or in your mind only, ask if Jesus is really the Savior who died for you on the cross.

When you get your answer, and you find out the core reality, get a Bible and start reading. Start with Matthew’s Gospel. Find a Christian. Find a Bible preaching and teaching church. Okay, start here and the rest will unfold.

Kent Philpott

December 2018

John 1:14—The Greatest Verse in the Bible?

GOSPEL MEDITATION # 5

John 1:14

The Word Become Flesh

  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. “And the Word became flesh”—Word comes from Logos a Greek word with the idea of the ultimate wisdom of God. By way of a miracle eclipsing even the creation of the universe, God becomes human.
  8. With the use of the word “flesh” is meant that the Logos is vulnerable to all that humans are including death.
  9. “And dwelt among us”—here meaning present with humans not as a spirit or abstract concept but fully here.
  10. “We have seen his glory”—John, as well as the apostles and thousands of others, beheld the miracles, heard His words, and were transformed by His grace.
  11. “Glory” —for a Jew like John, “glory” would have meant Jesus in their midst is God in their midst.
  12. “Only son of the Father”—meaning the utterly unique one of which there is not or ever will be another, this only Son (monogenous in Greek) is deity just as the Father is.
  13. “Full of grace and truth”—here the absolutely unimaginable combination of attributes, grace and truth, a concept beyond the imagination of the human mind, the Word is.
  14. Grace, the saving love of God; truth, ultimate reality—describes the Word become flesh who is in person, grace and truth.

What Happened Following Jesus’ Birth

GOSPEL MEDITATION

What Happened Following Jesus’ Birth

Luke 2:22-35

  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. Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the Temple

according to the Law of Moses. (See Ex. 13:2 & Lev.

12:8). They offered 2 pigeons meaning the family was

poor.

  1. The obedience of Mary and Joseph indicates also that

they were observant Jews and would be Jesus as he

grew up.

  1. Here now they meet Simeon, Holy Spirit inspired     prophet who is awaiting the arrival of the Messiah.
  2. The remarkable statement about Jesus being the cause of the “fall and rising of many,” among other things, is a preparation for Mary about what was to become of her baby. The Child would be loved and hated, both at once, and so it has remained to this day.
  3. This extreme reaction reveals both God’s holiness and our unholiness, and that Jesus has an enemy.
  4. The sword that will pierce Mary, the trauma that only a mother could experience, likely was meant to be comforting to Mary, in taking away any surprise or false expectation.
  5. Then Anna, another witness to Mary and Joseph, two witnesses thus meeting Biblical requirements (see Dt. 17:6). Mary and Joseph would be comforted by this.
  6. Some 33 years before the cross, God brings two people to the temple to announce that great event that was to come.

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.