Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…

Chuch tolerance or Church discipline

This comes as a response to the reading at the beginning of the week in 1 Corinthians 5-6

One of the buzz words in the culture we live in today is that of tolerance. This teaches that everyone has the right to their own view of the truth. As long as their view doesn't violate or impose on me then we should all be able to CO-EXIST (the sign you see on the back of many cars.) Though this may be the theme of the day in our society, the apostle Paul has a bit different take when it comes to tolerance in the church. At the beginning of this week the reading assignment was 1 Corinthian 5 and 6. Every time I read Corinthians I think about the modern day church.

In 1 Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul is dealing with a situation involving a sexual relationship between a man and his stepmother. It is the church's tolerance of this sin in which they have a mock humility that has the apostle Paul so upset. Paul says though I am not with you physically I am with you in the Spirit. And then goes on to say that church discipline must be invoked and this man is to be cast out of the church. He even goes further, the apostle Paul says that they are to turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Why does the apostle Paul deal so strongly with this kind of sin issue? And then he tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:6. I like the way my New Living Translation reads on this "Don't you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected? You might say this about 1 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul is not tolerant of sin that isn't dealt with in the body of Christ. As a matter of fact he goes on to say what I think may surprise many Christians today. Paul tells us not to judge those outside the church because God will judge them. However, please read carefully, keep this in context but do not be ignorant of this next statement, Bert paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 5:12 "WE ARE TO JUDGE THOSE WITHIN THE CHURCH." By the way the word judge in this sentence is a verb and is the Greek word "krino."

The meaning of this word is as follows. The verb is written in the present tense which means continually and ongoing.
1) to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose
2) to approve, esteem, to prefer
3) to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion
4) to determine, resolve, decree
5) to judge
a) to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong
1) to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one's case may be examined and judgment passed upon it
b) to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
1) of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others
6) to rule, govern
a) to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, because it was the prerogative of kings and rulers to pass judgment
7) to contend together, of warriors and combatants
a) to dispute
b) in a forensic sense
1) to go to law, have suit at law

Do you know what this was called in the early days of our church history? This is known as church discipline! And unfortunately it ranks in at least the top 3 problems today that the evangelical church faces and it may be in the top 2. I was part of an intense discussion in a seminary class in which the subject came to church discipline. The professor who was a wonderful and godly man and said that we in the American evangelical church have lost this Biblical mandate. And what he meant was we apparently have lost the ability as a church to enforce it within the evangelical culture in which we live. Read More...

What is Christless Christianity?

First of all this is the title of a fairly new book by Dr. Michael Horton. But if you were to summarize it might be said this is a religion that focuses more on “what would Jesus do” than “what has Jesus done.” People in both conservative and liberal churches are basically being given something to do instead of something to believe. As one prominent pastor said the first Reformation was all about getting the creeds right and now we need to get the deeds right. Horton stresses and he backs this up with the stats, that we are the center of our universe, God exists to make us happy, and the Bible has good guidelines in order to enable us to have our best live now. It is not that American Christianity is heretical although we must stay alert to those signs. But rather we are distracted with all kinds of programs, events and strategies that are taking us away from a Christ-centered gospel.

Here is a brief video clip on the dangers today of a Christless Christianity. Click on this LINK.

"Houston, we have a problem"

Here is a blog post that I came across today. Do you see the incredible irony that is presented within our culture? Social networking is at an all time high and yet most people have lost a sense of intimacy and one on one friendships. We have become a society in which the virtual has replaced the personal. This articles comes from Ingrid Schlueter who writes on a Christian blog site.

“A few days ago, a Christian blog site featured an article by a theology professor who felt that Starbucks had the right model for church these days. He claimed that Starbucks is, in fact, the replacement for church in American society. Now comes a news story that reports on Facebook serving as an alternative location to churches, mosques, etc. Reportedly, young people who grieve and are needing support are ditching church and turning to Facebook instead. There are lessons for churches in this, supposedly. Just what those lessons are, I am not sure. Can you just join a Facebook group instead of an actual church in a building? Can they serve virtual communion as a Facebook application? Will the women of the churches now send out virtual meals instead of bringing casseroles to your door when you have a loss or an illness? What about Baptism?

The whole trend seems hollow and depressing. Real relationships are hard to establish these days, and when Christian young people find that Facebook is more of a support than their local churches, there is something seriously wrong—either with the churches or the young people.”

You can't make this stuff up

Learning and Living the God-centered community I want to share with you some of the latest Christian research from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. If you think we have solid Biblical underpinnings in the American evangelical church then you might want to re-evaluate. Just read the first two paragraphs of a recent article.

A majority of all American Christians (52%) think that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Indeed, among Christians who believe many religions can lead to eternal life, 80% name at least one non-Christian faith that can do so. These are among the key findings of a national survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life from July 31-Aug. 10, 2008, among 2,905 adults.

The survey is designed as a follow-up to the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007, which reported that most Americans who claim a religious affiliation take a non-exclusivist view of salvation, with seven-in-ten saying that many religions can lead to eternal life while less than one-quarter say theirs is the one, true faith leading to eternal life. But what exactly do these respondents have in mind when they agree that “many religions can lead to eternal life?” Is this primarily an example of most Christians (who account for nearly 80% of the U.S. adult population) acknowledging that some Christian denominations and churches besides their own can lead to eternal life? Or are most people interpreting “many religions” more broadly, to include non-Christian faiths?

Let me go back to the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
2Tim. 4:4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

We have become pluralistic in our culture and it has invaded the evangelical church in a major way. Keep in mind the orthodox church believes what the Bible says about saving faith, in that Jesus declares in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man may come to the Father except through Me.” There is no way to God the Father except through Jesus Christ His Son. This means we are exclusive in this regard and therefore are not inclusive of other religions and other ways to get to God.

Should you want to see the entire article from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life then click on this LINK. But you may need a strap or reinforced rubber band to keep you jaw from hitting the floor when you read the results of these surveys.

An education in "Postmodernism"

Over the 2009-2010 teaching year we as you know will continue to study basic Bible doctrine. However, I am also going to be introducing you to those things to watch out for that are harmful in the evangelical church. On Sunday I ended with the dangers of legalism, and how we as Americans are hard wired to be legalists.

However on the other side of the pendulum something much larger and more dangerous looms for the 21 century church and that is postmodernism. At the end of the teaching on Sunday I gave an overall definition. The plan next was to show the following video but all the technology just locked up. So here is the video that I intended to show on Sunday. In this first part of the video Dr. John MacArthur gives a very good and succinct definition of postmodernism that I suggest you write down and study. Simply click on this LINK.

On the heels of that video is an article that I read this morning from Pastor Gary Gilley (one of the good guys). If you want to read the whole article then click on this LINK. But this is the section of the article that really caught my attention as to what the disease of “POSTMODERNISM” has produced in the church and right under our noses.

The Product of Uncertainty - by Gary Gilley

A medical physician friend of mine compares this postmodern/mystical approach to the AIDS virus. He told me, “Postmodernism attacks true Christianity’s defense system, the truth (including God’s Word), denying it exists or at least that it can be known with any degree of certainty. Like the AIDS virus, which leaves the body subject to all manner of infections and malignancies, postmodernism leaves Christianity with all manner of heresies if not apostasy.”[10]

This disease of uncertainty has produced a very ill patient. A recent report entitled, “Crisis in America ’s Churches: Bible Knowledge at All-Time Low”reveals a startling picture of the evangelical church. Below are some of the findings by George Barna and other researchers as documented in this report:

The most widely known Bible verse among adult and teen believers is “God helps those who help themselves” – which is not in the Bible.
Less than one out of every ten believers possesses a biblical worldview as the basis for his or her decision-making or behavior.
When given thirteen basic teachings from the Bible, only 1% of adult believers firmly embrace all thirteen as being biblical perspectives.
Of Baptists (of all kinds) only 34% believe Satan is real, 57% believe that good works earn heaven, 45% do not believe that Jesus was sinless and 34% do not believe the Bible is totally accurate.

Only 32% of “born-again” Christians believes in the existence of absolute moral truth.

Commenting on such beliefs Professor Gary Burge of Wheaton College believes such theological and biblical illiteracy is the result of:

The failure of the church to transmit what it believes to the next generation. One of the reasons for this is an overemphasis on personal experience to the exclusion of serious Christian education.
Many churches have abandoned serious Bible exposition and theological teaching. Exegesis is becoming a “lost art” in the pulpit. Read More...

The theology of "I, ME and MY"

We live in a day and time of consumer mentality. This means I want what I want, where I want it, and how I want it. Unfortunately we see a dangerous trend that has taken us in the church away from a God-centered theology that has moved to a man-centered theology. This basically says “find out what the people want and need and give it to them.”

For those in our class participating in homework, here is your homework assignment for the week. Listen to the following interview, and see if you can bring Scriptural support to the truth in the dangers of narcissism referred to in this interview and that we see today in our culture.

The Narcissism Epidemic
Is Narcissism on the rise? And if so, has it affected American Christianity? On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton talks with Dr. Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, and co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.

This interview is very eye opening when it comes to the “WHY” there is such an emphasis today in pleasing ourselves instead of pleasing God!

Approximate length is about 35 minutes, so grab a favorite beverage, get your Bible, notebook and pen and prepare to better understand what and why this is such a dangerous epidemic in culture and the church.

Just click on this LINK

Postmodern Twister

That's Entertainment

Thousands showed up this past Sunday at some church locations to be entertained not unlike at the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The people commented upon leaving how grateful they were to be entertained and made to feel good. Another person when questioned said yeah "we don't want to think about eternity and things like heaven or hell until we get there." And a young man was quoted as saying the only difference between the circus and his church was that the pastor at his church was much funnier and overall a better comedian.

In this short audio clip Professor Michael Horton gives a brief history of how we came to these days of much church entertainment.

Simply click on this LINK.

Megachurch, the latest stats...

This article from the associated press this week I have posted for your consideration.

Despite their reputation as symbols of baby-boomer America, Protestant megachurches attract a younger crowd and more singles than the average Protestant church, according to large-scale study released Tuesday. The survey also found distressing news for a movement that took off in the 1980s and remains influential in evangelical Christianity: megachurch-goers volunteer less and give less money than other churchgoers.

Conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary and Leadership Network, the survey of nearly 25,000 people who attend 12 U.S. megachurches was conducted from January through August 2008. It is billed as the largest representative national study of that religious demographic to date.

An estimated 5 million Americans a week attend roughly 1,300 U.S. megachurches, defined in the study as Protestant churches with attendance of 2,000 or more. To compare the megachurch data to Protestant churches of all sizes, the study relied on the U.S. Congregational Life Study of 2001.

Among the megachurch report's highlights:

- The average age of megachurch attenders is 40, compared to nearly 53 at a typical Protestant church. Nearly two-thirds of megachurch attenders are under 45, double the numbers in Protestant congregations of all sizes. The vast majority are between 18 and 44.

- Nearly a third of megachurch attenders are single, compared to 10 percent in a typical Protestant church. They also tend to be wealthier and better educated.

- Nearly all those surveyed -- 98 percent, including visitors -- described themselves as a "committed follower of Jesus Christ." Nearly a quarter hadn't been in any church for a long time before coming to the megachurch.

- Sixty-two percent of megachurch attendees said they had experienced much spiritual growth in the past year. But that does not always translate to behavior churches expect of members: nearly 45 percent of megachurch attenders never volunteer at the church and 32 percent give little or no money to the congregation.

"The ethos of the megachurch is to say 'You can't just sit there and spectate, that's not enough, you've got to do this or do that,'" said study co-director Scott Thumma, a sociologist at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. "But a lot of people said 'I'm perfectly happy coming here and doing that.'"

Divided loyalties also might play a role: just three-quarters described the megachurch they were attending as their "home" church, and many said they were attending more than one church.

Thumma said the findings don't necessarily mean that megachurches fail to foster involvement. The study found that significant numbers of even the least involved participants still give generously, have invited others to church and attend services weekly.

Pastor B.’s Editorial Response to the article above on the “Stats in the Megachurch”

This morning I posted an interesting article on our website regarding the latest mega church statistics. Here is a section of the article that I would like to comment on in this weekly update.


Audio clip of the week

Widely known for his thorough, candid approach to teaching God’s Word, John MacArthur is a fifth-generation pastor, a popular author and conference speaker, and has served as pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since 1969. John and his wife, Patricia, have four grown children and fourteen grandchildren.

John’s pulpit ministry has been extended around the globe through his media ministry, Grace to You, and its satellite offices in Australia, Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa. In addition to producing daily radio programs for nearly 2,000 English and Spanish radio outlets worldwide, Grace to You distributes books, software, audiotapes, and CDs by John MacArthur. In thirty-six years of ministry, Grace to You has distributed more than thirteen million CDs and audiotapes.

John is the president of The Master's College and The Master's Seminary, and he has written hundreds of books and study guides (see below), each one thoroughly biblical and practical. Best-selling titles include The Gospel According to Jesus, The Second Coming, Ashamed of the Gospel, Twelve Ordinary Men, and The MacArthur Study Bible, a 1998 ECPA Gold Medallion recipient.

John MacArthur on “What is the emerging church?”

Most U.S. Christians don't think Satan and Holy Spirit exist

ATTENTION-ATTENTION-ATTENTION Learning and Living the God-centered Life Community!

This article came out on April 13, 2009 in the Christian Post. If you want to see the original article just click on this LINK.

However I have copied and put as a blog article in order for you all to see why it is so important that we understand sound Biblical doctrine. If you read this article and digest the stats you will quickly learn that many Christians are living in Biblical ignorance. Folks if we are ignorant of the basic truths in God’s word how are we ever going to live out the Christian life in a way that pleases God?

Is doctrine important? Absolutely, and after reading this article I rest my case.

The majority of American Christians do not believe that Satan is a real being or that the Holy Spirit is a living entity, the latest Barna survey found.

Nearly six out of ten Christians either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement that Satan "is not a living being but is a symbol of evil," the survey found.

Forty percent strongly agreed with the statement while 19 percent of American Christians somewhat agreed.

In contrast, about 35 percent of American Christians believe Satan is real. Twenty-six percent strongly disagreed with the statement that Satan is merely symbolic and about one-tenth (9 percent) somewhat disagreed.

The remaining eight percent of American Christians responded they were unsure what to believe about the existence of Satan.

Interestingly, the majority of Christians believe a person can be under the influence of spiritual forces, such as demons or evil spirits, even though many of these same people believe Satan is merely a symbol of evil. Two out of three Christians agreed that such forces are real (39 percent agreed strongly, 25 percent agreed somewhat).

Likewise, most Christians in the United States do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force. Fifty-eight percent strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is "a symbol of God's power or presence but is not a living entity."

Only one-third of Christians disagreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is not just symbolic (9 percent disagreed somewhat, 25 percent disagreed strongly). Nine percent expressed they were unsure.

Interestingly, about half (49 percent) of those who agreed that the Holy Spirit is only a symbol but not a living entity, agreed that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. The Bible states that the Holy Spirit is God's power or presence, not just symbolic.

"Most Americans, even those who say they are Christian, have doubts about the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural world," commented George Barna, founder of The Barna Group and author of books analyzing research concerning America's faith.

"Hollywood has made evil accessible and tame, making Satan and demons less worrisome than the Bible suggests they really are," he said. "It's hard for achievement-driven, self-reliant, independent people to believe that their lives can be impacted by unseen forces."

But a large majority of American Christians agree that a person must choose to side with either good or evil. More than six out of ten American Christians strongly agreed (61 percent) with the idea that a person must either side with God or with the devil - that there is no in-between position. Another 15 percent somewhat agreed.

Just one out of ten adults disagreed somewhat (10 percent) and a similar proportion (11 percent) strongly disagreed. Only a few adults (3 percent) did not have an opinion on the issue.


5 trends in the church today

We are a community that is committed to “learning and living” the God centered-life. Therefore from time to time I will post current articles regarding various subjects as to the Christian life. Obviously the church is very important to all of us who are in Christ. The following is article written on a lecture by D.A. Carson as it relates to the church in America. Dr. Carson is a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is the author of more than 35 books.

D A Carson, September 26, 2008

1. It is important to observe contradictory trends.

Interestingly, Dr. Carson encouraged us to recognize the good things in our current culture. He said we have a lot more good commentaries available to us than we did fifty years ago. Yet, mainline churches have fewer conversions than ever before. This is a contradictory trend, according to Carson.

I understand this to mean that we know more and have access to more information, but it is not resulting in more conversions. We apparently know more about God, but less about His mission to seek and to save those who are lost. Our mainline churches are focusing on the minutia difference between supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism, for example, but are ignoring the call to both know God and to follow his sending us to our neighbor's house. There should be a constant tension between group Bible studies and sharing of one's faith. Otherwise we end up in a holy huddle somewhere arguing about non-essentials.

2. Current evangelical fragments are moving into a new phase -- into polarized "clumps."

Don said evangelicals are identifying themselves in clump-like expressions of evangelicalism (Health/Wealth clump, Openness clump, Arminian clump, etc.). Carson said the National Pastor's Conference (NPC) is as inclusive as possible -- some speakers are stellar while others are simply heretical -- but they include as many unique tribal representatives as possible. "Even Reformed circles are clumping," said Carson, "and the center is emptying out in favor of vague, dilute evangelicalism."

Carson astutely said that old-time gospel would be around until Jesus comes while he believes (as Don humorously put it, "not as a prophet or the son of a prophet, but one who works for a non-profit") that in 25 years nobody will be calling themselves "emergent" but many will still be centralized in the gospel.

I wonder what will replace the center as the varied subcultures of evangelicalism move to the fringes. For orthodox confessionalists, the center is the perfect place for the gospel. We need pastors who call their people "back" to the inner city of the gospel without relenting to the flight to the suburbs of dilute evangelicalism, as Carson put it.