Friday, February 27, 2009

“Everyone in the church should be in an accountability group.”

Accountability groups in churches have gone from trendy safeguards for men, to implanted expectations for entire congregations. However, a study of the New Testament reveals no mention of accountability to anyone but God. (Romans 3:19) Yes, if we see our brother or sister in sin, after we remove the “plank” from our own eye, we are to gently correct and restore them. (Matthew 7:5; Galatians 6:1) But this is very different than the control factor, which seems to be built into “accountability groups” (some are alternately called small groups or home groups but not all of those are “accountability groups”). By all appearances this practice is simply a modern adaptation of the Shepherding movement of the 1970’s, which abused so many Christian lives.

Friday, February 20, 2009

“Truth is truth wherever you find it.”

Other versions of this adage are “All truth is God’s truth,” “Despoil the Egyptians” meaning make something good out of the bad; “Eat the meat and spit out the bones,” meaning that one should hold on to the good but leave the bad parts behind; or “God can speak to me through anything.” A guy in my Christian youth group claimed, “God can even speak to me through a Satanist bible.” I wish I’d thought quickly enough to respond, “Right, and he’d say, ‘Put that down!” (I guess it should be no surprise since he dated a witch and hung out with Rosicrucians.)

But the apostle John said, “no lie comes from the truth”. (1 John 2:21) So how could the truth come from a lie? Jesus, in his warning about false prophets, said, “a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17) He added that people don’t pick grapes from thorn bushes. (Matthew 7:16)

Too many Christians are looking for truth “in all the wrong places”, in thorn bushes instead of looking to Jesus who is “the way and the Truth and the life”. (John 14:5) Why waste time on the false when you can go straight to genuine? (This is not to say that we shouldn’t know what’s going on. I’ll cover this part in another listing.)

Part of the problem is their definition of “truth”, which comes out something like, “whatever works”. Lots of lies “work”—for a time; ask the Roman Emperors, Hitler, even former President Nixon. What they did “worked” for a time but that doesn’t mean they were operating in truth! Jesus spelled out the way to know the truth, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31,32) How much better to be set free than to choke on bones!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

“You shouldn’t help that person because it might interfere with what God is trying to teach them.”

The Hindus of India said something similar to Mother Teresa when she began helping the poor and dying in Calcutta. Of course, they referred to karma (paying for one’s sins from another life—another version of “suffering the consequences”) yet what I hear from many Christians stems from the same root.

Jesus, on the other hand placed a high value on our helping others--to the point of assigning eternal punishment to those who don’t. (Matthew 25:31-46 I didn’t write it. You’ll have to take it up with him!) He placed no qualifications on that help, saying, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”(Matthew 5:42)

But doesn’t the Bible say that trials and suffering build character? Yes, but the context is always that of suffering persecution for being a follower of Jesus, not the day to day difficulties of life that God’s people are to band together to alleviate (Acts 2:44,45; 2 Corinthians 8:13-15) When Paul could avoid even the “beneficial” kind of suffering, he did. (Acts 9:25)

The “elder brother” in Jesus’ parable of the runaway son would have liked to have seen his little brother “learn a lesson” from God (represented in the parable by his father) after his bad behavior. (Luke 15:30). I suppose he thought it would be more appropriate to have him sleep in the barn and remain in his rags. Instead, to what must have been the elder son’s utter astonishment, his father didn’t punish his runaway son, but celebrated his return, welcoming him with open arms!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

“Moderation in all things.”

As one preacher put it, “If you have moderation in all things, that would mean moderation in sin—that it’s okay to sin as long as you didn’t do too much of it and this cannot be! This saying has nothing to do with the Bible in content or principle!

Instead, Jesus urged the Laodiceans, and us, to be hot or cold (refreshing) and not lukewarm. (Revelation 3:15,16) Our prayers are to be fervent (James 5:16) and persistent (Luke 18:1) and we are to love one another deeply. (1 Peter 4:10)

Jesus was continually behaving in ways that were anything but moderate—healing ALL the sick (Matthew 8:16), and on the Sabbath (Mark 3:2). When he fed the multitudes, he didn’t just feed them a snack but enough to satisfy every one and have a large amount of food left over! (Mark 14:20)

In addition, Paul insisted that there shouldn’t be,“even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed,” (Ephesians 5:3)—no moderation there! He further urged that followers of Jesus are to “ have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness,” (Ephesians 5:8) not even a little bit.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:11)

(Fervor: great warmth of emotion. Zeal: intense enthusiasm. Webster’s New World Dictionary)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

“Sometimes you have to suffer the consequences.”

When I hear Christians insist that sometimes you have to “suffer the consequences” while appraising OTHER PEOPLE’S failings, I have to ask why? Why, when ” all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,”(Romans 3:23) when “because of his great love for us, God, is rich in mercy”? (Ephesians 2:4)

Besides, other than restitution for stealing, can a person truly pay for what they’ve done? Beware of feeling better because a person has paid (as in “I’m going to make him pay!”) for what he/she has done to you—God says that’s his department—not ours and we’re to forgive other Christians anyway (for those non-Christians who have done things against us, we need not let our feelings against them fester but turn the person and our feelings over to God who will either get vengeance or give mercy. It’s up to him).

I’m very glad Jesus already “suffered the consequences” for my sin (and yours) because those consequences would be eternal death! No way do I want to take that back on!!! But that’s what we do (in effect) when we insist that others must pay for their sins (literally: missing the mark) when Jesus has already done it. (see the parable of the unmerciful servant, Matthew 18:23-35)

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” Matthew 7:12

Monday, February 16, 2009

“You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.”

This in an idea embraced by many Christians in the 1990’s and is still repeated and believed, mostly by those in the Inner Healing movement. They’ve built it on a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:19, “love your neighbor as yourself” (from Leviticus 19:18),insisting that a person must have good self-esteem in order to love anyone else. But Jesus didn’t say that. He was speaking from a “given" that people in general think very well of themselves, feeding themselves, putting themselves first (of course,there are some who don’t, but a closer look might surprise you). Paul confirms this general understanding in Ephesians 5:28,29.

However, history reveals the surprising roots of this idea of self-love preceding love for others, “According to Buddhism, self-love comes first. By helping ourselves we can help others effectively."*