Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tolerance isn't what it's cracked up to be

Tolerance once meant putting up with something you didn't particularly like. It meant bearing with other people's views without necessarily agreeing with them. The word has been redefined.

New Tolerance says that all values, all beliefs, all men's opinions about what is truth and all lifestyles are equally valid. To criticise any of them is to be "intolerant." So people who believe in New Tolerance think Christianity intolerant. But in calling Christianity intolerant, they are not being tolerant. Which means that all beliefs are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Tolerance, said James Kennedy, is the last virtue of a depraved society. When you have an immoral society, he said, that has blatantly, proudly violated all the commandments of God, there is one last virtue they insist on: tolerance for their immorality. (So if you say what they have done is wrong, they are not the villain: you are.)

There is a new civil right: a right for a person's feelings not to be hurt. If you criticise a person's conduct, you are hurting his feelings. You are intolerant. You are demonstrating hatefulness to him, and that is a "hate crime."

David Reagan says New Tolerance is not only turning society against evangelical Christians, but fuelling outright hatred and persecution of evangelicals.

The reason, of course, is simple, he says. Evangelicals stand on the word of God as their authority for all things, and because they do, they feel compelled to speak with moral indignation against the sins of society.

And society responds by shouting "Bigots!" Evangelicals are written off and publicly denounced as "Bible-thumpers," "red-neck zealots" and "self-righteous prudes."

Second, he says, New Tolerance has been adopted by many mainline Christian denominations, which has resulted in diluting their stand against the sins of society.

John 3:16 has been replaced as the central verse in these churches with Matthew 7:1, which says "Judge not, that you be not judged."

The result is. . . pastors are unwilling to denounce gambling, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, pornography, or any other societal evil.

Someone needs to point out to these preachers that Matthew 7:1 applies to motives - not to words and actions. God alone knows motives, but we can certainly judge words and actions against the standards of God's word. And, in fact, we are required to do so. The Bible tells Christians to test all things, ourselves included (2 Corinthians 13:5 and 1 John 4:1). And Jesus Himself commanded us to judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24).

Third, New Tolerance has resulted among mainline, liberal denominations in a growing acceptance of other religions as legitimate avenues to God and salvation.

The attitude is normally expressed in the following manner: "There are many roads to God because He has revealed Himself in many different ways." Because of this apostasy, many Christian leaders are now taking the position that it is wrong to send out missionaries because they violate the cultural sensitivities of foreign peoples and because they communicate the idea that there is something superior about the Christian message.

All of which makes a liar of Jesus, who said "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me" (John 14:6). It also makes a liar of the Apostle Peter, who proclaimed in Acts 4:12 that "there is salvation in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."

Time, says Kennedy, to stand up for Jesus Christ and show some backbone while we still have a place to stand.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Household salvation (3)

I wrote (here and here) about how I discovered that "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31), with its "you and your household" bit, was not some sort of spare promise, but a promise that contains a principle that you can see right through the Scriptures.

Ah, you say, but can you show me that it works? Is this something that you have just dreamed up, or can you prove that it works from personal experience?

Let me tell you what God did for me.

When I was converted to Christ, I was still a bachelor, but I had a father, a mother, a sister and a brother. After I accepted Christ, I was the only member of my family who had a personal relationship with Jesus. I spoke to my family about salvation in Christ, but it seemed like they just didn't want to know. At that time, I honestly believed that my family were no more likely and no less likely to come to Christ than anyone else.

Twenty years later, I was still the only member of my family with a personal relationship with Jesus. It was about that time that I realised that "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" was a promise I could depend on. I thought about it until I was sure I had understood it, then I claimed my family by faith. I continued to pray for them, but from that time I never once prayed for their salvation. I believed I had the promise.

After I prayed, I wondered how God would do it. Needless to say, He didn't do it the way I expected. Two years later, my sister was gloriously converted to Christ and filled with the Hoiy Spirit in South Africa, where she lived.

As time went on, my father was turned 80 and my mother was pushing 80, but I honestly believed it was impossible for them to die unconverted. When my father was 82, someone led him to Christ. I wasn't there. It wasn't my doing. It was just God being faithful to His promise.

On New Year's Day, 1993, my sister led my mother to Christ. My mother died in October the same year. She was living in a nursing home in Leamington Spa. My sister, who was now living in the UK, and I each got a phone call one morning telling us that if we wished to see my mother we should come quickly. It was mid-afternoon by the time we arrived. She was already gone, but we rejoiced that we believed we knew where she was.

That left my brother. He had his own business. He worked something like 16 hours a day and had time for nothing else. What happened to him was that he developed diabetes; then on top of that he developed kidney stones, to the extent that he was completely unable to work.

As he sat at home, he picked up a book of Bible readings that apparently I had given my parents as a Christmas present years before. It had turned up at his home because he had cleared up my parents' home when first they had moved to a care home. As he looked at it, he saw a verse describing Jesus as God's only begotten Son. Somehow he saw it, and believed.

"Well, I'm a Christian now, so I ought to go to church," he said. He went to a tourist information office near his home and asked for a list of churches in the area. He looked down the list, saw a Pentecostal church, remembered that my wedding had been in a Pentecostal church and he had been impressed by the pastor and the service, went to the church on the list and has been in fellowship there ever since.

(After he accepted Christ, he found his diabetes and his kidney stones were gone. Those were the things God used to bring him to Christ.)

One Friday morning the telephone rang at my home. It was my brother. "I just want to tell you I have found Christ," he said. That was my family complete. I can't tell you what a blessing that was.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Praying prayers that are powerful and effective

I was reading an excellent "how to" sermon on prayer. Said the author, Ray Pritchard:

We can talk about the content of prayer, such as adoration, thanksgiving, meditation, confession and petition.

We can talk about the posture of prayer, such as sitting, standing, hands uplifted, eyes open, eyes closed, walking, kneeling, and stretched out before the Lord.

We can talk about the associations of prayer, which means we can pray alone or in a small group or in a worship service or in a concert of prayer or over the internet or over the phone or by e-mail or in a handwritten letter.

We can talk about the style of prayer. It may be formal, informal, liturgical, written, recited, conversational, antiphonal, sentence prayers, "Thank you" prayers, "Lord, have mercy" prayers, short prayers, long prayers, prayers sung, prayers spoken, prayers written, prayers chanted, prayers offered spontaneously or prayers memorised.

We can talk about the places of prayer, such as in the morning, during your devotions, around the dinner table, in the car, on the phone, during a worship service, in the street, sitting in the pew, or at a ball game.

We can talk about the objects of prayer, such as confession and restoration, for physical or spiritual or emotional healing, for a financial need, for a broken relationship to be healed, for salvation, for spiritual growth, for the spread of the gospel, for a friend in need, for the leaders of our church, for the leaders of our nation, for our friends, and, yes, for our enemies.

Prayer may be as varied as the needs of the heart. The true measure of prayer is not its form or content or style or location or length or beauty of expression. The real question is, Does it come from the heart? Is it sincere? Are we truly seeking the Lord? If so, then we may claim the promise of James 5:16 that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. . .

If we pray from the heart in Jesus' name, then the Father is pleased and he inclines his heart to hear us when we call on him.

Ray Pritchard has some good suggestions. He says. for instance, that some of us who know a little theology would do well to get an advanced degree in "kneeology." And a good question. What would happen in our churches if every day every member was prayed for by someone?

You can read the whole thing by clicking here.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Household salvation (2)

There was a time when I imagined that "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31), with its "you and your household" bit, was some sort of a spare promise in the Bible. But there came a day when I realised that it contains a principle you can see right the way through the Scriptures.

Jesus, after all, came to mend that which was broken. Not just broken individuals, but broken marriages, broken homes, broken relationships. His aim is not to see just isolated individuals who have a relationship with God, but families, loving and worshipping Him together.

When I seek to explain household salvation to people, they usually say something like "But it's not automatic, is it?" or "But people have to make their own decision, don't they?" Of course they do. A decision to follow Jesus is a personal choice.

But salvation is a gift. God can give it to whomsoever He will. The book of Ephesians says "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." No man can come to Christ except the Father draw him. If that is the case, then even the willingness to accept Christ comes from Him.

Plainly not all families are united in Christ. So if "you and your household" is a promise, can it be that there are conditions attached to the promise?

I believe that there are. First, it is necessary to believe the promise. Second, it is necessary to claim the promise. Third, it is necessary for the believer to remain faithful. Clearly, it is not reasonable, having accepted Christ, to live all sorts of a life and expect one's household to come to faith.

I have heard it suggested from the pulpit that Paul and Silas said "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" to the Philippian jailor as a result of a word of knowledge specifically for the Philippian jailor, and that believers shouldn't claim that promise lest they be disappointed.

But I want to suggest to you, in view of the Scriptures I pointed out here, that we should expect whole families to be saved, and that in "you and your household" there is a principle that God is prepared to stand by.

The Chinese Christian Watchman Nee believed in household salvation. He tells in one of his books how, when he visited England, he called to see George Cutting, a well known evangelical at that time, who also believed in household salvation.[1] George Cutting, then an old man, had more than 80 in his family - sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Every one was saved.

Is that coincidence, or what?

More soon.

[1] Watchman Nee. The Good Confession, vol 2. New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1973, p113.