Archives For Evangelicalism

mormonsThe other day I was getting ready to take the kids to our park when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was a present from Amazon, I looked out only to find an even greater present: three Mormon missionaries. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. A long time goes by before your last visit and you start getting excited about the next time Mormons come knocking at your door. Every time I see Mormons, I get this sudden urge to talk to them. And every time I walk away discouraged and saddened for how blinding their religion is. And the cycle continues. Over the last few years, I’ve had many interactions with Mormon “elders.”

Mormons are usually very sweet people. They genuinely believe their religion, and they do believe that what they teach is the truth. They believe their religion is best and that you will be happiest if you follow it. But what is fascinating is the training that they receive before coming to your door. They are taught to focus on the positives. They are all about image and the way they present themselves. They are, in fact, salesmen, and they sell their product through smiles and offering “hope.” Over the last couple of years, I’ve asked Mormons what they are selling. I say, “Ok, you guys have come all the way to my house and to my door, what do you guys want me to do?” “What are you guys offering?” and whether it was Virginia, California or a random Chick-Fil-A in Georgia, they all said, “Happiness in this life and hope for the next!”

Their training teaches them to smile big, to not argue, and to focus on the positives of their religion. They are trained to talk about family, and about being with family for eternity. They are discouraged from bringing up controversial topics. No matter what you say, it seems like they nod as if they agree, and when you point out to them that they shouldn’t be agreeing, they agree with you again and say that they agreed with most of what you said. In other words, they are taught to be “winsome.” And this winsomeness ultimately manipulates some people into giving this false religion a try.

I’ve noticed over the years that some people in the church do the same, even some preachers are tempted to do this from their pulpits. We put on our best face. We ignore the difficult topics the Bible talks about and just focus on the love of Jesus. We focus on family as well, and on more happiness in this life and hope for the next. And as I think about the Mormon religion, I see three areas in particular where Christians are tempted to behave similarly.

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holding-handsI still remember the hike I was on when I was confronted. A couple from our church noticed that my relationship with my girlfriend was unhealthy. We were not sinning sexually, but they thought that we were being unwise. We were spending far too much time together. I arrived at the Masters College with a desire to serve the Lord for the rest of my life, I had never dated before and was not prepared to enter into a relationship. Little did I know that on the first day of school I would meet the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. We began hanging out, and very soon we were studying together, having meals together, and pretty much spending hours a day together. And despite the fact that we were being pure, we were risking a great amount.

Looking around today it is quite difficult to find a couple who is dating wisely. Many people sleep together (even some within the church), and those who don’t, seem to get to the point where they are acting married soon after they begin their relationship. Some spend far more time together than most married couples do. They text each other dozens of times a day, they have most meals together and they spend full days together. They may call each other names of endearment, and talk about the kind of furniture they want to buy for their home together. Maybe they refer to each other as “my guy” or “my girl” before there is any real commitment. And even if they are staying sexually pure there can still be areas that need to be re-evaluated within their relationship. Of course, there must be time spent together in order for them to get to know each other to determine whether they ought to marry. I don’t know your heart or situation, nor am I the Holy Spirit, all people in a relationship must look to their own heart in order to determine whether they’re acting married in any way. Following are five dangers to consider when in a dating relationship that looks like a marriage.

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bannister_and_landyIt was May 6th, 1954, and a miler named Roger Bannister became the first human to ever have run a mile recorded in under four minutes. That world record lasted only six weeks, when an Australian, named John Landy, beat his record by more than a second. The rivalry was not over though, as the Empire Games were scheduled for August of the same year, and Landy and Bannister were set to square off in one of the most anticipated races in history.

The two runners could not have been more different. Landy loved to set the pace and start off strong, he usually led most of his races from start to finish. Bannister was different, he liked running from behind most of the race, only to take over first place in the final lap. The final proved those stereotypes right as Landy led for most of the race, with Bannister behind by quite a big margin going into the final lap. But then, something happened; the crowd started cheering as Bannister made his move and Landy began to get nervous, and in a moment of panic, Landy broke racing’s number one rule, don’t look back. As he looked over his left shoulder, Bannister went zooming by on the right to take first place in the race that would be forever remembered as the “miracle mile.”

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It was Christmastime at London’s Garrick Club, and British writer and producer Frederick Lonsdale was asked by actor Seymour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had fought in the past and never restored their friendship. “You must,” Hicks said to Lonsdale. “It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a Merry Christmas.”  So, Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. “I wish you a Merry Christmas,” he said, “but only one.”

That is not reconciliation.

All of us can relate to the sentiment Seymour Hicks was trying to convey. Everyone feels the pressure of being a little bit more charitable at Christmas. Perhaps it is the festive occasion or the fact that everyone is looking forward to eating well and opening gifts, but we all feel a need to be more joyful.

For Christians, though, it isn’t enough to be more peaceful out of obligation, or because of the fact that it is just what you do at Christmas. We are called to be at peace all of the time with all men because of the very fact that we have experience peace with God.

If you’re a Christian you know what it means to be unreconciled.

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bibleI have never been persecuted. Not really. Sure I’ve been called names, but my bank account and my health have not been affected in any way for being a Christian.

I recently did an informal (and most definitely unscientific) survey, asking people who they thought was the most mature Christian. Although I got many different answers, there was a trend. Most people pointed to someone who had suffered severe trials or even died for their faith.

It does seem that those who have been persecuted are more mature. They seem to evangelize more, to say no to sin more often and to be an encouragement to those around them.

Perhaps persecution is coming for all of us, but as of right now we just don’t know too many Christians who are facing persecution. We hear of the bakers, florists and millionaires on TV losing businesses and TV shows, but we have a long way to go to experience what the “others” in Hebrews 11:36-38 who were even sawn in two for their faith and whom the world was not worthy of.

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’Tis the season to be controversial. Regrettably, Christians can be vulnerable to a form of orthorexia when it comes to celebrating or conscientiously objecting to the celebration of Christmastime.

Let’s first take a step back.

Orthorexia is when people try to eat so perfectly that they end up obsessing about their health to the detriment of their health.orthorexia

In the vegetarian—excuse me, “plant-based”—community there is wide consensus that humans should not be consuming cow-flesh. Motivation for this commitment is rooted in one of three factors, but often results in an equal-part blend of the following reasons:

  1. The undeniable health concerns (immediate improvement: watch Forks Over Knives, and/or longevity: read The China Study).
  2. The alarming environmental threats caused by cow flatulence and overgrazing (watched Cowspiracy yet?).
  3. The ethical convictions (Sir Paul McCartney’s Glass Walls stomach churning expose). Usually the motivation to go plant-based or at least plant-strong is firmly rooted in one of these factors and then blends in parts of the other two. But from that irreducible common ground the denominationalism begins its interminable divergence into branches and sub-branches of vegetarianism.

Some vegetarians who would never consume beef, pork, mutton, or poultry (notice how labels for meat distance the product from its source?) have no issue with scarfing down some shrimp and calamari with their gluten infused veggie cheese and egg burgers. Purist herbivores would label those dilettanti as pesco-ovo-lacto-vegetarian—the lowest rung of plant-strong compromisers. The class structure among eaters reflects their commitment to the cause. Orwell might say: “All animal products are equal, but some are more equal than others,” right?

If you really want to repent of your unorthodox omnivore ways you need to eschew all animal products and thus achieve the enlightened state of veganism. Eco-ethical vegans (as opposed to dietary vegans) will not even wear leather Birkenstocks, nor read from a calf-skin Bible. But vegans still gobble up grain and bread, with all its sticky gluten-rich glory. Gluten is a dietary gremlin that allegedly wreaks havoc with your gut flora, causing symptoms like bloating in an increasingly swelling segment of the population.

As you narrow the filter and strain out those pesky paleo-types you get the “glugan,” or gluten-free vegan. From there it goes down to fruitarians, raw whole food only (meaning no cooked veggies or supplements either), raw whole food juice only, and eventually to a diet plan that looks harrowingly similar to Gandhi’s guide to a successful hunger strike.

At this point of deprivation you are orthorexic. Your weekly meal plan looks as empty as a prisoner’s day planner. You might call it your John the Baptist Diet (not to be confused with its diametric opposite: the Typical Baptist Pastor’s Diet).

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Not too long ago I talked about the verses in Scripture that God used to get me to start sharing the Gospel. I was reading through the entire Bible at a Bible school in central Italy and I ran across a passage that changed my life. Ezekiel 3:17-21 proved to be some of the toughest and most convicting verses in all of Scripture for me. As I read those verses over and over again I thought of the people over the years who I had had the opportunity but failed to share the Gospel with.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I wept as I thought about how unfaithful I had been for so many years and for some reason my mind kept going to my junior high friends in Italy. I had been unfaithful to share the Gospel in general and yet it was those friends that kept coming to mind the most.

Junior high in Italy works a little differently than America. For three years from 6th-8th grade you stay in the same classroom, and it is the teachers who move from room to room. So for three years, each day you spend time with the same 20-25 students. Over our three years we became like a family. And I could only think of two people in the entire class that I had shared the Gospel with.

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notmypresidentWe were warned. I feel like it was over and over again. Pastor after pastor told us that if politics becomes an idol in our heart that those who don’t agree with us will slowly become the enemy. We were told that when we put our hopes and trust in the one who sits in the Oval Office and into avoiding persecution and holding on to religious freedom then when people speak out with opposing views from us we will despise them and treat them like an enemy.

And yet despite the warning, many of us in the church have raised the idol. Many in the church have worshipped at the feet of this idol and are simply overjoyed that this idol seems to have produced results. And the mocking has begun. My Facebook is filled with comments about snowflakes, hypocrites and lefties who supposedly are so evil and so despicable that they need to be ridiculed for their tears. The problem is that these snowflakes we’re mocking are my mission field. I talk to so many of them on a weekly basis. Despite Scripture’s warnings about letting no unwholesome words out of our mouths, and only using words that are able to build others up (Eph. 4:29), we think that because some wanted to push abortion and gay marriage that we’re allowed to speak of them any way we choose.

Far too many people have lost their eternal perspective. Although being thankful for religious freedom and lower taxes is not wrong, when we mock those in opposition we show that we have exchanged treasure in heaven for some chump change on earth. (Matt. 6:19)

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Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

– 2 Corinthians 5:16–17 –

2-cor-517Paul speaks about regeneration in this passage. If anyone is in Christ—if anyone has become united to Jesus Christ by saving faith in the Gospel, if anyone has died to sin and self in union with the One who died to sin once for all—he is a new creation. Working backwards, from cause to effect, the second half of verse 16 notes that the very first result of regeneration is a new view of Christ. As unbelievers, we all once regarded Christ from a fleshly point of view, according to worldly standards, paying special attention to the way things looked outwardly and externally rather than internally and spiritually. But the regenerate regard Him in this way no longer. When Almighty God issues His sovereign decree for light to shine forth in the heart that is dead in sin, when the eyes are opened and the ears unstopped, when the heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh, the first thing that changes is the sinner’s view of Christ. We see Him for who He is, in all His beauty, glory, and suitableness to our need.

Working backwards even further to the first half of verse 16, Paul speaks of a second result of regeneration. Not only does the regenerate sinner have a new view of Christ, but he also has a new view of everyone else. When we’re transformed from the inside out in regeneration, and our assessment of Jesus changes, so does our assessment of everyone else in the world.

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Over the years I have noticed a trend that when a pastor says the words, “if you don’t know Christ and you are here this morning…” most of the congregation present starts closing their Bibles, may even talk to one another and perhaps even get up and start walking out. I’ve even noticed sometimes when the preacher puts the Gospel in the middle of the sermon that some people, used to shutting off when they hear those magic words, started shutting their Bibles thinking the sermon was over despite the fact that the preacher was only halfway done.

bored-in-churchNow I completely understand the sentiment. Usually, when the pastor shares the Gospel it is at the end of the sermon and people are just getting their things together in order to be able to leave quickly after the service. Also, many mothers are simply being kind and want to be able to relieve the nursery workers from their children. Perhaps many people are absolutely secure in their salvation and simply shut off whenever they hear something that doesn’t apply to them.

I would like to encourage you to rethink this attitude.

Over the past few years, I’ve thought a lot about evangelism, how to teach it and how to motivate people to do it. I’ve written quite a bit on it on this blog and sadly the evangelism posts are the ones that seem to get the least attention. Many people say it is because it is a topic that convicts people a lot and that they would rather not feel condemned over it. Others may not share a post because they don’t want to seem like a hypocrite.

I’ve had many people ask me to help them in their evangelism, but perhaps I have neglected one of the most important places where people can learn to do so: the part of the sermon where the Pastor addresses the unbeliever.

There are three reasons that come to mind as to why we must fight the temptation and focus on the preacher as he shares the gospel with us.

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