Tag Archives: Religion

Biblical Cooperation, It’s a Family Thing

Southern Baptists (I am one) believe that where there is no risk of theological compromise, we should seek to cooperate with fellow believers in Christ when seeking a common goal. We are supposed to be about doing the work of the Kingdom, not just our own church or denomination.

However, there are others who preach a “Doctrine of Separation” that forbids cooperation of any kind, even with members of the Body of Christ, when even the slightest difference is observed. It is with this unbiblical “Doctrine of Separation” that I take exception and want to dispel.

Therefore, I want to acquaint you with the following article I wrote in an effort to help promote biblical unity within the Church. It can also be found under a tab at the top of the main page.

Feel free to share the body of this post as you see fit. I simply ask that you include the source.


“The Doctrine of Separation Examined”
By: Anthony C. Baker, DMin

Introduction

During most major holidays, especially Christmas and Thanksgiving, it is customary for families to gather around a table to share a traditional meal. And, when looking around the typical table, it is not uncommon to find relatives, people who would normally never speak to each during the rest of the year, smiling and enjoying themselves. They do this because at the head of the table sits the patriarch or matron of the household, the one who brought them into the world. Out of respect for the parent, even the estranged siblings attempt to fellowship in peace. Sadly, this is not the case with many children of God.

The Doctrine of Separation, based on 2 Corinthians 6:17, has led many to avoid other believers, their brothers and sisters in Christ, despite the expressed desire of their elder Brother (Jesus) that they “be one” (John 17:11). Therefore, this paper will attempt to show that even though it is Christ’s desire for the family of God to be one, the doctrine of separation, as generally applied, is resulting in unnecessary, even destructive division, especially with Baptists. However, even though the author’s intent is to shed light on the divisive tendencies associated with the misuse of a particular teaching, in no way does he intend to promote the darkness-inspired synchronistic tendencies of the modern church; biblical unity within the family of God is the ultimate goal.

Definitions

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If one were to ask the average church member to define the Doctrine of Separation, or if one were to Google the term, the answers would initially be quite similar in nature. What most professing Christians believe is not much different from the rest of American society, simply because the term is associated with the oft-debated Establishment Clause within the first amendment to the United States Constitution.  There, the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Therefore, when questioned, this is typically the first thing that comes to the mind of the average churchgoer. When asked if one is familiar with the Doctrine of Separation, if the response is “yes,” the definition is usually linked to the separation of church and state, a political issue.

However, there are some within the body of Christ that not only know how to define the Doctrine of Separation but take that definition to extremes. They use it to bolster a sectarian mindset which excludes from fellowship any that differ, even in the slightest way, and have gone to great lengths to separate from others who do not strictly observe certain “fundamentals” of the faith.

So, to begin with, let us look at some definitions. By doing that we may better be able to determine if the Doctrine of Separation is properly being applied by certain Baptists who refuse to co-operate with others.

What is the Doctrine of Separation? The Doctrine of Separation is a teaching based primarily on one verse found in 2 Corinthians. Below is the verse (17) in its immediate context.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? [15] And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? [16] And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [17] Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate [emphasis added], saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you (2 Cor 6:14-17 KJV).”

The idea is that in order to maintain a right relationship with God one must separate oneself, or “come out from among” anyone, or any organization, that would seem to be in accord, friends with, or even remotely associated the “unfruitful works of darkness.”

The Doctrine of Separation can be divided into two separate categories: ecclesiastical and personal. In order to understand how specific this doctrine can be, it might be helpful to read how one Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church defined ecclesiastical and personal separation in its doctrinal statement published on its website.[1] The following is a word-for-word copy of their definitions, and it is typical of most Baptist separatists.

Ecclesiastical Separation. We believe that we must stand up against and separate from all Apostasy, Liberalism, Modernism, Ecumenism, Charismatic influences, Neo-Orthodoxy, Neo-Evangelicalism, and Neo-Fundamentalism, as well as all groups, mission boards, organizations, churches, and cults that would compromise, cooperate and fellowship with such that do not uphold the historic Christian fundamentals of the faith as expressed by the Bible. II Corinthians 6:14-7:1; I Thessalonians 1:9,10; II Timothy 3:1-5.

Personal Separation. We believe that every Christian is to keep himself unspotted from the world, and in so doing must deny various practices, sinful habits, and worldly dress; and that a proper standard and example must be raised to the lost world and to weaker Christians. James 1:27; I Peter 2:11; Romans 6:11-13.

Notice that the call to be separate must include separation from both groups and individuals. It calls for strict standards of conduct and dress, prohibitions against working with other denominations, and an implied understanding of what exactly is correct behavior. The problem that arises, however, is when certain practices, habits, and dress are dictated by the church, not a Spirit-led conscience freed by grace. One man’s standard must then be applied to another, thereby legalistically judging him either fit for fellowship or to be labeled as “liberal” or “modern.” The application of this doctrine can become very legalistic, and below are three concerns which should be brought out.

Issues of Concern

First, the issue that causes most concern with the author is that in no place does the above standards of separation make an exception for the fact that sometimes members of the same family do not always agree. To totally separate one’s self from other believers, only because they have a different understanding or conviction for what constitutes “worldly dress” or “sinful habits” is a sin in its self. So often members of churches that prohibit women from wearing pants, for example, look at others who do with contempt. They do so because they believe that their own “dress code” is less “spotted by the world,” and thereby spiritually superior to the one which would allow “modern” and “liberal” dress. The author can vividly remember times from his own past when, all because a particular pastor’s wife was seen wearing pants to an evening service, the offending pastor and wife were deemed “liberal” and “not right with God.”

Another problem with the above list is that it does not take into account that many churches that do subscribe to conventions and associations, which may be liberal, are still autonomous and actually hold to the key fundamentals of the Baptist faith. And this is a key issue. There are certain fundamental truths of Christianity which cannot afford to be compromised, for if they are, then the compromiser can no longer be considered an orthodox Christian. What are the fundamentals of the faith that are non-negotiable?  According to Ed Dobson, Ed Hindson, and Jerry Falwell, there are five fundamentals that are at the heart of Christian Fundamentalism: 1) the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture; 2) the deity of Christ (including His virgin birth); 3) the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death; 4) the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead; and 5) the literal return of Christ in the Second Advent. Don’t the separatists understand that within the community they are trying to reach there may be a congregation from a different denomination which still holds true to the above fundamentals?

Thirdly, there is the interesting fact that the fifth fundamental, one of the key beliefs of orthodox Christianity, the belief in the literal return of Jesus Christ (the second coming; or as some would define it: the Rapture) was never used by Paul as a litmus test for fellowship. What many have never stopped to notice is that in two specific instances the Apostle Paul dealt with believers who thought that the resurrection had already taken place (see 1 Cor. 15:12; 2 Thess. 2:2-3). In neither of these situations, Paul encouraged separation. “The Corinthian Christians were told in a clear, unmistakable command to ‘remove the wicked man from among yourselves’ in their assembly,” said Robert Lightner in A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine in reference to the man guilty of immorality in 1 Cor. 5:13.[2]  He went on to point out that the “saints at Thessalonica were told also to ‘keep aloof’ [withdraw, KJV] from every brother who leads an unruly life…” Yet, “interestingly when Paul wrote to the same Christians in Corinth and Thessalonica concerning two specific doctrines which were being denied…he did not command to separate.” Why is it, then, that if such a key fundamental was believed back then, and Paul did not command the church to separate, do fundamentalists find it necessary to break fellowship with and label “liberal” and “modernistic” those who have a different view of eschatology?

Baptist History

Baptists (especially those of the IFB persuasion) are famous/infamous for their sectarian, separatist stands. Yet, even though they may be the largest group and the one to be featured more predominately in this paper, they are not alone. Within every denomination of believers, there are separatists. As a matter of fact, there are more denominations of Christianity in America than anywhere else in the world, and many of them were formed when separation was thought the only means to preserve orthodoxy. Each of these groups claims a biblical mandate (2 Cor. 6:14-17) to “come out from among” those who seem to be going in the wrong direction. The problem, however, lies not only in the ability to define but in the application of the doctrine. A careful look at the Scripture passages they use, especially in light of other words from the Apostle Paul and Jesus, show that separation from members of the same family may be necessary in extreme cases, but every attempt should be made to maintain fellowship at the Father’s table.

Baptists have had a long history of separating on the basis of key doctrinal issues, and for this we owe them a great debt of gratitude. Long before arguments over dress codes and Bible translations, the Anabaptists put their lives on the line over the issues of baptism, the mass, and an ecclesiastical, state-run church. They were the first separatists, for no longer could they accept the position of the Reformers. Unlike great men such as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, the Anabaptists would have no part of a church that taught unbiblical doctrine. They felt the state church was a fallen church, and from such only separation was appropriate. In February of 1527, in a document called The Schleitheim Confession, Michael Sattler wrote:

“We are agreed [as follows] on separation: a separation shall be made from them and from the wickedness which the devil planted in the world: in this manner, simply that we shall not have fellowship with them [the wicked] and not run with them in the multitude of their abominations . . . To us then the command of the Lord is clear when He calls upon us to be separate from the evil and thus he will be our God and we shall be His sons and daughters.”[3]

In modern times, Independent Baptist churches were founded in the second half of the twentieth century as a response to a growing trend toward liberalism and ecumenism that was begun a century earlier by men such as Hegel (1770-1831), F. C. Baur (1792-1862), Frederick Schleiermacher (1768-1834), and Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923).[4] No longer was there a mother church from which to separate, as did the Anabaptists from the Reformed church (reformed, but not completely separated from the ecclesiastical ways of the Catholic Church). Now the call was sent out for all those who held true to the Fundamentals to separate themselves from those within. Those with liberal leanings were to be marked and avoided (Rom. 16:17-19). The peak of resistance toward modernism from “fundamentalists” came in the 1940’s and 1950’s with the rise of the Billy Graham and the New Evangelicalism. It was at this time so many militant steps were made toward separating from the world, worldliness, and any modern approach toward evangelism, especially if it involved working together with those who may have differed on a belief or two, especially when it came to music and Bible versions. Billy Graham did, and still does bear the brunt of many senseless attacks.

Billy Graham, the Enemy

If a poll were taken today asking people who they thought was the most important and influential religious leader of the last fifty years, one name would probably rise to the top – Dr. Billy Graham. Actually, the Barna Group recently did conduct a study of Americans and found that nearly twenty percent of adults identified Reverend Billy Graham as the “most influential Christian leader in the U. S. today.”[5] Ironically, however, it was Billy Graham, along with other Christian leaders such as J. Vernon McGee, Howard Hendricks, and W. A. Criswell (all conservative giants), that biblical separatists accused of “building bridges of compromise and apostasy by their middle-of-the-roadism.”[6]  Was Dr. Graham perfect? Did he make the best judgment calls in every situation? Of course not, and pity the man who thinks he is strong enough to stand in the places Dr. Graham has stood without succumbing to the flesh. Yet, it was considered unconscionable for Christians to try new methods of outreach, or work with leaders of other denominations, in order to reach greater crowds with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

No, true to their heritage, fundamental, independently-minded Baptists could only see a devaluing of key, non-negotiable doctrines in favor of a more ecumenical approach to evangelism. So, from these men, especially Dr. Graham, fundamentalist Baptists broke fellowship. Even today, after all the souls that have been won to the Lord, there are Independent Baptists who still think Billy Graham is a liberal enemy of the church. For example, in 1992 this writer personally witnessed a Baptist pastor chastise a Romanian couple in their home (both of whom lost their engineering careers as a result of being publically baptized for their faith in Jesus) for nothing more than having an LP recording of a Billy Graham crusade. This arrogant American pastor would have never sat across the same table with Dr. Graham, or fellowshipped with those who did.

United Baptists

Not all Baptists have sought to separate, however. Some have sought to come together in unity for the cause of Christ. It is common knowledge that there is strength in numbers, and when it comes to Christian congregations, co-operation can lead to expanded ministry and encouragement. Even though the IFB churches in America have gained a reputation for being separatists, other Baptists have put aside minor differences for the common good, much like the family that seeks peace at the dinner table for the Father’s sake.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) makes up the largest Protestant denomination in North America. But in Canada, there is the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches who struggled for years before three separate denominations (the Maritime Convention of Maritime Baptists, the Free Baptists of New Brunswick, and the Free Baptists of Nova Scotia) formed the United Baptist Convention of the Maritime Provinces in 1906.  For a while, at least since the late 1800’s, many denominations had been pursuing unification, such as with the Canadian Baptists.[7] But there was and is a difference between the conventions, a difference worth noting. Baptists in America hold tenaciously to one of the most cherished fundamentals of Baptist doctrine, the autonomy of the local congregation. Canadian Baptists, on the other hand, possibly because of their monarchal heritage, allow the convention some control over the local congregation. For example, in order to be licensed and ordained to pastor a church in the NABC, the candidate must complete mandatory studies at a specific Canadian seminary, Acadia Divinity College.[8]

Most Independent Baptists consider conventions (like the SBC) to be unbiblical precisely because of their belief that all conventions assert control over local congregations. However, this is not the case with all, as seen above. For better or worse, many Christians felt that a unified Church was better than a divided one.  However, the practical result was a watering down of fundamental beliefs in order to keep from offending those seeking unity.  Strict standards of morality, which had been the norm for so long, were beginning to loosen; biblical inerrancy was being questioned, and mass evangelism was on the rise. The question of what was considered “essential and non-essential” came to the forefront of discussion. And even though attempts have been made by the author to co-operate in a community ministry with an IFB church, all efforts have failed. Because of the Doctrine of Separation, because it is believed unbiblical to co-operate with other believers who do not hold to all of the “fundamentals,” division continues.

Ecumenism

One of the great enemies of the Fundamentalists is Ecumenicalism. One of the big reasons, as could be inferred from previous reading, is that those who seek to unify the church as a whole, in many cases, want to compromise on key doctrines essential to Christianity, such as biblical inerrancy and the divinity of Christ. However, one ecumenical author made an astute observation that can tie directly into the discussion of “biblical separation.” In The Unfinished Reformation, Charles Morrison wrote how that he noticed a tendency by separatists to use the Bible to say what was “biblical” without actually proving it literally so. He said that “anything, however trivial or fantastic or commonplace, that one could dig out of the Bible by however ingenious a manipulation of its texts and words was claimed to be authorized by Christ, and was made constitutive of a church ‘founded on the Bible.’”[9]

Much of what divides believers and congregations is based on teachings supposedly founded on Scripture and considered “biblical,” yet, in reality, are only based on culture or personal opinion, or even worse, misinterpretation. One good example is the belief that a church “founded on the Bible” should expect its men to wear pants and its women to wear dresses. Anything different would be considered rebellion to God’s commands found in the Bible. Anyone found in rebellion should, therefore, be marked and avoided. Yet what does the Bible actually say? “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so [are] abomination unto the LORD thy God” (Deut. 22:5). Here the Bible is used to enforce a cultural style. Nowhere does Moses say a woman should wear a dress and a man should wear pants. All it says is that the man and women should dress in ways that “pertaineth” to their respective gender. In other words, a woman should look like a woman, not a man, and vice versa.

Family of God

The family of God is much bigger than one denomination. Before there were conventions and associations, there was the church. Before the Anabaptists, the Calvinists, the Arminians, and the Modernists, there were believers who loved the Lord and worshipped in one accord. They weren’t known for their building programs or bus ministries. They didn’t split over the color of the carpet or whether or not the pews were padded; they just wanted to stay alive. Why is it that so many put such a high priority on denomination, rather than unity? Does unity have to be synonymous with compromise? What kind of compromise is it to dwell in peace with a brother or sister in the presence of a loved earthly parent, even when differences are known to exist? Does compromise for the sake of fellowship change relationship? If a stranger were to sit at the mensam gratias (Latin, “table of thanks”), would his presence at the meal change the blood flowing through his veins? No, it would not. And striving for unity in the family will not change the relation of the true child to that of the Father. Therefore, when and if we find a brother or sister in the same family of Christ, should differences we have, however striking, prohibit us from attempting to share in some common way?

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the churches of like faith in one community have met together every year for a Thanksgiving service. The author has participated in these services on multiple occasions. However, what has been lacking is any participation from the local Independent Baptist churches. Their absence is always noticed, and the message received is that all who are gathering must be those who would “compromise, cooperate and fellowship with such that do not uphold the historic Christian fundamentals of the faith as expressed by the Bible.[10] Their conspicuous absence sends a message that says, “We are more spiritual than you.” Their continual refusal shows the community at large that denomination is more important than family, fellowship, and the opportunity to show the world that we can be one in the Spirit, for that is where genuine unity exists.

The Prayer of Jesus

Jesus made it very clear, as recorded in the book of John, that He wanted the world to see believers come together in love. In a special moment Jesus even spoke of Christians today when He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). Our unity within the family of Christ is to be a form of evangelism, “that the world may believe.” And how arrogant are we when, in the face of an actual prayer of Jesus, we say that fellowship is impossible? First, where did Jesus mention the name of any denomination or association? All he spoke of were those in his presence and them “which shall believe on [Him] through their word.” Second, has there ever been a prayer of Jesus unanswered? Did Jesus pray “that they all may be one” in vain? The day may come when He has to force us to drop our labels and institutional names in favor of a discrete and secret meeting place underground. There, with no $20,000 sign flashing out front, the true family of God may have to get back to the way it was before the King James Version was printed.

Early Church Example

Francis Schaff, in volume two of History of the Christian Church, relates the following description of a people unconcerned with denominations, unaware of the “fundamentals,” but always ready to live in such a way that others knew they were not of this world. Quoting an unknown author describing the church in the early part of the second century, he writes:

The dwell in the Grecian or barbarian cities, as the case may be; they follow the usage of the country in dress, food, and the other affairs of life. Yet they present a wonderful and confessedly paradoxical conduct. They dwell in their own lands, but as strangers. They take part in all things, as citizens; and they suffer all things, as foreigners . . . They are in the flesh, but do not live after the flesh. They live upon the earth, but are citizens of heaven . . .They love all, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown, and yet they are condemned . . .They lack in all things, and in all things abound . . .They are cursed, and they bless.[11]

Why is it that we cannot try to emulate that kind of spirit? Does anyone seriously think the same description could apply to the Christian church of today?

Thankfully, there are those within the Baptist church who understand that the prayer of Jesus for unity was not just words. Thankfully, there are some out there that are striving to work with believers across denominational lines in an effort to reach the lost and dying, while at the same time recognizing there are doctrinal differences which must be taken into account. These people are not in the business of compromising Truth; they are in the business of fulfilling the Great Commission. One such group of people is the Southern Baptists.

Conclusion

If more IFB churches could be made aware of how conservative the SBC has become, maybe they would stop labeling them as liberal and start working more closely together. It is in the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000 that an encouraging statement is made which tempers the Doctrine of Separation. Under section fourteen, entitled “Cooperation,” the following words can be found:

Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people [emphasis added]. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.[12]

Is this not what Jesus wants? Is this not the way the family of Christ should conduct its self? Oh that the body of Christ would come together in true, biblical unity! Even the “black sheep” of the family are welcome at the Father’s table.

One more thing…

Many who hold to a legalistic view of the Doctrine of Separation are regularly guilty of hypocrisy. How could this be? Consider the fact that many of the “separated” churches have active members, deacons, and pastors who are fully-participating members of fraternal organizations, such as the Masons and Shriners. The irony is that according to the writings of one of the “great” leaders and teachers of Freemasonry, Albert Pike (1859-1891), Christians regularly enter into binding agreements, oaths, and common works, even using the term “brother,” with men from any number of other religions, including that of the eastern cults! He said, “We belong to no one creed or school. In all religions there is a basis of Truth; in all there is pure Morality. And all that teach the cardinal tenets of Masonry we respect; all teachers and reformers of mankind we admire and revere.[13]

Family should come before fraternity, the Church before the Lodge; yet, how quickly some will deny fellowship with those clothed in the righteous of Christ, preferring unity with those wrapped in an apron.

Again, how ironic.

Footnotes

[1] Heritage Baptist Church, “Declaration of Faith,” http://www.heritageministries.com/doctrine.html

[2] Robert P. Lightner, “A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine,” Bibliotheca Sacra (March, 1985), 20

[3] Ernest D. Pickering, Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church (Schaumburg, Ill.: Regular Baptist Press, 1979), 52.

[4] George W. Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America (Greenville: Bob Jones Press, 1973), 8-11

[5] http://www.barna.org/culture-articles/536-us-lacks-notable-christian-leaders

[6] George W. Dollar, 280

[7] Daniel C. Goodwin, “Maritime Baptist Union and the Power of Regionalism,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 2004.

[8] http://www.baptist-atlantic.ca/documents/ProceduresForOrdinationBrochure.pdf

[9] Charles Clayton Morrison, The Unfinished Reformation (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953), 209.

[10] Heritage Baptist Church

[11] Francis Schaff, Ante-Nicene Christianity: From the Death of John the Apostle to Constantine the Great [A.D. 100–325], Vol. 2 of History of the Christian Church (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 9-10

[12] SBC, Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 (Nashville)

[13] Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, (Richmond: L. H. Jenkins) 311

Bibliography

Dobson, Ed, Ed Hinson, and Jerry Falwell, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986.

Dollar, George W. The Fight for Fundamentalism: American Fundamentalism, 1973–1983. Sarasota: Dollar, George W., 1983.

Goodwin, Daniel C. “Maritime Baptist Union and the Power of Regionalism.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 41.2 (2004): 125+. Religion & Philosophy Collection. Web. 8 Apr. 2012.

Heritage Baptist Church. “Declaration of Faith.” http://www.heritageministries.com/doctrine.html (accessed April 9, 2012).

Lightner, Robert P. “A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine.” Bibliotheca Sacra 142, no. 565 (January 1, 1985): 16­­­–22. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed March 17, 2012).

Morrison, Charles Clayton. The Unfinished Reformation. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953.

Pickering, Ernest D.. Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church. Schaumburg: Regular Baptist Press, 1979.

Pike, Albert. Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Richmond: L. H. Jenkins, Inc., 1960

Schaff, Philip. Ante-Nicene Christianity: From the Death of John the Apostle to Constantine the Great [A.D. 100–325], Vol. 2 of History of the Christian Church. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002.

Southern Baptist Convention. “The Baptist Faith and Message.” http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp (accessed March 18, 2012).



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We’re Only Human (but we’re called to be holy)

Dr. Anthony and Valerie Baker

For many years I was under the impression that pastors were closer to God than the rest of us church goers. My father, already my hero, was a pastor, so thinking that way probably came naturally.

However, over the past few decades of ministry I’ve come to realize there is very little in the average pastor that’s different from anyone else. We have our times of frustration, moments of self-doubt, and occasionally mess up. We don’t have all the answers, nor do we know all the questions to ask. We are only human. 

Yet, what is true for the pastor is true for everyone; we are called to be holy. In 1 Peter 1:16 we read, “…be ye holy, for I am holy.” This is impossible, of course, without Jesus Christ living within us. He not only makes us holy (set apart) by giving us His life, but His life lived through us makes us more and more like Him. The new life we have in Jesus, living and working through us, along with our obedience to the Word of God, not only sets us apart from the world; it makes us capable of reaching the world!

This week someone asked me, “How do you preach?” “Well, I don’t scream hell fire and damnation, if that’s what you mean,” I replied. “However, I call sin what it is when I need to,” I continued. “But the big difference is that I try to preach like I’m the one sitting in the pew.”

Look, if you think I look down from the pulpit with a holier-than-thou attitude, trust me, I don’t. As a matter of fact, it is only by the grace of God that I am where I am. He has called me and gifted me for a specific role, but that doesn’t make me a better person, only one whose house is made of glass (figuratively, of course). Just ask my wife and daughters.

No, because I’m a sinner saved by grace, the call to be “holy as I am holy” is as convicting to me when I preach it as when I’m in the pew on the receiving end. The difference between the congregation and myself, as with any pastor, is that I have been given the responsibility to share the message faithfully and boldly. God is holding me accountable.

This Sunday don’t think of your pastor as a man who’s “preaching” at you; think of him as a fellow servant of God trying to complete the task before him with faithfulness to the message, even if it preaches at him.

He probably needs it.

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“My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad” – a sermon

The following sermon was preached at Bethlehem Baptist, Warthen, GA, on Father’s Day, 2022.

Welcome and Intro

Good morning and happy Father’s Day!

Thankful to Be a Father

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I just want to say that I am thankful to be a father, and I’m so thankful that God gave me a good father on earth. My earthly father has gone on to be with the Lord, so I can’t introduce you to him. But if I could…my goodness, I am sure you would love him!

But today, I’m not going to reminisce about my earthly dad. Today’s gonna be about my Abba Father, God. …Opening Prayer

You know, I am so grateful that the Lord made me a dad. He gave me 3 beautiful daughters, two of which are here today…

But being a father has helped me to better understand, even if just by a little bit, the sacrifice that God made when He allowed His Son, Jesus, to be crucified.

Before I was a dad, it was impossible for me to understand a father’s heart. Therefore, it was impossible for me to understand the feeling of one of your children disobeying. It was impossible for me to understand what it feels like when children break your heart. It was impossible to understand the pain of having to discipline.

I was the type who would say “My children will NEVER do that” … or something like, “If my kid ever talked to me like that, well, I’d…” Then my daughters came along… That kind of changed things. Parenting is a lot different in person!

Being Tuff!

But when my girls were young, it was my responsibility to convince them that I was tough and could beat up anybody, particularly anyone they might date. As a matter of fact, for a long time I had the stipulation that before I’d give them away to some punk, I’d have to spar – fight – with the guy, first.

I don’t know how seriously they took me, but I do know that at least Katie told a few guys about it.

But let me tell you, I wasn’t joking! I felt like, if nothing else, it would be good to see what kind of guy would be watching over them when I wasn’t around. I guess the only reason Gus and I never sparred was because, “I pitied the fool!

I mean, he’s such a nice, caring, loving young man – why would I risk hurting him and scaring away the best offer she got?

But the whole reason I’m saying this is not because I want to talk about how tough I am… or what kind of award-winning fighter I was… how many boards I could break… how many people I sent away in tears …

NO! I brought all this up so that I could [dovetail] into a real “tough father comparison,” the kind we all experienced at some point when we were children…

“My dad can beat up your dad!”

There was the story of three boys talking about how talented their dads were. The first boy said, “My dad just wrote a few words on a piece of paper, sent it away, then somebody sent him $20 for it – they called it a poem.”

To that the second boy replied, “Oh, really? Well, my dad wrote 100 words, and somebody paid him $50 for it. They called it a story.”

A third boy heard all this and spoke up. “If you think that’s something, my dad’s got both your dad’s beat. He wrote some words down on a single sheet of paper and read it in church. It took 6 men to collect all the money.”

How many times did you ever get into something like that? It could’ve been that your dad was bigger, tougher, richer, smarter, faster, stronger, or whatever. Or, if you missed out on it as a kid, maybe you grew up and played the same game with other adults – my child is smarter than yours, or my child is more popular than yours.

Well, whether you played that game when you were young or not, that’s EXACTLY what we are going to be doing today!

Did you know that everybody has a father? I’m not talking about a man here on Earth – I’m talking about a different kind of father, a SPIRITUAL FATHER…one you are bound to take after, regardless.

I’d like us first to look at 3 different passages.

  • Galatians 4:6 – And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
  • Ephesians 1:2-3 – Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
  • 1 John 2:1 – My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

Now, let’s look at the words of Jesus in John 8:44…

  • John 8:44 – Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Everybody in this world has a father, and it’s either God or Satan. There are no other choices. You are either a child of God, or you’re a child of the Devil. You have either been born again and adopted into the family of God, OR you are still lost without Christ, a stranger and an enemy of God.

Now, I get it…some people don’t like their fathers and refuse to acknowledge them. For example, you might be unsaved, still lost, still bound for a sinner’s hell, but you say, Preacher, I’m not like my daddy the Devil. No, God is not my Father, but I’m still a good person!

My daddy (the Devil) has a horrible reputation: he

  • hurts people,
  • destroys lives,
  • lies, swindles, steals,
  • causes illness, abuses women, kills babies,
  • gets people hooked on drugs, starts wars, and all kinds of stuff… but NOT ME! I’m nothing like him!

But what did Jesus say in John 8:44? You are “of your father the devil, and the lust of your father you will do.” As long as you remain in Satan’s family, you are going to be like him.

But you know what, no matter how bad a person can be, there’s always gonna be somebody who defends them. It’s like, “I know my son robbed that liquor store, but he’s a good kid! He didn’t deserve to get shot!

And no matter how bad a father can be to his children, there are still going to be those who want to play the “my dad can beat up your dad” game.

The World ain’t no different.

So, let’s go there!

“Preacher, your Abba Daddy ain’t nothin’! My daddy can beat up your Father any day of eternity!”

Really? Is that so?

Yeah! And I can prove it, too! Even from your so-called Bible.

Really?? OK, then, prove it! Tell us how BIG and BAD your daddy is.

Well, 1st of all, He waged war in Heaven! He took a third of all the angels away with him, then he destroyed God’s perfect little paradise on Earth and got his first perfect people to sin.

Now, he is so powerful that he commands those angels (demons) to make people do whatever he wants, like possess people…

  • Matthew 8:28 KJV – And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.

He possesses people all the time. And when he does, he can make them hurt themselves, cut themselves, have convulsions, blind them, or simply make them crazy.

He destroys marriages, breaks hearts of parents, starves children, makes leaders greedy, and talks millions of people your Father loves into suicide.

Ever heard of slavery, genocide, torture, poison, pornography, rape, abuse, murder, human trafficking, concentration camps, war? All my daddy’s ideas!

He can also influence nations, fix elections, and offer every kind of pleasure you can think of. He even offered Jesus prestige and power – He could have been ruler of the world! – if He would have only worshipped him.

Yeah, preacher man, I’d say my dad could beat up your weak, harp-playing, cheek-turning, wuss of a Father. For crying out loud, He couldn’t even stop humans from killing his Son! What a loser!

What would you say to that? I think I’d say something like this…

I’ve got to admit, Beelzebubba, that’s pretty impressive. I mean, seriously, if I were nothing more than a fool, I’d be convinced your daddy is invincible. He sounds scary, that’s for sure.

However, I’m still confident – yes, I am persuaded – I know that I know that I know my Heavenly Father can kick your lying daddy’s rear.

As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last!

Oh yeah?? OH, YEAH!

The Holy Comeback

First things first: Let’s start with THE BEGINNING. As Bill Cosby famously said, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out.” Your daddy wouldn’t even be here without my Daddy creating him! He even gave him his first job! It was a good one, too, but your loser dad went and messed it up when he got a big head and said, “I will ascend unto heaven, I will set my throne above the stars of God...”

What an idiot!

2nd, That war in heaven you talked about? The only reason your daddy left with a third of the angels was because he got his tail handed to him. Jesus said in Luke 10:18, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”  Gotta wonder how bad that hurt.

3rd, Yeah, your dad DID contribute to Adam and Eve sinning – got to give him that. But did you know that my Daddy was always a step ahead of yours?

A long, long time before your daddy played dress up in the garden, even before time began, he knew the moves Satan would make. It’s almost like my Father could look into the future, like He had a time machine, or something…but it’s better than that! He’s not limited by time and spaceHe created it!

Now that I think about it, it’s no wonder King David wrote so many songs about my Daddy, because He is worthy to be praised! How wonderful are all His works!

You know, a long time ago, your daddy came before my daddy and accused this poor guy named Job. Your dad couldn’t stand him because he seemed so perfect, so he sorta made a bet that he could make my Father’s servant curse Him. That’s when my Daddy came up with a phrase that Clint Eastwood used: “Go ahead, make my day.

Your old man couldn’t even whip a broken down, boil-covered, poverty-stricken human! Job NEVER gave in because even he knew your daddy wasn’t worth it. LOSER!

Now, granted, Job didn’t have it easy when your dad was messing with him, so he did have a lot of questions. But that’s when my Father gave him a lesson in reality. You know what reality is, don’t you? You don’t even know what a woman is!

In the book of Job, chapters 40 and 41, we read how…

  1. He laid the foundations of the Earth
  2. He created the measurements (the standards) to measure it.
  3. He hung the foundations of the earth on nothing.
  4. He shut up the seas
  5. He can make garments from clouds and cloth out of darkness
  6. He told the waves where to stop and go no further
  7. He causes the morning – He creates each sunrise
  8. He has walked the depths of the seas
  9. He opened the gates of death and hell
  10. He knows where light goes and darkness hides when the light comes
  11. He owns the treasures of snow and hail that fall to earth
  12. He cut channels for the overflow of rain and maid paths for the lightning.
  13. He causes it to rain
  14. He can even control the effects of the constellations; or even cause them to fly apart if He wants to
  15. He can number the clouds without weather radar.


Let’s get down to it, OK? Your dad is a conniving, selfish, prideful, hateful, pervert who lies about everything, including himself.

He probably never told you that my Father has never lost a fight and NEVER will. He has prepared a place for those He loves – His family – but He’s also prepared a place for your daddy.

The Battle Won

You see, your daddy was already beaten up by my Daddy a long time ago. It was the biggest beat down the world had ever seen! It was simply beautiful!!

It went down like this… My Dad came into the world that your daddy thought he controlled and was born as a tiny, week, helpless little baby child. Then, He walked around for 33 years as an easy target, but from the time He was a baby till He was 33, your loser daddy couldn’t lay a hand on Him. Not one! Then, to make it look more of a fair fight, my daddy held open his arms and said, “Go ahead, hit me.” Your dad hit and hit and hit. He beat my Daddy so badly that people said you couldn’t even tell He was human. Then, in what seemed like a fatal move, He simply laid down for the count.

Oh, my goodness, you should have seen the celebration. Out of the whole world, only 200 or so mourned my Daddy. The rest of the world and all the evil minions of your messed up dad partied like there was no tomorrow. But the thing is, your dad fell for my Dad’s plan and took the bait. And the best part of it all was that since my Dad wrote the rules for the fight, going down for the count meant the clock started at 3 days! 3 days later my Dad snatched the keys to death, hell, and the grave out of your dad’s quivering hands and walked victorious out of the temporary holding place they called a tomb.

Don’t you get it? For what, like 4,000 years or so, your dad planned and schemed to kill my Dad. He thought he was so smart. But your dad got played, Bruh! My Daddy beat up your daddy like no daddy has ever been beat before! And guess what, He’s going to keep beating him every time he comes around!

Illustration of my earthly Dad coming to my aid at K-Mart.

Back around 1990 I went out with a girl. I only went out with her once, and she never once mentioned that she had a boyfriend at the time. Like I said, we went on one date, no more, and all we did that night was go get something to eat and walk around a park and talk (which is when I realized I didn’t want a second date).

Well, fast forward to when I was at work the next day (I worked at K-Mart). While there, the girl’s brother came up to my counter in the sporting goods section and warned me that her boyfriend was really angry and was going to come by and beat my a**. Supposedly, he was a big guy. So what did I do? I picked up the phone and called my dad – the ex-bodybuilder, weightlifter, ex-moonshiner, and reserve Sheriff’s deputy who carried a Colt .357 magnum everywhere.

Funny how that when my daddy came to where I worked and sat in the parking lot, I wasn’t afraid of some bully one bit! All I had to do was make the call.

Church, don’t run in fear from the Devil; he’s just a lying blowhard who’s already been defeated by our Father in Heaven. However, when Satan starts threatening you, remember Who’s on your side! He’s always there.

1 John 4:4 – Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Let us pray.

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The Deadliest Vaccine Comes from Christians

First, a Rant

We are living in unprecedented times. The moment we think we have seen it all, something new comes around and throws everybody into a crazed frenzy. Most of those unprecedented things are the ripples in the sea of our society (actually, more like crashing waves) caused by COVID-19.

What started out as a virus that took off in China and spread around the world has gone from a “We’re in this together” event to brother-against-brother infighting, borderline-economic collapse, and governmental tyranny.

Yeah, we’re still in this together, but a lot of us are ready to get out. We are tired of our freedoms being assaulted by everyone from presidents, prime ministers, and politicians to governors, mayors, business owners, and even the run-of-the-mill Karen.

A year ago the most respected and honored citizens among us were our first responders. Nowadays they are being threatened, demeaned, and terminated for conscientiously objecting to being vaccinated. Heck, they’ve survived THIS long, so what’s the problem? You think they may get sick and die? Well, you’re essentially reaping the same consequence by firing them!

By the way, whatever happened to the mantra from the left, “My body, my choice”?

I Digress

Now that I’ve blown off a little steam, let’s move on to the subject in the title of this article: “The Deadliest Vaccine Comes from Christians.”

Everybody from the piously religious to the angry atheists have had something to say about COVID vaccines. However, regardless whether the disease kills you or one of the vaccines turns you or your children into three-legged frogs, there’s a MUCH WORSE vaccine running rampant . . . and it’s being developed and dispersed by Christians.

What is it?

Christians are inoculating unbelievers to the Gospel!

You do know how vaccines have traditionally worked, don’t you? They inject a dead version of a virus into a person so that his own body will develop antibodies to the live virus. That way, should the person ever come in contact with the real thing, his natural defenses will fight it off.

I want you to read the following words from the Apostle James:

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

Listen, the world is going to hell in a handbasket and the majority of Christians either don’t think it’s appropriate to share their faith with others, or the “faith” that they are sharing doesn’t consist of a biblical worldview! This was shown in recent surveys published by Probe.org and an article in The Christian Post which covers the story. Unbelievably, as the title of the article in The Christian Post describes, “Nearly 70% of born-again Christians say other religions can lead to Heaven“!

But where the inoculation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ comes into play is when the average Christian (or the person who THINKS he is a Christian) lives a life around unbelievers with no evidence supporting his claim. Acting just like the unbelievers . . . engaging in the same behavior and enjoying the same things they enjoy . . . injects a dead faith (James 2:26) in them which inoculates them to the real thing.

The worst thing you can do, if you want to win your unbelieving friend to Christ, is to enjoy the sinful pleasures of the world with them while claiming to be a Christian. Whenever you finally make the bold move to show you actually care about their eternal soul, their natural defenses will fight you off with mocking laughs. Your “faith without works,” your “dead faith,” will have given them the ultimate antibody . . . .”Why? We’re no different from you!”

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Jesus (Matt. 5:16)

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Legalism Isn’t Just a Religious Term

Are You a Lawyer?

Two weeks ago at our local farmer’s market, a lady was interested in my art. After talking for a moment, she asked if I had a business card I could give her. Of course!

Now, this week I am set to receive my new business cards for Wall Hole Coverings, but all I had at that time showed information about me as a pastor. But even though they are my church cards, they do have under my phone number the web address for this blog.

When the lady read “The Recovering Legalist,” as often is the case, she asked, “Are you a lawyer?” To which I replied, “No, I’m a pastor, but that’s my personal blog.”

Then, with a sort of a belittling tone, she said, “Oh, so it’s religious, then.” To which I replied, “No, not entirely.”

More than Religious

You see, the context of this blog and much of my writing is, most certainly, weighted toward the spiritual. Yet, when I talk about “legalism,” I’m also referring to a dangerous kind of behavior that affects nearly every walk of life.

From a religious perspective, legalism, simply put, is the practice of gauging one’s spirituality by man-made standards, particularly the checking off of a list of do’s-and-don’ts.

On the other hand, there are plenty of other ways people can become legalistic in their treatment of others and the jobs they perform. And, quite frankly, many people run the risk of great harm because of legalism in the workplace.

How is that possible?

I’ll give you some examples tomorrow.

Until then, can you think of some examples of potentially harmful legalism on the job?

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A Mini Commentary, Pt. 9 (Ephesians 4:8-10) Did Jesus Preach in Hell?

This was a more complicated section on which to comment. Frankly, this could have been much longer if I had focused more on the questionable doctrine called the “Harrowing of Hades.” Nevertheless, I hope what I have written will be of some help or encouragement.


See the source image

4:8-10 8Wherefore he saith, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

v. 8: Wherefore he saith, “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

Point One:     

Who is the one that “saith” in verse 8? For the answer we must go to Psalm 68:18; there we find the words of David describing God as a conquering King who spoils His enemies on the mountain and then distributes the spoils as gifts to the people, including to those who are rebellious.

However, one important question that could be asked is: to what extent do we take this comparison? In other words, how specifically analogous is the story of the conquering King to the argument that Paul is making regarding the gifts and the purposes of giving them by Jesus to the Church?

Some have suggested that what is being spoken of is Christ’s ascension to the cross, while others have suggested that after descending to the “lower parts of the earth” Christ rescued those held captive in Paradise and took them “captive” to heaven.

[Note: This teaching is also called “The Harrowing of Hades” and finds support in the Apostles’ Creed: “He descended into Hades.”]

Nevertheless, it would seem the best course of action to simply keep a consistent contextual reading in mind: one that of unity within the Church and individual gifts of grace which Jesus imparts, both to His friends and those who are rebellious, to exemplify His glory and wisdom.

Point Two:     

Beginning with verse seven, the context of Paul’s argument is the supplying each individual the things it needs to function properly in the Body of Christ, the Church. Are there deeper truths to be uncovered? Most certainly? However, we must not carry the analogy too far.

For as long as the author can remember, nearly every time the resurrection of Christ has been preached, the subject of Jesus descending to Paradise and taking the Old Testament saints out of there and up to heaven. The only problem is that there is nothing in the context of Ephesians 4:1-16 that addresses Paradise, hell, heaven, or even death! All that Paul addresses in these sixteen verses is the subject of unity.

Another passage that is linked to this verse is 1 Peter 3:19: “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” But what is often never included with verse 19 is verse 20, which reads [emphasis added]: “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water (1 Peter 3:20 KJV).

It is quite puzzling why 1 Peter 3:19 would be used as a supporting text (along with Luke 23:43, Psalm 68:18, and Ephesians 4:8-10) for a teaching claiming Jesus went to deliver the saints, when those to whom Jesus preached were the “disobedient.”  It is therefore illogical to deduce from this passage in Ephesians that Paul was speaking of anything other than the unity of the Body of Christ, the power of God, the Kingship of Jesus the Conquering King, and Christ’s generosity.

v. 10b: …that he might fill all things.

            Building on the image of the king that ascended to conquer his enemies, Paul speaks of Jesus’ all-encompassing Lordship with a parenthetical explanation of the logical comparison being made (beginning in verse 9). This imagery of Jesus’ omnipresent authority and power in this passage can be compared to other verses, such as: Eph 1:20-21(in the heavenly places, far above all principalities); Heb 4:14 (we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens); Heb 7:26 (a high priest became us and made higher than the heavens).

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Unity, Christianity, Theology

If You Have Honest Questions, Why Not Ask?

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Filed under Apologetics, Bible Study, Christianity, Faith

Only a Few

I was thinking of something new to write for tomorrow, specifically in memory of D-Day. The only thing that keeps coming to mind is “only a few.”

Now, the first thing that sounds like is “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.” Maybe that’s why I hearing those words in my head, you think?

On the other hand, it could come from the idea that all it takes is “only a few.” You know, like those Marines, or a few initial protestors, or even the miniscule 200 in the upper room that became the Christian Church.

Sometimes all it takes is a few people to make a difference, even to change the world.

By the Numbers

But when I look back at June 6th, 1944, there were far more than “only a few” who stormed those beaches. Far more.

  • 156,000 troops or paratroopers came ashore that day alone.
  • 195,700 naval personnel were used.
  • By the end of June 11th (D+5), 326,527 military personnel had come ashore.

From Yahoo News: “The First U.S. Army, accounting for the first twenty-four hours in Normandy, tabulated 1,465 killed, 1,928 missing, and 6,603 wounded. The after-action report of U.S. VII Corps (ending 1 July) showed 22,119 casualties including 2,811 killed, 5,665 missing, 79 prisoners, and 13,564 wounded, including paratroopers.”

Also from Yahoo News: “German sources vary between four thousand and nine thousand D-Day casualties on 6 June—a range of 125 percent. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s report for all of June cited killed, wounded, and missing of some 250,000 men, including twenty-eight generals.

What’s the point?

Sometimes all we need are “a few good men.”

On the other hand, there are times when “only a few” good men (and/or women) just isn’t enough.

Today, June 5th, we live in a world with battles raging. Yes, there are physical conflicts in play in various places, but there are other battlegrounds, too.

  • The fight for religious liberty and freedom of speech
  • The fight over personal liberty without constant government overreach
  • The fight over personal conscience with regard to changing social norms
  • The fight for the right to defend oneself
  • The fight for our nation’s moral conscience, dignity, and very sovereignty

There is even the battle for the survival of the local rural church congregation due to COVID-induced “couch worship.”

People, we need more than “only a few,” we need all hands on deck.

When you storm beaches, numbers matter.

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Filed under America, Christianity, Culture Wars

You Might Be a Fool If…

April 1st

Happy April Fools Day!…or, happy Atheists Day!…whichever you prefer.

You know, even though atheists think we are being smug and “snarky” by quoting Psalm 14:1, I believe the one who insists there is no God really is a fool.

But what I think matters little in the scheme of things. What matters is what God thinks.

That is why I came up with this list.

Defining a Fool

What is a fool?  Believe it or not, Scripture lists several characteristics of a foolish person. The following is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start.

So, why not do this Jeff Foxworthy-style?  

You might be a fool if…

  1. You are always right in your own eyes (Proverbs 12:15).
  2. You despise instruction (Proverbs 1:7; 15:5).
  3. You are unteachable (Proverbs 17:10; 23:9; 26:11)
  4. You’re always running your mouth, getting into trouble (Proverbs 18:6-7; 29:11).
  5. You are always trying to find yourself (Proverbs 18:2).
  6. You make fun of sin (Proverbs 14:9).
  7. You’re always meddling in other people’s business (Proverbs 20:3).
  8. You are a shame and a burden to your parents (Proverbs 17:25).
  9. You deny the obvious because the truth is inconvenient (Romans 1:18-22).
  10. You deny Jesus because you think the cross is foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Don’t be a fool.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, General Observations, Life Lessons, Preaching

What is “Good Preaching”?

Today is Sunday, and many of you will be going to church somewhere (or watching online). So here is a question:

Does the “preaching” part of the service have anything to do with your decision?

There are many opinions as to what constitutes “good” preaching. Some prefer a preacher who spits and hollers, bangs the pulpit, and makes that little “huh” sound between every amplified phrase. Others prefer the professor/preacher who reads from a manuscript in a mono-tone, non-offensive, Winnie the Pooh-like voice.

Either way, what we are talking about is delivery, not substance.

Does delivery matter?

When Paul told Timothy to pay close attention to his doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16) and to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), content was the issue. However, if a sermon is poorly delivered, the efforts of the preacher could be nullified. If the hearer is distracted, bored, offended, lulled to sleep, or has his ear drums wounded, what is the point?

In my opinion, good preaching is preaching that contains solid, biblical content, but also keeps the audience engaged. One should never discount the importance of the power of the Spirit working through the weakness of men (1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 12:9). But, as ambassadors of the King (2 Cor. 5:20) who have been charged by our Sovereign to “compel” (persuade)  hungry souls to come to His table (Luke 14:23), shouldn’t how we say what we say be important?

It is reported that Abraham Lincoln preferred listening to preachers who looked like they were swatting at a swarm of bees. In a similar vein, I think it was Charles Wesley who said that a preacher should “put some fire in his sermon, or put his sermon in the fire.”

On the other hand, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is said to have read his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” with a steady, monotone voice, as the audience screamed in terror at the thought of falling into hell. So, delivery shouldn’t matter?

It would make sense that those entrusted with delivering sermons should do so in a manner befitting the “greatest story ever told,” but does delivery make a difference? After all, some of the greatest public speakers of all time were tyrants (Adolph Hitler).

Should delivery be an issue? Should we simply focus on truth?

What about you?

  • What type of preaching style do you prefer?
  • Has a particular style of sermon delivery ever caused you to tune out to what was being said?
  • What suggestions would you like to offer to one just beginning public ministry?

Now, to be fair, below is a link to our church Facebook page and one of the last sermons I preached. It was Sunday morning, last week, on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

The preaching starts at around the 11-minute mark.

In your objective opinion, how would you describe my style in this sermon? Did my delivery enhance or distract from the subject of the sermon?

Ultimately, no sermon, no matter how well it’s delivered, can change hearts and minds and lives without the power of the Holy Spirit. Even the worst preacher, filled with God’s power, can be the most effective. In reality, one’s supreme goal should be for God to be heard and the preacher to be forgotten.

Yet, we are human, aren’t we? We should always want to strive to do better. Even Elijah presided over a “prophet’s school” (1 Samuel 19:18-24).*

 Click on the picture for link to sermon on Facebook.

*Just be careful when you talk about my bald head 😉

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Filed under Abortion, Preaching