Against the World — Thoughts on Perfectionism

Jerry Johnson of the has some helpful thoughts on perfectionism and the idea that we need to make our country into the image of the Kingdom.


World Series Agony

I know that on Mike & Mike in the Morning, they are calling last night’s game, the greatest World Series game of all time. That is little consolation for Texas Rangers fans like myself. That game was agony. To have your team one strike away… twice! from winning the World Series only to lose the game in the bottom of the 11th was just pure agony. I’m still reeling from it all.

I would like to think that the Rangers can bounce back from that, come out and win game 7 with some real emphasis. But… I’m too much of a skeptic. To come so close to winning and only have it slip away… That will take some true mental superiority for them to do so. I don’t know if they have it at all.

I hope they do. Go Rangers! Win your first World Series title…

Sweet Little Joel Osteen Believes that Mormons ARE Christians

One of the reasons we need to be so diligent in understanding our faith as Christians is because the cults love to make themselves look just like us. They will use the same language and imagery that we use, but what they mean by their words is not what Scripture says those words should mean.

It is truly sad when a man like Joel Osteen, who has such a prominent audience, cannot discern the least bit of truth from a falsehood. In the video below, he states that he believes that Mormons are Christians. This reveals how truly ignorant Osteen is when it comes to the Christian faith and the cults that claim allegiance with us.

This is why a man like Osteen is so dangerous to Christianity. He doesn’t realize that Mormons/Christian Scientist/Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. are dangerous because they say the things that make them seem orthodox, yet they are not. It is not until you understand what they believe about Jesus Christ that you begin to see that the Jesus Christ the cultus worship is not the Christ of the Bible.

For instance, the Mormons believe that Jesus is the brother of Satan. Satan went off and did evil things and Jesus went off and did his own thing, and became a god. If we are good then we too become little gods like he did and in the afterlife, we get our own worlds to rule, along with members of our family whom we get to tell what to do for all of eternity. This is not Christianity, but the religion of imagination.

What does the Scripture say about Christ? It shows Him to be the Creator of the Universe. Yes, the Father was involved in creation just as the Holy Spirit was. But listen to Paul’s words in Colossians: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

I know that Mormons take verse 15 and state the Christ was created. But that is not what the text shows. Firstborn over all creation means “the One to whom belongs the right and dignity of the Firstborn in relation to every creature.” All of creation belongs to Christ and the preeminent heir of all things. Paul is declaring to us that Jesus is the Son of God, in which all things belong to Him. In Paul’s day, the firstborn always had privileges that we do not see today. Jesus occupies the place of the firstborn in relationship to creation because the Father has given it to Him (Matthew 28:18ff).

He is not one that is created. Remember in John 8, when battling with the Pharisees, He declared that before Abraham was, “I am.” This was a self declaration of His right as the Second Person of the Trinity. As the Father is the “I Am” so too is the Son for they are one in essence. Jesus was declaring Himself to be equal to, and the same essence as the Father. There is no beginning nor end of Christ and He is the One that spoke all things into existence… including Satan. He is the Alpha and Omega. This means that He was there in the beginning just as the Father was. Not as One created to create, but existed before anything was created.

We see this truth with John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word. John is declaring to us, with the language of Genesis 1:1, that the Father and Son are the beginning and end of all things. Paul clarifies in Colossians 1.

16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Notice those words: For by Him all things were created… This is one of the times in which we can say “all things” is not merely a figure of speech representing a lot of something. But it means all things without exception. He existed before the foundations of the world and created all things. Christ even created Satan and the angels who eventually fell with Satan. This is what is meant by visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.

Mormons sees Jesus as a brother with Satan, yet the Scripture declares that Christ existed before Satan and was the creator of Satan. This shows us that the Mormons worship a different Christ all together. While they may give lip service to a Jesus that is similar to the Christ of Scripture, their Jesus is one of their own making and not the One who reveals Himself to us in Scripture. To believe in another Christ does not lead to salvation, for it is to preach an anti-Christ. We are to preach the true Christ of Scripture, not one of Joseph Smith’s making. In other words, Mormons preach an anti-Christ, a replacement Christ, one that offers no true salvation, one that is merely a creature like we are and one that only points to another righteousness.

The Christ of Scripture is vastly different, for He becomes the true believers righteousness. He redeems us from our sins, and makes us righteous in the sight of God. He atones for our sin because He satisfies the wrath of an infinite and eternal God. We owe an infinite and eternal debt to God because of our sin. It takes an infinite and eternal Savior to redeem us. While in His human nature, Christ is not infinite and eternal, He is in His Divine nature. By Divine, I do not mean special and good as in the sense of eating a brownie that is divine. What I mean is that He is God in the flesh (John 1:14), and this makes Him Divine.

I know Joel Osteen is trying to be nice. This is always the problems with false prophets. The Scripture describes them in such terms that we often believe the false prophet will have fangs dripping with blood and horns sticking out of their heads. But false prophets rarely look this way. They look just like sweet little Joel Osteen, being nice, with soothing words, never controversial and always given men what their itching ears want to hear.

This is deadly. Those who listen to Osteen every week never hear the true gospel and are on a road to hell. For all his sweetness today, they will spend eternity in agony. I know the topic of hell is unpopular to bring up today, but Christ did. He made it clear to us that there truly is a hell, for He is the One who created that hell (Matthew 25:41). He is also the One who warned about false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-23). The point is that these things are serious and this is why it is so important to point out the false teachers like Osteen and Joseph Smith. True men of God cannot remain silent. We are called to proclaim the truth, and in doing so, point out the errors and damning lies of sweet little men like Osteen. I know this will cause some to say I’m being disagreeable. But those who do would say the same about Christ and Paul and the rest of the Apostles who would not back down from Christ. No, I’m not placing myself on equal footing with Christ and the Apostles. Please do not think that. I only point this out because to sit and remain silent when such men of prominence make such claims, is to become guilty of omission.

Here is the video:

For another take on Mormonism, read Neil’s post here. You can also read my posts on the topic as well:

The Marks of a Cult, Mormonism Exposed, and Against Mormonism.

One final point concerning Mormons. The reason this topic is so front and center is because Mitt Romney is a Mormon. A lot of people are saying they will not vote for Romney because he is a Mormon. I won’t vote for him because he is a moderate. While I do believe that Romney’s Mormonism gives him a different view of Christ and the afterlife, I don’t believe it would inhibit him from being a good president. I just don’t think he is the best candidate because he IS a moderate. We need a conservative. One who happens to be a Christian would be a bonus, but it’s not essential.

Also, for those who say that it is against the Constitution to be opposed to, and not vote for, a candidate based on his religion, you are wrong. The Constitution bars Congress, etc., from looking at a candidate based on religion. However, as individuals we can oppose people all we want to based on their religion.

Again and again in recent weeks, the “no religious test” clause has been hauled out to silence those who oppose Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Jon Huntsman of Utah because of their affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints—more popularly known as the Mormon Church. “It’s unconstitutional,” some have said boldly but clumsily, “to oppose someone in the American political system on the basis of that person’s religion.”
What’s slipped out of focus here is what entity is prohibited from having such a test. It’s Congress, or some official representative of government, that is absolutely barred from making any kind of religious test for office-holding.
Individuals, meanwhile, are free to establish such preferences, and to advocate them to others. Individuals can’t restrict the appointment of a particular governmental employee, but they have full liberty to claim they’ll never vote for a Hindu, or will vote only for a Unitarian.
Non-governmental organizations may also do so. Theoretically, your regional chamber of commerce, your local newspaper, or the area’s electricians union could take a stand against Presbyterians or in favor of Baptists—and still be within the words and the intent of the Constitution.
Even political parties and political action groups are not constitutionally barred from establishing and enforcing their own “religious tests.” They would do so, of course, very much at their own risk, and especially so in today’s pluralistic society. For the Republican Party, for example, to suggest that a candidate had to profess evangelical Christianity to be ideologically acceptable might be technically constitutional, but almost certainly politically silly.
Read the rest of the article here.

The Boys

We attended Trinity Christian Academy’s Heritage 5k Run on Saturday and I took this after the boys competed in a children’s Olympics. Both were awarded with candy, which is what convinced Joey to compete in the first place. Not sure what kind of bug that is above his head. That was sort of an added bonus to the shot.

J.C. Ryle on Sanctification and Feelings

One of my pet peeves in our religion is that so many base what they believe on their feelings and not the truth of God’s word. This is an extremely dangerous thing to do because our feelings are fallen and can truly mislead us. Do you remember the song, If Loving You is Wrong, I don’t Want to Be Right? That was a song that was based upon the feelings of the singer and not the truth of God’s word. He was committing adultery because it felt “right” even though condemned by God’s word. While you may not have heard that song, the error of it has permeated the church.

With that, I would like to share a quote from J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, the chapter on Sanctification.

“True sanctification does not consist in temporary religious feelings. This again is a point about which a warning is greatly needed. Mission services and revival meetings are attracting great attention in every part of the land, and producing a great sensation. The Church of England seems to have taken a new lease of life, and exhibits a new activity; and we ought to thank God for it. But these things have their attendant dangers as well as their advantages. Wherever wheat is sown, the devil is sure to sow tares. Many, it may be feared, appear moved and touched and roused under the preaching of the gospel, while in reality their hearts are not changed at all. A kind of animal excitement from the contagion of seeing others weeping, rejoicing, or affected is the true account of their case. Their wounds are only skin deep, and the peace they profess to feel is skin deep also. Like the stony-ground hearers, they “receive the Word with joy” (Matthew 13:20); but after a little they fall away, go back to the world, and are harder and worse than before… Let us beware in this day of healing wounds slightly, and crying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.’ Let us urge on everyone who exhibits new interest in religion to be content with nothing short of the deep, solid, sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. Reaction, after false religious excitement, is a most deadly disease of soul. When the devil is only temporarily cast out of a man in the heat of a revival, and by and by returns to his house, the last state becomes worse than the first. Better a thousand times begin more slowly, and then ‘continue in the Word’ steadfastly, than begin in a hurry, without counting the cost, and by and by look back, with Lot’s wife, and return to the world. I declare I know no state of soul more dangerous than to imagine we are born again and sanctifiied by the Holy ghost, because we have picked up a few religious feelings.”

His words, which were written in 19th Century England, are just as appropriate today as they were when he penned them. This is because Ryle is dealing with the same spiritual truth that has plagued the church in all ages, even in Christ’s day. He is writing about those who get emotional about the gospel, but are not converted by it. They see the gospel as something that is “new” and therefore something to think about, like the philosophers in Greece, sitting around talking about new ideas but never being changed by any of those ideas. Only it’s worse than that. These people demonstrate some emotional exchange that gets everyone in a lather… but the it’s all for nothing because it is JUST emotionalism.

This is one reason why I’m so reluctant to get all emotional when someone I know trusts in Christ. I’ve seen enough say a prayer, make a commitment and get baptized only to fall away after the attention of the church fades. There was no real conversion, only emotions playing on the person in question.

I will say “amen” if someone trusts in Christ. But I will only say “Hallelujah” when they are still walking with Christ year’s later. This means that the were not caught up in the emotions of the moment, but taken by our Savior and made a new man. That is the kind of man that grows in the LORD and is sanctified. That is the kind of man that is fit for heaven, not the man that just carries on as if he were watching a daily soap opera, but one that is made new by the Spirit of God.

Satan’s Temple

The subject of Grace Presbyterian Church came up again last night, this time with my 6 year old, Andy. He called it “Satan’s Temple.” He said that he called it that because the people there were so bad.

I made sure that he understood there were a lot of good people in the church who are good friends and were not behaving in a godless manner. He agreed. But he knew enough to know that there were people there who were behaving less than cordial (I was going to say “Christlike” but they were not even close.)

Is Grace Presbyterian Church Satan’s Temple? I’m not sure. But I will say that Satan can and does use believers from time to time to try and disrupt the plans of God. Remember that Jesus had to rebuke Peter when he was being used by Satan to prevent Jesus from going to the cross (Matthew 16). We cannot say that those who were so ugly are without faith at GPC. But we can say that seem to be acting in a manner that is less than Christlike.

I can also say that the actions of a few have truly grieved the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30-32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

The group that rose up two Sunday’s ago to confront the elders and demand my removal were not acting in a manner that can be construed as “kind to one another; tenderhearted, forgiving one another…” They were grieving the Holy Spirit according to God’s word. That is really all we can say about them and what they did. They were not acting in a manner that was submissive to the leadership and in their rebellion against that leadership, they were rebelling against Christ as well.

That should grieve our hearts as well. Whenever those who are called Christians act in a fallen manner, it should cause us to grieve and examine our own hearts. When these people were so ugly, how did we respond? Did we try and get even by sending across some well-worded zinger? Or did we respond in kindness as Christ calls us to do?

I know there were times when I responded in anger and with the zingers, and for that I repent. It was wrong to respond that way even though justice was not being carried out. My responses in anger and harsh words, would probably be hailed in more worldly circles, but we are not called to be of the world. We are called to be like the ONE we know who didn’t respond with anger, but took on the death of a sinner even though He was innocent.

It is that reminder and the reminder from Ephesians 4:30-32 that allowed me to respond the way I did when things came to an end for me at GPC. I knew that tensions were growing in the congregation, although I wasn’t sure about why the tensions were so high. I did know that I was staying very close to that verse. I came across it while preparing what ended up being my last two sermons. I was preaching on the Maker of the Church, the Sender of the Church and the Equipper of the Church, from Matthew 16, 28 and Ephesians 4.

I really wasn’t writing these sermons for the people of GPC here in Jackson. I have already preached these things here. While I knew it would be a good reminder to those who love God’s word, I also knew that some in the church would reject the message out right, simply because they were no longer listening to anything I said. I could have said, “Jesus wants you to be rich, happy, wealthy and wise, just believe in Him,” and they would have rejected it.

I was preparing those two sermons for a church that I was interviewing with in New Mexico that invited me out for a visit. One of the elders called me and asked me to preach on the purpose of the church so that those in the congregation could be reminded why it is that Christ has made the church. After the first sermon, I could tell the contentious bunch at GPC was even more contentious and when I preached the second one, they were spewing venom from the back pews.

This didn’t surprise me. While praying the previous day, I prayed that the Lord would tender the hearts of those who belong to Him so that they could hear the message and rejoice. I also prayed something more serious. I asked the LORD to harden the hearts of those who were rejecting HIS word and make it obvious to all who were there. I’m not sure why I prayed that, but I did.

And He answered that prayer. While I was confident in the message given to me to preach, those whose hearts were hardened, exploded that Sunday. I don’t know the full extent of it, but they went after two elders and an elders wife. The vicious attack led the elders to conclude that it was  better if I resigned. They asked me to that night, and I did.

I knew the LORD would take care of me and my family. He had a job waiting for me in New Mexico and I thanked the two elders who had stood with me for the two years at GPC. I don’t begrudge them at all. They were actually doing me a favor by asking for my resignation. They provided me two months severance and the opportunity to leave that church. I was thankful and relieved the battle was over. It was a blessing from God.

The sad reality is that those who attacked did not need to. Had they been patient, the LORD would have moved me and my family on without the need for them to sin against the LORD and His elders. They added more burning coals to their already scalded heads. That is what people do when they are not walking in the Spirit. The flesh has a tendency to destroy itself and what is left of that church will now turn on itself. The two elders that were raked over the coals, resigned after I did and left the church. The congregations is now down to about 15 people. While I’m not sure what will happen to them, unless there is some repentance on the part of those brood of vipers that ran us off, that church will remain Satan’s temple. As long as we operate in the flesh, as they did, we too can be used by Satan. That is why we need to keep our eyes on Christ, walk by faith in the Spirit, and trust Him with His church. After all, it’s His church to deal with. He can redeem those in it, or leave them to their flesh, the world and the devil. I thank God He has redeemed me and brought me out of Satan’s Temple

Country Road

This was another shot from our trip out west and what much of New Mexico looks like in the eastern part of the state. While it lacks trees and vegetation, which we are use to, we really found the landscape quite beautiful. I never thought I would say that after my teenage days of driving through New Mexico on our way to Colorado to snow ski during the winter months. It is amazing how 30 years can change one’s perspective. It is also obvious why so many people love living in the state. There really is the feeling of openness, big country, big skies and beautiful sunsets.

One more note from our trip, while the Oklahoma portion of I-40 was the longest in our trip, it was also much nicer than I remember Oklahoma being. Again, I can see why so many love living there. I know the wind can be bothersome after a while, but every area has its drawbacks.

Where Are We?

More pictures from our adventures out west. Can you guess where we were? Please, no answers like “out west somewhere.” I’ve already said that. And please, if we’ve already told you, don’t spoil for the rest of my readers.