10 Reasons to Street Preach

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1. You access people who will likely never go into a church. Whether you are a hip church or not, or have a good reputation in the community or not, there are likely many people, in the community your church is located in, that will never set foot into your church. This is a very real solution to rather insisting on having them come to you on your turf for you to go to them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news (gospel).” (Romans 10:15; as quoted in Is. 52:7)

2. Provides for the church, gospel, and Jesus Christ to have a real public presence. It seems today you can pretty much find everything on the streets today minus the Gospel. You can sadly find: drugs, sex, violence, etc. but you would be hard-pressed to find any gospel witness there. This is a sad reality when you consider that Jesus’ Lordship was never to be contained within the four walls of a church facility. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Jesus).” (Matthew 28:18)

3. Provides teaching opportunities for the family. I recently took the gospel to the streets. In the process, both my 5 (boy) and 3 (girl) year old were filled with curiosity and questions concerning what exactly I was doing and hoping to accomplish. When I explained to them I could tell my eldest was filled a new profound respect and admiration for his “brave” dad. And my daughter learned more about  what kind of man she wants to marry. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk with them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deut. 6:7)

4. It is consistent with the practice of the historical and early church. Many today think that the early church did street preaching and only because it was the common practice to run around the streets and teach religion. This is an exaggeration and too broad a stroke to understand the ancient world of Rome. The reality is that it was a strange thing for common people not sent by a known and recognized ruler to preach and teach a new religion. Also, street preaching was not unique to the early church. Street preaching has been the practice in the midst of every known revival in church history from the reformation, great awakening, etc. “Go (or, as you are going) therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

5. It is sanctifying for those who participate. Every opportunity I have to truly speak the gospel out of my mouth to an unbeliever is a tremendously powerful event to my faith and always an encouragement to the heart. If you haven’t tried it, it is hard to understand this, I’m sure. But whenever I tell someone the gospel it seems more shocking. The fact that I believe there was a Jewish man who was and is truly God and that He was born of a virgin Mary, never sinned once and yet died for sins according to the Scriptures. That this crucified Jesus actually rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and took His seat upon His heavenly throne. And lastly, that this Jesus is bodily and visibly coming back from heaven to earth to raise His blood bought people with incorruptible sinless bodies and to judge everyone who rejects this message in an eternal lake of fire, is truly a remarkable truth that somehow loses its awe factor when stifled to remain only in the church and if your lucky the home. “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” (Philemon 6)

6. Protects the church from spiritual decline. When evangelism on the streets is neglected it either gets dropped altogether or replaces the worship time intended for the assembly of God’s people. In either case the church is in a spiritual decline. You either neglect a clear charge from our Savior and are therefore in sin or you end up unchurching the church in hopes of appealing to a lost crowd. It is a known fact that across all denominations doctrine and catechizing is on a decline within the body of believers. What do all denominations share in common, a neglected street preaching ministry.

7. Provides real life experiences to affirm Scriptures that seem distant to American Christianity. When Paul tells Timothy that “all who desire a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) many have a hard time understanding how that may be true in their life. When Jesus tells His disciples that the world will hate them for His name sake and that his followers will suffer for the gospel, many struggle with whether this is only true in other countries. You know, those entrenched Muslim ones. But the qualifications of “all” and “the world” remove those barriers used to excuse the apparent non-existent suffering of many in American Christians. Secondly, it reveals the true animosity that is present between the seed of woman and the seed of the serpent. (Genesis 3:15)

8. Provides clarity to where our confidence is. When “foolish” (1 Cor. 1:17-18) means are employed it exposes all the things we have been putting our trust in. Do we believe that “Salvation belongs to the LORD”(Jonah 2:9) or that salvation belongs to programs, great music, facilities, engaging speakers, etc.? “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in His steadfast love.” (Psalm 33:16-18; see also 147:10-11)

9. Gives opportunity for training and equipping aspiring elders. There are few training grounds more effective in my mind for equipping future elders than evangelism in the streets. Our churches in America are starving for brave, strong, courageous, men leading. Our culture has largely feminized manhood and that has transferred over into the office of the pastorate. It is a shame. Where are the; Luthers, Zwinglis, Calvins, Athanasius, Whitefields, Wesleys who are willing to do what God’s word says and not needing man’s praise to move forward in obedience? Having men meet confrontation in the face with boldness is a great training camp for refining future elders to lead Christ’ church into holiness. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

10. Church growth. Believe it or not but people get saved. I have met people in my life who have told me that they were saved through someone preaching the gospel in the streets. In an age where most churches experience church growth in numbers largely through the transfer of already existent sheep leaving one local church for another, when are people who were previously not going to church getting saved? This is real church growth isn’t it? When people who were formerly not part of the Church are now saved and have therefore joined a local church. I ask you, where are the people who don’t go to church at? That’s right, they are out and about on the streets. So where should we go with the gospel? Does it not make plain and simple sense that in order to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all creation we should be proclaiming His gospel in and outside the church? “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice so there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)

May God grant and raise up a hundred fold more men to proclaim His great message through His church for every generation!

Blessings,

Stephen Willcox

Jonah: God’s Sovereign, Unfailing Love (PART 2)

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Empty Hopes and a Sovereign Savior 

Diagnosing the Problem 

I can’t discern which comes first, discontentment or idolatry. It seems like the two feed upon one another. When I am discontent I am so tempted and prone to turn to things that are not God for comfort, encouragement, hope to save me from pain, melancholy, and despair. Simply put, I turn to created things to give me life. And Yet I also know the product from me turning to created things to give me what they were never intended to give me is discontentment, pain, melancholy, and despair. These are the confessions of a Christian who finds himself fundamentally guilty of the same sins as the polytheist.

Martin Luther taught that the reason the first commandment was against idolatry was because it was impossible to break the other nine without first committing idolatry. The monk turned protestant was certainly on to something. And I agree with him. John Calvin, a contemporary to Luther, stated, “The human heart is a factory of idols.”

So what is idolatry? Whenever anything or anyone captures our heart, mind, and/or affections more than God we are guilty of idolatry. And Hopelessness is a sure sign symptom that someone has a bad-case of idolatry. The more devoted the worshipper the harder the crash or despair.

The danger is idolatry is that we rarely make idols out of straight up evil things. In fact our idols never are. Idolatry fundamentally takes the good things God made and perverts and twist them.

“To the pure all things are pure. But to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” (Titus 1:15 ESV)

Did you see the connection between unbelief and defiling? When we fail to believe in God, we defile or profane good things. Idolatry seeks to turn a created thing into a god. It pursues a created thing to yield what only God can give. To profane something is to treat something with irreverence or disrespect. And when we put the responsibility of our happiness on a cheeseburger we are doing just that. But why do we do this? Why do we put our hope, happiness, comfort, encouragement, joy, and ultimately our lives in the hands of created things?

Wrong Thinking Leads to Wrong Worship

Today we live in a functionally polytheistic culture (poly- many; theo- god). Allow me to explain. To argue this, I must begin with the truth and then we can identify the perversion of it known as Polytheism.

First, The Christian Worldview believes that there is only One God who exist eternally in three distinct but not separate persons (Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit). Second, This God created everything. He made the heavens and the earth. He made that which is seen and unseen. He made angels and men. He made plants and animals. He made the sea and dry land. There is nothing that was made that He did not make. Third, God not only made everything but also sustains everything. In other words, everything is dependent upon Him. Fourth, God is separate and distinct from that which is created. Though everything points to His glory and is a manifestation of His attributes, it must also be remembered that God is wholly other than that which is created. Fifth, therefore everything receives its: value, purpose, function, ability (power), and results from God and apart from God; everything and everyone have none of these attributes intrinsically.

Polytheism fundamentally does not believe in two forms of existence. It denies there is one God who is supreme over everything and everyone. Instead all things are on the same plane. Some things will have more value, power, or influence. But there is no supreme wholly other source from which everything comes. Rather Polytheism believes that persons and things in and of itself possess their own intrinsic value, power, function, etc. Therefore, polytheist (those who believe in polytheism) will give themselves to money, sex, relationships, causes, work, and etc. This is because polytheist believe there is something to be gained from created things in and of themselves. They believe those created things are a source of themselves.

When we fail to recognize that all created things are mere windows for us to look through in order that we may behold the Glory of God we are thinking and acting like a polytheist. When we fail to recognize that no created thing is meant to be a path to itself but rather a path that leads us to the true end; worship of the Supreme Sovereign Creator. Then we are guilty of polytheism. When we fight wars over whose god is more important or more powerful to bring unity, peace, happiness, and life to all things. We are playing the polytheist. And when we do this, we fail to see that no god or combinations of gods (a created thing with limitations) is big enough to do this. Polytheist are bound for disappointment. Because Polytheist give themselves to so many things and none of those things can deliver.

Sadly, because there are endless possible gods in a polytheist world, they never run out of possible new options to chase after. “Perhaps,” the polytheist thinks, “that I had the wrong combination of gods. I need to exchange the god of career for a god of family. And maybe I should put a little more effort into the god of fitness and a little less worship into the god of chocolate.”

Jonah 2:8 (ESV) says, “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.”

Created things have limitations. And so they can only offer you what God has assigned or ordained for them to offer you. No god will be able to give you “steadfast love.” And so, everyone who chooses the polytheistic path also chooses to turn away from the only One who can give “steadfast love.” This is why God’s call to repentance is a call of love. He is calling us away from destruction and to life everlasting.

Salvation Belongs to the LORD!

There is only one God. And that God in and of Himself is intrinsically: all-powerful; all-knowing, all-present; infinite in beauty; and is the designer; creator; and sustainer of all things. This God is infinite in love. He is the source of all good things! Therefore this God is worthy of ALL our hope, faith, love, and devotion. In fact, God rightfully demands it from us. However, in this case, its good news that He calls us to this kind of devotion. Jonah 2:9 explains why.

“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

We learned in the last post that Jonah foolishly tried to run from God who made the heavens and the earth; the sea and dry land. But God was prepared to move heaven and earth to make sure nothing stood between Him and Jonah. Not even Jonah’s rebellious heart could come between God and Jonah. God humbled and broke Jonah and brought him to nothing so that Jonah would recognize his “vain” hope was no different than that of the “vain idols” of the sailors. And after God had humbled Jonah and brought Him to nothing then God showed Jonah that He alone gives life and He alone saves. Here’s how Jonah 2:6 says it,

“I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet You brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.”

God hurled a great wind into the sea. Then God hurled Jonah into the deeps of the sea. And when Jonah had finally hit rock bottom (pun intended) God called a great fish to do His bidding and save Jonah. Jonah’s participation in his deliverance was NOTHING. Even Jonah’s prayer is a prayer of “thanksgiving” “from the belly of the fish” after he had been saved. And all of this was to demonstrate to Jonah and to us today that “salvation belongs to the LORD!” And to demonstrate to us that “those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.”

God saved Jonah by hurling all of Jonah’s idols into the sea. And when Jonah found there was nothing left to rest his foot upon, he found himself in the sea sinking down…down…down. And it was there that Jonah found his feet rest upon the sure foundation and rock the LORD. Perhaps if Jonah knew the hymn he would have sang, “On Christ the Solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground in sinking sand.”

God saves us the same way from our idols today. God turns us over to our idols, allows them to crush us, disappoint us, disillusion us, afflict us, and abandon us. And when we have found we have nowhere else to turn. We see Christ as that sure rock and foundation. We find Him as the source of ALL life.

Simon Peter answered Him (Jesus), “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69 ESV)

How foolish it would have been for Jonah after being saved to worship the great fish rather than the God who sent it. That would be polytheism. Indeed, this is the very god the Ninevites worshipped. Dagon, the god of the fish. But Jonah, by God’s grace, believed in the One to whom the great fish pointed to. Let us not be people so foolish and wicked to run from the “steadfast love” of the LORD. Let us run from all our “vain idols” and into the sovereign unfailing love of God our Savior!

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

–Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:3 ESV)

A Conversation on: How Should We Live in Light of the SCOTUS Ruling on Marriage? (PART 2)

A couple of week ago we discussed the ruling by SCOTUS concerning marriage and how we ought to think about this issue.  In part 2 of this segment we discuss more practical concerns on how one ought to live in light of this ruling.  How does this affect our persona, family, work, and church life?  This is the focus of this conversation.  May this round table discussion serve you well.

Blessings!

The Beauty and Pitfuls of Our Triumphs

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There’s an old Proverb that says, “Pride comes before the fall.”  It is a proverb that rings true regularly in my life.  Isn’t it ironic that everyone wants to succeed (a good thing, mind you) and yet, it is our success that often times becomes a snare to our fall.  Are we locked into a system where success will inevitably lead to our demise?

This has been a frequent theme that I have been considering and discussing with  a dear friend of mine this week.  How can we seek to be faithful and enjoy the fruit of our labor, while not being puffed up only to fall and rebuild what has been lost?

I believe the answer is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells us in John 15 that if we abide in Him we will bear much fruit!  That’s what us Christians want, is it not?  And here Jesus tells us the answer to how we can bear much fruit.  If we abide, we will bear much fruit.

 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. – John 15:4-5

Jesus also says in the same context (vs. 9-10), “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  This is another way of saying, “if you abide in me you will bear much fruit.”  In other words, the two statements are parallel thoughts.  It is the same statement said in two ways to help clarify.

Abide in me = Love me

Bear much fruit = keep my commandments

And so, we learn from Jesus that the key to growing and seeing true Biblical success before God is found by loving God.  This begs the question, “how can we love God?”

And this is actually the bad news.  Because loving God is not just hard, it is impossible.  The Bible tells us that because of the fall of man in Adam, no one seeks, knows, or loves God.  In fact, not only do we simply NOT love God but we hate God.  The Bible tells us that our natural inclination is to see God as our enemy to be subdued.

 as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless;There is none who does good, There is not even one.” -Romans 3:10-12

because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:7-8

This is why people must be born again or regenerated.  In this act of God, people are made “new creations in Christ Jesus” by God Himself so that, they are given “new hearts” that have new affections and passions.  This is something only God can do.  We can NOT prop up the arm of God or create an experience that causes a change in heart.  The Bible warns us that our hearts, from conception, are hard stone (which can’t be remade).  This is something that we are entirely dependent upon God to decisively act and do in the life of a person.

 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:13

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:6-8

However, this does not mean we are called to do nothing and just simply wait around.  In fact, the exact opposite is true.  We are called to be witnesses of what Jesus Christ has done in His perfect obedient life, including the following: His sacrifice for sin on the cross, His death and burial, His resurrection of victory over sin, death, and the devil, and lastly His Ascension and Reign over all things.  The Bible promises us, that as we proclaim this message of Good News (Gospel) that God will take this message and use it to be a means or way upon which the Holy Spirit will come and re-create the hearers of this glorious message.  Thus leading to the salvation of people.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, -Titus 3:4-6

for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. – 1 Peter 1:23

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17

It is only then that people have the ability to love God by hearing the Word of Christ, being granted the eyes of faith, and therefore, beholding the absolute beauty and splendor of King Jesus!  For as they see Him, they love Him, and as they love Him, they are abiding in Him, and as they are abiding in Him, they bear much fruit!!!!

So here’s what happens in my life, and I suspect every other believer’s life.  We love Christ which bears fruit.  We see our fruit, and rejoice (rightfully so) and then rather than giving praise to God and loving the Savior more, we love our gift of fruit more and, sadly, put our confidence in that fruit.  And therefore we cease to bear fruit.  This leads to us feeling condemnation, which then leads us back to Christ.  This results in a fresh love of Christ producing fruit.  And this can become an endless cycle, can it not, brethren?

Let me provide an example that is from Scripture.

If I want to plant an apple tree so that I can have apples, then I need to plant a seed in the ground where it will give itself entirely to the nutrients in the ground.  Those good nutrients feed the roots and that results in fruit.  But if I say, “Man, I love fruit!” and then foolishly seek to get more fruit by putting all the fruit in a bowl to admire, then that fruit is not only going stop yielding any further fruit, even the fruit I have will rot.  No!  Instead the fruit is to be enjoyed by being eaten!  And then the seeds are to be returned to the ground where the nutrients are, so that the seed may take root, and the roots may get their source of strength to yield forth more fruit!

We are trees that must keep our joy and love and treasure in Christ (our nutrients and food for growth).  And as we see Him, and keep our eyes fixed on Him, we will yield fruit.  But the moment we put our hope in our fruit rather than what brought about our fruit, we will stop yielding fruit and we will rot.  John the Baptist, warned the people of his day that the axe was already laid at the tree and that they were to repent and bear fruit in consistence to their professed repentance.  John was calling people to stop trusting in themselves and to trust in Christ.  Otherwise, they were going to rot and only be good for the fire.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

-1 Corinthians 10:12

My dear friend, can I ask you, what are you trusting in?  When you see you fail and desire to do right, to what or whom do you go?  Whatever it is you turn to in that moment is your god.  And if it is not Jesus Christ then it is no god at all.  And you are therefore guilty of the same sin as Israel was in John the Baptist’s day.  That is, idolatry.  And God will not share His glory with another.  So please, my friend, I plead with you to turn to Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face!  And the gods of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!!!!

A Sure Guide in: How To NOT Feel Guilty and Justify Any Worldly Pleasure. (A Satire)

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Everyone enjoys having a good time.  And we all know that sometimes morals can get in the way of all that. So over the years of fighting this battle I have found several ways to overcome hurdles such as your conscience, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and those pesky Christians who take the Bible and their faith way too seriously. We all want to go to heaven. We even appreciate what Jesus Christ has done for us. But do we really want that to affect what we entertain ourselves with?  No way!  Why should Jesus death for me sway whether I can watch the latest episode of my favorite TV sitcom?  If you are searching for ways to deal with these obstacles and others like them, look no further!  Just follow these steps, and before you know it, you will no longer feel guilty for finding wickedness entertaining.

  • First and Foremost: deal with the Pesky Christian (PC) who takes the Bible and their faith way too seriously. The way I define a PC is anyone who gives the impression they take the Bible and their faith slightly more seriously than I do.  In the end that’s really who you are uncomfortable with anyways, right?  If bad company corrupts good morals, then surely the opposite of that is true.  And we don’t want someone’s presence accomplish what the conscience has been calloused from doing (After all, that took a lot of hard work!).  Just keep telling yourself, “my entertainment is not the problem, their confronting me is the problem.”
  1. Spend as little time as possible with PCs. Just their mere presence can make you feel guilty or bad about you being who you are.  And God would never want you to experience guilt or shame, right?  I have learned in my walk with God, that if I ever sense any form of shame or guilt, that really can’t be the Holy Spirit.  He wants me to be happy and feel good about myself (I mean, the Bible does say He is the Comforter).  Besides, you really won’t have much to talk about with these PCs anyways. They will likely just want to talk about Jesus Christ, the Gospel, the Bible, something the Holy Spirit has been teaching them, or their struggles with sin (which will only make you feel guilty for the lack of those experiences in your own life).   Don’t even bring up the latest TV shows you have been watching. You will regret it. They will likely be “grieved” and not know how to relate to you on this subject.  Just like you don’t know how to relate to them about their “pursuit to know God deeper” and all that mumbo jumbo.  You simply can NOT be spending much time with people who seem further along in the faith than you!
  2. Use the word “legalist” and “legalism” liberally. This may be the most important tip I give you. The goal is to redefine legalism so that you can equate anyone calling your entertainment “sin” a legalist. The most effective definition I have found for legalism is: the practice of honoring, obeying, or encouraging anyone else to obey a law or rule. Trust me on this.  You may think that definition is broader than you want it to be to accomplish your goal. But the masses will not think of the logical consequence of this definition.  Instead, they will only apply this definition to ancient rules (from the Bible) that interfere with your amusements.  If someone  even attempts to apply this definition (consistently) to something that is taboo in your culture they will instantly be labeled “extreme” and their thinking will be assumed “absurd.”  This secures the rules you like staying “in play” while eliminating all those values and rules in the Bible that are just a bit too restrictive.
  3. Spend all your fellowship time with people who love to engage in the same entertainment. I cannot stress this enough. If you are going to get over your conscience and conviction by the Holy Spirit, you must spend a lot of time with others who enjoy the same things. Remember, there is strength in numbers. And be sure to make casual references to your walk with God and stuff like that. This will convince you that you are having a profitable time with your friends.  Every time guilt starts to creep up on you, you can just appeal to these times where you talked about God. This will bring reassurance that you really aren’t that bad.
  4. When you are with your friends (who enjoy the same things) don’t be afraid to talk about PC types. This will make you feel much better about yourself. The more you do this, the more you will persuade yourself that you are way better off than they are. You will become way more conscious of their sin and, in the process, completely forget about your guilt! You may even thank God you are not like those PCs.  Use clichés like, “I have a relationship with Jesus, not a religion.”  Religion is made up of useless things like: covenants and commitment, devotion and traditions, consistency and obedience.  But relationships are all about feelings.  And you feel quite good about you and Jesus.  You and Him got your own thing going. Don’t let other people and their interpretation of the Bible get in the way with that!
  5. Do NOT be afraid to use the “legalist” trump card to relieve any guilt or to change the subject. If you don’t, you may never rid yourself of their views. But by labeling their commitment to holiness as “legalism” it now makes them the focal point and the problem. Everyone knows that Jesus was most upset with the Pharisees (the teachers of Israel) because of this sin. So by associating them with the Pharisees you create the perfect smoke screen.
  6. Speaking of sin, become very skilled at finding or diagnosing any sin possible in these PC types. This will take the attention off your harmless guilty pleasures and put the spotlight on them. The best part is, the peskier they are the easier they fall for this. These types are so afraid of sin that when you bring up their sin, they will feel horrible about it and repent of their sin with you right then and there (this may be uncomfortable, but the reward is worth it). They will become so aware of their sin that they will forget about your sin … (Ahem) sorry….er…situation.  An effective sin to point out that works every time is pride. Everyone knows that pride is the worst sin. So if you can point out that they likely had pride in coming to you about this issue, or that they had a prideful tone, or the way they said it seemed prideful (because perception is way more important than content), really, anything including “pride” will shut them up.  Remember it is pride for them to come to you about your entertainment. But it is never pride for you to defend your entertainment, or continue to watch your worldly entertainment, or constantly turn the conversation from your entertainment to their pride and sin.
  7. Become a pro at pointing out “redeemable” aspects in the show. It doesn’t matter how small it is or how insignificant it is to the overarching plot. Anything, even the smallest of things, which is honorable, is justification to watch pretty much anything you want.  For those of you who are new at this, here are some examples: “sure there is a graphic sex scene in it, but it is ok because they wait until they are married.”  Or “I know there is a lot of language, sensuality, and other things in it, but the main character is such a nice guy.”  Or “I know the whole plot is about woman competing for a man’s hand in marriage by alluring him sexually, but the guy has remained a virgin.”

After you have dealt with the problem from without you need to deal with the problem from within.  Here’s a helpful list dealing with guilt and shame and justify whatever show or worldly pleasure you want.

  • Remind yourself what you do in your spare time only affects you.  Don’t let anyone try to point you to Bible verses that show the communal aspect of sin. Your entertainment doesn’t affect the fellowship of the believers, their worship, or their unity. It only affects you. And even that is debatable.  And even if it did affect the assembly, no one ever said you were your brother’s keeper.  Just keep telling yourself, “you can handle the stuff you watch” because you are “mature” and “grown-up.”  You can always govern your appetite for pleasure.  It safer to err on the side of licentiousness than to be overly cautious.  Besides, a little remorseful fun never hurt anyone.  It’s only the big sins that God is concerned about.
  • Avoid anything that would tell you there is more to the Christian life. Some people will try to point to the experiences the early church had.  I have even heard some try to say God is still empowering in this way in other churches around the world like He did in the Bible!  They even blame the worldliness for the lack of power you may see in your own life or church, saying something about “grieving the Holy Spirit.” This is hogwash!  God was evidently just moving and shaking things up more back then. Look around at all your friends and their churches. They don’t look much different, do they?  Using other people who call themselves Christians is always the best standard for what kind of expectations you should have in your life.
  • Never study or question your motives for why you delight in what you watch. This will only awaken your conscience and bring unnecessary guilt.  You cannot be constantly looking at what you do and why you do it. That is way too exhausting, and it will only smother all the progress you have made in dealing with your shame and guilt.  Remember your actions and delights are never a reflection of your heart.  Your heart is whatever you think it is.  And you simply must believe the best about your heart.  You can never be too forgiving of yourself.
  • Create grey areas.  No doubt there are gray areas already in the Bible.  But there simply aren’t enough!  You will need to create new ones so that drawing lines in the sand is harder for people. Avoid at all cost using discernment or careful thinking and escape such people who do!  Instead, think only in broad terms.  The best way of creating gray areas is making the appeal that there are smart Christians on both sides of the issue.  This creates the perception that if two people disagree and they are both smart, it must be an area we just can’t know for sure.  We all know, whenever there is a disagreement on any given topic, it means the issue is just too complicated.  In fact, use that word “complicated” a lot.  It reinforces that this is a gray area.  By the way, don’t listen to those people who know their history. They quickly expose the fallacies in this argument.
  • Assume different standards for television than you do to real-life. If you can get yourself and others to believe this, much of your conscience and Bible issues will cease. The Lord of the Universe shouldn’t be Lord of the television.  Television is the world that man created.  So we should be able to write our own standards for what is and is not appropriate on there. Sure you would never watch a married couple have sex in real-life through a window (even with their permission). But that principle shouldn’t apply when watching the same thing through the window of your television screen, right? That’s because we must insist that what happens on TV isn’t real and so it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that all television shows include real people, acting out real things, in real life because it is being filmed by a camera. This makes it ok because in the end they are only acting. Besides, as long as it is nowhere explicitly labeled that you are watching a porno, you aren’t watching porno.

Well that concludes my list of helpful tips in successfully dealing with your own guilt without having to repent and trust in Jesus Christ and His good work. And don’t worry about how long this list may seem. Most of it, you will find, comes quite naturally! Oh, one last thing.  Remember the word “inoculate.”  This is a helpful word to remind me that I should engage in enough religion to appease any guilt that these other tips don’t cure.  I find that spending just enough time in the Bible to be confused, but not enough time that I find answers, is a good balance.  Church Attendance should be on par with the majority in your church.  This really is the bare minimum.  Any less and you will find yourself having to put a lot more effort in the other things on this list.  And remember when you are there be sure to make the least of it.  If you find any tips that you find particularly helpful for you please write and tell me at:

Mr. Casual Christian

666  Worldly Blvd.

Licentiousville, Gomorrah

Good Luck!

A Reasoned Defense For Celebrating Christmas

Each year I hear the arguments for and against celebrating.  And yet, I also have brothers and sisters in Christ who have never even heard of the idea of Christians not celebrating the wonderful event of the Incarnation.  I was challenged this year by a close friend and brother in Christ to write my reasons (which ought to be founded upon the Bible) for celebrating what I believe is one of the most tremendous events in history.  So here goes!

Origins

The most frequent argument I hear against celebrating Christmas is the argument of the origins of Christmas.  Anyone with Google, 30 minutes, and the desire can soon find the origins of Christmas were pagan.  Although the day was not called Christmas by the pagans, many of the traditions and the date find its origins in pagan worship.  Under the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and Emperor Constantine these pagan holidays were altered and change to be no longer about worshiping the sun, moon, and stars but rather the birth of Jesus Christ. Over time this holiday became one of the high holy days (holiday) of the RCC.  This holiday along with Easter (another pagan holiday converted into a RCC holiday) became the two most holy days of the year.  Mass was held on these two days and to miss these holidays was for many within the RCC an unpardonable sin.  This is how Christmas (Christ Mass) got it’s name.  This is also where the name Chreasters (people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter to avoid the unpardonable sin) has its roots.

The PROSTESTant Response

During the Reformation John Calvin, Martin Luther and the many others had to fight the tide in teaching people that Christmas and Easter were not anymore holy to God and there was no special grace given on those days in particular.  If you read the catechisms that came out of those times when Protestants were  Protesting many of the false teachings of the RCC you will be able to find there responses to these events.  However, even amidst this turmoil of false teaching we have a letter written by Calvin where he states he believes each Christian is free to celebrate holidays and special occasions in a way that his conscience and the Word of God would not be offended.  He believed Christmas was a day that could be done meeting those two criteria.

Many today have attempted to point to the articles in the catechisms and writings of these men to argue that Protestants celebrating Christmas is a modern day phenomenon.   When one has the context into which these are written one no longer sees this as the mere condemning of holidays but the adding to God’s Word as to what must be done to worship God rightly.  Here are some quotes:

Treating the second commandment, the Larger Catechism demonstrates the unlawfulness of adding to the worship of God. The scriptures forbid “any religious worship not instituted by God himself” and “corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever” (Larger Catechism no. 109; cf. Confession, chapter 21).

Appendix, “Touching Days and Places for Public Worship.” 

There is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued

In 1899, the General Assembly of the pcus was overtured to give a “pronounced and explicit deliverance” against the recognition of “Christmas and Easter as religious days.” Even at this late date, the answer came back in a solid manner:

There is no warrant in Scripture for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holydays, rather the contrary (see Gal. 4:9-11; Col. 2:16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Appendix, “Touching Days and Places for Public Worship.”

When one goes to the passages listed there is no argument for the celebrating of holidays.  Rather in both passages Jews were legalistically instructing a church full of gentiles that they had to honor the Jewish holidays in order to worship God in a way pleasing to Him.  In other words, the reformers saw the bondage the RCC was placing on people with the addition of two more Holy Days that must be celebrating as no different the what the Jews were doing to the Church in Paul’s day.

So what we see clearly in Scripture and our Biblical tradition is the command not to add to God’s word what one can and cannot do.

What Does Scripture Command, Permit, and Forbid?

The Scriptures command each man to live with a good conscience before God (1 Timothy 1:19; 3:9; Acts 23:1; Romans 14:5-6). However, left only to conscience we will get lost in a sea of emotions.  The conscience can be misinformed, hardened, and/or overly-sensitive (1 Timothy 4:2; 1 Corinthians 10:23-29).  That is why each person is to instruct oneself with the Word of God so that her conscience can be properly aligned with God’s will (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The Bible also commands fathers to establish traditions and practices that utilize life’s circumstances to instruct the child concerning Christ and His Gospel (Exodus 12:26; Deuteronomy 6:7-9; 11:18-20; Psalm 78; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4, [much more could be said on this but for the sake of keeping this post as short and accessible as possible this will suffice]) .  These practices should be established by the parents through wisdom to utilize each sense God has given us so that the child can not forget what was taught.  A good father will seek to utilize: taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing to teach their family about God and what He has done for us in Christ Jesus. 

I know from my childhood certain smells trigger an event that points me to Christ, certain symbols remind me of the gospel, how the touch of bread instructs me of the Great Sacrifice, the taste of Welch’s grape juice grants me fresh memories of the cross, and the hearing of certain hymns or the opening of a book reminds me of the importance of God’s Word.  These are all wonderful teaching tools that communicate wonderfully the next generation the faith handed down to us.

The Word of God permits freedom and liberty for each household to decide which teachings tools would serve best in their home.  There is no universal command on what traditions God approves be done in the home.  As long as the father is not engaging in behavior that is explicitly condemned in Scripture there is freedom and room for creativity (Romans14:1-6; I Corinthians 10:29-31).  As a BAPTIST I hold dearly to the “I” in BAPTIST which stands for “individual soul liberty.”  One man may engage in sports while another does not.  One man may engage in an occasional glass of wine another may not.  One sister may eat bacon and another may not.  But as long as no direct command is be neglected and no principle is being undermined each person is free to enjoy life and its many blessings.  What Scripture does say is that each thing we do should be profitable (1 Corinthians 6:12).

The Bible forbids man or men to add to God’s laws commands that must be kept by all in the faith (Colossians2:16-21; Galatians 4:9-11; Romans 14: 1-6; I Corinthians 10:23-31).  In the early church some people were celebrating the Jewish holidays and some were not.  Some were eating meat the was sacrificed to idols and some were not.  Paul’s response to both of these situations was that each person was free to celebrate or not.  Paul taught that each person was free to eat the meat or choose not to.  But Paul forbid a brother guilting (not a word I know :-)), manipulating, or condemning the other brother for not doing as he did.

Paul understood that the holidays are mere shadows that if used properly could bring honor to God. He also knew that some would see these shadows as the picture framed on a wall and not a window looking to the cross.  For these people, they were abusing the holiday.  In these cases what made the practice right or wrong was the intents of ones heart and goal.

Paul also knew that some would not be able to break the association of the pagan origins of the meat sacrificed to idols and so would be sinning against their conscience if they ate (on a side note, Paul actually instructs that if you know the meat is sacrificed to idols but the brother is simply enjoying the meat as a good gift, don’t spoil it for him and tell him the origins of the meat.  In other words those who seek to expose the origins of Christmas when a brother is truly enjoying the magnificence of the incarnation, don’t spoil his worship with the origins of Christmas).

  Apostle Paul also believed that things gone bad could be redeemed and made into a beautiful thing or means to give thanks to God (I Corinthians 10:29-31; 1 Timothy 4:4-5)!  This indeed is one of the things that Gospel teaches us.  God brings life out of death, light out of darkness, good out of evil.  God did not abandon what he made good and had become defiled.  Rather, he cleansed it and redeemed it that it may be received with thanksgiving.  This has been my goal and hope with the celebration of the incarnation!  God became man!  Do we understand this profound mystery?!  These past couple of months I have been listening to the same Christmas album by Andrew Peterson Behold the Lamb of God” and each morning on the way to work I marvel anew at the profound truth that God took on flesh and became a real full-blooded man!  I thank God for this wonderful gift of Christ!  And I find nothing in Scripture that forbids me to celebrate with my family this wonderful event.  Throughout Scripture I discover instruction for me to take advantage of every opportunity to make traditions and practices in my home that will teach my children these wonderful stages within redemptive history!  Christmas is one of those traditions in my home we have now used for seven years to focus in on this wonderful event of God becoming man.  But let each man do what he deems best in light of Scripture to fulfill all the commands therein given and to abstain from that which is condemned or forbidden.

God has given us the wonderful gift of tradition for us to instruct ourselves and those around us the wonderful truths of Scripture.  Let each of us seek to utilize this gift to the best of our abilities that we may be a informed, wise, and a thankful people!

Blessings

-Stephen

P.S.

Due to the length of this post I never went into details on each of the traditions my family engages in and how Ashley-Nicole and I have sought to use these practices to teach our children about Christ and the incarnation.  If you want to know specifics or just fishing around for ideas let us know and we would be glad to share.  Lastly, let each person seek to make every tradition we have be an opportunity that points to Christ.

Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?

I don’t enjoy writing on such a subject.  And I hope to be brief, because there are much more exhaustive and researched books available out there on the topic.  However,  I am incredibly burdened, because many who believe life begins at conception are users of the pill which can and has caused abortions.  In other words, many are engaged in a practice unknown to them that undermines their own principles and beliefs.  And I believe I have a responsibility to inform to the best of my ability.

At the outset let me just commend to you a fantastic book that proves what I will only state.  Randy Alcorn has written a book called, “Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?”  Alcorn talks with pharmacist, doctors, and the distributors themselves to prove that the pill does indeed cause abortions.

BCP’s (Birth Control Pills) have three functions to family planning.  The first two are contraceptive in nature the third is abortificient in nature.  Contraceptives goals attempt to stop a conception.  In other words, contraceptive attempt to prevent life from beginning.  Their goal is to stop an egg from getting conceived.  Abortificients goal is terminate a pregnancy or kill a conceived life (early or late). 

Here’s just one quote from the  Physicians Desk Reference Ortho-Cept the largest pill distributor:

Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins. Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus, which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus, and changes in the endometrium, which reduce the likelihood of implantation.

For the record, implantation only happens when the egg has conceived.  Unfertilized eggs do not implant.  In other words, this reducing the “likelihood of implantation” is aborting the conceived child.

Now that I have shared this info with you, you are responsible for what you do with it.  I hope this serves you brother or sister in Christ.

Blessings!

P.S.

It is likely that you could feel horrendous guilt and shame after discovering all of this.  I have attached an article that helps those struggling with  this here.