Every Time Every Human Speaks

The times I’ve been charged with “teaching Christianity in a public school” make me laugh a little bit.

It’s as though administrators, principals, parents, and students think that Christians have some sort of other belief system, apart from their own, that is worthy of alienation. Of course, we know this is simply the world loving the darkness more than the light, because their deeds are evil (John 1). And we were once in the darkness, too.

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But the whole “stop talking about religion in public” is nonsense for another reason: every time every human being speaks, we are speaking our own belief system. For one person to tell another, “Don’t talk about your beliefs,” is to act like the speaker has no beliefs. But the truth is that we all speak our beliefs, every moment of every day.

To tell a Christian to drop the Bible is like telling a postmodern to stop speaking about scientism, neo-Marxism, or relativism. The postmodern literally cannot stop. It’s what she believes in.

We can talk about “separation of church and state” nonsense all day long, but it will never happen because it is a false dichotomy. Every time every human speaks, he speaks his worldview. Just be honest with each other, and lay those beliefs on the table.

Each of us has a belief system. None of them, on the basis of our own faith, is more or less true than another. In other words, nothing is absolutely true just because I believe it. Instead, all beliefs, and their systems, stand or fall based on their historical, internal, and supernatural veracity. And the Bible is the only one that passes any of the three (and all three at that!).

Thus, biblical faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only worldview that has full historical, internal, and supernatural truth. It stands beneath no other worldview, but it supreme above them all – because Jesus is supreme.

When we talk to those in the kingdom of the darkness, we must love them enough to care for their very souls. The first step is laying our beliefs on the table, explaining them, and asking the unbeliever to do the same. Only then can we have honest conversation that is out of the darkness and into the light.

Jesus Speaks

Of Scripture, Evangelism, and Unbelief

It was a sunny January Tuesday as I worked at my public cubicle in a nearby coffee shop. I noticed two men discussing (false) theology behind me, but I had chatted with one before and thought I’d leave well enough alone.

As their conversation, and the general noise level, rose, I popped on my headphones. The tunes help me focus. They blocked out the noise for a time, but then, cutting through the chatter, I heard the words, “All roads lead to God.”

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And maybe, by the power of Holy Spirit, came a holy zeal. A zeal for the glory of God. Or maybe I just wanted to be right. Either way, it was an open statement in a public place that slaps the Savior in the face. It was time to speak.

Here’s how it began:

Britt: You believe that’s true?
John: Well, I was just quoting someone.
B: But you believe it, too.
J: Well, yeah. I’m a Muslim, and I married a Christian woman! We get along just fine, as long as we talk about what we agree on.
B: I’m glad you are able to get along well with your wife, but Christ and Islam have nothing to agree on. Jesus says He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Him.
J: Why are you judging me, telling me I’m wrong?
B: I’m not telling you. Jesus is. I’m just repeating what He said.
J: But I don’t believe that book you are quoting.
B: It doesn’t matter. He still said it.
J: I believe those gospel writers changed things he said.
B: Really? Were you there? Because I wasn’t and neither was Mohammed. I trust the first-person sources.

The world wants us to lay down our swords, as Voddie Baucham so eloquently puts it, and play their game on their terms. We must say, “No. Jesus has spoken.”

Regardless of what hell-bent lost people like John and so many others think, Jesus has spoken. And we are His ambassadors, His messengers, His missionaries, His servants. We are not allowed to change the message. If we do, Proverbs calls this kind of failed messenger a “fool” (Prov. 26:6).

So don’t be a fool and try to maim God’s Word. Jesus still speaks: to us, in us, and through us by the Holy Spirit with the Word. We know what He says. Just say it to other humans because you love them, you love God’s glory, and you fear for their souls apart from Jesus Christ.

Archives: “Do Stuff” Still Isn’t the Gospel

Talking with a friend tonight, we were both reminded of the great glory of the grace of God in the gospel. God requires not that we “do stuff” to earn His favor or His forgiveness, but commands us to trust Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal favor. The gospel isn’t that we “do stuff,” but that Jesus has already done all we need.

Here’s a rundown:

  1. Jesus Taught Justification by Faith Alone
  2. Did Jesus Teach Justification by Works?
  3. What Preaching the Gospel Is, and Isn’t
  4. Matthew 23: More Reasons “Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel
  5. “Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel
  6. Drink Deeply of Jesus Christ
  7. Hate at the Bottom of Your Heart
  8. Opinions We Make Into Law
  9. Is Your Church Characterized by Commands or Christ?

My prayer is always that we treasure Jesus Christ more through believing the gospel.

Afflicting the Unconverted

Mike McKinley’s Together for the Gospel 2012 talk about preaching to self-deceived unbelievers in our churches is full of gems. Here’s one:

“[Self-help teaching] only creates high-functioning citizens of hell.”

The whole thing is worth listening to, particularly if you don’t realize the effect of so-called “cultural Christianity.”

As McKinley reminds us, Christianity is a radical thing, not something you slide into because it’s convenient. It is our job, as believers, to help people see their true spiritual state.

To the Wicked, Grace Doesn’t Come First


[photo by Mr. Stein on flickr]

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a fellow school administrator about how to deal with our lawless students. She firmly believed that we, as educators, ought to give students as much grace as possible before giving them law. This, to her, was exactly how we “show Christ’s love.” I disagreed then, and I still do. Here’s why: this principle is the exact opposite of God’s.

God gives law to the proud and grace to the humble. As Ray Comfort says, “You will never see the Lord Jesus giving grace to a proud, arrogant, self-righteous person. He doesn’t do it.” But, where Ray applies it mainly to evangelism (and we should), I’m applying it to all of our dealings with others, particularly with children.

Thinking Like a Child
When I was a child (I might say with Paul), I thought as a child. I hated law. And as a young adult, I mostly still did. I remembered my angry chaffing at “legalistic” teachers and principals and didn’t want to be like them. But, even as a child, I knew it was worse for teachers to give a pass to a prideful child (sometimes even their own child!) instead of giving them their lawful consequences.

But as time in the classroom went on, I became a father, too. And I learned the truth that, in this fallen world, everything still runs on rules and regulations. It’s just the way things go, because that’s the way God wants the world to operate. He wants us to learn the principle of sowing and reaping. He wants us to learn His economy of sin and consequences. He wants us to know about motives, actions, and just deserts.

False Grace Barricades True Righteousness
Isaiah makes this perfectly clear when he preaches in Isaiah 26:9-10:

    When your judgments are in the earth,
        the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
    If favor is shown to the wicked,
        he does not learn righteousness;
    in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly
        and does not see the majesty of the LORD.

Here’s the proposition: If grace (“favor” in verse 10) is given to the wicked, then that false showing of grace obscures the wicked man’s ability to “learn righteousness.” In other words, to the arrogant, a lying grace barricades true righteousness. And, since true righteousness is the display of God’s glory, this lying grace further blinds him from “see(ing) the majesty of the LORD,” (verse 10).

Therefore, any insistence on grace to the proud is:

  1. A lie. Grace to the proud is not true grace.
  2. Dishonorable and degrading to the name and character of God. It mangles His majesty and rends His righteousness.
  3. Harmful and dishonest to the proud student. This slithering, mangling “grace” teaches no grace at all, but pictures a cuckhold of a God who winks at our sin.

Law Isn’t Evil
But it feels so “mean” to use the law, right? The law is good, Paul says, when it is used lawfully. It is for the evil, adulterous, dishonest, greedy, sexually immoral, violent, and oppressive people in our midst. We ought to use it. We must use it.

But using the law doesn’t mean that we must use it with a legalistic spirit. The law must be the tutor to bring people to Christ. So use it, teachers, to show your own conscience and that of your students that we have all failed before God’s holiness and stand in need of His mercy. Then, your consequences must be fair, just, quick, and loving, given with an eye toward repentance and restoration.

The Use and Consequences of Law
Consequences should match the crimes. For example, when a student skips class, she should receive a zero for the day and come back after school to make the class up, missing any extracurriculars or other commitments. When a student steals something, he needs to return it, pay it back again, and receive a in-school manual labor suspension. When a student cheats on a test, he has earned the right to get a zero on that test, no opportunity to replace the grade, and a short-term suspension. Anything less than these consequences teach students a lie about God’s character and His economy in the world.

But all of these very fair consequences must also be used redemptively, with the stated goal of repentance (reparations and consequences aren’t necessarily repentance) and restoration. Once the student deals with her consequences and returns, she must be as full a part of the school as her own attitude will allow.

The Economy of God
These things must be so because this is how God has structured our lives in a fallen world. We need the law to teach us right from wrong, we need it to establish boundaries and standards in our lives, and we need it to teach us that we are unable to live up to God’s holiness. Indeed, we must never think that anything but the blood of Jesus can save us.

Proverbs 22:15 says it this way:
    Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
        but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

And all the parents, youth workers, and teachers say, “Amen.” We must discipline and apply the law and its consequences, as is appropriate regarding our calling and relationships, in order to teach people the majesty of God.

When a law-breaker learns to stand before the enthroned King and say, “Woe is me! I am undone!” then he is well-positioned, the Bible says, to cry out for mercy to the Son of David, the King of Israel, the Christ of God, who kept the law in the place of everyone who repents and believes.

So don’t give the wicked in your midst a false grace, give them the very real law and its consequences, that it would train them toward Jesus Christ.

God Doesn’t Depend on Our Arguments

Sometimes we think that the effectiveness of our prayers, preaching, or evangelism depends on our words, our thoughts, or our faithfulness. Doug Wilson reminds us, that, while God uses arguments, He isn’t subject to them. Remember, when using God’s means, God will come.

Sin is Worse than “Brokenness”

From Randy Newman, over at the Gospel Coalition blog, “We’re Worse Than Broken“:

Most people in our world today hear “brokenness” as something that is done to us, something we are victims of. But the Bible’s description of sin is far more active than passive, more something we do—willingly, rebelliously, idolatrously, and knowingly—rather than something perpetrated upon us by others against our will, contrary to our nature, or different from our cravings. When people hear that our biggest problem is that we’re broken, the gospel seems like a strange fix. Jesus’ death on the cross seems extreme and unnecessary, the maniacal overreaction of an overzealous deity.

For a fuller explanation, read the whole (short) article.

HT: Hermonta

A Midnight Gospel Conversation

As I headed to bed tonight during a family vacation, I heard a family member begin speaking with a family guest about religion. I thought it was a good example of asking hard and helpful questions and being faithful (though imperfect!) with the gospel.

The conversation went something like this:

  • Family Member: Well, what is your religious background?
  • Family Guest: My father and mother are Christians. I take lessons from the Bible, and I live my life by them, but I believe that when I die, I’ll be buried and cremated or whatever, and then that’s the end. If there is life after death, then I believe that I’ll go to where I should because of the way I’ve lived my life and conducted myself.
  • FM: Well that’s just a homemade philosophy.
  • FG: Well, that’s what I think, and I’ve heard about Jesus in church. But do I think that I have to ask someone for forgiveness for all my sins and that’s all it takes for salvation? No.
  • FM: You do realize that you are a sinner, right?
  • FG: That I’m the same as these people who run around doing crazy things? No.

And later:

  • FG: I don’t believe that we’re all created equal, because you just said that some people have advantages that others don’t have. So if you’re saying that some people are blessed and others cursed, I don’t believe in any god who does that.

Finally, a little later:

  • FG: People have invented God because they need something to hold onto during times of trouble. Every human being has the commonality of believing in a higher power during difficult times. We all yearn for something greater than us.
  • FM: Without that confession of sins and trust in Jesus Christ, you won’t go to heaven. You’ll go somewhere else, but not to heaven.
  • FG: Well, if you’re talking about confessing your sins, then I don’t do those things.
  • FM: What do you believe about God?
  • FG: My definition of god is anything and everything in this world that is good.

Thankfully, they ended the night by shaking hands and thanking each other for the meaningful conversation. The unbeliever also welcomed our prayers.

“A Bizarre Kind of Universalism”

More from Greg Gilbert’s 3-part response to Rob Bell’s NOOMA videos:

I don’t know how else to understand this: What Bell is asserting here is a bizarre kind of universalism in which every human being is forgiven and yet some forgiven people end up in hell anyway. The NOOMA might be slippery, but this passage from Velvet Elvis isn’t at all, and that may offer some insight on what he’s actually saying in NOOMA. The only way I can see to understand it is that Bell is telling lost people that they are forgiven, that they are in relationship with God, even that the Spirit of God lives in them and is waiting to guide them and sanctify them if only they’d wake up and realize it.

That kind of thinking though is devastatingly misleading to lost people. To be lost is not merely to be ignorant about the fact that you are already in relationship with God, forgiven, free, and full of his Spirit. To be lost is to be separated from God and under his judgment. That’s a crucial part of the gospel, not just because Bell’s alternative involves the absurdity of forgiven people suffering in hell; it’s crucial because, unless you understand that God hates sin and judges it, the cross doesn’t make any sense. In fact, it becomes kind of superfluous. The fact is, somebody could hear Rob Bell’s version of the gospel in NOOMA and walk away feeling forgiven and Spirit-filled without a single thought about Jesus’ death. And at that point, what you have is something quite other than Christianity.

It seems like Greg is looking into the future a little, huh?

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