Living Behind Enemy Lines – Situational Awareness

In simple terms, ‘situational awareness’ means nothing more than recognizing your circumstances; knowing what’s going on around you. For instance, a military commander must be aware of the total situation around him and his unit on the battlefield, as well as the bigger ‘strategic’ picture.  Total situation awareness is essential for successful military operations against any enemy, on any battlefield, for any warrior.  As Christians, and warriors in the Kingdom of God, we need to maintain complete situational awareness as inhabitants of planet earth (the battlefield environment), as well as our Commander’s intent (God’s strategic picture).

Sadly, we often lose focus of both our battlefield environment and our Commander’s intent, for a variety of reasons.  They range  from our tendency to focus almost exclusively on ‘personal’ growth and fulfillment, to applying human wisdom and worldly principles to the operation of the ‘postmodern’ church as a whole.  At both levels, the result is that the Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, sits in the back of the bus as we arrogantly occupy the driver’s seat!

Dear readers and friends, it is past time to regain our ‘situational awareness’ and overcome our spiritual ‘nearsightedness.’  For that task, we need to ‘begin at the beginning’ of our lives as Christians and go from there.  In a familiar and often quoted verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

What a promise – the greatest makeover of all time!  When we place saving faith in Christ, we step out of darkness and into the light, passing from death to life!  We are given a new nature in Christ as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our being, giving us a desire to serve God and the power to live a life of obedience to Him. This is common knowledge, not rocket science.

Our ‘makeover’ is so complete that in another of his letters to the early church, Paul presents what is a mystery to limited human logic.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:6 

This is a bit more difficult for human logic to grasp, but notice the past tense verbs in this verse. Paul is saying that as Christians, although we physically remain here on planet Earth, we have already been ‘raised up’ and ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.’  Paul partially explains this mystery in more easily understood terms a bit later in the same chapter:

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. . .” Ephesians 2:19

A citizen is a legal resident of a nation, country or state.  Paul is saying that, at the moment of salvation, our ‘legal citizenship’ status changed!  One could say that if before we received Christ, we could have visited the ‘heavenly realm,’ we would have been ‘illegal aliens.’  We are not like the child born to an American military family overseas, who has dual-citizenship status until he or she is 18 years old and needs to make a decision.  We are NOT dual citizens.  Now listen to the Apostle Peter in one of his letters to the early church:

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” 1 Peter 2:11 

Do you see the contrast here? Paul tells us that at one time we were ‘aliens and foreigners’ to God’s household, while Peter tells us that as Christians we are now ‘aliens and strangers’ in the world in which we live!

Why is the world in which we live ‘foreign territory,’ why are we ‘aliens and strangers in it,’ and how do we apply these truths?

First we need to understand that the world in which we live is not, in the strictest sense, the world that God created for the crown of his creation, human beings molded in His image.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the problem of sin in the world that was brought about by willful disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (the why), is much bigger than just our little piece of turf.  There is a clear description of the present condition of God’s creation in Romans 8:17-24, in which we find the following:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:22

All of God’s creation is somehow tainted, polluted by sin, and in need of redemption.

Furthermore, our present world is not governed by God (although He is in complete control), but by a ‘temporary landlord’ ruling over the hearts of fallen man.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Ephesians 2:1-2

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

As believers, we are citizens of the household of God, with a new ‘landlord,’ servants of the Most High God, no longer bound by the god of this world.  And as members of God’s household, we are now foreigners and strangers to the world we live in and enemies of the ‘god of this world.’

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we are living behind enemy lines!  Perhaps this has caused your thought process to pause for a moment of speculation.  Maybe  it came to a screeching halt because your first reaction was “No way!”  Then hear what the Apostle James had to say to believers in his day who were becoming a bit too ‘friendly’ with the fallen culture around them.

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4

If you still aren’t convinced that we are living in enemy territory, I encourage you to read the entire chapter in James, followed by Jesus’ words to his followers in John, chapters 15 and 16, concerning what to expect from the world.

My friend, your opinion in this matter is between you and the Holy Spirit.  I merely encourage you to prayerfully consider the premise presented in the ramblings of an old soldier.  If you agree with the basic premise, you cannot escape the question: “Why are we still down here?”  Think about it.

 

Pseudo-Christianity

I recently listened to a sermon with the above title by Dr. Curt Daniel, of Faith Bible Church in Springfield Illinois, courtesy of Sermon Audio. It was part of a series presented at the Contending for the Faith conference, at Dr. Daniel’s church.

Dr. Daniel presented 4 basic tendencies of pseudo, or false Christianity and drew comparisons between false Judaism of Jesus’ day and the false Christianity of our day:

1. Adding to the Gospel

2. Subtracting from the Gospel

3. Substituting other doctrines for the true Gospel

4. Watering down the Gospel while maintaining some truth

Adding to the Gospel

In Jesus’ day the primary Jewish religious group that added something to God’s requirement for faith were the Pharisees, who added works (strict law keeping) to faith in order to be right with God. According to Dr. Daniel the prime example of adding works to faith in the world of Christianity is the Roman Catholic Church, by far the largest ‘Christian’ religion on the planet. In Roman Catholicism, salvation is eventually earned by observing certain sacraments, having faith, and performing works (with a side trip to Purgatory on the way to Heaven for most Roman Catholics. In the religious system of the Pharisees and within Roman Catholicism ultimate truth is found in scripture and in religious/church tradition.

Subtracting from the Gospel

The best example of subtracting from true faith in Jesus’ time was the other main sect with Judaism, the Sadducees, who denied both the resurrection and the doctrine of hell, or eternal punishment. The Sadducees of old can be compared to the liberal Christianity of today, which denies one of more of the following:

· Substitutionary atonement

· The inerrancy and infallibity of Scripture

· The exclusivity of Christ as the only way to God

· The doctrine of Hell

Substitution of Other Doctrines

In Jesus’ day there were Jewish groups or sects that were neither Pharisees nor Sadducees, but instead had their own doctrines which they claimed to be TRUE doctrine. They can be compared to any number of ‘Christian cults’ today such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and others.

Watered Down Religion

In Jesus’ day as well as in our day there are those who claim to adhere to or follow a religion, but really don’t know what they believe or why they believe it. Ask then about their religion and they become really vague really quickly. Dr. Daniel termed today’s brand of this sort of religion as ‘pseudo-evangelicalism’. It is characterized by downplaying the need for repentance of sin (if not omitting it altogether), downplaying the holiness of God and requirements for holiness/sanctification of the believer, and what can be called ‘easy believism’. Rather than using the example of Jesus and the Apostles and keeping the gospel of salvation a matter of repentance from sin and believing in Christ’s substitutionary atonement, salvation is obtained by asking Jesus into one’s heart, opening one’s heart to Jesus, saying a special prayer, going forward in a meeting, or signing a card, NONE of which can be found in Scripture. It was quite interesting to note that when Billy Graham was once asked how many of those who came forward at one of his evangelistic meetings remained steadfast Christians, Rev. Graham’s answer was ‘around 4%’.

The second earmark of today’s pseudo-Christianity is the idea that a sinner can accept Jesus as Savior but NOT as Lord. One can be a Christian bound for Heaven and yet never experience a truly changed life in which sinful tendencies and behaviors give way to the indwelling Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification. In simple terms, you can be a ‘carnal’ Christian, a concept a cursory reading of Romans, Chapter 8 should dispel rather resoundingly.

What does all of this mean in terms of “Contending for the Faith’? Dr. Daniel urges us to

  • KNOW the true Gospel
  • DEFEND the true Gospel
  • DON’T  add to it, subtract from it, substitute other doctrines, or water it down

Great advice, don’t you think?

__________

Again, if you are interested in listening to the entire series of messages, go HERE.

The Bible and Hollywood

I firmly believe that the Bible was not intended to ‘entertain’ the Christian consumer, much less the lost millions who need a Savior from their sin. Nevertheless, Hollywood has discovered that there are untapped millions of dollars that are ripe for the taking from an all too willing ‘Christian’ audience eager and conditioned to think that God is all about satisfying our desires and temporal cravings.

There was probably a time when this was not the case, a time when going to church meant entering the house of a great big God who rightly deserves honor, worship, awe, respect, and fear. We sang God honoring hymns full of rich theology that spoke of what a mighty and merciful God had done on behalf of spiritually dead sinners. But I digress.

The change from humbly worshipping God in reverence and awe and listening to a precher actually exposit Scripture has been quite gradual. Over 100 years ago Charles Haddon preached a sermon titled “Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats”. You can find it online. I’m not going to get into a long dissertation concerning the various stages of ‘The Downgrade’ (another Spurgeonism), but I challenge you to investigate the situation on yourmown.

Back to Hollywood and the Bible. What prompted this post was yet another ‘hotly anticipated’ Bible based movie; a Sundance production about Jesus and Satan in the desert.

We seem to have had a rash of Biblical epics of questionable Biblical accuracy in the last several years, interspersed with outright heresey (think tourist trips,to heaven).

Sadly (gross understatement), professing believers from all across the Christian spectrum flock to these movies, sometimes by the bus load, sponsored by their ‘churches’, whose ‘leaders’ have been the ones who ‘conditioned’ them to go ‘aflocking’.

Why balk at the idea of Hollywood entertaining usmwhen we have ditched sound doctrine and the reading and peaching of the Bible for the narcisistic eisegesis of todays ‘relevant’ faux pastor who mostly tells stories about himself (and ‘herself’ where Biblical roles for the life,ofmthemchurchmare,discarded)’ and twists/mangles the Holy Writ for his/(her) personal gain and sometimes great fame!

Of course the aforementioned narcigesis and scripture mangling really works well because it’s all designed to tickle itching ears and get folks lusting after their ‘dream destinies’. It used to be just about their ‘best lives now’, but catchy phrases wear out don’t ya know and periodically need to be kicked up a notch to keep the ‘tithes’ pouring in to pay for the big stage lighting, smoke machines, professional musicians, etc., ad nauseum needed to crank up the kids and get them ‘feeling’ really excited and ‘thinking’ The Glory of God is filling the place.

So why am I suprised that so much theologically vacuous supposedly ‘Christian’ entertainment is hitting the big screen? Well, I have news for you……I’m NOT surprised. I just figured it out with some degree of accuracy.

And BTW, I’m not preaching. Articulating my thoughts is quite helpful.

🙂

Why do we want to look like the world?

The answer is really simple. We want to ‘attract’ people to Jesus, which is a concept found nowhere in scripture. In fact God wants his sona and daughters to be different from the world, not like the world. Yet pastors come out on platforms and stages where there is no pulpit, wearing their faded jeans, rumpled shirts hanging out of their trousers, only to preach stories about themselves (narcigesis) with a few scripture passages thrown in (soundbites for Jesus?), most likely taken out of context to ‘prove’ the heresy of the day, and itching ears lap it up because postmodern Christianity is all about our temporal happiness not God’s glory.

“The idea that you are going to win people tomthe Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.” – Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 140

More, More, More?

Our 1 & 1/5-year-old grandson Michael uses those words (with the question mark) a lot at mealtimes whenever he is eating something he likes, until he is full and then exclaims “Done now!”

“What’s that got to do with Christian faith?”, you ask. Thanks for asking! First of all, it reminds me of me in the late 70’s after God drew this prodigal home. I didn’t want just a little of what God had for me, I wanted all of what he had for me. Wanting more was a genuine cry of my heart and a good thing! On the other hand, Every time someone or something (read Christian TV, radio, books, & even family members) offered ‘more’ I was all over it. After all, the offers of ‘more’ were being made by professing Christians who were older and wiser than this young Army Sergeant with his young family.

Moreover, I just knew my motives in wanting ‘more’ were pure as the driven snow. How could they NOT be? So, like most young believers I was drawn off into teachings that I now question. Well, the 3M syndrome is alive and well 40 years down the road. Young, new to the faith believers are still drawn towards the ‘more’ that offers emotional excitement, ecstatic worship, ‘new’ special revelation, and even training in the ‘supernatural’.

Know that in no way am I saying that God does not want to bless us mightily, or that He no longer operates in certain ways in his church. I am not saying that God doesn’t provide ‘more’ to us as we engage in the renewing of our minds and the Holy Spirit brings the beautiful truths of scripture home to the deepest center of our new hearts.

I’m suggesting that we need to be cautious of offers and promises of ‘more’. Some of them are found nowhere in scripture, but in its twisting. Lives, both physical and spiritual, have been devastated by chasing after some of those promises. I would add that Satan is the master counterfeiter who loves to provide fake answers to fake promises.

One might also ask, “When is ‘more’ enough? Are we as smart as little Michael?

Personally, I’ve found that in reading and studying God’s word, fellowshipping with the saints, and sharing Christ with the lost around me keeps me busy enough. Nothing extraordinary, just the ordinary activities of a blood bought sinner.

Some might say that being just an ‘ordinary’ Christian a pretty high calling!

Be blessed in your high calling this Lord’s Day!

5 Reasons I’m not a ‘Christ follower’

Now that I have your attention, let me clarify that. I don’t mean that I don’t ‘follow’ Christ. What I do mean is that I don’t ‘self-identify’ as a ‘Christ follower’. I don’t get upset when people ask me if I’m a ‘Christ follower’, I just don’t like to call myself a ‘Christ follower’.

Here are my 5 reasons::

1. Anyone can be a ‘Christ follower’. One need not even have met and embraced Christ as Savior to be one. Think about it.

2. Although claiming to be a Christ ‘follower’ means more than just being a ‘fan’; meaning that I ‘do’ something rather than just hit the ‘Like’ button on Jesus’ Facebook page, it also tends to tickle the ‘boast’ button attached to my flesh.

3. It tends toward a sense of ‘works’ righteousness. See number 2.

4. It misses the gospel, in that it’s about what I ‘do’ and says nothing about what God has done on my behalf. In all fairness, it does have the name of Christ, and that could lead to a discussion about what God has done through Christ. Also, the label ‘Christ follower’ is a safe term for those who want to avoid the tough discussion(s) that address things like the gospel themes of sin and repentance.

5. The term ‘Christ follower’ falls woefully short of all that it means to be a Christian. It just doesn’t say enough about who I am as a believer.

So what should I call myself? What term/label could I use that might best identify who I am as a Christian and that also speaks to what God has done? Well, after considering about a dozen possibilities, I decided to just go ‘old school’ and tell folks that I am a ‘Christian’.

Yes, I know that it’s not P.C. in today’s evangelical environment and that we’ve been told over and over again to avoid ‘cristianese’ (I read another article a couple of days ago), but I’m going with it. ‘Christian’ says more about who/what I am as a repentant believer in Christ than any other label I could come up with!

So whenever I’m asked if I’m a ‘Christ follower’, I’ll just say “No, I’m a ‘Christian’ in anticipation of an opportunity to talk about what it means.

False Teachers and Itching Ears – A Match Made in Hell

Some things never change, and the topic of false teachers arising from within the church spoken of in 2 Peter is one of those timeless lessons:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Also just as relevant today as when it was penned is the Apostle Paul’s advice to young Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound. teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4: 1-4)

Combine false teachers and itching ears and you have the perfect match. The false teachers in our midst peddle destructive man centered heresies, and people with itching ears flock to them to have their passions validated and listen to promises of their fulfillment.

Nothing new here……move along?

Not just yet – not without a word concerning ‘destructive heresies’.

The above scripture connects destructive heresies to sinful human passions In other words, tell people how they can have all of their temporal wishes and desires and you have a winner. You can start your own church in your living room, and if you repackage the same old lies, you might even end up a megachurch with campuses all over town!

So what do these heresies look like today? Good question. The term ‘dream destiny’ comes almost immediately to mind. I hear it quite a lot these days. We are even told that the dream destiny/personal vision we have in our hearts and minds is God given! Furthermore, if we don’t yet have a personal dream destiny, we probably haven’t had a real encounter with God (but that’s a separate subject). If you are old like me (mid-60s) and have been paying attention to trends in today’s churches (especially megachurches), you might observed the same thing I have. Or, you might think I’ve been smoking whacky weed (I do live in Colorado, after all).

I think that today’s ‘dream destiny’ is yesterday’s ‘purpose’. Although personal ambition has always been a part of the human construct, I think that ‘self-centered’ Christianity was kicked into high gear when “The Purpose Driven Life” was first published in 2002. The author, Rick Warren, was slick. In the first few pages he tells us that life’s all about God. With that thought in the back of our minds, helped along with a gentle reminder now and again, the book proceeds to help us, and center on, discovering our individual, tailor made, God given purpose for living.

The book became the second best seller in human history, we are told. An small ‘industry’ was spawned that included a partnership with Reader’s Digest in order to “provide a suite of bundled multimedia tools: The Purpose Driven Connection, a quarterly magazine; small group study materials delivered in DVDs, workbooks and downloadable discussion guides; and a state-of-the-art Christian social networking Web site.”

Fast forward to 2015. While we don’t hear so much about being ‘purpose driven’ anymore, we sure hear about ‘personal visions’ and ‘dream destinies’, even from Pastor Rick. Terminology has changed, and quite naturally! Once we have our God designed special purpose figured out we need to move on and grow into something ‘more’, something ‘bigger’ – our personal ‘destiny’!

Our need for Christ is no longer based on the need for a savior from our sin (its penalty, power over us in this life, and its very presence in the future), but it’s based on fulfilling our own special purpose and destiny in this life.

We now have a form of ‘Christianity’ so self-centered it hardly resembles the New Testament church or the teaching of the Apostles, to which early believers were so devoted. (See Acts, Chapter 2). In fact, it opposes many of the teachings of Christ himself! In other words, the combination of ‘false teachers’ and ‘itching ears’ has turned Christianity completely on its head! A match made in Hell, indeed!

______________

As an afterthought (not really), consider for a few moments the following passages of scripture and what our attitude should be concerning things temporal:

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12: 2)

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)