‘Celebrity’ Christians and Evangelical Idolatry

Needless to say, the whole Kanye West conversion story, Sunday Service performances and release of his ‘Jesus is King’ album is all the rage these days among evangelical Christians. Much of that is due to his success and fame as a celebrity in the music world. In fact, he recently appeared at Lakewood Church, home of Joel Osteen and some very questionable doctrine and theology. I first read about it and then listened to the on stage interview between the two.  Articles about the genuineness of Kanye’s faith are all over the place, with everybody who is anybody in evangelical Christianity sharing their opinion.

Now rewind back to 1978. The artist was Bob Dylan. Some of you are too young to remember his conversion from the Jewish faith to Christianity, but I am not. Certainly not as famous then as Kanye today, Dylan nevertheless made a resounding ‘splash’ with the release of three gospel albums. “Slow Train Coming” (1979) was my favorite. The song “Gotta Serve Somebody” from that album will be forever etched in my memory. Dylan was interviewed about his faith, but unlike Kanye he never made a big deal of it to the public. Through the years there has always been speculation about the genuineness of his faith, and in 2012 he said he still believes in Jesus. He still tours to this day.

There have been many more celebrities who have converted to Christianity or made professions of faith through the years, with varying degrees of public notoriety. We can all remember many of their names. The more famous the celebrity, the more excited we seem to become, and that’s my point.

I’ll cut to the chase here and ask THE question: Why is it that we seem to put celebrities who claim to be Christians on pedestals? Whether they come from Hollywood, the music industry, or the world of sports, we act like they are something really special because they are open about their faith. They become instant heroes of the faith, even when they are but ‘babes’ in Christ.

Food for thought on this Thanksgiving holiday morning. Speaking of thanksgiving, I am thankful that God saves people from all walks of life, including famous celebrities. We just need to treat them as God would, nurturing them in their faith, praying for their Christian growth and transformation into the likeness of Christ.

Perhaps Kayne West needs to take a step back from the entertainment business and find out who he is in Christ. I have a hint, It’s probably not ‘the greatest artist God ever created’.

There’s a lot more that could be said about the state of evangelical Christianity in our time, but I’ll just leave it right there and let you think about it. All comments are welcome.

Hillsong Worship Leader Leaves the Faith

By Pastor Gabe Hughes, The Midwestern Baptist

Recently, author and former megachurch pastor Joshua Harris announced that he had left his wife and the Christian faith. The announcement came in a most 2019 way: via Instagram with a picture of himself brooding over a scenic lake (your typical Pondering Pond photo). Most known for his breakout book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, it was all too easy for a plethora of articles to emerge under the heading “Joshua Harris Kisses Christianity Goodbye.”

Mere days later, Harris was posting pictures of himself at a gay pride event. Some have dared to speculate that Harris’s next big announcement will be to come out of the closet. Gossip aside, it’s clear that Harris does not intend his departure from the faith to be a quiet, contemplative step back. He will capitalize on his own name and the bankability of a star-pastor going rogue, having said he plans to start a podcast about his “journey.” Harris is not a Christian, and he’s proud of it.

Regarding Harris’s apostasy, Toby Logsdon, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Lynnwood, WA, said the following: “Amazing, isn’t it? That anyone could walk away from the Christian faith and feel liberated rather than absolutely terrified. But were it not for God’s grace sustaining our faith and preserving our place in Christ, we would deny Christ as surely and as readily as Peter did.”

With any story of apostasy, we would do well to remember the Spirit’s instruction in Philippians 2:12-13, where the Apostle Paul wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Harris is not the first high-profile name to leave the faith, and he won’t be the last—as we are being reminded even today. Yet another megachurch star has taken to Instagram to announce he’s no longer a Christian. You may not know the name Marty Sampson, but you know his songs. Marty has been a worship leader with Hillsong and has written or co-written dozens of hits. His praise albums have sold millions of copies, and his worship choruses have tens of millions of views on YouTube.

In a single paragraph on his Instagram (martysamps), Marty said the following:

Time for some real talk… I’m genuinely losing my faith.. and it doesn’t bother me… like, what bothers me now is nothing… I am so happy now, so at peace with the world.. it’s crazy / this is a soapbox moment so here I go xx how many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgemental people on the planet – they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people… but it’s not for me. I am not in any more. I want genuine truth. Not the “I just believe it” kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real. Unfollow if you want, I’ve never been about living my life for others. All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point… I could go on, but I won’t. Love and forgive absolutely. Be kind absolutely. Be generous and do good to others absolutely. Some things are good no matter what you believe. Let the rain fall, the sun will come up tomorrow.

It looks like it was written with the grammar and reason of an adolescent who begrudgingly went to youth group because his parents made him. But Marty Sampson is 40 years old, a husband, a father, and a church leader. As with Harris, Marty is “so at peace” with his decision. I would be, too, if the Christianity I had was the flimsy cardboard box Marty had been living in at Hillsong.

Marty says, “How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it.” Um, where has he been all summer? For the last two weeks, news of Joshua Harris has consumed evangelical social media. A couple weeks before that, narcissist Mark Driscoll came in on the raft he’s reassembled from the shipwreck of his ministry to make fun of his former beliefs. A month before that, word had spread that Harvest Bible Chapel founder James MacDonald allegedly sought a hitman to murder someone. Shall I go on?

Marty says, “How many miracles happen? Not many. No one talks about it.” Consider where this is coming from—Hillsong is a charismatic megachurch that started in the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. They believe tongue-spieling, prophecy-revealing, spirit-feeling, body-reeling, super-healing miracles are going on all the time. Marty has seen through the ruse of charismaticism and recognized this stuff is totally fake. But instead of questioning the Hillsong bubble he was living in, he’s blaming all of Christendom.

Marty says, “Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it.” How much has Marty actually tried to find answers for these things? The Bible has not a single contradiction. If at any point we think the Bible contradicts itself, that’s our problem, not God’s. For two thousand years, the church has not lacked teachers able to respond to such criticisms. One of my first WWUTT videos was dispelling the myth that there are contradictions between the four gospels. To say “No one talks about it” is absurdly ignorant.

Marty says, “How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to [hell], all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it.” Hell is what everyone deserves because all have sinned against God. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There are many teachers who talk about the stuff Marty says no one talks about. Now, it may be true that “no one talks about” hell at Hillsong because it’s an uncomfortable doctrine that will keep people from buying CD’s. Sales will truly drop if they go from singing about happy-go-lucky Jesus to the Jesus who will strike down the nations (see Revelation 19:11-16).

Marty says, “I want genuine truth. Not the ‘I just believe it’ kind of truth.” That may be a picture of what Marty encountered at Hillsong. Maybe he tried to ask questions about these things, but the depth of the answers he got was “I just believe it.” We as Christians are instructed to grow in the knowledge of God through the Bible. The Apostle Paul told the Colossians to be “bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). In Christ we find “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and we are to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10).

Hillsong is not the place to find knowledge. One of their own pastors, Carl Lentz, was asked by Oprah, “Do you believe that only Christians can be in relationship with God?” Lentz replied, “No. I believe that when Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life,’ the way I read that, he’s the road-marker.” What on earth does that mean? No wonder Marty has had trouble finding “genuine truth.” Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). If genuine truth is what Marty wants, he must turn to Jesus and away from Hillsong.

Marty says, “Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion,” which is just his way of saying, “I’m a natural-minded man who can’t discern spiritual things” (see 1 Corinthians 2:14). Marty says, “Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God.” This is the fruit of Lentz’s reply to Oprah. Jesus is not a life-improvement plan. He’s the only way to God, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection from the dead!

If this is Marty Sampson’s farewell letter to Christianity, then all he reveals here is that he was never a Christian in the first place. We read in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

There are many who scoff at the idea that a former believer didn’t really believe in the first place. But just take Marty at his own words. In his song Elohim, he wrote, “I stand upon the solid rock of faith in Christ,” and “I know my hope shall last.” Apparently that was a lie. In the song One Thing, Marty wrote, “One thing I desire, one thing I seek, to gaze upon your beauty.” The bridge goes, “I will seek your face, call upon your name, Jesus, all I want is you.” But Marty is no longer seeking Christ and is not calling on His name. It cannot be that Jesus was all he wanted.

The chorus of the song goes, “Lord your name is higher than the heavens, Lord your name is higher than all created things.” That’s certainly true, but it wasn’t for Marty. How could a person believe with all his heart in the greatest truth that could ever be known, and then turn around and call it a lie? Such a thing would be impossible. The truth of God cannot be denied by those who have truly beheld its power. Marty did not have faith—he had a passing opinion. He never truly believed the name of Jesus is the name above all names. If he did, he’d be falling on his face in fear of his unbelief, not comfortably musing, “I am so happy now, so at peace with the world.”

Marty says, “I’ve never been about living my life for others.” Now, Marty what means is that the opinions of others regarding his newly minted apostasy are not going to change his mind. But unfortunately, this is, like Joshua Harris’s confession, an unapologetic statement of pride. That’s exactly who Marty is living for—he is living for himself.

His closing words are equally sad and ironic: “Let the rain fall, the sun will come up tomorrow.” When the Apostle Paul rebuked some of the Corinthians for not believing in the resurrection of Jesus, he said, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Without hope in the resurrection of Christ, we have no hope at all. Marty is conceding to the purposeless of life apart from Jesus, whether or not Marty is aware that’s what he just confessed.

Our hearts should break when we hear of stories like Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson. They no doubt have family members whose hearts are also breaking. The day of judgment will be most dreadful for the one who heard the truth, even shared the truth, and yet did not believe it themselves. That is a frightening thing to consider. May none of us ever be too proud, but may we submit to our Father in heaven with fear and trembling. Pray for one another, that we may stand strong in a time of trial. “Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

We worship a good God, and without His grace none of us would be saved. Draw near to Him, cling all the more to Christ, who has sealed us with His Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. Philippians 1:6 says, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus, His Life – Episode 6: Pilate: The Trial

We begin this final episode with the same introduction as the first five parts. he episode begins with the same introductory comments.

We begin with a scene of Roman soldiers, along with a carriage in which sits Pilate and his wife, entering through the gates of Jerusalem. Pilate is thinking “I hate this place.” Referring to hot dusty Jerusalem. His thoughts continue “Once I wanted to make a name for myself, but now I just want to scrub this place from my skin”. Pilate’s attitude is significant to the whole story.

The commentators provide a bit of historical content:

Pilate was the prefect, that is the Roman military Governor in the province of Judea from 26 – 36 A.D. He’s famous for one thing. He’s the man in charge during the execution of Jesus. Pilate has come from the lowest level of Roman nobility and probably clawed his way up the ladder to end up in the little backwater town in Judea, arriving on the eve of the Passover. It’s a tough time for a Roman to be in Jerusalem.

Pilate only travels to Jerusalem during Jewish feasts and festivals and fulfills an important ‘behind the scenes’ role, working with the High Priest to make sure there is no unrest during Passover. Pilate also holds the ceremonial robes that Caiaphas must wear – a kind of hostage situation.

Pilate gives Caiaphas his ceremonial robes and asks him if there is anything he needs to know about. Caiaphas answers that there is not. Pilate is naturally suspicious of Caiaphas and really thinks that Caiaphas is expecting trouble.

Next we wee Pilate being awakened in the middle of the night by a messenger from Caiaphas and of course upset. Caiaphas drags Jesus in and presents him to Pilate, hoping Pilate would deal with Jesus because Jesus is popular with the Jewish people. It’s a familiar story. Pilate asks about the charges against Jesus and actually speaks to Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?”As with Caiaphas earlier, Jesus answers “You say so.”

Caiaphas and Pilate talk things over with Caiaphas making more accusations about Jesus. Pilate finally tells Caiaphas and the religious leaders “Take him yourselves. Judge him by your own laws.” (So far, so good.). Caiaphas wanted Jesus executed but had no authority to do so. Pilate wonders why Caiaphas wants Jesus dead.

At the same time we are told that the Pilate of history was cruel and merciless petty tyrant, while the Pilate of the Bible is weak and indecisive, not wanting to take full responsibility for Jesus’ death. The story of the trial in the gospels doesn’t really reflect the actual historical and political reality of the time, so we are told, in order to more easily convert Romans to Christianity. The Biblical portrayal doesn’t reflect the true power of the Roman Prefect.

The conversation between Jesus and Pilate is for the most part, faithful to the text of John 18. Pilate’s wife tells her husband to have nothing to do with Jesus, but when Pilate was sitting at tribunal and not privately, as depicted. Also, the film gives us a glimpse of what she saw in her dream, which is not in the text. Pilate then ‘passes the buck’ to Herod.

The appearance before Herod is recorded in Luke 23. Jesus wasn’t forthcoming there either. Herod an his solders mock Jesus and it is Herod’s soldiers who are said to mock Jesus, not Herod alone, as the film portrays. The chief priests and the rulers of the law who were there are not shown in the film either. It is suggested that perhaps Herod thought the mocking was sufficient punishment and that’s why he handed him back to Pilate.

Pilate of course doesn’t want to make a decision to put Jesus to death and is seen taking things over with Caiaphas telling the Chief Priest the he has found nothing in Jesus worthy of execution. He calls for the condemned rebel Barabbas to be brought to him, per the Jewish custom of freeing one condemned Jewish man during the feast.

We are again told that it is naïve to think of Caiaphas a terribly evil character and reminded that portraying Caiaphas birthed anti-Semitism. After all, Caiaphas just wanted to save lives. (This is the same line that was fed to us in an earlier episode.) This is consistent with an earlier commentator’s claims that the Jewish people were not, then or now, in any way responsible for Jesus’ death (even though Peter on Pentecost said otherwise).

Pilate presents Jesus and Barabbas to the crowd. “Give us Barabbas!”, they shout. So Pilate is off the hook and can have Jesus executed without a major uprising. He orders the flogging that preceded the execution. We are given great detail about the whip of cords used in the flogging,

Soldiers again mock Jesus and put a red cloak across his shoulders and the crown of thorns upon his head.

Jesus is dragged through the crowds. Pilate still seems uncertain and Caiaphas tells Pilate, “Go on, crucify him.” Pilate says to Caiaphas, “You take him, you crucify him.”, demonstrating the power play between the two men. Since Pilate knows Caiaphas doesn’t have the authority to put Jesus to death and us warning Caiaphas to stay in his lane. (Scripture says they became fast friends? Luke 23:12).

We are treated to more speculative commentary concerning the back and forth between the two and a silly commentator (professor from Duke) telling us that the gospel writers were wrong trying to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death. (He doesn’t believe the gospel writers weren’t inspired by the Hoy Spirit to write what they did.)

At this point Pilate and Caiaphas sure aren’t acting like fast friends! There’s a lot of angry glaring at each other.

Another10 minutes or do of speculation I was too tired to add to my notes, along with more angry stares between Caiaphas and Pilate. Finally, Pilate himself orders the execution but washes his hands of Jesus blood. More comments about the gospel writers being wrong about the Jews being responsible for the execution (different commentator).

“The historical reality is likely to have been that if Caiaphas had brought Jesus to Caiaphas to Pilate, Pilate would not even have batted an eye in ordering the crucifixion of Jesus” (Dr. Robert Cargill)

Pilate walks away thinking, “What does another dead man matter to me anyway? Golgotha is soaked in the blood of countless men, and I remember none of them. Rome won’t give a second thought to Jesus of Nazareth, so why should I?”

Jesuit Priest, Dr. James Martin tells us, in one of the last two comments of the episode, “We should not blame Caiaphas and the Jewish authorities for the death of Jesus. Only one person had the authority to put Jesus to death, and that was Pontius Pilate, a Roman.”

The very last scene of the episode has Pilate and his wife watching two Roman soldiers dragging Jesus away for his execution. Jesus glances at them both. Pilates wife looks at her husband disapprovingly then turns around and walks away.

“If Pontius Pilate hadn’t executed Jesus of Nazareth. Pontius Pilate would have been lost to history. He would have just been another Prefect of another distant province.” ( Dr. Michael Peppard, Author)

(I guess the very last comment had to be about the main character of the episode.)

                                                                           The End

Dan’s final thoughts:

This episode had nothing at all to say about Jesus’ mission in coming, either true or false. It didn’t really need to. It was all about Caiaphas, Pilate, and Jesus’ trial. What was shown about Jesus seemed to be accurate. Not so much the Roman Prefect and the High Priest. They were both misrepresented and their relationship (they became friends) twisted to fit the botched narrative commentary.

P.S., I just noticed that there are still two more episodes to follow, Jesus life from the viewpoints of Mary Magdalene and Peter. I had already begun working a summary of sorts with a few overall observations, and now two more???????? (Some of you will get it.) Decision, decisions.

Jesus, His Life – Episode 5: Judas: The Betrayal

The episode begins with the same introductory comments. Again, as with previous episodes we will be asking “Where’s the Gospel?” again and hoping to see/hear a clear message that Jesus died for the sins of men. There will again be a few italicized personal comments. And off we go again.

This new episode’s introduction begins with a commentator telling us that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is “one of the great mysteries of the New Testament” Then we are taken back to the scene in the Garden where Peter cut off Malchus ear and Jesus healed him. Judas is watching and we are told that Judas is probably asking himself “Is this the kind of Messiah I want to follow?” Judas had been looking for another “David”. Another commentator says “Every story needs a bad guy and Judas is it”.

The actual episode begins in Bethany and Jesus’ whispering for Lazarus to come out, which he does. Mary hugs Lazarus. Judas is watching and thinking “Each of us grows up hoping we can make our mark, becoming something special. Until Jesus came into my life I was a nobody, but not now. Now the world will remember the name ‘Judas Iscariot’- forever.” (I guess that’s because he was one of the disciples of the man who brought a dead man to life.

We are told that “The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the greatest miracle of Jesus’ ministry, bar none” and would both astonished and scared people. We are also reminded that why Judas betrayed is the greatest mystery in the Bible. It’s not a ‘who done it, but a “why did he do it”

Commentators speculate about Judas, since the Bible doesn’t tell us much about him. He wasn’t mentioned all of the time but we know he spent a lot of time with Jesus. We see Judas and Jesus in a crowd and Judas cautioning Jesus, “Be careful Lord, these crowds are dangerous.” “Jesus was very close to Jesus, in his inner circle, yet he betrayed Jesus for reasons we don’t understand. That makes him a compelling and mysterious character (Joel Osteen).

Judas was different from the other disciples. He didn’t come from Galilee, where Jesus called the others. “Iscariot” is probably a Judean name. He might have been named after a town called ‘Kerioth’. Maybe he’s even from a group of trained assassins called the Sicarii, who were Jewish zealots.

We do know he sort of the ‘treasurer’ for the disciples. With that in mind, we head to Bethany again, to the home of Mary,

Martha and Lazarus and the story we are so familiar with of Mary anointing Jesus feet with expensive ointment and Judas objects, scolding Mary:  “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” Jesus tells Judas to leave Mary alone and that while the poor will always be available to care for, he (Jesus) would not.

The incident is kind of a turning point for Judas. Jesus had rebuked and embarrassed him in front of the entire household. Judas is convinced that Jesus could not see just how much he cared. (Really? For the poor? He was always a thief [John 12:2])

Fast forward to the triumphant entry into Jerusalem at Passover.

One commentator tells us that that Jesus knows exactly what he is doing, that he is orchestrating everything.’ coming to Jerusalem was to say “The status quo is corrupt, the current world is wrong, and we need to change it, NOW! We See Jesus riding through the streets with Judas alongside proclaiming “This is the coming kingdom of or ancestor David.” Judas muses that he was convinced that his destine was to sit at the right hand of the king! Jesus is riding along, arms wide open and smiling. By riding in on a donkey he is in effect claiming to be the king of Israel. We are told that Jesus has become both a religious and political agitator to the Romans and religious leaders.

Jesus goes to the temple and sees the money changers there to sell animals for sacrifices, a practice everyone is making money off of, and Jesus is angry, turning over tables and scattering money all over the place. We are told that Jesus’ anger is really an expression of his disgust at Caiaphas becoming rich from Roman favor and the money of honest Jewish pilgrims.

We are told that when Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers, Judas might well have thought that this picture of a violent Jesus, and not the loving, ministering, miracle working Jesus, was NOT the Jesus he wanted to see. This would mark Jesus as ‘public enemy #1 for the establishment.

Judas is then seen approaching the temple (or home) and asking to see Caiaphas. Judas was deeply disappointed that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah he had expected, which might have been the reason for the betrayal. We are told that many fail to see the human side of Judas, that he was wrestling with a huge decision. Judas tells Caiaphas that Jesus must be stopped. Caiaphas tells him to look for an opportunity to hand him over, somewhere quiet, and hands him a bag of money, the thirty pieces of silver, which amounted to either one month’s wages or four month’s wages, depending on if the silver was in Roman denarii or Israeli shekels.

We are given some useful information about the history and meaning of the Passover meal in Jewish culture, looking back a the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Now to the Passover meal with Jesus and the disciples. Judas is concerned whether or not Jesus knows he just betrayed him.

At the table, Jesus speaks to his disciples about his coming death, confusing the disciples again. Jesus shares the bread “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” “This is the blood of my covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Neither Jesus or the commentator say that Jesus blood was poured out “for the remission of sin. This is a huge omission, consistent with previous episodes omitting the thought that Jesus died for the sins of men. We are given to believe that Jesus’ impending death and resurrection is about saving the world system!)

At supper, Jesus also announced “One of you will betray me, one who is eating here.” Judas, sitting next to Jesus asks him “Which of us in the traitor, Lord.” Jesus says “It is the one who to whom I give this piece of bread, when I have dipped it in this dish,” and breaking off a piece of bread, dipping it and handing it to Judas. And of course, Jesus also whispers to Judas “Do what you have to do, but do it quickly.” The other disciples think perhaps Jesus has sent Judas on some sort of an errand.

The Jesuit Priest who commented on the other Jesus episodes offers that Jesus was either demonstrating his omniscience in knowing Judas would actually betray him, or he was just using human intuition, having known Judas so well. (The either/or is interesting, coming from someone who supposedly knows the attributes of God.)

Judas leaves, still struggling mightily, knowing he is betraying everything he once believed in.

Now to the Garden of Gethsemane (probably a vineyard, per a commentator). Jesus is praying, doesn’t want to die, but has accepted his fate, if it’s God’s will.

The Roman soldiers, Malchus & company from the Temple, and Judas arrive. Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss.

Peter separates Malchus from one of his ears and Jesus miraculously heals him. Judas is thinking again: “Jesus IS committed to a ministry of non-violence, and certainly doesn’t it marred by a violent act.” . . . “With that kiss I tore down everything he (Jesus) gave his all to do!”

Jesus is dragged off to see Caiaphas (for the first time) Judas realizes that he has played right into the High Priest’s hands, asking himself “What have I done?”

Jesus is being judged in Caiaphas’ mansion by the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night, against the rules for such affairs. Jesus is confronted with “So you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus is silent except to say “You have said so. But I say to all of you, from now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One, on the clouds of heaven.

The Sanhedrin, except for Joseph of Arimathea (who offered a tomb for the burial) and Nicodemus (who visited Jesus at night in the gospel of John), agree that Jesus must die The two men cave to pressure, however, and the verdict of the Sanhedrin is unanimous.

Judas is distraught because this was NOT the end he was hoping for. He had wanted Caiaphas to toss Jesus “into the deep end” to see what he would do. Perhaps if Jesus had performed another great miracle, they would have been convinced he was who he said he was and let him go. Jesus was actually horrified by the verdict.

A commentator (the Jesuit Priest) adds that the ‘illegal’ trial would make the Jews look like bad people and wonders of the accounts of Judas in the New Testament fed into ‘antisemitism’. The Jewish people, as a whole, were not then, and are not now responsible for the death of Jesus.

Judas, thinking again, finally understands his legacy. He was the man who handed Jesus over to his executioners. “Lord, what have I done? I never thought it would end like this! There was a time when I thought nothing could stop us – until an evil seed entered my mind and made me doubt his (Jesus’) every word.”

Judas angrily returns the thirty pieces of silver. Overwhelmed by guilt he wonders if he was born to betray Jesus, or if the Devil made him do it.

Another commentator (Obama’s faith advisor) asks “What it Judas’ fault he did what he did? The reality is that we all have free will. Our Jesuit Priest says that the Judas story demonstrates the great battle between good and evil. That Judas was ‘chosen’ to do what he did means that there is some good in it. In fact, there is a huge battle between good and evil within Judas throughout the story.

Professor Nicola Lewis’ gives us her opinion of the Judas story:” I think what’s fascinating is that we will never get a handle on his (Judas) motivation.”

Then we see Judas, alone in the desert, slowly walking toward a lone, scraggly tree, and sitting down at the foot of the tree. “I wish I could go back, but I sense that God will never forgive me.” The camera zooms out and we see the silhouette of the tree and Judas hanging from one of the branches.

A final commentator tells us: “Our conundrum is that without the betrayal, Jesus doesn’t get handed over to the Romans to be executed. If Judas hadn’t done what he did and we wouldn’t have the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which is the centerpiece of Christian history.”

The End

Dan’s final thoughts: WHAT conundrum? Is all of this REALLY such a great mystery? Haven’t some of these commentators read Peter’s sermon at Pentecost? To the assembled Jews he proclaimed:

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2:22-23

Is there a great conundrum, or unfathomable mystery in the story of Judas? I would say possibly, but only a small one. While we might not know Judas’ exact personal motives, there was a very definite plan of God afoot; one that could NOT be thwarted. The fact of the complete sovereignty of God in the story should put us at complete rest concerning the minute details and this ‘great mystery’.

There is much in the film I left out, some accurate things and some not so accurate. Feel free to watch it for yourself, Bible at the ready!

Next up: Pilate: The Trial

 

Jesus, His Life – Episode 3: Mary, The First Miracles

After the second episode, I wasn’t sure I would watch another one. On the other hand, I am still hoping to see the Gospel message clearly articulated in anything coming out of the entertainment industry, and specifically the ‘Christian’ entertainment sector. So I watched it, but didn’t review it in as much detail as Episode 2 (detailing time-stamps and the identity of all of the commentators).

This post will describe some events in the film, along with personal observations. Personal comments will again be italicized. We will address the “Where was the gospel?” question at the end.

The episode began with the same intro as the first two, including Pastor Joel. The remaining episodes will probably begin the same way.

Just as the second episode was told from the perspective of John and what he might have thought, this episode is told from Mary’s perspective. And also like the last episode with John, some of the thoughts of Mary can be considered ‘reasonable’ speculation, but others not so much.

Some of the commentators in this episode are the same ones from previous episodes, but there are more women commentators that in the first two episodes, I assume to add credibility to the commentator side of things – women talking about a woman.

Throughout the film, one thing is consistent. Mary always knew that God had a special plan for her son, which is a reasonable assumption. At times however, she seemed to be more certain than Jesus, who was also trying to determine what it was.

·         At the beginning of Mary’s narration we are told that Mary always knew God had a special plan for Jesus that she (Mary) longed for but also feared.

·         The first miracle – Jesus changes water into wine

o   At the wedding at Cana, when Jesus and a few followers made their appearance Mary said that Jesus “was somehow different, happy, surrounded by friends, a man with a new purpose”.

o   Mary of course realized that it was a good time for Jesus to make a statement about his ministry. When she tells Jesus that the wine has run out, she is encouraging him to embrace ‘who he is’.

o   Jesus tells the servants to fill the empty jars with water and draw some out. At the moment the water is turned into wine, Jesus is facing heavenward with closed eyes and there is some sudden wind.

o   Mary tells Jesus “This is your time; the people need you.”

During the film, Jesus is at Mary’s home along with his brothers and there is tension between Jesus and his brothers – all reasonable. When not at home, Jesus is traveling around preaching and performing miracles.

The Sermons on the Mount is shown (same scene as in the last episode). We are told by a commentator it is the most important speech Jesus made in all of his ministry because it threatened the establishment/ruling class. (Was it? We report, you decide.).

We Jesus healing a man with a withered hand, ticking off the Pharisees, who were part of the establishment Jesus was taking on.

Jesus goes to Capernaum to really begin his ministry (according to a commentator) of preaching and performing miracles. We see Jesus healing a demon possessed man and looking a bit like Benny Hinn, pressing forcefully down on the man’s forehead.

We are told by a commentator that Jesus’ ministry was to those “who had their backs against the wall, the marginalized, disenfranchised, and forgotten by society.” (Social justice, anyone?)

Jesus’ work and ministry threatened his family, we are told, which was probably true. At one point, Mary and his brothers travel to where Jesus is ministering, wanting to stop him – perform an ‘intervention’. (If Mary knew Jesus’ calling, why would she want to stop him?).

One commentator said “The gospel accounts aren’t very fair to the Pharisees.” (If God inspired all of Scripture, how could they NOT be fair?)

We are shown the scene where Jesus is told his Mother and brothers are there and Jesus telling the crowd exactly who his real mother and brothers and sisters. A commentator tells us that Jesus is saying, in effect, that “Traditional families don’t matter. What matters is this new family, this new kingdom discipleship of following me.” (I can’t picture Jesus saying traditional families just ‘don’t matter.)

Near the end, Mary tells Jesus’ brothers that they will one day understand Jesus’ ministry. (which they did, after the resurrection).

The final scene has Jesus telling his disciples that they are “going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priest and scribes, and they will condemn him to death.” The disciples were silent and we are told that Jesus had finally reconciled his fate. (Did it really take that long?)

Final comments about Mary were offered. We are told that Mary knew Jesus was special. She was also a typical mother, but with a ‘spiritual’ understand of who Jesus was. To Jesus, Mary was his source of life, his point of creation, his inspiration.

The End.

Dan’s miscellaneous comments:

While we told throughout that Mary understood Jesus’ mission, we are never told that his mission was to “save his people from their sins”, as the angel told Joseph, something that, in my opinion, should have been in the first episode about the Nativity, but wasn’t.

We are led to believe that Jesus main mission for coming to Earth was to minister to people with “backs against the wall, the marginalized, disenfranchised, and forgotten by society.” This is exactly the mission of the liberals preaching the social gospel at the beginning of the 20th century, as well as today’s social justice warriors that tell us that we don’t even know what the gospel is if we aren’t trying to cure what ails society. I think we are told otherwise in scripture:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Needless to say, there was no clear presentation of the gospel message that Christ came to die for the sins of His people, To have done so would have contradicted the clearly presented message that Christ died to usher in ‘social justice’, which does seem to be the theme of this series. How sad…………

A Review of Jesus: His Life (Part 1)

March 27, 2019 – Pastor Gabe Hughes

This is a Review of the first episode of Jesus: His Life by Pastor Gabe Hughes of Junction City Kansas, which he posted on his blog here. I read the article and then watched it myself. I found that this to be a highly credible article concerning the production. There is one thing he did not mention that I noticed at the end of his article. Without further comment, here is Pastor Gabe’s review.

Each Monday leading up to holy week, the History Channel is airing a docu-series called Jesus: His Life. The show awkwardly mixes in dramatic reenactments of the story of Jesus with commentary from an assemblage of (mostly liberal) Bible scholars.

The trailer to the show says that this is the life of Christ “told through the eyes of those who knew Him best.” History has never done very well with the story of Jesus. Their mini-series The Bible (more accurately termed The Bobble) was terrible. In addition to biblical inaccuracies, it just wasn’t entertaining. Jesus: His Life is equally dull. The mix of drama with commentary doesn’t work. The thematic scenes fail to be captivating, and the theotwits do not add any life to the program.

Given that the show is flat and fallacious, I don’t know why you’d want to bother with it enough to even read my review. But I offer this up anyway! The following is a play-by-play of the first episode, examining the life of Jesus though the eyes of Joseph. The time stamps are according to the video stream I watched on History’s website, sans commercial breaks. And away we go!

1:00 — Oh, hello Joel. Yup, Joel Osteen is the executive producer of this little number, so he’s one of the “experts” who will be popping up every now and then.

2:00 — The introduction is very “This is the story of how Jesus changed the world.” This is not going to be about how Jesus was sent by God and died as an atoning sacrifice for those who will believe in Him. This is going to be about how Jesus bucked the status quo and brought about a revolution of social change. This show will not present the gospel. Phrases like “Savior of the world” might come up, but they’ll never be explained. They’ll be framed in a social context, not a gospel one.

6:30 — Aside from some questionable theotwits, the information so far has been factual for the most part.

7:45 — (Edit) There’s a line I totally missed and someone pointed it out to me. When Gabriel appears to Mary, he says, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God. If you choose to accept His plan, you will conceive in your womb and give birth a son.” Not only does this make the announcement to Mary staunchly Arminian, it’s also pro-choice! Mary got to choose to have a baby. In Luke 1:31-32, Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.”

9:00 — Mary asks Gabriel, “Why has He chosen me?” Gabriel replies, “You are pure of heart and soul.” According to the story in Luke 1, Mary did not ask that question, nor was Mary told that the reason she was chosen. Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” When Mary was troubled, Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” She was favored because God chose her, not because she merited worthiness.

9:30 — James Martin says, “Notice that when she says yes to the angel, she doesn’t ask her husband or her father. She says it on her own. So this is a very strong woman.” The feminism is strong with this one.

11:00 — Dr. Otis Moss III says, “When Mary says, ‘I’m pregnant, and you’re not the father,’ Joseph probably reacted in a typical male fashion. That’s why I love the story because it does not sugar-coat it as making Joseph holier than thou.” That’s why you love the story? Because of your own conjecture? Not because it’s about the birth of the Savior of the world? The show then portrays Joseph losing his temper, breaking stuff apart and throwing it around the house he had been building for him and Mary.

13:00 — Several teachers are cited as saying that if Joseph outs Mary publicly as having sex outside of wedlock, she could be killed under Jewish law. “Adultery is a crime punishable by death,” according to Dr. Robert Cargill. That’s true (Deuteronomy 22:20-24), but it’s unlikely Mary would have been put to death. The Jews couldn’t exercise capital punishment without permission from Rome. The Bible gives us no sense that Mary’s life was in danger. The only people being stoned to death at that period of time were those who would preach the gospel (Acts 7:59).

13:30 — Ah, Michael Curry, the Love Bishop.

14:30 — Joseph is seen cleaning up the house he trashed after his rage fit. I’ve been waiting to see if anyone will actually quote the Scripture itself. No one has. Matthew 1:18-19 says:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

Being a “just man,” he knew what the law said concerning unfaithfulness. Being “unwilling to put her to shame,” he was not going to make a public spectacle of Mary. He knew the law was on his side. Rage-trashing his house is not divorcing her quietly.

16:30 — An angel speaks to Joseph in a dream and tells him the child in Mary’s womb is from the Holy Spirit. When Joseph goes back to Mary, I have to admit, I found the interaction between them rather touching. But then it was interrupted by commentary…

I covered this in my book 25 Christmas Myths and What the Bible Says. There are no problems with the census in Luke. The explanation is simple. Luke does not give an exact time reference to when the census took place. He said, “In those days,” which is an unspecific period of time, and “this was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” All Luke is pointing to is that these events were part of the same drama, not that they all happened at exactly the same time. There was no reason to use “a device to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.” Matthew didn’t use such an explanation in his gospel.

The dates often used by historians for the Christmas story are based on the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus. But sometimes Josephus was off by as much as a decade. Why are scholars so quick to villify Luke but justify Josephus? Luke under the appointment of the Holy Spirit is spotless in the telling of the gospel. Oh, and contrary to Dr. Cargill’s claims, people did return to their lands when a census was taken.

21:45 — Ben Witherington III says, “[Joseph and Mary] barely got [to Bethlehem] before it was time for Mary to give birth.” Not true, but that’s a minor point. I appreciate that the show does correct the myth that Jesus was born in a barn. He wasn’t. He was born in a house filled with family.

23:30 — Professor Nicola Denzey Lewis says, “Millions of women died in childbirth.” Millions of women in Judea died in childbirth?

25:00 — Shut up, Joel.

25:30 — Whenever an angel appears to someone in this show and says, “Do not be afraid,” they’re just kind of like, “Who are you?” No one is actually afraid.

27:30 — The show continues the myth that there were only three wise men. Except they made the black wise man the lead guy now instead of the token sidekick.

28:00 — Right before the commercial break, Dr. Cargill says of the magi, “Meeting Herod the Great must have been terrifying.” They probably had no idea who he was. But gotta keep the viewers in suspense!

29:00 — The show has the magi arriving at night. There’s no commotion in the city. Yet the Bible says they came to Jerusalem asking, “‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:2-3). The number of magi and the size of their caravan were enough to alert all of Jerusalem and earn the magi an audience before Herod. This was a big deal. In fact the question they asked, “Where is the King of the Jews,” was asked of Jesus by Pontius Pilate over 30 years later.

30:30 — The magi say, “We followed a star. Our charts tell us it heralds the birth of a messiah.” No, they knew the star was leading them to the Messiah because they had the Jewish Scriptures.

32:30 — Joseph tries to refuse the gifts of the magi. That was weird.

33:00 — The Love Bishop says love things.

34:00 — Right before the commercial break, Joseph rebukes the magi for coming because they’ve put Jesus’s life at risk. Oh, good grief.

35:30 — The Love Bishop says, “Joseph keeps getting these dreams in Matthew’s gospel. He gets the dream that tells him the child is a miracle of God. Then he gets the dream telling him to flee Palestine and go to Egypt.” Joseph wasn’t listening to dreams. He was obeying God. Matthew 2:13 says, “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy Him.'” The show doesn’t depict that. Instead, the show portrays Joseph having a vision of Herod giving the order to kill baby boys in Bethlehem.

39:30 — Joseph and Mary barely elude the guards and get Jesus out of Bethlehem during the massacre of the innocents. Oh, the drama. (I really thought I’d done a WWUTT video on the massacre of the innocents. Apparently not. I’ll get on that for next Christmas.)

40:30 — Joshua Dubois, Faith Advisor to President Obama, says, “The holy family become refugees.” These comments are always more politically loaded than they are biblically accurate. A refugee is someone forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or have been displaced because of a natural disaster. Yes, Joseph and Mary fled Judea to escape the wrath of Herod, but they never left the Roman empire. They would have gone to the Jewish settlement in Alexandria, Egypt. There they were quite secure among their own people, and they had the gifts from the magi to pay for their stay. This was not like we would consider a modern-day refugee.

41:00 — Dr. Moss points out that Joseph protected his wife and a child who was not his own. “Joseph becomes a beautiful model for fatherhood today. Where would we be if we had more men who operated like Joseph?” I appreciate the sentiment. But the question is better asked, “Where would we be if more men obeyed God?”

Part 2 examining the life of Jesus through the eyes of John the Baptist coming at a later time… Maybe.

_____________________________________

Dan’s Note:

Missing in the angel/Joseph dialogue was the statement by the angel that “you shall call his name ‘Jesus’ for he will save his people from their sins.”, which was the main purpose in Jesus coming – to save his people from their sins! Will this series fail in presenting a clear and concise message that Christ died for the sins of men, as Pastor Gabe suggests in his critique?

Should Christians Not be Known for What They are Against?

by Eric Davis, The Cripplegate

You’ve heard it said. “I don’t want to be known for what I am against, but what I am for.” “Christians should be known for what they are for, not against.”

It sounds good and noble. After all, a ministry or person that only speaks of what they are against is missing out on much of the content and emphasis of the Bible. Often these are self-proclaimed discernment ministries who do little more than step on others as they stand higher. In so doing, they have veered from Scripture. Pastors are to preach the inspired, inerrant text of Scripture. We will have to twist, avoid, and misinterpret much Scripture if we only speak in terms of opposition.

But more to the point. Should Christians avoid being known for what they are against? Here are a few thoughts for consideration.

  1. That’s not the way to wisely approach life in general.

Imagine a mom who takes this ideology. “Yeah, kids, I don’t want to be known in my mothering for what I’m against. So, you know that Twinkie-Koolaid-Cheeto diet you keep mentioning? I don’t want to be known as against that anymore. Go for it. Oh, and I don’t want to be known for being against you running out into the street, having to come home before dark, and taking indiscretionary time on the internet, so, go ahead.”

Consider a salesman who did not want to be known for what he was against in his job. “Hi Mr. Client. I don’t want to be known for what I’m against, so, honestly, all of the inferior products out there are excellent too. Just invest in whatever one. I am for all of them.”

Imagine an oncologist who did not want to be known for what they were against. “Well, I don’t want to be known for what I am against, Mr. Patient. So, I’m not going to take a firm stance against tumors, metastasis, and cancerous growths. I want to be among the oncologists who, instead, are known for what they are for.”

A post Genesis 2 society requires that we be known for what we are against. Faithfulness, generally in life, requires being against things. To be faithful, a mom will need to be against things. To be a faithful salesman requires being against things. Faithfulness as an oncologist necessitates being known for being against things. In every sphere of life, the goal is faithfulness. That is generally how we seek to operate. That will mean sometimes being for things, sometimes being against things, and always faithfulness to God and love for people in the task.

2. To construct and conduct a good, stable society, we must be known for being against things.

To promote and propagate a loving, flourishing society, we must be against things. And it should be known that we are against things, as a society.

Loving people means we need to be against rape and murder. Recognizing God’s image-bearing means we must be against racism and prejudice. It means we are against unnecessary war. Value for human flourishing means that we are against anarchy and stealing. To construct and conduct a good, stable society, we must be known for being against things.

3. The person who wants to be known for what they are for is also known for what they are against.

The guy who wants to be known for what he is for is known for being against things. He is known for being against being known what he is against. Perhaps he is known for being against other things. Maybe he is known among his friends for being against vegetables that do not have the organic label on them. Or, he may be known in his spheres for being against not working out four days per week, a certain political view, and other ideologies. Perhaps he is also known for being against those who would be against him.

Whatever the case may be, the person who wants to be known for what they are for cannot escape that they are known for what they are also against. The difference could simply be that it is more socially fashionable in certain sub-cultures to be known for being against the particular things that they are against. So, the real issue is not that they want to be known for what they are for, so much as it is that they want to be known for being for a particular subset of currently trendy ideologies.

4. There are things that God wants us to be known for being against.

The God of the universe wants to be known for being against things. Take the Ten Commandments, for example. Eight out of the ten involve an explicit command to be against something. God is against other gods and the worship thereof (Exod. 20:3, 5). God is against making objects which represent him (Exod. 20:4). God is against carrying his name in an unworthy manner (Exod. 20:7). God is against murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting (Exod. 20:13-17). And regarding those commands stated in the positive, we can conclude that God wants us to be known for the contrary of those things. In other words, God wanted his people to be against forsaking the Sabbath (Exod. 20:8). He wants us to be known for being against dishonoring our parents (Exod. 20:12).

A look into Leviticus explains many more things that God’s people were to be known for being against (e.g. Lev. 18-20). “Well, these are only commands against something. That doesn’t mean that we are to be known for being against them.” Israel, the original recipients of these commands, was to be a holy people to the nations. They were to be known for their differences, which meant being known both for things they were for and against.

The New Testament instruction is similar. The apostle Paul indicates that the Ephesian church was to be against things like living as unbelievers (Eph. 4:17, 22), falsehood (Eph. 4:25), stealing (Eph. 4:28), unwholesome speech (Eph. 4:29), grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), bitterness (Eph. 4:31), unforgiveness (Eph. 4:32), immorality, impurity, and greed (Eph. 5:2), and “filthiness…silly talk, or coarse jesting” (Eph. 5:4). Paul instructed them to be against “unfruitful deeds of darkness” to the point that they would “even expose them” (Eph. 5:11).

Paul wanted his people to be against false doctrine to the point of exposing and eradicating it (1 Tim. 1:3, 4:1-4, 4:11; 2 Tim. 2:25, 4:2). In fact, elders are commanded to “exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9), which will mean being known for being against those contradicting doctrines. In the case of unsound teachers and teaching, Paul commands church leaders to “reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). There, Paul calls out specific doctrines and beliefs that he was against, and that Titus and the men he trained were to be against. Later, Paul exhorts Titus similarly, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15). Obeying that command would mean, in part, Titus being known for some things both that he was for and against.

Peter also assumes that God’s people would be known for what they were against in their hostile, first century Greco-Roman culture. “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Pet. 4:4). Apparently, Christians there were known for being against things in pop-culture to the point that the unregenerate were amazed that they were against them. And that was a good thing according to Peter.

Does this mean that God only wants his people to be known for what they are against? Of course not. We are to be known for loving our neighbor as ourselves, glorifying God, and studying the Bible. We are to be known for the unregenerate putting faith in Christ for salvation. We are to be known to have a zeal for good works in the name of Christ (Titus 2:14).

5. The ministries of godly men in Scripture were known for what they were against.

If God’s people are not to be known for what they are against, then the ministries of men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, and John the Baptist were in disobedience to God. If that’s the case, then their ministries were outside of God’s will.

6. Jesus was known (and hated) for what he was against.

Jesus was hated by many people in his culture because of what he was known for being against. He was against an attitude which could not receive correction. He was against the idea that we should not make waves but just keep everything smooth and calm. He was against the demeanor which could not handle rebuke, reproof, and confrontation of sin. He was against the attitudes of self-promotion, self-actualization, and self-glorying (Matt. 23:5-6).

In what way was he known for being against such attitudes? Those attitudes characterized those against whom Jesus often spoke; the scribes and Pharisees. They could not stand it when Jesus confronted their sin (Matt. 21:45-46, Mark 12:12, Luke 11:45-46).

The reason they plotted his execution is because he was against those aforementioned ideologies which characterized them. Jesus was known in his decadent, self-indulging culture as someone who was against many such things. And they hated him for it.

7. Much of the content in the NT epistles is against something.

Many of the New Testament books were written specifically to oppose and correct some teacher and teachings. The Holy Spirit could have inspired these letters under many different circumstances. Several of those circumstances involved a letter where both the divine and human author (and by extension, the true NT church) was to be known for being against things. Those letters have now made it into the most widely selling book in history. Those who read the book with eyes to see understand both that there are many things that God, and his people, are known for being for and against.

For example, the letter of 1 Corinthians informs the world that God’s people are to be against self-promotion and self-aggrandizement (1 Cor. 1-2), self-ambition in ministry (1 Cor. 3-4), bragging (1 Cor. 4), refusing to carry out church discipline (1 Cor. 5), inter-Christian lawsuits and sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6), unbiblical divorce and aimless singleness (1 Cor. 7), self-centeredness in liberties (1 Cor. 8-9), and unintelligibility in corporate worship (1 Cor. 14).

Similarly, Galatians is written to let all know that God’s people are to be against the idea that one could be acceptable before God apart from justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Colossians was written to let all know that God’s people are to be against ideas that Christ was anything less than truly God and truly man. At the same time, God’s people also say that we are emphatically for the opposite of the aforementioned errors, namely, the truth.

In Peter’s dying words in 2 Peter, he spends 22 verses showing how much he is against false teachers and teaching (2 Pet. 2:1-22). John and Jude do similar in their epistles.

Much of the content in the NT is explicitly against something. Therefore, it is an inaccurate and myopic motto for God’s people to say, “I only want to be known for what I am for, not against.” Such a motto will have to depart from the Holy Spirit’s work in much of the New Testament. To stay consistent with the content and force of Scripture, one will have to, at times, be known for what he is against.

8. A desire to not be known for what we are against can come more from culture than Scripture.

The idea of, “I want to be known more for what I am for, not against,” seems to originate from outside Scripture. It sounds ominously like king Ahab’s ideology: “There is one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (1 Kings. 22:7-8). Ahab only wanted someone in his midst who was known for what he was for.

Perhaps this ideology is an indicator that we have become more like culture than Christ. Decadent postmodernism is really at an all-time high these days. It’s hard to not get wet when we’re in the water. So, for some who say, “I want to be known more for what I’m for,” here is what has happened: they are culturalized to the point where any type of correction is loathed. Correction and a polemical edge are like nails on a chalkboard. When an individual or ministry is not speaking against something, it gets a pass. However, when someone is needing to be against something, they cry foul. The underlying self-actualizing, decadent attitude fuels a hatred for necessary correction. This then colors the individual’s perspective. The result is that they can, and will, only see the individual in terms of the thing they hate, which, in this case, is being against something.

9. We should ask ourselves our motives for not wanting to be known for what we are against.

Let us ask ourselves, “What is my deepest motive for not wanting to be known for what I am against?” Complete the sentence as honestly as possible before God: “I really don’t want to be known for what I’m against because I really want ____.” What fills that blank?

The human heart can be so deceptive. We can take good things and make them idolatrous things in an instant. A desire to be loving can quickly degenerate into the gross idolatry of loving that people know that I am loving. A desire to love sinners can swiftly mutate into the idolatry of lusting that people know that I am different than those stuffy Christians; I am accepting, cool, and tolerant. A mind to simply love people can transform into the ugly idol of craving that people know how diverse my friendship base is. The human heart is truly wicked. In an instant we make idols such as love for praise, lust for approval, and craving to be known as fresh and new.

Could it be that the ideology of, “I don’t want to be known for what I am against,” has some gross idolatry fueling it?

10. God’s goal for us is neither that we would be known for what we are for or against.

The Bible does not command us to not be known for what we’re against or for. God’s goal is broader. “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Eccles. 12:13).

Neither is there a command to be balanced. Rather, the command is to obey God for his own glory. Better than thinking of being balanced is being obedient, comprehensively so.

Conclusion

Love to our neighbor and God require a measure of being known for what we are against. Love to our neighbor and God also require a measure of being known for what we are for. But, the goal of the Christian life should be neither. I should not preach to myself, “I need to be known for what I’m against,” nor, “I need to be known for what I am for.” God’s word does not favor either.

Instead, Scripture gives a plethora of commands for the church to carry out. They all fall underneath the great anthem, “Do all to the glory of God.” Being known for what we are for is not more in line with glorifying God than being known for what we are against. Inherently, neither is more attached to glorifying God. There may be situations where being known for being against something is more glorifying to God (e.g. false doctrine, prosperity gospel, arrogant pride in the church). And there may be situations where being known for being for something is more glorifying to God (e.g. loving our neighbor, evangelizing the lost, the sinlessness of Christ, the substitutionary atoning death of Christ, the grace of God abounding to sinners). For preachers, we are for obedience to God in faithfully preaching the next verse. In doing so, that might look like being against something, depending on the text. For all Christians, things like cultural sins and doctrinal aberrations may also require being against something.

So, next time a brother or sister speaks against an issue, consider an alternative to thinking, “We need to be known for what we are for, not against.” Consider instead something like, “We need to be known for faithfulness to all of God’s word. That is going to mean being for and against think, depending on the situation.”