Over the years, I’ve contributed various Christian articles to the local newspapers and they’ve been very cooperative in running them “as written,” without additional editing (although they did insert their own titles). These articles have even been responsible for bringing some of our current members through the doors for the first time.
As they were published, these articles were pinned to our bulletin board until they took up the majority of the cork real estate. So it was time for a bit of cleaning. I took them down, scanned them, and thought I’d share them here on the blog. The text of each article is included below the image for easier reading.
The first three articles appeared in the Smyrna A.M. paper back in 2007. Smyrna A.M. is a production of the Tennessean newspaper and is distributed freely to every household in the Smyrna area. The fourth article appeared in the Murfreesboro Post back on November 12, 2006.
Be Careful When Answering “Who is Jesus?”
Jesus is not your homeboy. He’s not your co-pilot. And he’s not your boyfriend. Despite the marketing techniques that are in vogue today, which attempt to make Jesus more approachable by making him more “cool,” the trend toward redefining our Savior may soon make Him indistinguishable from any other pop star or celebrity. And sadly, like most celebrities, he is too often viewed as an optional accessory to be used or ignored according to the whim of the consumer. And as we all know, audiences are fickle.
What’s worse, notions of Jesus as God – one to be worshiped and obeyed – are markedly absent from most modern sermons, and the “dumbing down” of Christ is reaching a sort of critical mass in the contemporary church. Soon the Jesus of the Bible will disappear altogether.
Here’s a fact: You are not like God and God is not like you. He is different. He is “completely other.” As the prophet Isaiah records, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
In the attempt to fill pews and keep their coffers fat, the modern church has attempted to humanize Jesus in sub-biblical ways. They assume that His love is tantamount to human love, or that His jealousy and zeal are the same as ours. As a result, we have a generation of Christians who redefine their Christianity by their feelings and thoughts, rather than by aligning their thinking with the dictates of Scripture. And that’s not just theologically clumsy. It’s lethal.
Jesus once asked His apostles, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” When they responded that some thought he was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or some other prophet, Jesus asked them pointedly, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-15)
That’s an excellent question – one that we all have to come to grips with at some point in life. Who do we say that Jesus is? Is he merely a man with some good social ideas? Is he another in a succession of Hebrew prophets? Or is he the figment of someone’s fertile imagination foisted on all humankind as some sort of grand, cosmic joke?
Biblically, there is only one right answer. Faced with that penetrating question, Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” In response, Jesus made sure that God received the credit for that realization, saying, “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17)
That means that the only correct answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” is the answer God reveals – “He is my son. He is Christ. He is Lord.”
Of course, all of that begs the question, “Who do you say he is?”
Be careful. Your answer matters.
Putting the ‘Fun’ in Fundamentalism
“So what kind of preacher are you?” a woman recently asked. “You’re not one of those fundamentalists are you?”
I knew what she was driving at. One small segment of evangelical Christianity has usurped the term “fundamentalism” and redefined it so that only they fit in the category. Now when we think of “fundamentalists,” we imagine fire-breathing pulpiteers who spend their time listing all the things they reject and condemning everyone with whom they disagree. And that’s a shame because fundamentalism is not a bad word.
“Yes,” I replied. “I am a fundamentalist.”
She took a couple steps back. I assured her that I wouldn’t bite. “You see, I am an adamant defender of the fundamentals of the Christian faith. The Virgin birth. The sinless life. The death, burial, and resurrection. Those are all fundamental to Christianity. Without those basics you have no faith.”
I asked her, “Would you go to a doctor who didn’t understand the rudiments of medicine? Or would you trust an auto mechanic who didn’t know how engines work?”
“Of course not.”
She was catching my drift. The same way that we would never trust our bodies or even our cars to the care of someone who lacked the fundamentals, we should never entrust our spiritual well-being to someone who ignores the basics. In theological circles, those fundamentals are called “doctrines.” A doctrine is simply something taught as a rule or principle of the faith. And, the principles of Christianity are built on those fundamental doctrines.
So don’t be afraid to call yourself a fundamentalist. Study the doctrines and construct your faith from those basic building blocks. That’s the method Jesus prescribed: “Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
Yep, I’m a fundamentalist. I love the doctrines of the Christian faith and am not ashamed to say so. Recently, one of our congregants told me, “As we keep teaching the Bible, we are going to be known as the church to put the ‘mental’ back into fundamentalism.”
I smiled. “You’re right. But, wouldn’t it be great to be known as the church to put the ‘fun’ back, too?”
Theology = Education, Not Entertainment
(I had entitled this: Theology Matters)
I get a lot of email. Due to the popularity of our website, I receive comments and observations from a wide range of denominations and countries. One of the most consistent themes emerging from my inbox is the general lack of doctrine and theology being taught in most churches. In its place, churches offer showmanship – clowns, puppets, light shows, theatrical productions, surround-sound, smoke machines, rock bands, etc.
An elemental shift has occurred in the contemporary church. According to the Bible, although the followers of Christ are in the world, we are not to be of the world (John 17:14-16). We are called to reflect the principles and teaching of Christ, as salt and light in an otherwise decaying and dark environment. But, as church buildings and budgets have grown, churches have begun competing with the world over the disposable income people spend on entertainment. And in the process, doctrine and theology have suffered.
So, does that really matter? I mean, what’s the point of theology anyway? Is doctrine really that important?
The word “theology” is a contraction of two Greek words, meaning “words about God.” The Bible is full of such words. As you learn the Bible, you learn what God is like, how He thinks, how He acts, and what it takes to approach Him. It’s not enough to simply think about God. It matters what you think about God. Proper theology teaches you how to think about God properly.
In his epistles, the apostle Paul urged the church repeatedly to concentrate on “sound doctrine.” That means: solid teaching. They were not to merely imagine what Christ was like or what He taught. They were to devote themselves to the solid, provable teaching handed down to them by the apostles. Proper theology leads to proper Christianity.
Biblical theology answers the most pressing, important question any of us will ever face: “How can sinners stand forgiven and un-condemned before a righteous, holy God?” Given that we are all mortal and the ratio of death so far is a perfect 1:1, what you think about God’s salvation is a very important consideration. Proper theology leads to peace with God.
And finally, once we understand our relationship with God and His Son, that knowledge affects every aspect of our lives. How we treat people, how we raise our kids, how we live in society, and how we treat our marriage are all directly impacted by a genuine understanding of our position before God. In other words: Proper theology leads to a proper life.
So Does Theology Matter? Yes. In fact there is no other subject in this lifetime that will have a greater impact on your eternal destiny than the words you say about God.
So What Is The Big Deal With Jesus?
How many people have heard that name all their lives and still don’t know why we Christians care so much about this Jesus fellow? Most folk know the basics. He was born in a manger in Bethlehem to a virgin girl named Mary. He was venerated by shepherds and later by wise men that were following a star. You can learn that much by watching the Peanuts Christmas Special. But there’s much more to Jesus than that.
First off, Jesus of Nazareth is a verifiable historical person. In other words, it is a fact that he actually lived on planet Earth and was crucified during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Even Tacitus, the Roman historian, confirms this.
The Hebrew Scriptures that make up what we call the Old Testament are replete with predictions about a Messiah, a Deliverer, who would come to bring peace and justice. In fact, there are so many details in the Scriptures concerning the Messiah, that the odds against any one man fulfilling them all or practically incalculable. Nevertheless, Jesus matched the details verbatim.
Christianity makes many claims that are utterly unique when compared to the religions of the world, past and present. For instance, Christianity starts with a fact: Jesus lived and was crucified. Then it follows up with the central event of historic Christianity: the resurrection. The Bible declares that Jesus was dead and buried. He remained in the grave for three days and three nights. And, He rose from the dead, ate and drank with his apostles, and rose into heaven, taking His seat at the right hand of God.
This central event – the resurrection – has come under all sorts of scrutiny and criticism over the last 2000 years, but it remains one of the most enduring and powerful events of human history. Books and volumes have been constructed proving the veracity of the biblical account and after years of hard-headed study I am equally convinced that the total sum of Christian doctrine stands or falls on that central reality.
And perhaps the most convincing proof of the truth of the resurrection is that Christianity continues to make cataclysmic changes in people even today. People are converted from cynicism to faith; from anger to lovingkindness; from self-centeredness to charity and service. There is a power that continues to overwhelm people, driving them toward those things that are good and true, despite themselves. The same power that resurrected Jesus continues to bring people from their spiritual darkness into the light of understanding and grace.
And that, my friends, is a very big deal.