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“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

7 Types of Christians God Can’t Use

God can't use armchair Christians.
God can’t use armchair Christians. (iStock photo )

About 17 years ago I prayed a very dangerous prayer while lying on the floor of my church near Orlando. I repeated these words from Isaiah 6:8 (MEV): “Here am I. Send me.” Then I cringed. I knew God would mess me up good in order to use me to touch others for Christ.

I wanted God to use me, but I was painfully aware that we don’t just go out and start a ministry on our own terms. God bends and breaks those who speak for Him. He requires full surrender. I had to let go of fears, adjust attitudes and change priorities.

It has become popular today to suggest that God can use anybody. It’s true that He does not show favoritism based on race, age, gender, marital history, past failures or income status. Yet His standards have never been lowered; He only uses humble, obedient, consecrated followers.

Many Christians will never be useful in the kingdom because of mindsets or behaviors that limit the flow of the Holy Spirit or, as the apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:21 (KJV), “frustrate the grace of God.” I don’t ever want to frustrate His grace! If you want God to use you, make sure you don’t fall into any of these categories:

1. Driver’s seat Christians. Jesus is not just our Savior; He is our Lord, and He wants to guide our decisions, direct our steps and overrule our selfish choices. There are many believers who enjoy the benefits of salvation yet they never yield control to God. If you want Him to use you, then you must slide over into the passenger seat and let Jesus drive. If you have a problem with willfulness, learn to pray: “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42, MEV).

2. Armchair critics. There are some people who roll up their sleeves and serve the Lord; there are others who make it their business to analyze and pick apart everyone who is doing God’s work. The devil is the Accuser, so if you are accusing others you are operating in the spirit of Lucifer. The Holy Spirit does not work through people who are bitter, angry or judgmental.

3. Glass-half-empty pessimists. Many Christians today are worried about what sinners are doing, and some spend hours trying to predict when the Antichrist will arise or when the world will end. Meanwhile there are other Christians who focus on winning lost people to Jesus and showing His compassion to a broken world. Who do you think will bear more spiritual fruit—the doomsday pessimist or the hopeful evangelist?

4. Carnally-minded Christians. It has become fashionable today for believers to lower the standard of moral behavior to the point that anything goes. Unmarried Christians are living together, some pastors are experimenting with adultery and some denominations have voted to sanction homosexual relationships. Don’t be fooled. Just because more and more people are jumping on this trendy bandwagon does not mean God has rewritten His eternal Word.

People who live in blatant sin cannot be instruments of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 2:21 says clearly: “One who cleanses himself from these things will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, fit for the Master’s use, and prepared for every good work.” Our usefulness to God is based on whether we have submitted to the process of sanctification. Holiness is not an option.

5. Church dropouts. I won’t win a popularity contest by saying this, but it’s true: God does not use people who have turned away from the church. Today it is fashionable to bash the church; some people have even established “ministries” to lure Christians away from church and into an isolated spiritual wilderness. Most of these church-bashers are bitter because they had a bad experience with a pastor.

I have only compassion for any victim of spiritual abuse. But no one has the right to tear down the work of God just because a spiritual leader hurt him. The church is God’s Plan A, and He does not have an alternative. If we are going to be used by God, we must get connected to the church and learn to flow with its God-ordained leadership.

6. Timid cowards. When Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to pioneer the church there, he exhorted him to break free from fear. He wrote: “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:8). Fear has the power to paralyze. All those who surrender to the call of God must bravely open their mouths, defend the faith, risk their reputation and suffer rejection—and possible persecution. If you are afraid to share the gospel, repent of your fear and ask God for holy boldness.

7. Lazy spectators. Many Christians today think following God means clocking in for a 90-minute service before driving to the lake. We read quick devotions on our smart phones and breathe short prayers during our morning commutes. But somewhere in all this 21st century stress we lost the meaning of discipleship.

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“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them.”

 


Homophobia Has No Place in the Church

“Young man, I appreciate your message, but you need to realize that most gay people are dangerous predators.”

I had just finished sharing about my experience with same-sex attraction (SSA) at a church in the heart of Wisconsin, and an elderly man tracked me down after the service. These were the first words out of his mouth.

I was taken aback and asked him to clarify. It turns out that a gay man made a pass at him many years ago when he was in the military — and it had caused him to view all gay people as sexually aggressive and dangerous. His view of the homosexual community was defined almost exclusively by a single experience — and fear.

I have a fear as well, but my fear is that homophobia is all too common, not just in society, but even within the church. Some may object to my use of the word homophobia. It can sometimes be used as a politically loaded term wielded to silence any and all opposition to same-sex sexual activity. However, this is not the root definition of the term.

Simply put, homophobia means a fear of homosexuality and, more specifically, homosexual people. And while it is not the same as loving, biblical opposition to certain behaviors or beliefs, this fear-based attitude often leads to unhelpful stereotypes, prejudice, and even cruel mistreatment.

So let’s call a spade a spade. Homophobia exists, and it has no place in the church.

Search Your Heart

No doubt some who feel convicted will push back. “Well, I don’t think that all gay people are dangerous predators, so I’m not homophobic.” However, homophobia can often take subtler, equally sinister forms. For example, homophobia can subtly infiltrate not only our beliefs, but also our reasons for these beliefs. These principles might themselves be correct and godly, but they can be believed for all the wrong reasons.

Honestly consider your own heart in the following examples:

  • Is your belief that same-sex sexual activity is sin based finally on solid biblical exegesis? Or is it really based on the fact that you don’t understand how someone could be attracted to the same sex, and this unknown seems to you just plain creepy?
  • Is your opposition to same-sex marriage based on a principled biblical definition of marriage? Or is it more influenced by a fear that same-sex couples might signal the unraveling of comfortable cultural norms and usher in the end of a once-pristine “Judeo-Christian society”? Or maybe your fear is more that one such couple might move in next door, and you might actually be pressured to befriend them?
  • Does your opposition to homosexual practice include the ability to lovingly welcome LGBT people into a Sunday service or other gathering with other Christians? Or does opposition for you mean that you wish they would just stay away so you aren’t made uncomfortable by their very presence?
  • In standing for Christian sexual ethics, do you encourage and support those SSA believers within the church who are striving to remain faithful to biblical teaching by welcoming them into full participation in church life? Or does standing for biblical sexuality mean that they can come to church, but they can’t grow in influence or serve the body through teaching, and they should probably stay away from the youth group?

Biblical exegesis is a wonderful underpinning for belief, and love is a worthy motive for action. Fear is a horrible reason for both.

It would do us well to humbly examine our hearts to reveal the motives and fears behind our attitudes toward people who identify as “gay.” Happily upholding Christian sexual ethics is not the same as harboring animosity toward an entire group of people simply because you find them yucky.

Love, Not Fear

Instead, Christians — of all people on the planet — must operate not out of fear, but love. We recognize that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and are therefore sacred and worthy of love.

For the rest of the post…

Ray Ortlund

Is your church racist?

December 2, 2015<!––>

jesus_saves_kkk

You are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28

He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  Ephesians 2:14

Christ is all, and in all.  Colossians 3:11

I write to my white brothers.  And I want to ask you to consider this searching question that I also ask myself.  Is your church racist?

At one level, the obvious answer is No.  People who resonate with TGC tend to align their convictions with the Bible.  So the verses quoted above most of us will affirm strongly.  The photograph above most of us will find disturbing.  It is so blatant.  But our strong agreement in these obvious ways only makes the question more worthy of conscientious reflection: Is your church racist?  Is mine?

Here are some diagnostic questions I ask myself, to press into deeper insight.  Is your church a white church where black people are welcome, or is your church a Christian church where all who love Jesus are equally accepted and equally influential?  Are the black people in your church receiving and adapting to your church’s culture, or are they, with you, shaping and reshaping your church’s culture?  Are there two circles of belonging in your church?  Is there an inner circle of “us” and an outer circle of “them” — the latter belonging too, but not in the same way, not with the same embrace, the same identity, the same “us”?  Does the “us-ness” in your church need to be broken and re-created, according to the parameters of the one gospel for all sinners who are standing equally on the same footing before the one Savior of all?  Or are the unspoken ground rules for the outer circle more demanding than the ground rules for the inner circle?  Do the outer-circle members have something to prove that the inner-circle members don’t have to prove?  Is there any emotional aloofness dividing your church, or are you loving every member with the same emotional intensity?  Finally, are the black members of your church on the same paths of growth and discipleship such that they too are on their way toward becoming leaders, deacons, elders and pastors?  Or is it inconceivable that you could receive, rejoice over and submit to a black lead pastor in your church?

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By: Eric MetaxasPublished: August 4, 2015 6:00 AM
If you’ve ever wondered what Chuck Colson would say about the way things are going these days, wonder no longer.

Eric Metaxas

A new book, which is landing in bookstores today, warns that we are headed for a new Dark Ages. “Persecution [is] coming to the church soon,” the author warns. “It’s going to happen as a result of conflicts over sex.” He predicts that “the break in the wall is the tax exemption” churches now enjoy. If churches refuse to “marry” homosexual couples, they will lose their exemption.

Who is the author of these predictions? None other than Chuck Colson, who went home to the Lord more than three years ago. That’s three years before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex “marriage”—something biologically impossible, by the way.

The book is titled “My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues that Matter Most.” It’s a collection of never-before published memos that Chuck sent to his writing staff, reporters, even presidential candidates who wanted his advice. And as the examples I just cited illustrates, Chuck’s writings are incredibly prophetic.daily_commentary_08_04_15

Chuck read widely and had conversations with experts on many subjects. He also had an ability to look at the past and analyze current events in order to predict what was coming. For instance, he notes in one memo that “the entire sixties movement for personal autonomy was over sex.” He quotes Phillip Johnson, who, Chuck writes, argued “that the entire culture war is rooted in sex, and that the destruction of the rule of law itself is traceable to the desire for total sexual freedom.”

A string of Supreme Court decisions provides all the proof we need of our culture’s obsession with sexual freedom: Roe v. Wade, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, Romer v. Evans, and now, of course, Obergefell v. Hodges. All reflect the elevation of sexual freedom and personal autonomy above all other rights—including freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Chuck urged Christians to keep fighting to protect genuine marriage, but he knew the Supreme Court was quite capable of doing what it did in Roe v. Wade: ignoring the Constitution and simply imposing its own opinion about marriage on the entire country.

If that happened, he predicted, our religious liberties would be in the crossfire.

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by Ray Ortlund

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“The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us [nor, I would add today, postmodernism or materialistic consumerism or visceral sensualism or whatever].  All these are dangerous but not the primary threat.  The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.

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“We may suffer the sins of our brother; we do not need to judge. This is a mercy for the Christian; for when does sin ever occur in the community that he must not examine and blame himself for his own unfaithfulness in prayer and intercession, his lack of brotherly service, of fraternal reproof and encouragement–indeed, for his own personal sin and spiritual laxity, by which he has done injury to himself, the fellowship, and the brethren? Since every sin of a member burdens and indicts the whole community, the congregation rejoices, in the midst of all the pain and the burden that the brother’s sin inflicts, that it has the privilege of bearing and forgiving.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together [1954]

By

No one sets out to be a horrible pastor, it just sort of happens. My guess is you aren’t reading this article to learn how to be more horrible as a pastor, but to make sure that you aren’t on the list. Sometimes horrible pastors are bad from the very beginning, but often they don’t start out that way. Their slide into horribleness is a gradual process. Being a horrible pastor is easy; you just need to love the wrong things.

Love your theology more than the church

A pastor with a theological hobby horse can do significant damage to a church. We’ve all seen the guy who comes in with a super dogmatic view of eschatology or election or church governance or whatever. Every sermon is his opportunity to convince you that his theological view is right. Every time he teaches he points out all the flaws in the other views. Everyone who doesn’t believe what he believes is just a heretic and should leave.

As a pastor we are called to be theologians. I love studying and teaching about God! But theology is never to be used as a club to beat people into my own image. As we teach and preach and lead it must be done with a lot of grace and patience and love. Not everyone will be at the same point in their understanding. It takes more time and effort, but we need to lovingly guide people along, not shame them into believing what we tell them to believe.

I want people to know and love the truth, but I recognize that there are some genuine gray areas. There is room for healthy disagreement. We should not be surprised or threatened when people have slightly different views than us.

A horrible pastor will insecurely defend his theology instead of lovingly shepherd the people of God.

Love church growth more than the church

For the past few decades we’ve been bombarded with books and seminars and articles on church growth. It has become its own industry. With so much attention given to church growth strategies it would be very easy for a pastor to start to think that numerical growth is the goal of the church.

A pastor who sees the church as a means of growing his little kingdom here on earth is a horrible pastor. They look right over the needs of the people in the pews in an attempt to attract new people. It is easy to mask selfish ambition for worldly success behind a call for greater evangelism.

There are things that a pastor can do to attract more people to the church building that have little to do with the gospel. Instead of merely striving to offer a better experience let’s work on feeding the sheep, discipling believers, and equipping the saints to go out and do the work of ministry.

A horrible pastor will love the imaginary people who don’t go to his church more than the real people who are already there.

Love the idea of church more than the church

With the explosive growth of the multi-site church it seems like some pastors have more of a heart for franchise expansion than they do for the local church. New sites are not planted in order to meet the needs of a community or to fill a void, but to spread a particular brand. There is an arrogance that assumes their way of doing church is the right way.

I think the idea of multi-site churches is awesome. My own church has used this method of growth. My problem is not with the method, but with the motives. Church expansion that is done with a genuine love for a community or a group of people is a great thing. But church expansion that is nothing more than empire building is ugly.

A pastor who loves the idea of church more than the actual church will be overly focused on the methods, mechanics, and image of the church. So much attention is given to following a list of tried and true methods that there is little time left for connecting with people. The result is a church service that feels more like a performance than a time of worship. People begin to feel used – like they are extras in a play rather than servants of God.

A horrible pastor will be enraptured with the idea of more churches without really loving the body of Christ.

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by

There’s a good piece by Andrew Walker in First Things on a popular international church network called Hillsong’s apparent equivocation on marriage. At a recent New York press conference, the ministry’s leader, Brian Houston, declined to answer whether the ministry affirms the biblical position. Instead, he stresses the church’s need to stay “relevant.”

Earlier this year the pastor of Hillsong’s New York’s congregation, the ultra hip Carl Lentz, shared similar views with CNN. His wife added: “It’s not our place to tell anyone how they should live. That’s their journey.”

Hmmm. If it’s not the church’s place to tell anyone how to live, then what is the church’s purpose? Entertainment? Affirmation? Socialization? And if it’s not the church’s role to counsel how to live, then who or what should? Perhaps it’s the central message of our age that each autonomous individual chooses his/her own path without reference to others.

But of course, absent transcendent authority, individuals, no matter how independent, hearken to temporal influences in their life choices, often the passing fads of their culture and age. Typically transient fads are not helpful, reliable guideposts for life fulfillment. So most of humanity does and has looked to religion, at least at times, for more permanent guidance.

All religion, even its most permissive forms, aims on some level to tell its adherents how to live. Otherwise it has no purpose. Certainly Hillsong preachers must fill their sermons with admonitions. A sermon from Lentz in 2013 spoke of complete surrender to Christ: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” He added: “When you take a bite of me, when you really follow me, everything in me goes in you—you can’t pick and choose.”

Indeed, but the more recent Hillsong comments imply there can be some picking and choosing, at least on sexual ethics. Perhaps the Hillsong preachers still privately adhere to Christian teaching on marriage but don’t want to risk public controversy. At his New York press conference, Pastor Houston explained:

“And to me, the world we live in, whether we like it or not is changing around and about us. Homosexual marriage is legal in [New York City] and will be probably in most Western world countries within a short time. So the world’s changing and we want to stay relevant as a church. So that’s a vexing thing. You think, ‘How do we not become a pariah?’ So that’s the world we live in.”

The challenge is that the Cornerstone, Founder and Lord of the Church was crucified as the ultimate despised pariah, and He warned that His followers would often be pariahs. Yet somehow this collection of pariahs, across the centuries, in every culture, preaching the Gospel of an executed but risen pariah, has made His message the most “relevant” message of all time, everywhere.

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