Monday, August 31, 2009

That Was Then , This is Now- The Great Modern Error of American Christianity

Of all the things that I have heard in the past 24 years in Christian Circles, that infuriates me most, is the great error of meeting God's commandments, His Word, with the phrase "that was then, this is now". It has been repeated so often in modern American Christianity, that while we may rail against dissensioned faiths such as JWs or the Catholics or Mormons, we have essentially developed for ourselves a 'neo-christianity' that bears only a partial resemblance to true Biblical Christianity. We have done this while we regularly quote the Scripture:

Hbr 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

We consistently use the 'that was then, this is now' excuse to disobey the Scriptures and to pick and choose what we think is 'relevant' and what we think is not really 'modern'. Some will immediately attribute my concern to wanting us all to go back to (as true Christians are often accused) wearing sandals and tunics, a snide remark which really translates to modern pride. Legalism, though, was as wrong then as it is now, but obeying the commands of the Savior was never wrong. And thinking we somehow have an exemption from following the commands of Messiah, just because of the time period we live in is what I coin 'chrono-centrism': a sort of arrogant self-focus on the time period we live in, believing it is more modern, more correct, more advanced and less primitive than former times. It is a deadly argument, and has led to a gutting of the morale and health of the Church of Jesus Christ, Yshua Ha Meschiach in the 20th and 21st century.

Some even argue today that we are under no obligation to obey the commands of the Savior who said

If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15

There are a dozen twists of logic as to why the Lord really didn't mean that, or why he meant it for back then, but not for now. One of the theological positions which argue the tired old argument is 'Dispensationalism', and sometimes even Covenantalism, who argue respectively either God's different dealings and administrations with mankind under different time periods, or under different 'covenants', as though there were separate economies for each. Those who spend years in study though, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit understand that these are artificial contrivances, man-made and laid upon the Scripture to 'organize information' , but they fall short: there were indeed times when God dealt in differing ways of a sort, but never outside of an Everlasting Covenant, and never outside of the whole of the Word which was always to be obeyed.

Why did Jesus say, knowing that He was bringing through his blood covenant, Grace, why did he say that 'not one jot or tittle would disappear from the Law'? Because he also said that He had come to fulfill the law. The Law did not change: not ever. Its purpose did not change: not ever: and believe it or not, the means to Salvation did not change from the Old to the New Testament: it was just a matter of the depth and perspective of understanding.

For example: Most people think that the imputing of God's Righteousness through Salvation is a New Testament concept, but it is not only. For those of you who read Psalms often, take a highlighter pen, and every time 'Righteousness' is mentioned or 'Salvation', highlight the words and note their context. Far more often than not, it refers to God GIVING or granting Righteousness, not to man earning it. The Law, even then was in its right place and perspective, as Paul teaches in Romans. It was not that the Law had to be obeyed to GET Salvation even back then: the Law was always the mirror of God's Righteousness.

When obedience to the Law is mentioned, it is almost always with regard to walking in Life, and in the reward of God, e.g.

Lev 26:3-4 If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

The Law has an effect in this world, and when obeyed yields the effect of Life and God's reward and understanding of "the Way", the "Truth" and the "Life". The granting of Salvation and the Imputation of Righteousness though, is always from the beginning spoken of directly or indirectly as the gift of God.

When righteousness is spoken of as a product of the Law, it is individual 'righteousness' , 'right-ness' , 'goodness':

Deu 6:25 And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.

But the gift of God is rendered thusly, a righteousness we 'receive':

Psa 24:5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Psa 40:10 I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.

When Salvation and Righteousness are mentioned together, it is given of God, and is His.
Psa 40:10 I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.

sa 24:5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Psa 51:14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: [and] my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

Those are only a few sample scriptures mostly in Psalms, and one need note that Salvation is not spoken of, even in the Old Testament, as 'earned'. Further, even in the few passages above, God IS Salvation, and deliverer, and He is delivering from 'bloodguiltiness'.

Even this example though is not the main focus of what I mean to communicate here. Arguments against 'dispensations' or such are for another time, although I would point out that the most frequent use of the word in the Scriptures does not indicate a time period at all but means more of an 'administration'. For example, God may teach that a man should be the 'bishop' of a Church, what we call a preacher, but He does not mean that on a mission field if a man is not available that the Gospel should go unpreached. He may give a 'dispensation' for a woman to teach in a place or time, where the right order is not yet available. If I need to get a jar from the top cabinet in my kitchen, the right instrument is a 'ladder' but I don't have a ladder, so I grab a chair. Chairs are meant for sitting, not climbing, but in an emergency, I use the Chair. It doesn't change what ladders or chairs are for, and it doesn't replace chairs for ladders, but a 'dispensation' is given to use the chair until the right thing comes along.

Now, back to the original point, this notion that we have a Bible which only has certain things in it which must be obeyed, is not only nonsense but is dangerous and has harmed the Church. I am saved by Grace. Does that mean that I should not eat shellfish or seethe a kid in its mother's milk?[Exd 23:19 , Exd 34:36; Deu 14:21] People today say, "that's archaic" and most agree. The effect of the Law has not changed, though. Our Righteousness because of God's Salvation has made us free. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty'. We can eat shellfish if we want. Romans 8:28. But when God gave, for example the dietary laws, it was for a reason and the obedience to righteous laws kept Israel (and us) safe. Shellfish have more bacteria and are prone to salmonella. Not seething a kid in its mother's milk, and esoteric point of the law, kept the nation from becoming too cruel. The effect and excellence of the Law did not cease, nor was it replaced, but it was FULFILLED.

A Devastating Theology of 'That Was Then, This is Now'

One of the worst 'that was then, this was now' theologies ever devised, which still exists in the American Church in various 'sects', is that the teachings of Jesus, Yshua, were only for the Millennium Kingdom. Nuts! God put us to shame on that account by having Ghandi, a Hindu, pick up the Sermon on the Mount, use it as the base of his plan of action, and He won India back from the British! Though many fundamentalists consider Martin Luther King a 'liberation theologian', a liberal position, still the basis of his protests were..."the Sermon on the Mount" and he changed a nation. One of the first modern proponents of the teachings of Jesus being only for the Millennium Kingdom were German Theologians of the Deutsche Christen during WWII. The Reich did not want a nation of pacifist 'do gooders' who would passively resist the Reich. They believed it would ruin German morale. Hitler at one point even noted that the German people did not know how to 'hate' properly, but that it was incumbent on them for Germany to become strong, hardly a position consistent with the Beatitudes. They taught, as many in American churches teach that the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables are for the Millennial Kingdom or for Heaven, and therefore they are not obligatory to the modern Christian, but that is simply not the truth.

The Gifts
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are likewise 'explained' away by many of Baptistic and High Church orientations, as being only some kind of 'igniter' for the Church and once it got going, they was not necessary any more. They argue that the Word of God is infallible, inerrant, and that not one word can be removed, but they discard such scriptures as passe, like 'Forbid not to speak in Tongues'I Cor 14:39, and 'despise not prophesying' I Thess 5:20.

We have lost the power of God in the Church, because we ignore or even defame the breath of the bride, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I am not talking about the 'entertainment' type of gifts which the big money preachers promote, (the true lost among the false), but the real, daily practice of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to the Word of God, not adding to, but providing light and understanding.

The Way of God

Just as important, today in the Church we are confronted with the idea that 'anything goes' once we are saved. We rail against the 'world' but we do business the way of the world. We decry Casino lifestyles but go to Reno and Las Vegas or Mardi Gras on vacation and gather poker chips for the guys on Saturday. Many years ago, in a Sunday school class, the discussion came up of why whether a Christian should invest in RJ Reynolds, the mega-Tobacco giant. Most argued that if they didn't invest, someone else would , so what difference would it make. I argued that while we are free, its not what we HAVE TO do, but what we GET TO do for the LORD, including refraining from aiding industries which harm and even kill people.

I won't name the ministry, but a few years ago, I ran across a fellow in a well known online ministry who didn't think there was anything wrong with gambling. Well, again, you're a free person, but if you "yield your members to unrighteousness" you are essentially taking the life and hands you gave your Messiah, and giving them over to the 'other' kingdom which leads to bondage and destruction. You are free, but it quenches the Holy Spirit and makes your ministry less effective. If we continue to use such arguments, we could apply it even as far as Christian investment in drug deals and prostitution, or even prostitutes only for Christians! How close are we coming to that satanic logic?

Ted Haggard, Ray Boltz, and the Fruit of "That Was Then..."

There is a point in Ezekiel in which the prophet is led to a hole in the wall of the Temple, and God asks the Prophet to look through and tell what he sees.

Eze 8:10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about. ....
Eze 8:12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.
Eze 8:13 He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, [and] thou shalt see greater abominations that they do.

Indeed, in the end, when 'Babylon' , Mystery Babylon falls, the Great 'Emulation' of the Bride of Messiah, who is portrayed as a Whore, John notes

Rev 18:2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

Condemnation never saves or heals anyone. So what I am about to say, is with concern for healing of the Church and individuals, but it must be said. We have become so 'allowing' and discounted so much of the Word of God in the practice of our faith and understanding, that we have developed our own moral Relativism while negating the World for theirs. We are at war, folks. No one ever told you when you accepted Christ, accepted the Messiah that you had just entered a war zone. Principalities and powers war against the believer and against the Church always, until the end. I thought when I gave my life to the Lord that all would become steady and even and peaceful, but instead, I found war after war, that I never started. We really should not be so naive: we are admonished to 'put on the whole armor of God' and that the devil roars about seeking whom he may devour, and that we 'wrestle not against flesh and blood ' but

Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].

It's a war out their. We are not to be as some in history wish, the 'Church Militant', but the Army which loves, but is well prepared for battle. Equipped, armed with the Word, and Faith, and praying for ourselves and each other daily. Not just showing up for the latest concert, or wanting greater entertainment etc, etc.

The TV Churches are vying for audiences, so they have turned into the Circus Maximus. Dry Ice, booming bass and sound effects, PowerPoint presentations on one side, Youtube or Godtube videos on another, and no teaching on living the Christian life, or more than 'what God will do for you'. The result has been tragedy after tragedy.

Last night, although I am about a year late in finding out, I read that Ray Boltz, the great Christian singer, has come out of the closet and announced he is gay. I always thought one of the best Christian songs ever written was 'Watch the Lamb' but also loved 'When others see a Shepherd boy', or 'Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb' and almost all of his were tops. Thirty three years married with 4 children, and in Church and ministry that long, and he is trading out the Lord of Life for a satanic lifestyle: sorry, but it is, it is utter bondage. Ted Haggard, the king of Evangelicals for awhile, traded out for a teen prostitute, while Evangelicals who lifted both to leadership railed against all those 'worldlings' who do such things or allow homosexual rights.

I am not advocating condemnation: these men were up against a war they did not understand (if their salvation was real) and the greater the heights, the worse the warfare, and it is real. Even now, the sin must be condemned and fellowship is to be suspended, but they are to be prayed for, for deliverance, for healing, for their families, for restoration, etc and for the vail to be lifted from their eyes to see how wrong those actions are, since hearts become seared over time. We are reaping though the effect of letting go of the doctrine delivered to us, and dismissing the need to obey the commands of the Savior.

Lest I sound accusatory, I have found the war close to home, raising kids for over two decades daily in the Word and in live, but 3 or 4 years in a secular university, one around unbelievers daily, one in the Army, and I have two young adults uncertain of what they believe, because neither they nor I were prepared for the degree of warfare we encountered. I am not judging anything but one thing: we have to get back to the Word of God, and we have to start obeying the commands which are taught, and seek the daily guidance of the Holy Spirit, or we are going to lose all we have worked for, our families, and possibly even our faith. We watch 4 or 5 hours of tv a night, but 'don't have time' for the Bible. We consider all exhortation criticism. We allow 'bored' housewives to ruin ministries or interfere in the raising of our children, and some of them are deadly. (Study it out: busybodiness is a demonic spirit). We promote businessmen to positions of deacons to aid in the 'corporation' of the church without any regard for their character or even knowledge of the Word. The Christian Music Industry is about as bad as the Secular Music Industry and we all shudder and point at celebrities who fall, not taking responsibility for putting them on precarious ledges.

There is no "That Was Then, This is Now". That is an Error, and a deadly one. We had better very quickly get back to what the Church is and how it is taught, as a living breathing body headed by the Savior, or in the near future, we will be virtually no different, than the Compromised Church of the Third Reich where anything went as long as the Pastor's pensions were paid by the State. This is NOW. This is where the Church begins again, with Her Messiah as Head.