The Struggle with Living Out the Christian Faith.

This is a reprint of a survey done by the Barna Group


America may possess the world’s largest infrastructure for nurturing human spirituality, complete with hundreds of thousands of houses of worship, thousands of parachurch organizations and schools, and seemingly unlimited products, resources and experts.

Yet, a new study from the Barna Group identifies an underlying reason why there is little progress in helping people develop spiritually: many churchgoers and clergy struggle to articulate a basic understanding of spiritual maturity. People aspire to be spiritually mature, but they do not know what it means. Pastors want to guide others on the path to spiritual wholeness, but they are often not clearly defining the goals or the outcomes of that process.

The research was conducted by Barna Group in partnership with Living on the Edge (www.livingontheedge.org) and included a nationwide, random sample of adults and a similar national survey among Protestant pastors, exploring definitions of, perceptions about, and perceived barriers to spiritual maturity. 

Five Challenges

The study showed five significant challenges when it comes to facilitating people’s spiritual growth.

  1. Most Christians equate spiritual maturity with following the rules.

One of the widely embraced notions about spiritual health is that it means “trying hard to follow the rules described in the Bible”81% of self-identified Christians endorsed this statement, and a majority agreed strongly (53%). Even among those individuals defined by their belief that salvation is not earned through “good works,” four out of five born again Christians concurred that spiritual maturity is “trying hard to follow the rules.”

  1. Most churchgoers are not clear what their church expects in terms of spiritual maturity. 

An open-ended survey question asked churchgoers to describe how their church defined a “healthy, spiritually mature follower of Jesus.” Half [50%] of churchgoers simply said they were not sure, unable to venture a guess regarding the church’s definition. Even among born again Christians – that is, a smaller subset of believers who have made a profession of faith in Christ and confessed their sinful nature – two out of five were not able to identify how their church defines spiritual maturity. Among those who gave a substantive response, the most common responses were having a relationship with Jesus (16%), practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study (9%), living according to the Bible (8%), being obedient (8%), being involved in church (7%), and having concern for others (6%).

  1. Most Christians offer one-dimensional views of personal spiritual maturity. 

A second open-ended question probed self-identified Christians’ personal definition of what it means to be a healthy, spiritually mature follower of Jesus, regardless of how they believe their church defines it. One-fifth [20%] of self-described Christians were unable to offer an opinion. Other identified elements included: relationship with Jesus (21%), following rules and being obedient (15%), living a moral lifestyle (14%), possessing concern about others (13%), being involved in spiritual disciplines (13%), applying the Bible (12%), being spiritual or having belief (8%), sharing their faith with others (6%), and being involved in church activities (5%).

Born again Christians were similar in all respects to self-described Christians except they were more likely to mention having a relationship with Jesus (30%) as the sign of spiritual maturity. Further reflecting a lack of depth on the subject, the open-ended questions typically produced, on average, just one response from survey respondents, despite the fact that interviewers repeatedly probed for additional or clarifying comments.

  1. Most pastors struggle with feeling the relevance as well as articulating a specific set of objectives for spirituality, often favoring activities over attitudes.

The research among pastors highlighted several inter-related challenges. First, while nearly nine out of 10 pastors said that a lack of spiritual maturity is the most significant or one of the largest problems facing the nation, [yet only] a minority of pastors believe that spiritual immaturity is a problem in their church. A second challenge is that only a minority of churches has a written statement expressing the outcomes they are looking for in spiritually mature people. A third challenge is that pastors often favor activities over perspectives in their definitions of spiritual maturity. Their metrics for people’s spirituality include the practice of spiritual disciplines (19%), involvement in church activities (15%), witnessing to others (15%), having a relationship with Jesus (14%), having concern for others (14%), applying the Bible to life (12%), being willing to grow spiritually (12%), and having knowledge of Scripture (9%).

  1. Pastors are surprisingly vague about the biblical references they use to chart spiritual maturity for people.

One of the reasons churches struggle with making disciples may relate to the lack of clarity that pastors have about the underlying biblical passages that address the process of spiritual maturity. This is most clearly reflected in the huge proportion of pastors who give generic responses when asked to identify the most important portions of the Bible that define spiritual maturity. In fact, one-third of pastors simply said “the whole Bible.” Other generic responses included “the gospels” (17%), the New Testament (15%), and Paul’s letters (10%).

[In reality it is discipleship]

In all, the survey showed that three-quarters [75%] of pastors gave some type of generic answer to this query. In addition, one out of every five [20%] pastors gave a semi-generic response, such as “Romans” or the “life of Christ.”

As for verse-specific responses (mentioned by just one-fifth [20%] of pastors), the most common passages included: Galatians 5, John 3:16, Ephesians 4, Matthew 28, and Romans 12:1-2. Just 2% of pastors specifically identified the Galatians 5 passage relating to the “fruits of the Spirit,” which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Theme specific answers represented just 7% of responses, including the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, the Great Commandment, and the Beatitudes.

Five Opportunities

The research also identifies a number of opportunities that can be leveraged to address the problems related to spirituality maturity.

  1. Christians and pastors have clarity about the major boundaries that must be addressed to tackle the problem.

What are the perceived reasons that people do not grow spiritually? Self-identified Christians were asked about the obstacles they experience while pastors were queried to see how well they understand the barriers facing their congregants.

Church leaders believe the three primary obstacles to people’s engagement are lack of personal motivation (32%), other competing obligations and distractions (26%), and lack of involvement in activities that nurture growth (19%).

In this respect, they do not seem too far off in their perceptions. Born again Christians identify distractions (24%), lack of motivation (20%), and lack of involvement (13%) as challenges they face, even if two of the three are mentioned less frequently by adults than pastors. Born again Christians, however, are more likely than pastors to identify sinful behaviors and habits as tripping them up (14% of believers versus 8% of pastors).

  1. While most Americans are relatively content with their spirituality “as is,” millions aspire to grow spiritually.

Most adults think of themselves as both spiritually healthy as well as spiritually satisfied, which is both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is that most people’s satisfaction can lead to complacency. One opportunity is to connect with the 18 to 20 million Americans who describe themselves as spiritually unhealthy or as dissatisfied with their personal spiritual maturity.

Still, a majority of adults say they are “completely” (14%) or “mostly” healthy when it comes to spirituality (40%); nearly two-thirds of Americans describe themselves as “completely” (22%) or “mostly” satisfied with their spirituality (43%). The opportunity among these individuals is to help them move beyond complacency and embrace a deeper understanding of spiritual growth.

  1. Compared to older believers, Christians under the age of 40 are less satisfied with spirituality and less “rule oriented.”

Young Christians show signs of spiritual openness that older adults do not. People under the age of 40 are different than those Christians over 40 by being less satisfied spiritually and also rating their spiritual health less favorably. In addition, the generational difference over rule-following was striking: most Elders (ages 63+) and Boomers (44 to 62) strongly endorsed the spiritual metric of rule-following (66% and 56%, respectively); however, fewer than half of Busters (25 to 43) and Mosaics (18 to 24) embraced this view (45% and 33%). Among the young, this signals a dangerous propensity to rethink the Bible’s standards, but it also shows unique responsiveness to grace and forgiveness.

  1. Pastors realize they need more help when it comes to assessing spiritual health.

Just 9% of clergy said they were completely satisfied with their ability to measure and assess the spiritual health of their congregation. Still, few pastors (8%) were expressly dissatisfied, leaving a majority of leaders moderately satisfied. Perhaps churchgoers would become less complacent about self-evaluation as pastors embrace more effective forms of evaluation for their congregations.

  1. Pastors tend to be harder on themselves than are congregants.

About 1 out of 10 pastors said the church itself was a barrier to people’s growth, while none of the churchgoers offered a similar critique. Similarly, when asked to rate the church’s ability to help people grow spiritually, pastors were significantly less likely (6%) than churchgoers (33%) to give the organization high marks, reflecting the fact that pastors are often their own toughest critics. The opportunity is to forge a greater sense of partnership and mutual esteem between leaders and laity to address the challenges, to work against self-deception in the process, and to craft deeper, more appropriate routes to spiritual maturity.

Implications

David Kinnaman, President of the California-based research firm, directed the research project. He pointed out several implications of the study:

“America has a spiritual depth problem partly because the faith community does not have a robust definition of its spiritual goals. The study shows the need for new types of spiritual metrics. One new metric might be a renewed effort on the part of leaders to articulate the outcomes of spiritual growth. Another might be the relational engagement and accountability that people maintain. Of course, spirituality is neither a science nor a business, so there is a natural resistance to ascribing scientific or operational standards to what most people believe is an organic process. Yet, the process of spiritual growth is neither simplistic nor without guidelines, so hard work and solid thinking in this arena is needed.”

“As people begin to realize that the concepts and practices of spiritual maturity have been underdeveloped, the Christian community is likely to enter a time of renewed emphasis on discipleship, soul care, the tensions of truth and grace, the so-called ‘fruits’ of the spiritual life, and the practices of spiritual disciplines. [Kinnaman errs here.  What he misses is that without discipleship there will be no spiritual maturity, fruits of the spirit, etc.] A related challenge is that as spiritual formation becomes ‘trendy’ it will inevitably become ‘watered down’ with products that over-promise or are simply counter-productive. Leaders have to take on this issue more effectively, and part of that task is weeding out the good from bad.”


Research
This report is based upon nationwide telephone surveys conducted by The Barna Group with random samples of adults, age 18 and older, and Protestant clergy. The survey among adults was conducted in August 2008 among 1005 adults randomly selected from across the continental United States. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The survey among pastors included 611 clergy, with a maximum margin of sampling error of ±4.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Statistical weighting was used to calibrate the sample to known population percentages in relation to demographic variables.
“Born again Christians” are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as “born again.”
The Barna Group, Ltd. (which includes its research division, The Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that conducts primary research on a wide range of issues and products, produces resources pertaining to cultural change, leadership and spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, bi-monthly update on the latest research findings from The Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (http://www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources, both free and at discounted prices, are also available through that website.
© The Barna Group, Ltd, 2009.

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 The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater that its idea of God.  Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.                                                                                      A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

The Exemplar

In Matthew 28 Jesus charged His Church with “making disciples?”  What is Jesus’ paradigm for discipleship?  Matthew 28 is the common passage looked to for missions and for the directive for evangelism.  Yet Jesus said nothing about “evangelizing” the world or making converts.  His carefully chosen words are make disciples.

The 21st Century church like the legalistic rich young ruler (Luke 18: 18-24) thinks it is our decision to “chose” Jesus; coming on our terms, not willing, in truth, to pay the cost.  However, it is Jesus who does the choosing, not us (Col. 3: 12; 1 Pet. 2:9).  It seems to be the case that the paradox of Jesus’ free gift of salvation and the total cost of following Him; the real cost of discipleship is totally misconstrued.

The Problem

The apostles themselves fought a never-ending battle against doctrinal error, heretical teachings, and false teachers.  A study of the apologetic nature of the epistolary literature of the New Testament reveals this.  Century after century “the Church” has continued to drift from the foundation laid by Christ and the apostles.

Forgotten Worship

Man was made to commune with God in obedience to Him.  Adam communed with God face-to-face (Gen. 3: 8a).  The richness of that communion before the Fall can only be imagined.

Since the Fall, our ability to worship God has been obscured.  The farther down the historic road the church travels, the muddier our image of true worship and God becomes.

Why is this so?  Serving Christ should be our primary goal in life.  Nevertheless, according to pollster, George Barna,

When you ask believers to identify the single most important thing they hope to accomplish without suggesting any particular possibilities, only . . . (20 percent) mention anything directly related to spiritual outcomes. . . . Three out of five adult Christians we surveyed told us they want to have a deep commitment to the Christian faith, but they are not involved in any intentional effort to grow spiritually (italics mine).[1]

Stated differently, 80% of believers have no thought of anything spiritual regarding the most important thing they hope to accomplish in life and 60% have no strategy to grow spiritually.

The epigraph by Tozer neatly sums up the challenge of the church in the twentieth century flowing into our millennia as well.  Tozer’s perspicacity of the dilemma of the church in his era is needed more so in our milieu:

We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.  This is true . . . of the company of Christians that comprises the Church.  Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.  She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God (italics mine).[2]

What is the mental image of God today’s church sustains?  What is our idea of God?  What indeed is our witness concerning God?

The no nonsense answers to these questions are eloquently illuminated by Tozer in this passage:

The most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, . . . (emphasis mine).  brkn-cross

The God the world sees through Christianity is weak, bland, and unconvincing and the image portrayed from our pulpits is sterile.  As Tozer posits, what speaks the loudest is what is not said and what is not done.

Christians today follow Christ with their lips; not with their lives.  Therefore, the self-disclosed witness concerning the God proclaimed now is not the God Paul worshiped and died for.  Our god is the god of “The Rich Young Ruler.”  That is to say, he is a false god, nothing but a cold, dead idol!

Postmodern Plague, Modernity Lost

Friedrich Nietzsche and his atheistic philosophy have negatively impacted cultures worldwide.  While many were responsible for stoking the flames of postmodernism, one could assert that Nietzsche poured on the gasoline.  Colson and Vaughn tell of Nietzsche’s parable of the madman seeking God in the marketplace screaming, “I seek God!  I seek God!”  Heckled by the marketplace crowd, he glowered at them crying, “We have killed him [God]—you and I. . . . how have we done this?  How could we swallow up the sea? . . . What will we do as the earth is set loose from its sun?”[3]

Colson goes on to explain that, “Nietzsche’s point was not that God does not exist, but that God has become irrelevant. . . . God is dead not because He does not exist, but because we live, play, procreate, govern, and die as if He doesn’t.”[4]  Modernity took its last gasp as the tsunami of postmodernism and deconstructionism sucked her down, capsizing the church along with the culture.

Culture and Christians alike are now firmly mired in the age of postmodernism or deconstructionism.  A fairly long word, “deconstructionism”; chiefly it is “a form of hermeneutics, of interpreting a text.”[5]  However, deconstructionism has big arms and embraces many philosophical “isms.”  It “embraces conventionalism . . . all meaning is relative . . . [it embraces] perspectivalism . . . all truth is . . . [based on] one’s perspective . . . [it embraces] semantic progressivism . . . a text can always be deconstructed.”[6]  It embraces even more, but these will suffice to affirm these “isms” are why effective apologetics and committed disciples are crucial today.

These are the last days, very likely near the end.  When one looks at the spectrum of spiritual warfare arrayed against the church today it becomes clear the church of Christ must immediately return to its biblical mandate to “make disciples” modeled in Scripture.  Genuine Christians need to stop merely paying lip service to spiritual development and begin to take their discipleship seriously.

The Cost of Discipleship

Christians understand that we “are saved through faith . . . it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2: 8, 9).  It is indeed a free gift; nevertheless, paradoxically it costs us our lives.  But why not—it cost Jesus His life.  God’s grace is never cheap.

Over seventy years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned the following:

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church.  We are fighting to-day [sic] for costly grace. . . . Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. . . . [here] the world finds a cheap covering for sins; no contrition is required, still less any desire to be delivered from sin.  Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.[7]

This singular quote affirms and intensifies Tozer’s assertions.  When the church denies the living Word of God, the world “hears” what we preach.  Christians soak up the same anemic message about God and hence the Word is denied in our lives too.  The world observes our lives and sees no distinction.

Follow Our Leader

It is time to band together as brothers and sisters in Christ and recapture the spirit and truth of bona fide worship by recapturing the “awe and fear of God.  Then using the paradigm given by Christ in The Holy Scriptures we can begin to learn the meaning of discipleship and making disciples:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28: 19, 20).

The first phrase and last phrase are a kind of parenthetical promise enfolding His command.  “All authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to Him.  That is a lot of power.  That tells us God is the power behind this promise and behind this segment of the command.

The second segment in the last sentence Christ tells us, “Behold” that is, check it out; “I am with you always.”  That would be forever.  If He is “with us always,” He will definitely be with us to “the end of the age” when He will return to take His Bride, the Church, home.

There are a number of verbs in the Matthew 28 passage, but not all are in the imperative.  That is, not all are commands.

  1. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. He does not mean to “get decisions” or merely evangelize people.  When a person apprehends the free gift, he is instantly justified.  But building disciples is a process running concurrently with his sanctification and with the help of the church and other Christians.
  2. Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Endemic of building disciples is doctrinal knowledge.
  3. Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Each of us is to be baptized as a public sign of our new relationship with God.  This should be indicative of our comprehension that while Christ’s atoning gift was apprehended at no cost, our lives now totally belong to our Messiah who purchased them.

There is only one imperative verb in Matthew 28:19 and that is make disciples.  We often talk about the importance of the last words of someone in death’s throes.  Well this is the last command Christ gave to His Church before His ascension; His last words before leaving this earth.  Why isn’t the Church obeying it?

To put it another way, the battle was won from the foundations of the earth.  Why run the wrong way with the ball?  Why are we so timorous?  True worship means laying down one’s life for Christ, in death, if needs be; but more so in life.  It is our lives the world scrutinizes.  Scripture is the fount of power the Christian draws on.

John 4: 24 declares to us, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.  The word spirit in this passage is pneúma.  Which in this context “means [someone] with a sincere mind, [someone] with a sincere heart, not with mere external rites” (italics mine).  In the oft too comfortable and familiar passage in Romans 12: 1, Paul admonishes us to, “present [our] bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

“Sacrifice” as used here is employed metaphorically.[8]  The Christian is not a sacrifice offered on an alter, but the life he lives should be sacrificially given in service for God’s glory.  That is, service acceptable to God.  That is worship pleasing to God.  This is not speaking of the “professional” pastor or someone in full time ministry.  Paul is speaking of every Christian in every vocation.  This is not “rocket surgery.”  If the believer’s life is lived with this deportment it is worship!  True believers should live a radically committed life for Christ.  After all, He was radically committed to live for us . . . and to die for us.

Nevertheless, while Christ’s earth-shaking sacrifice on the cross shattered sin’s grip on humanity, His death on the cross was not His ultimate deed.  His preeminent act was eternally annihilating death by the Resurrection thus shredding Satan’s title deed for mankind.  The power and the miracle of the Resurrection are second only to God’s act of Creation.  Understand—God received nothing!  He did it all for us; for me and you—that’s radical!


[1].George Barna, Growing True Disciples (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2001),  34, 35.
[2].A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1961), 2.
[3].  Charles Colson, Ellen Santilli Vaughn, Kingdoms in Conflict (co-published by William Morrow and Zondervan Publishing House, 1987), 181.
[4]. Ibid.    
[5]. Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics, adapted (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 192.
[6]. Ibid., 192,193.
[7].Dietrich Bonhoffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Collier Books, 1937), 45, 46.
[8].Spiros Zodiates, ed., The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, adapted (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1992), 746.

The Day All Heaven Broke Loose

hvnbrkls2Jesus is dead. Not only is Jesus dead, someone has stolen his body. The disciples had no idea who had stolen his body. Everything happened so fast. Jesus dead on Friday and here it is only two days later, Sunday the first day of the week. Oh sure Mary said she saw Jesus, but she also said she saw a couple of angels and the caretaker, who she said was really Jesus—women!

The disciples are in a jam. They don’t know what to do, so they hide out, afraid of the Jews, together most of the time, perhaps at Peter’s house. Of course had the Jews wanted to capture them it would have been an easy matter due to the fact the disciples were all together. Oh well, misery loves company and all of that rot.

On the other hand, for Jesus’ purpose it made it easy to meet with them. In any case the disciples were together, some still mulling over what Mary said she saw that very day.

Then–ALL HEAVEN BROKE LOOSE:

. . . it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side the disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”[1]

The conundrum that occurs to me at this point is “when was the church birthed?” Most would say at Pentecost. But is that correct? Most all of Christendom would agree with that premise. And certainly this is not an essential or faith-changing topic—no, it is but an important exegetical incident, nevertheless correct interpretation is paramount to correctly understanding the Bible.chbrn

  1. W. Tozer wrote,

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion . . . [and] no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.[2]

Shoddy interpretation gives way to low thoughts of God and spins off shoddy religion. Error begets error. Hence we are left with Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the New Age and a myriad of other religious bastards.

So off we go at scratch and we will learn what we may learn. Perhaps what we have believed all along is correct; perhaps not.

The Other Side of the Tombfriendlp-nfooa7e

After His resurrection Jesus first validated who He really was by appearing to the disciples and giving them the greeting of peace. Jesus showed them his wounds and all heaven broke loose. Scripture says “the disciples rejoiced.” Can’t you just imagine the impulsive, sometimes brash Peter? I would not want to be standing between Peter and Jesus—look out!

Jesus had a commission of the highest moment to complete. He was ordaining his followers. He was equipping them for ministry.  The Jews had dropped the ball. They thought the law was efficacious, not just reflective for their sins. Christ’s ministry charge was for a new covenant empowered by the Holy Spirit. This was unlike anything the world had ever seen before.

Jesus’ charge was thus, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” The word “sent” in the Greek is apostéllō, meaning “to send forth on a mission.” Scripture tells us Jesus is the “chief corner stone (Mt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Lk. 20.17) so one could say Jesus was sent as the chief apostle to us.

But the word “send” is a different word. It is the word pémpō. The meaning is close to apostéllō, but means “to dispatch, to send. “In the NT, apostéllō occurs as a technical term denoting divine authorization.”[3]

Jesus put off the glory of the Godhead (but remained fully and totally God) to descend to earth and take on the form of a man. Not only take on man’s form, but be humiliated, beaten, and killed thereby taking on man’s sin too.cmfrtzn

Now to the crux this study. The next thing Jesus did, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The word in the original language for “breathed” is emphusao. This is hugely significant I think because according to the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon,

This word [is] used only once by the LXX[4] translators in Gen 2:7 where God breathed on Adam and he became a living soul. Just as the original creation was completed by an act of God, so to the new creation was completed by an act from the Head of the new creation.[5]

The Bible teaches that when a man puts his trust in Messiah he becomes a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17) and he is truly “born again.” Then he is indwelt by the Spirit and sealed by the Spirit. This is God reconciling us to Himself through the finished work of Christ and ministry of the Holy Spirit to the elect.

So my premise is the apostles were “indwelt” that day with the Spirit. That was the birthing of the Church. So what happened at Pentecost? Let’s look at what Acts 2 says:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

First we see the twelve apostles were all sitting together in someone’s house (vv1, 2). In verse 4 we learn “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . .”, they weren’t indwelt, they were filled. I believe when Jesus Christ “breathed” on them and told them to receive the Spirit forty days earlier that was the initial indwelling or baptism of the Spirit for the apostles. After all Jesus had been walking with them for three years or so, but that time was finished. Now the Comforter would guide them. On Pentecost the disciples were filled  (not baptized) with the Spirit for the first time.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing phenomenon, something we must ask for and should be asking for daily, even hourly. In this case God decided to use it as a time to begin to build the Church. Those 3,000 that came to Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost were the “church structure” itself being built on the foundation.

We understand from the Holy Scriptures that Jesus is the chief cornerstone and Jesus is the foundation (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20). So there is no conflict here as the cornerstone is the crux of the foundation.  Then too the apostles are the foundation (Eph. 2:20).

Wait a minute Edwards, what about the “violent rushing wind” and the “tongues of fire.” Again there is no contradiction here. They are significant, but this is largely analogical language, a metaphor. The disciples were trying to describe the indescribable.

“The sound like the blowing of the wind . . . from heaven points to the power of the Holy Spirit and the fullness of His coming.”[6] Note that scripture says the tongues of fire rested on the believers which would be the apostles. They did not rest on the crowd that gathered. The tongues of fire portray the presence of God. Recall that God often revealed Himself in fire.

Conclusion

This scripture (John 20: 18-22) grabbed me several years ago. I even bounced the idea of the 22nd verse actually being the permanent giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles by Christ off of a couple of my professors at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Both said they thought it was credible.

I believe it is more than possible otherwise why is verse 22 even included? Acts 2 is often run through the exegetical and hermeneutical meat grinder especially by our charismatic brothers. The word “baptized” is not even used until verse 38 and its meaning is clear— repent and trust in Christ and then you need to be baptized.

The argument, I believe, is sound. Indeed the verses in John illuminate the Acts 2 verses disallow much of the error that is associated there. As Tozer said, Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

[1] John 20:19-22, New American Standard Bible.

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

[3] Spiros Zodiates, ed., The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament

[4] LXX is the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the New Testament.

[5] Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, Libronix Digital Library System.

[6] Stanley Toussaint, “Acts,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, eds. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck.

Praying in the Holy Spirit: A brief

Introduction:

It may be informative for us to start with the mystery of the Triune God; the Godhead.

Godhead/Trinity:

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all separate individual persons and yet they are One (Deut. 6:1).  The Godhead is infinite and eternal.

Jesus in his humanity was not infinite or eternal.  He was a finite man, born of woman (Gal. 4:4).  Nevertheless Jesus incarnate was fully man and fully God (Mt. 1: 20-22).  This mystery is called the hypostatic union.

the-trinityOnly God incarnate was efficacious to pay our debt.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin . . .”(Rom. 8:3).

Regarding the Holy Spirit:

The primary starting point is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Like indwelling, regenerating and the sealing of the Spirit are unconditional and occur at the moment a person repents of their sins and trusts Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

The filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18) is something we must do frequently.  Why “frequently”?  Because we sin frequently and must ask forgiveness to open up communication with God again.  1 John 1declares:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (v 9).

The unbeliever; the carnal man, lives by his own power.  The spiritual man lives by the power of the Spirit.

Prayer Basics:

  • Prayer is to be sincere.
  • Prayer is to make sense.
    1. Sometimes it is an awareness of the need of mercy, because of the danger of sin.
    2. Sometimes in prayer, there is a sweet sense of mercy received; encouraging, comforting, strengthening, and instructive mercy,
  • Prayer is to be an affectionate pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ.
  • Prayer is to be by the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Prayer is to be for things that God has promised.
  • Prayer is to be for the good of the church.
  • And prayer must submit to the will of God.[1]

Praying in the Spirit:

The Bible Knowledge Commentary[2] posits praying in the Spirit is, “praying out of hearts that are indwelt, illuminated, and filled with the Holy Spirit.”pray-in-the-spirit

Also in referencing the Eph. 6:18 passage BKC states “on all occasions Christians are to pray continually in the Spirit (i.e. in the power and sphere of the Spirit).”[3]  This would also include a thoroughness and intensity in their praying.

I ask a pastor friend, Steve Meyer, for his thoughts on praying in the Spirit.  He referred me to a blog he writes, “Reaching Higher with Meyer” where he talks about this.

The following are excerpted pieces that are relevant and instructive from his article “Christianity 101: Praying Powerfully and Effectively.”[4]

It must begin with the fact that Jesus must be Lord over our life, not just our Savior. For your prayer life to be powerful and effective, progressive sanctification must be actively taking place in your life and not stalled due to outstanding sinful behavior.

To be holy means you need to be surrendered to the Holy Spirit, you must live by the Spirit, and you must also know nothing you do in the flesh can ever please God (Rom 8:7-8).

So rightfully prayed prayer should be more than a mechanical and liturgical thing; rather it should be an intimate and exhilarating time spent with the Lord.  How much time do you personally spend on getting quiet and listening to God’s answers to prayer?  Do you even listen at all?

All your time praying should not be monopolized by you speaking to Him, telling Him what the best thing is to do (or maybe not to do).

Again, prayer is clpryrbtlgrdearly not about mechanics.  Rom 8:26 tells us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

The question then is: if we do not even know what we ought to pray for according to God’s Word, then why pray?  In part it is due to our need for the Holy Spirit to be responsible for our prayers.  Our human responsibility is to stay surrendered to the Holy Spirit via obedience and repentance (1 John 2:1).  If we do, we will be praying in the Spirit.  In other words if we walk by the Spirit who intercedes for us, we won’t pray selfishly (Gal 5:16) or with wrong motives (Jas 4:3).

If you abide in Him, and walk by the Spirit, and are in a right fellowship with God (all synonymous), then your prayers will be powerful and effective,

Christ’s followers only ascertain God’s will and wisdom (1 Cor 2:6-16) when they are in a right fellowship with the Lord.

Keeping His commands and doing what pleases Him positively affects the success of our prayers!  It is being in a righteous condition that makes you do godly works and pray effectively, via the Holy Spirit.             END


 

 [1] John Bunyan 1628-1688, Praying In The Spirit; written in prison in 1662. http://www.biblebb.com/files/praybun.htm

[2] Walvoord and Zuck, BKC, 644.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Steve Meyer, “Christianity 101: Praying Powerfully and Effectively, (Reaching Higher with Meyer), https://reachinghigherwithmeyer.blogspot.com/2013/07/christianity-101-praying-powerfully-and.html

New Blog Post–Lost Salvation? I

Christian AssurancePart I

Prologue

 It has been my experience with fellow believers when seriously discussing important doctrinal, but perhaps non-essentials that sooner or later someone says something like “It’s a non-essential, it’s not a big deal and we don’t want to be divisive.” So unity becomes more important than truth.  I personally don’t believe truth should be subordinate to wrong headed thinking.

Now I am not saying we should be divisive, especially on non- essentials, but I am not talking about picking the color of the new carpet. The Bible tells us to admonish one another (Acts 20:30-32; Romans 15:14); we need to do that, especially in this day and age of rampant exegetical error of the Holy Scriptures. It’s kind of like shooting a rifle. If your sights are off 1/16”, then 100 yards down range you miss your target by 10 feet.

While most Evangelicals I know accept the doctrine that they can have assurance of their salvation. I have found it true in my life that there are the low times, when I have stumbled and I am weak or depressed due to sin in my life or circumstances I can’t control, that I do question my salvation. I think there is scriptural basis for this. Recall the story of Elijah in 1 Kings. He makes a fool out of the prophets of Baal and calls down fire from God to consume the alter, the water-soaked sacrifice and the rocks and then in the next instant he is trembling in his boots and hiding from Jezebel (1 Kings 18:17-19:3). We all have our down times and it is at these times of weakness or despair the questions come. Am I really saved? How can I sin like that if I am. Can I lose my salvation? Make no mistake; these questions come from Satan. (1 Peter 5:8)

I think it is critical that we be Biblically anchored in what we believe doctrinally, even in certain “non-essentials”, so when Satan challenges us and waves of doubt break over us; our faith, our witness and ministry are not capsized.

In Sperry’s book Major Bible Themes, he says, “While believers in Christ accept the doctrine that they can have assurance at any given moment in their experience, the question is often raise, ‘Can a person once saved, become lost again?’ Since the fear of losing salvation could seriously affect a believer’s peace of mind, and because his future is so vital, this question is a most important aspect of the doctrine of salvation.”[i] As well as, I might add, his sense of spiritual communion with God.

Why am I doing this study? I was involved in a Bible study at my church, a friend and a brother in Christ stated that he believed that a Christian could lose their salvation. He didn’t say it that directly, but as soon as his statement hit me, I did a mental double take. He went on speaking, but I interrupted him “Wait a minute”, I said, “Are you saying you believe we can lose our salvation?” “Yes” he stated I think we can lose our salvation.” I challenged this statement by quoting Jesus’ statement from John 10 where Jesus says “no one will snatch them out of My hand.” My friend’s response was, “Yes no one can snatch us out of His hand, but we can leap out of His hand.”

The Underlying Problem

I am doing this study as an argument to show that it is in fact impossible to lose your salvation. The question then becomes, can we, in fact “choose to leap out of God’s hand, as my friend stated? This is the question that this study will attempt to deal with. But it does not matter what Don Edwards says; what matters is what the Bible say?

It is my firm belief that the non-essentials so many Christians do not want to take a stand on in the name of unity, often have a big bearing on the richness, fullness and effectiveness of our lives, ministry and witness as Christians.

I was raised Presbyterian; my wife Betty, a Lutheran. Both congregations historically practice infant baptism. I do not believe it was a biblical practice 50 years ago, nor is it today. In fact, I believe it is a more dangerous practice today. Why? Fifty years ago the Judeo-Christian foundation, while crumbling, was still in tact. Postmodernism was not as prevalent in the U.S. or the church to the extent that it is today. Today people have a less of a grounding and understanding in scripture than in past decades.

Baptism, is a non-essential for salvation (Luke 23: 42-44), and saves no one by itself. Yet it is taught, overtly in some churches; covertly in many, that baptism conveys salvation all by itself or is needed in addition to Christ’s atoning death. Infant baptism, in itself, is not a big deal. It is arguably not biblically based and is not ever described in the Bible, let alone prescribed.

The larger issue I see here with infant baptism is that it is too often done in a way that tacitly, if not explicitly sends a subtle or not so subtle message, that the baby being baptized is saved and is now a Christian. This is totally opposed to what God’s Word teaches!

Too many people today are cultural christians (small “c”) at best and go to church only rarely. One time might be the baptism of their child or that of a relative or friend, and of course weddings and maybe Christmas and/or Easter. What they witness at church usually only enforces their erroneous views of Christianity and their own relationship, or lack of relationship to Jesus Christ. Following are some concerns that stem from this and from my own experience and observations.

  1. The baptized child is brought up believing that because this he or she was baptized as a baby, he is automatically a Christian, even though there was no act of the will on his part and no conscious effort to choose or reject Jesus Christ. (John 3: 5-7)
  2. The parents of the baby often believe he or she is now a “Christian” and is now protected with this “fire insurance policy” is destined to go to heaven no matter how he or she lives their lives.
  3. Then there is Confirmation Classes, but in many cases confirmation is just a rubber stamp and re-affirmation of the existing lie that the child is saved.
  4. Lastly at the root of it all is the lack of the Church to disciple its flock. When Jesus directed the Church to make disciples in Matthew 28: 19 it was not a suggestion—it was; it is a command!

Proof is that if you go into a majority of churches today on any given Sunday morning no one even carries their Bibles. When they do “study” the Bible many, so-called evangelicals, come to the Bible with their presuppositions firmly entrenched and wrench from the scripture what they wanted it to say.

A.W. Tozer posited this in his The Knowledge of the Holy written over 60 years ago:

The church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us [emphasis mine]…no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”[i]

I believe Tozer is profoundly right and his admonishment is one we should not take lightly.

If you doubt what I say look what the Barna Research Group said in a poll from September, 2000,

“The United States has so many unchurched people that the nation has become one of the primary mission targets of Christians who live in other countries around the world.” [Emphasis mine]

Salvation Gained

 First I think we must ask…how does man gain salvation as taught by the Bible. How exactly does that happen; what does the Bible say?

The Bible says,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works…”       Eph 2: 8-9a.

The Bible says,

9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10  for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 13 for “whoever will call on the name of the lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:9-10, 13

The Bible says,

23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23  Period!

If God’s gift of eternal life and man’s true road to heaven is by and through the love of Christ, by confessing our sins verbally and believing in our hearts truly that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried and bodily rose from the grave…then this gift comes by grace through faith and not by works.

Only God’s unmerited favor through Jesus’ death on the cross brings true salvation and eternal life with God. Therefore, can we lose this gift by works or by our actions? To do so would make a mockery of Jesus atonement. So we see in the verse above God’s Word teaches that we cannot lose our salvation by works anymore than we can gain our salvation by works. Salvation is by grace; through faith in Christ alone–period.

Below is John 10:27-30, the verse I quoted in part to my friend, only in full context.

27   “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28   and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.
29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

To interpret these verses in context when Jesus says my sheep hear my voice, he is talking about those that believe in Him; His followers. Then Jesus promises three things to his followers- 1. I give them eternal life; 2. They will never perish; 3. No one will snatch them out of my hand. No one will snatch them out of my hand!

Why is it no one can snatch them or to personalize it; why is it no one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand. In verses 29 and 30 we see that, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”30 I and the Father are one.” [emphasis mine]

Now take note of the way John phrased these verses. He uses the phrase “snatch them out of my hand” twice. Why does he do that? Why not just use that in reference to Jesus; or to just God the Father? He repeats the same phrase twice, once in reference to Jesus and once in reference to the Father. Why didn’t he just say no one is able to snatch them out of God’s hand? John even says here in verse 30 that Jesus and God are the same, so why repeat it?

I believe it is for emphasis. We know that God is not a temporal being; therefore he doesn’t have an actual hand. Jesus tells us you cannot be snatched out of my hand and God the Father say’s you cannot be snatched out of my hand. So the hand of Jesus and the hand of God the Father guard us. Of course again, this is figurative language, but the Father and Jesus make up two-thirds of the Trinity and they are two different persons in the Trinity. What a bargain; two “hands” for the price of one salvation!

Verse 30 tells us in a direct way that Jesus is God. I and the Father are one. Did you get that? I and the Father are one! I AND THE FATHER ARE ONE!! And God is GREATER than anything, anybody, and any force. Therefore, if we think we can leap out of God’s hand that means only one of two things:

  1. We are more powerful than an Omnipotent, Infinite God, which means we, in fact, must be a God. Hello, is this Shirley McLaine? How scary is that?

Or

  1. If we are more powerful than God then obviously God cannot really be God.   God must be so weak, so feeble he can’t really save anyone anyway! What part of the Bible can we believe; the Bible is a book of myths and fairy tales. That also makes God a liar! Our faith is now worthless. Hello, Jesus Seminar? Hello, Rabbi Kushner!

If, as my friend suggests, we can leap, run, or walk out of God’s hand, an action we choose to do and by an act of our will and our works; then that means the gift we received by faith through grace we have now rejected by works. Jesus agonizing death on the cross was pointless and the power of The Resurrection, if there was a resurrection, is nonexistent!   The saving work that God ordained in Scripture was not consummated.

Jumping out of Gods HandIf you take the premise we can leap out of God’s hands to its logical conclusion then, we are in the wretched state expressed by Paul,

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (I Cor. 15 17,19)

Returning to John 10:28 Jesus plainly says, “I give eternal [forever] life to them and they will never [there is no way and nothing, NO-thing that can cause them to] perish”. In verse 29 He declares, “My Father…is greater than all, GREATER THAN ALL. God is the only infinitely existent, necessary, non-created being and no one [no person, no woman, no man, not ourselves] is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

It is sheer and utter hubris to believe we are stronger or greater than God. It is nothing less than the idolatry of the garden “Sin has many manifestations, but its essence is one. A moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares, ‘I AM.’ That is sin in its concentrated essence; yet because it is natural it appears to be good.”

God is outside of time. Therefore, His “hand” is also outside of time. We live inside of the time, space continuum, where there is a past, present and future; yesterday’s sins, today’s sins and tomorrow’s sins.

God , on the other hand, is in the eternal present outside of time, yet He dwells in and sustains creation (not in an animistic sense). Our minds are temporal and think sequentially. It is difficult for us to comprehend this.

[i] Tozer, 46.

Concluded in Part II

[i] All Scripture quoted is from the NASB, unless other wise noted.

[i] Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, vii.

[i] Chafer-Walvoord, Major Bible Themes, 220.

MIDWINTER REFLECTIONS ~ Liberty or License – The Rule of Law or Lawlessness

Why are we at this late date, as a country, having to define what true marriage is?

It is because we no longer understand how and why marriage was instituted. Since folks have to go to the state to get a marriage license, they think the right to marriage must come the state; from government—right? Wrong.

The trouble is “we’ve been having the wrong conversation about marriage in the world. At the core of the matter is the lie of choice. As “free,” “liberated,” autonomous beings we believe we should be able to do whatever we choose.

We confuse liberty and license.

This is a logical extension of Darwinian and “Saganian” philosophy. We are but a “pale  blue dot,” a small insignificant speck in the cosmos caused by chance then it follows that there is no purpose or meaning to life—so said Carl Sagan.

If that is the case then why are all of those who believe that, trying to convince those who do not believe it, that we should believe it?

I mean, if indeed life is meaningless, why try to impose your lack of meaning on other people’s lack of meaning who have a different lack of meaning than you? It’s all meaningless!

The truth is, at their core, nobody thinks their life is meaningless in a truly existential sense. It comes down to a matter of rebellion cloaked in the mantle of “choice” . . . our choice to “hook-up,” followed by our choice to murder a baby resultant of that choice; our choice to have queer sex, our choice to “marry” our queer partner.

Queer, now there is a word war. One of Encarta’s definitions characterizes “queer” as “an offensive term meaning gay.”

Yet the non-PC, term “queer,” really is the more definitive term. Which is why it offends queer men and women. But that’s all semantics.

Nevertheless it is the queers and their agenda that they shove down our throats that are offensive to the rest of normal society, yes, normal society. Nobody seems to worry if the majority are offended.

Indeed, God calls homosexuality an “abomination.” This abomination is the toxic fluid being sprayed on marriage and those who hold marriage as between a man and a woman.

While we’ve been debating about how to renovate marriage, we’ve been ignoring the fact that it is the “gay spray” is making, not only marriage sick, but our civilization en bloc.

What used to be nauseous to humankind is now slurped up like a dog’s vomit.

The real question is how to stop a small aberrant part of society from framing the argument and definition of marriage.

At least part of the answer is STOP BEING PC! Stop being afraid to tell the truth.

Fact: Marriage did not originate with man. Fact: Marriage was instituted by God.

That is the real reason the deviant elitists are spraying marriage with deadly toxins trying to kill it, because they deny God and they deny God exists.

That is a the heart of it.

Simply put they are fools in their hearts . . . and “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.”Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1

And that is an end of it.

The Case of the Thresher and the Church

There are three underlying forces devastating America and the Christian Church. To be sure there are more factors working against America and the Church, but I believe these three convergent forces are key.

I lump America and the Church together because the empirical, historical realities show that America was built on the Christian faith. This is the truth, despite what the current occupant in the Oval Office claims.

I posit three things in my book Before the Final Trump as being the crucial factors destroying us. However I begin by analogously describing and comparing our fate to the fate of the Thresher. The Thresher was one of our first nuclear powered submarines. On a test dive it developed serious problems from within:

At 9:18 a.m. on April 10, 1963, sonar operators aboard the U.S. Navy submarine rescue ship Skylark accompanying the nuclear attack submarine Thresher, heard a chilling sound “like air rushing into an air tank,”. . . a piping joint in a sea water system in the engine room gave way. The resulting spray shorted out electronics and forced an automatic shutdown of the nuclear reactor. . . .

. . . When the accident occurred, Thresher was near its maximum test depth . . . . Most submarines are built to survive down to a crush depth, which can be 20 to 35 percent greater than their maximum test depth. . . . Without the reactor, the sub did not have enough power to stop itself from sinking past its crush point and doom.

Skylark received several fragmentary, garbled messages, followed by silence. . . . As they sank, the men aboard [the Thresher] . . . heard piping and fittings giving way. They . . . listened as the ship’s hull creaked and groaned, until it finally, deafeningly gave way to massive water pressure.

Thresher was no more. . . [it] had come to a cataclysmic end and all 129 men aboard perished in 8,400 feet . . . of water. . . . All lives were likely extinguished within a matter of seconds.[1]

Like the Thresher, the Church also has serious flaws of her own making. Because God’s Church has shirked her biblical mandate to make disciples she now has become anemic and irrelevant to our culture.

First, the culture and the church are being crushed by naturalistic, secular humanism. This movement has flooded America and is spewing its corrosive brine into the church, shorting out belief in the inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of the Bible and robbing the church of accurate interpretation and sound doctrinal teaching. The neo-atheists reap millions from books with contradictory philosophical babble and thread-bare assaults on religion in general and Christianity in particular.

Second, America is being squeezed by the rise of Islamofascism. Islam with all its barbarous, archaic, imperialistic traditions has, like a giant squid, been stirred. This roused monster is fastening its tentacles upon the Western nations and is beginning to squeeze.

Third, there are powerful and largely unrecognized geopolitical and geo-economic forces arrayed against us. There are those both outside and inside America pressing for a one-world government under the banner of globalism. Of course none of these perils operates in a vacuum.

Individually these forces are formidable, but collectively they have an exponentially cumulative force and I believe they represent a singular threat to Christianity and America never before encountered. What makes the essence of this collective threat so historically terrifying is that the church, to a great degree, is virtually unaware that it exists. Many who are aware are largely unequipped to defend against its ravages.[2]

As a word of explanation Before the Final Trump looks at these questions through biblical, pretribulational, pre-millennial lenses. We have been in the last days since the early days of the Apostolic Church (Hebrews 1:2). I believe we are nearing the time when Christ will return for His Church and therefore have written with this perspective.

Before the Final Trump is a call for the Church to return to the essence of the Great Commission; to Christ’s mandate to make disciples.

Copies of Before the Final Trump may be purchased online at CBD, Amazon, or Lifeway.


Footnotes:

[1] National Geographic, “Major Sub Disasters,” http://www.nationalgeographic.com/k19/disasters_detail2.html (accessed December 5, 2007).

[2] D.D. Edwards, Before the Final Trump (Crossbooks: Bloomington, IN, 2011), 3-5.