November 12, 2015

RACISM” by Dr. Rick Flanders

“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
(Colossians 3:9-14)
Dr. Rick Flanders

When a black man was elected president of the United States, it seemed that a thick barrier had been destroyed that marred American life for many years. Progress in relations between the races in this nation had apparently come to the point where white people were not unwilling to vote black people into high office. It appeared to be a break-through. However, distrust and anger over race matters have clearly worsened since 2009. Who can deny it? Some of the problems come from confusion over the issues of race, with faulty ideas gaining favor with passionate people “on both sides.” The situation is dangerous as well as distressing, but there is a solution to it in the Bible.
Let us learn or re-learn five facts about this subject in order to help ourselves and our countrymen finally get past this unhappy and unnecessary strife.
  1. NOT EVERYTHING THAT IS CALLED “RACISM” IS REALLY RACISM!
Originally the term “racism” had a much more specific meaning than it does in common usage today. A racist is a person who believes that certain people’s actions and habits are determined by their “race.” Flaws in character as well as admirable characteristics are rooted in the D.N.A., and genetic causes for good and bad are carried in races. Racist views are those that were propagated by the Nazis and by the Ku Klux Klan. Racism is an ideology; it is not just unkindness or prejudice toward people of a different color or belonging to a different race. Lack of love for anyone is wrong according to God’s “royal law” (James 2:8-9), but not all unloving words or actions constitute racism. The reason this distinction is important is that more and more voices today are raising the alarm that racism is rampant in this country, and that something radical must be done about it. The fact is that true racism, although more available to more people because of the internet, is considerably less influential and widespread than it was even fifty years ago in America. When certain famous people were recently punished for using an unkind racial slur, they were accused of racism. But there is little evidence that they actually espouse Klan or Nazi doctrine because they used the hurtful word. Seeming mistreatment of anyone because of racial bias is called “racism,” although it really isn’t. It is unchristian and unkind, but it isn’t racism. Racist ideas have been spread for many years, and actually prominent leaders have espoused and propagated some of them, but every kind of racial bias is not racism.
  1. ETHNIC PREJUDICE AND PREFERENCE IS ALMOST UNIVERSAL.
The truth is sad, but it is the truth, that preference for one’s own group is an almost universal human characteristic. To set the goal of wiping out racism in the United States, while defining racism as preference for one’s own perceived ethnic group, is to aim at an unreachable target and to excuse the rapid and unwarranted spread of government power. It can also be the means of fomenting further racial hatred and even violent behavior. Although prejudice is not Christian, and racial bias can be hurtful and ugly, they will not be eradicated by mobs or laws.
  1. PREJUDICE AND RACISM CAN ONLY BE CURED BY GOD.
The royal law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” is God’s law (James 2:8) and it can only be fulfilled when God’s love enters the human heart.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”
(First John 4:7-12)
The Source of love is God, and God is love. He sent His love to sinful man by sending His Son to be our Savior. Those who receive Jesus, also receive love into their lives. This is how the hatred in human nature is counter-acted. Before regeneration (the experience of being born again), a man is prone to hate.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
“But after the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour…”
(Titus 3:3-6)
Insisting that wrongs be righted, that we must be treated with respect, or that racial injustice must be punished seldom rises out of love for others, and often engenders hate. The Bible teaches us to think about things that are true, honest, just, and pure (read Philippians 4:8) in order to maintain peace of mind, but we are constantly reminded of wrong, impure, dishonest, and unjust things that have been inflicted upon our perceived group throughout history. And such thoughts create outrage and anger in our hearts and minds, to our detriment. This is how black people, women, Muslims, Mexicans, and Native Americans are being taught to think, and the regular reminders of injustice only bring more hate. It is God that puts love into hearts. When we have been “justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
  1. THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN FREED FROM SIN CAN OVERCOME HATE.
The New Testament speaks of a life of liberty that is experienced by the believer in Jesus Christ (see John 8:30-36). Jesus not only saves men from Hell, but also from their sins, including the hatred in the human heart. Colossians 3 is a passage of scripture that says the Christian is “risen with Christ” (verse 1), that “Christ…is our life” (verses 2-4), that “the new man…is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (verses 9-10), that “Christ is all, and in all” (verse 11), and that “charity [love]…is the bond of perfectness” (verses 12-14). Jesus breaks the chains of sin and hate, and brings love into the life of one who trusts in His salvation. No political or ideological movement or revolution can do that. His love in the heart breaks down the barriers of prejudice (read Colossians 3:1-14 again).
  1. JESUS CHRIST IS THE ANSWER FOR HATE AND THE AUTHOR OF LOVE.
So Colossians 3 concludes that in Jesus Christ the distinctions of ethnicity, class, race, or group, no longer mar the love in the family of God, but instead “Christ is all, and in all” (read verse 11 again). It is amazing how revived Christians get along. The need of our nation is not a renewal of old racial offenses, but rather a revival of the Christian religion. Evangelical revivalism turned the tide of American opinion against slavery in the nineteenth century, as it also did in England in the previous century. The love of God and not angry agitation will be the cure to our racial problems, and will give racial harmony a deep and practical application on a personal level in every town and community. Let the Gospel of Jesus Christ be preached, and the love of Christ be lived and spread by those who believe in Him!

Dr. Rick Flanders


November 4, 2015

How to Know When the Emerging Church is Emerging in Your Church

WARNING!!! To keep you from having a “hissy fit,” please keep this in mind. Most of the things on the following list are not bad in themselves. This is not a condemnation of change or of things that are new; rather, it is a list of things that almost always appear on the road to the Emerging Church and its denial of biblical authority and sufficiency.

My heart is grieved by the fact that many of my long-time friends have been fooled into replacing a theology that is biblical with “culture authority.”  They do this by mocking things of the past and ridiculing those who press for biblical responsibility. Theology is a nasty word to them, but theology is actually a growing understanding of the God whom we serve.

HERE IS A PARTIAL LIST
 
Hymnals disappear. The Psalms are actually a hymnal. There is nothing wrong with a hymnal, even though there are things in some hymns that are errant. The Bible doesn’t command us to have hymnals in our churches. On the other hand, many people need to see the notes in order to be able to sing. Some churches have put the score on the screen to solve that problem. Without it, the blending of voices in harmony is nearly impossible.
 
The organ disappears. The Bible does not require that a church should have an organ, but trying to replace it with a tinny technical sound does not solve the issue. Nothing in our world can possibly replace the majestic sound of a pipe organ.
 
The platform is renovated. Anything that represents the past is bad and has to go. The choir loft and other furniture, including a communion table, are all replaced with new items designed to modify worship activity. Even the pulpit has to go, one way or another. It is certain that none of these things are commanded in Scripture, but their removal is the first hint that the Bible is no longer the center of worship.
 
The building is renovated. In this war on history, anything that speaks of the past has to go. When walking into some of the today’s new facilities, it’s hard to even know for sure that you'’e in a church. We can worship anywhere, but that is not the question. The question should be, “Is real worship going on here at all?”
 
Music does a turnabout. There are many kinds of music, much of which can be used tactfully. This is not an easy area to discuss, but replacing beautiful harmony with discord, yelling, repetition, and songs written by low-talent writers is certainly not helpful. It’s not that all current music is by any means bad; but when lyrics fly in the face of Scripture, there is a problem. It seems that the great majority of “worship leaders” don’t really even have enough theology to know when they are offending God.
 
Sermonettes replace biblical preaching. This is the second thing that reveals a turn away from Scripture. Preaching of the text is derided. Certainly some truth is spoken, but there is so little solid teaching of what God has said that people are starving spiritually. This happens when the communicator only knows about the Bible and very little of what God has actually said in the Bible.
 
Services dry up and disappear. The assembly of the local church is necessary for the health of the fellowship. Even with three services a week, there is a dearth of Bible teaching. People should be doing studies personally and with their families, but it is probably less than ten percent of the congregation that actually does. The Bible gives no strict rule on this, but during the persecution in the first century, they met daily. After all, how could once a week possibly provide for the coming persecution?
 
Evangelism almost disappears. For most churches, this is long gone. The task of reaching the lost should not be relegated solely to the preacher. The first line of evangelism is each true believer living and sharing the gospel in a needy world. Some human theological inventions have removed this from the believer’s responsibility, but it is still there.

Altar calls are non-existent or non-effective. Invitations at the end of a service are a recent invention, but they do have value. The important issue is why they have disappeared. If no one ever responds, why should you even bother to have one? And why doesn’t anyone one respond? This has to be a topic for another discussion, but a lot of it has to do with poorly crafted messages.
 
Unregenerate membership. This is an old problem. We invented a church membership concept that allows professing Christians to be part of a local church. When attendees act and talk like pagans and confess that the Spirit of God does not dwell in them, they should not be part of a membership. The new approach today, however, is to welcome pagans into the church without any clear testimony of conversion. The percentage of unsaved people in today’s congregations is now staggering. This is a third major area identifying the departure from scripture.
 
Man-centered worship. Worship is about God, to God, and for God; but you wouldn’t know it in most of today's "worship" meetings. Yes, there are lots of words about God, but it hard to actually find Him. How can you worship when the words being used are offensive to God and to His Word? Who in such a meeting can really worship? Unsaved Christ rejecters, as well as carnal, out-of-fellowship believers can’t truly worship. So, how many true believers who walk in the Spirit and who are able to worship are present? Man-centered entertainment "worship" is carnal and fleshly. One certain “worship leader” has confessed that “We do what we like.”
 
A hatred of history. This is the mantra of liberalism, socialism, and communism. Those on the road to the Emerging Church must shake the dust of history off their feet. The true believer rejoices in factual history, learns from it, and respects it, but does not live in the past. The road to “what we like” can have no historical markers.
 
A disdain for doctrine and scorn for theology. This is where it all ends. It is why churches often change their names, neuter their public doctrinal statements, and make fun of exegetical preaching. Their sick defense is that “We change our methods, but not our message.”  Sorry, but that is an impossibility and, frankly, it is a lie.
 
WHOA!! Don’t waste one breath in trying to argue about any of the above. The fact is that we need change, and many new things do indeed have value. The standard, however, should ever be the Holy Word of God. The tragedy is that most people don’t know enough of a theology that is biblical to allow them to avoid the dead end. That dead end is the Emergent Church mob. How much of this has emerged in your world?
 
 
Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
 
A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or at ShepherdStaff