Sugar & Spice and Everything Nice…
We’re taking the day off tomorrow – all apologies, of course – so in lieu of a new Uncommon Show I hope you’ll enjoy an Uncommon Blog entry. This is my (the Cleaner) response to a few e-mails, and certainly many things that have been taking place on both the Parson’s FacePal wall, as well as mine. A sincere look at an urgent matter, in a way we hope you’ll find meaningful.
Enjoy, rant or rave, and we’ll see you all next week!
Have you ever looked at or heard something, and before a critical thought crossed your mind found yourself completely captivated by it? Perhaps you have an example or two from your personal experience, here’s one that might hit home for many of us. John Lennon wrote a song back in 1971 called ‘Imagine’. It’s a beautiful sounding piece of music, you almost can’t help but immediately be taken in by it, perhaps even mindlessly sing it. Admit it, you’ve hummed a bar or two on occasion. However, if you, as a Christian, actually listen to the lyrics you may find yourself vomiting at the ease with which you were initially drawn in.
The words to Imagine are riddled with atheistic thoughts, even communistic thoughts. The song is antithetical to Christians, to God, yet many sing it with joy. If you wait a bit it won’t take long before you catch an example or two, most likely during some music award show. (Carrie Underwood once sang it on American Idol, and she’s s elf professed Christian.) The song’s message calls for a kind of universal equality, fellowship & sharing, it’s attractive to people, probably as attractive as the forbidden fruit was to Eve in the Garden.
So, this begs the question: How are we, as Christians to discern whether or not such a message is appropriate?
Perhaps Imagine is an easy one to spot, as the line, “No Hell below us, above us only sky…”, is a dead give away, one would think, but even so, Believers still manage to sing this secular anthem without so much as a second thought as to its implications.
The thing is, Christians – all being failed, flawed and sin cursed people as much as any other human being out there – will easily stray to “sugar” if it’s presented. It’s human nature. We like sugar, it tastes great! And while in and of itself sugar isn’t a bad thing, sugar in the message of the Gospel is always a bad thing. Yet, it looks nearly identical to salt, doesn’t it?
Please allow me to say that again: Sugar in the message of the Gospel is ALWAYS a bad thing. But it’s similarity to salt is ‘crystal’ clear. The reason this is noteworthy is because sugar is not a necessary, or stated, component of the Gospel of Christ dying for sinners. Salvation via Grace through Faith in Christ Crucified is, of course, the “Good News”, but it’s not sugar. It’s not stated to be sugar, and we shouldn’t think of it that way.
Here’s one way of looking at it: Sugar is not mentioned even once in the Bible. Sugar was well known in ancient times, it was even considered to be a delicacy, very expensive, but it’s not mentioned in the Bible.
Salt, however, is a different story.
Matthew 5:13 “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
We’ve all heard that passage, all read it, but let’s examine some of the uses for salt, just for context:
*Salt adds flavor to food
*Salt is used as a preservative
*Salt in an open wound hurts like heck, but is a purifier, a quick disinfectant*Removes odors (onion, garlic) from your hands)
*Treats Poison Ivy and mosquito bites
*REALLY cleans up skin (ever use a Dead Sea Salt? Amazing stuff!)
*Cleans all kinds of surfaces and household metal objects*Brightens colors in the wash!*Removes blood stains…and a whole bunch more stuff.
Quite frankly, salt is an amazing chemical, and I’m betting God knows that, being that He created the stuff, and all.
Now, what can we do with sugar, you’re wondering?
*Make things sweeter!
*Make things sweeter!
*Make things sweeter!
That’s only partially true, admittedly, but in reality the uses for sugar other than the above are rather superficial by comparison. Salt is the multitasking king of the two crystals.
Now, why mention these two in the context of the faith? Mainly because at a superficial level, and we’re superficial creatures by and large, they look so similar. However, what if you could identify the effects of sugar in the Christian faith by the circumstances of a given event as opposed to in lieu of it being specifically identified as such in the Bible? Here’s an example:
2nd Timothy 4:3 & 4
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
May we ask ourselves if the above warning, once fulfilled, is a direct result of ‘Spiritual Sugar’ or ‘Spiritual Salt’? The question is obviously rhetorical, and begs yet another question: How do we KNOW if/when such a thing is taking place in our lives, in our age, or even our church?
Solving the above equation is a more complex problem, isn’t it? Reading the above passages isn’t difficult at all for most Believers; identifying such a thing in our own experience, however, is an entirely different matter.
This note has been written because it is my contention that Believers are, in fact, being overrun by ‘Spiritual Sugar’ more today than in any other age, including the era of complete Roman rule. The reason for that is obvious; Roman rule was awful, not pleasurable. Then came the reformation, and subsequent building up, the reintroduction, if you will, of the Doctrine of Salvation by Grace through Faith, even if the newly formed denominations never quite fully grasped it. (It is my belief that this realization is individual, not denominational.)
But what about now? What do we have now, in our age? Let’s take a look at four main varieties, and perhaps a criticism or two that will be more salt than sugar for some. Please bear with me as we flesh this out together.
We have (at least) four major heresies – in my personal opinion – being perpetuated by churches in general, but certainly mega-churches in particular. I’m going to use 4 well known men as examples, as their particular approaches to these heresies are superlative in overall scope, and should be easy enough for most to grasp in concept. They are:
*Joel Osteen – The Lakewood pastor who does not preach on sin, as he often cites he lacks the “anointing” for such a topic. This is like a bookshelf full of books having only one bookend!
*Rick Warren – The Saddleback pastor who does not preach about the ‘End Times’ or prophecy in general. His reasons are his own, but the idea is obvious; the ‘bad news’ is not a big seller, the proof being that Hal Lindsey’s and Rick Warren’s personal wealth are vastly disparate. One cannot conceivably be a ‘Watchman on the Wall’ if this aspect of God’s Word is neglected.
*Bill Hybels – The Willow Creek pastor is unwilling to publicly tackle the culture wars, such as the ever advancing militant gay agenda to strip the God mandated morality of one man/one woman marriage being a fundamental pillar of our society. Ignoring such basic components of our faith result in societal cancer.
*James MacDonald – The Harvest Bible Church pastor embraces a specific form of the heresy known as ‘Lordship Salvation’. This is the notion that you remained Saved only so long as you keep Jesus on His rightful throne in your life. Pastor MacDonald’s position on this is that if you ‘backslide’ you were never Saved in the first place. He openly ridicules those with whom he disagrees. belittles eternal Salvation by Grace through Faith at the instance of genuine belief, and has gone so far as to teach that all who, “….died in the wilderness never had it (Salvation) to begin with”. A stunning statement when you consider that Moses died in the wilderness, yet was also present at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17, etc.)!
These are men having “lost their savour”, as they have limited function due to failing to preach the whole counsel of God, as did Paul (Acts 20:27).
They have a substitute, however, and it is ‘Spiritual Sugar’. This peculiar transformation, this perversion of the Gospel of Christ Crucified for sins, is something I call:
It’s one thing for Jesus Christ to change water into wine (the only true act of alchemy I’ll accept this side of Heaven!), it’s quite another when men do it to Holy Writ. Galatians 1:6-8 absolutely forbids it, by the way.
So, without diving into what makes each of those errors *grave errors* (I am assuming that you, the reader, at least agree with me that most, if not all, are), let us ask ourselves the following question: How do we identify if our church is possibly infected with the end time prophetic curse found in 2nd Timothy 4:3-4 and other places in the Bible? How would we know? CAN we know?
I submit to you that a good place to start is to honestly ask ourselves if we’re in love with a church building first, and/or blindly loyal to a pastor second. Those are tough questions for most people to answer.
Some secondary questions could be:
*Do we go to our churches for the music? The choir?
*Do we go because our pastor doesn’t convict us of sin?
*Do we go because we hear a message that makes us feel good rather than causing us to think critically?
*Do we go because we can merely sit through a sermon rather than tough out a thorough study of the Word of God?
*Do we go because our church is close to home?
*Do we go because our friends are there?
*Do we go because our parents went there, because we were raised in a certain denomination?
*”My spouse just likes the joint.”
These, and more, questions could be asked of any of us. What would our answers be? Would we claim to have the right answers only to be cross examined by someone who subsequently proved our knowledge of the Word of God and the Person of Christ to be near completely deficient? Is there really even an acceptable answer for being deficient in our knowledge of the full counsel of the Word of God, speaking specifically for we here in America?
Would you agree with me that contemporary Christianity is now something like a mile wide but a 1/4 of an inch thick?
If not then you may need to ask yourself the above questions, one by one, see how many you can eliminate. A good way to examine your faith might begin with the following:
*If you’re uncomfortable hearing that you’re a wretched sinner and that only the death of God in the flesh could make you right with Him, and are pleased that your pastor rarely, if ever, brings the subject up, then you’re in the wrong church.
*If you aren’t more interested in hearing a sermon analyzing Ezekiel 38 & 39 than you are to learn all about the purpose driven life and/or singing the 4th stanza of the next song from your church hymnal, then you’re in the wrong church.
*If you can’t explain, with clarity and/or passion, why being a homosexual is wrong and what makes abortion a murder as opposed to merely being a ‘personal choice’, then you’re in the wrong church.
*If you feel uncomfortable reading the 7th chapter of Matthew (including the swine, dogs and wolves), along with 23, from beginning to end, then you’re in the wrong church.
*If you aren’t completely, as in 100% certain that you’re Saved, and eternally so, as you are that you’re reading this note, then you’re in the wrong church. *If you’re not interested in learning about the Word of God and the Person of Christ more than you want your next breath, then you might not have a healthy faith.
*If you don’t see everything in the world, everything around you, every action of humanity, every action in the physical universe, everything, all of it, through the lens of the revealed Word of God we call the Bible, then you’re in the wrong church.
If your Jesus more like this guy…
…than this man…
…then you’re in the wrong church.
Here’s the thing, both of these crosses look identical. But they’re not. They’re just crosses. You can see them in and on nearly any church on any given Sunday. However, one of these is made of salt, the other is made of sugar. One is an imposter, the other is the real deal. To tell you the truth, I don’t even recall which one is which any longer, and now it’s too late to tell merely by looking at them. We’ll need biblical discernment in order to determine which is which…
In practice there is a way, of course (God is NOT the Author of confusion), and it’s not awfully difficult, anyone can do it. All it requires is a spirit of honesty, and a sincere desire to know the truth. Here it is:Take the Bible literally where it is obviously literal (eternal life MEANS eternal life, not a temporary life preserver you can reject later), and ignore NONE of it due to some aspect or another making you feel uncomfortable. That’s just as little salt in a wound, trust the Lord, He’s trying to heal something in you, trying to tell you something, trying to teach you something. Give the Holy Spirit a chance to work within you.
Take it ALL in, and when something doesn’t make sense, if something hurts, look at it longer, examine it deeper. If there appears to be a contradiction? There isn’t, it’s just an opportunity to learn something that at the moment is evading you. Take time, make time, it will all come together.
And please, don’t worship any man. All men, all pastors, all teachers, have flaws. Yours does, mine does and I do. An honest person knows this and is unafraid to admit it. Examine yourself, and your pastor/teacher, always. Never blindly support; trust, but verify. There is no shame in that.
Don’t be a victim of spiritual alchemy, don’t let the sugar creep in, let the salt do its work, and it will – if you allow it to.
God bless you in your search, and feel free to contact either myself or Pastor John Kirkwood if you’d like to talk about anything you’ve just read.