If March 4th of 1966 Happened Today


My Facebook feed would likely be filled with a headline like this:

After His Extensive Study of Religion You’ll Never Believe What John Lennon Said About Jesus.

And then we’d all click on the link and it’d tell us that Lennon said, “Jesus is all right”. Many Christians would share this article and we’d celebrate that somewhere along the way John Lennon had accepted Jesus. Then when people started wondering about some of his other comments we’d read a host of articles telling the objectors not to be so judgmental and that maybe Lennon’s Christianity isn’t quite the same as ours, but at least he is one of us.

Of course it wouldn’t matter that the larger context for Lennon’s quote is the one that actually got him in a bit of trouble in 1966:

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

Lennon got himself into a mess of trouble when this quote came to the US in August of 1966. His statements were viewed as sacrilegious. The Bible Belt was in an uproar and the Vatican publicly denounced Lennon’s comments. Lennon attempted to explain that he wasn’t trying to dis on Jesus, he was simply saying that religion had been in steep decline, especially in the UK. The Beatles, in many ways, really were more popular than Jesus.

The difference between the church in 1966 and the church today is telling. If Reddit and Facebook had existed in 1966 I imagine the headlines after an interview with Chris Pratt would have read:

Half-Drunken Actor Displays Vulgarity and Talks About Smoking Weed

Though a bit disingenuous that headline would have been fairly accurate. In this piece, Chris Pratt dropped the “F-bomb” several times, admitted to being half-drunk in doing the interview, and talked about characters he played having smoked a bunch of weed. And yet my Facebook feed was recently filled with Christians celebrating Chris Pratt as a godly role model for men everywhere to follow (Like here and here)

I have to confess, I do like Chris Pratt. And I’m not even intending here to question the validity of his faith. It’s not really a concern of mine. He isn’t in my church, I don’t know his heart, but I’d be more than happy to be his friend if he lived near me. I’m attempting to make a much larger point than Chris Pratt.

What Chris Pratt said about his faith was about as ambiguous as what John Lennon has said in various places. But there has been a radical shift in our culture and in the church in the past 50 years. Somewhere along the way we over-reacted to our against culture stance and decided to pursue popularity with culture. Now we’ll quickly put Chris Pratt on a pedestal of Christian manhood because it gives us street cred.

But this is foolishness. D.A. Carson is correct:

This is a point that our generation cannot afford to ignore. Why is it that we constantly parade Christian athletes, media personalities, and pop singers? Why should we think that their opinions or their experiences of grace are of any more significance than those of any other believer? When we tell outsiders about people in our church, do we instantly think of the despised and the lowly who have become Christians, or do we love to impress people with the importance of the men and women who have become Christians?” D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, p.29

It is true, Christians won’t win the culture war by force or by politics. But it is also true that we won’t win the culture war by out-cooling unbelievers. We’ll win the culture war—if there even is one—when King Jesus returns and roots out of his world all sin and unbelief and replaces it with passionate worshippers. We don’t need celebrities to usher in the kingdom. What Jesus has done in your life is just as powerful as what he may or may not have done in the life of some A-list celebrity. You don’t need a rock star to validate your testimony. Jesus is enough!

Today in Blogworld 06.29.15

Because of my crazy schedule lately this would be more aptly title Last Month in Blogworld, but nevertheless here you go:

Marriage, Infidelity, and Ministry

This is sad. But good word from Heath Lambert: “Tragically, its possible to talk about Jesus a lot without really growing close to him. One of the most sobering realities any minister of the gospel can face is that a fall into immorality means that we were not as enamored with Jesus as we should have been even when it is our vocation to speak of him.”

How Can Millions of People All Be With Jesus in Heaven and Receive Personal Attention?

This is a question I’ve wondered about many of times. Randy Alcorn provides a good answer.

Our Culture of Reading

This is a bit lengthy but really good. (Isn’t it ironic that I feel the need to comment on the length?)

You Can’t Serve God and Entertainment

A helpful reminder.

And a helpful public service announcement:

Knowing When To Quit

“You just don’t know when to quit…”

I think I heard that phrase several times as a child and as a teenager. Whereas some people are really good at toeing up to a line, I have a tendency to cross the line…by several yards. Early on in my walk with Christ this little problem of mine would show itself in the way that I would argue about certain doctrines. I would pummel someone with information until they would have no choice but surrender.

There is a point in most every argument when one side or the other just gets silly. Logic and well reasoned biblical arguments no longer matter. Instead emotions and misrepresentation rule the day. The lengthy correspondence between Thomas Scott and John Newton eventually hit this point, as Scott began charging Newton with gross misrepresentation. Newton called him on it:

“It is easy to charge harsh consequences, which I neither allow, nor, indeed, do they follow from my sentiments”.

Newton went on to graciously explain his position and to attempt one more time to proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ. But he ended his letter by all but cutting off the conversation. Scott would later claim that he ended the correspondence—and he did—but Newton invited the closure of communication. And I think we have something to learn from him in this.

When an argument becomes more about winning an argument than it does about two people seeking truth, it is time to stop. Newton understood that there were spiritual things that needed to happen in Scott’s heart before he would be able to comprehend the points Newton was making. Even with fellow believers there are times when we should just walk away, simply because the Lord hasn’t yet led both parties into the same view.

Here are five times when it might be better to quit than to continue a discussion:

  1. When either party becomes angry. When someone gets angry nobody wins.
  2. When one party intentionally misrepresents the other. Accidental misrepresentation happens, but when one person intentionally misrepresents the other it’s time to stop. In this as well, when someone is being charged with a “harsh consequence” that you do not hold, and they refuse to accept that you do not hold to that consequence, it is time to walk away.
  3. When there is a foundational difference between the two parties. Of course you don’t walk away immediately. But you have to come to grips with the fact that on certain issues until the worldview changes your periphery argument will never advance.
  4. When it becomes personal. In some way every argument is personal, but when someone is making things personal it is time to stop.
  5. When one side shows an unwillingness to consider the opposition. It’s one thing to be confident. Its quite another to be unwilling to even consider another side.

There are probably others. But for me I tend to watch for these signs when discussing matters where I differ from someone. I figure that in most instances it is better to keep a relationship than to win an argument. That doesn’t make me soft—it makes me confident that the Lord will lead His people into truth. It’s simply my job to present the truth when the opportunity presents itself.

A Call To Action In A World On Fire – Part 2

At the end of first letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul gives a five-pointed charge to the church. This series examines those charges and seeks their application to us today. Part 1 is here.

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor. 16:13-14)

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Have you offended anyone today?

Not simply by being you. Anyone can be annoying and offensive if you try. Have you offended anyone with the Gospel today? No? There’s still time.

The gospel is the central truth of our faith. This truth is that all mankind are sinners, have sinned, and are separated from God by that sin. God acted by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, in the flesh. He lived without sin and was murdered on a Roman cross by sinful men. This death at the hands of sinners was an atoning sacrifice for all who would believe. Three days later Christ walked out of the tomb alive and is alive today at the right hand of the Father interceding for all who believe in him. If you turn from your sins and trust in him for your righteousness, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

In this gospel we stand. This is truth, not fanciful belief. This is truth, not myth. This is truth, not vain tradition.

Paul calls us to stand firm in the faith. If we stand firm in the teachings of the Bible and yet do not have Jesus Christ we are to be pitied. Modern Pharisees who hurl the law yet have no relation to the Law Giver. If we have Christ, if we are in Him, we are sons and daughters of the kingdom.

If we have Christ this world is not our home and we await the world that is to come, the new heavens and the new earth. If we have Christ, there is no condemnation for us. (Rom. 8:1) If we have Christ, he has set us free from bondage to sin. (Gal 5:1) If we have Christ, we are to tell the whole world this glorious news of a God who saves. (Matt. 28:18-20)

Yeah We Know

You may say, “Yeah I know. What’s your point?”

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:1)

As cultural Christianity declines in America the divide between Christ and culture is ever widening. It was always there. Holding a Biblical view of marriage and the family is increasingly seen as hateful. Add in any number of other differences that should set the Christian apart from their former selves, and we are now more akin to the “elect exiles of the dispersion” of 1 Peter 1 than Israelites under the rule of King David.

The change has been abrupt and jarring. We need to learn a theology of exile. That is, what it is like to live as exiles in a foreign land as increasingly we will have more in common with the Jews exiled to Babylon.

These words are not meant to make you depressed.

The call is to stand firm in the faith. Now, when God has graciously allowed our comfort to be pulled back our light is now exposed. Are we going to hide it under a basket or under a bed? (Matt 5:15) They will hate the light. People will curse us because we love Christ. They will curse, and revile, and slander us. (Matt 5:11-12) Yet we do not live for them.

We are to endure in the faith because Christ is worthy. He is worthy! We stand on the truth, not a version of it or our slant to it, but the truth. The truth is an infinitely solid ground upon which to stand. Our faith is grounded in truth. We believe in a God who is real, who has come and made atonement for us, and who is coming again. We stand on the knowledge that He is coming again.

Endure.

We were never promised it would be easy. We were in fact promised it would be hard and there would be tribulation.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

I don’t think our trials are as hard as they’re going to be. It will likely get worse. Stand firm.

Christ is worthy. Remember your inheritance in Him in the days and years ahead. Maybe he will be gracious and grant revival. Maybe. Revival begins with us, our faith being grounded in him, and our witness to a lost world.

Stand firm in the faith. Christ is best. Christ is worthy. Christ is King.