Every week we do a chapel service for the staff at Dare 2 Share. All 48 of us gather to pray, worship, get updates and get fed from the Word of God. One of the things that I love about our D2S team is that they often taunt me during my talks. If I slip at all it is a free for all of "loving" sarcasm and preacher-focused heckles.
But I get to dish it out too. Ha!
This week I'm starting a new series called "Fighting Words" that should lead to plenty of heckles (and not just from the Dare 2 Share staff, but also from my online friends.) This seven-week series is built around seven sentences that should start a "fight" when Christians utter them. In other words these are sentences that I believe that we as Christians should stand up against.
Of course when I talk about this "Fight Club for Christians" I'm not talking about flying fists. I'm not even talking about angry screaming, pointing and blog flogging. I'm talking about engaging in real conversation in defense of the truth with gentleness and respect. Our Fight Club doesn't end in bloody noses but paper cuts...from scouring the pages of Scripture in search of the truth.
Here are the seven sentences that, in my opinion, are fighting words:
1. “Christians shouldn't debate theology."
Did you know that it is a command of God to defend the truth of God's Word against those who dare oppose it? Check out the words of Jude, "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."
Christians need to "contend for the faith" in love, but they need to do it. If we don't then the garden of truth will be overrun with the weeds of heresy.
2. “Every religion ultimately leads to God."
There is a growing universalism in the church today that states or implies (my more tricky friends do this a lot) that if someone truly follows their religion and whoever their concept of God is that God will let them into heaven. But Jesus himself took serious exception to this when he claimed to be the sole way to the Father in John 14:6. Someone once put it this way, "All roads do lead to God, most to his judgment, one to his forgiveness."
3. "If a person lives a good life God will probably let them into heaven."
The way of work verses the way of grace is an either/or proposition. If we choose the way of work then Jesus' standards for entrance into heaven are impossibly high (check out Matthew 5 and Jesus' "You have heard...but I say..." standards for real righteousness.)
But the way of grace was made possible by the only human that ever kept God's standards perfectly, Jesus himself. If this grates against your soul then you are experiencing the offense of the cross.
4. "We can't really 'know' anything for sure, especially when it comes to spiritual truth."
The postmodern epistemological principle is that we can't be certain about anything. But the Bible's epistemological principle is that without certainty then the essence of faith is erased. Check out Hebrews 11:1-2, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for."
The Old Testament heroes were commended for their unshakeable certainty in the Person and promises of God that they ended up in the Hall of Fame of Hebrews 11. If we want to be included in their ranks then we need to embrace this same brand of certainty (not to be confused with know-it-all-arrogance that the Pharisees were condemned for). Anything less than full certainty in our God and his promises is faithless, anemic and, well, postmodern.
5. "I follow the red letters of the Bible more than the black ones."
I hear this all the time. But the red letters of Jesus in the Bible that Jesus spoke are no less inspired than the black letters of the Bible that the Spirit of Jesus wrote through the pens of the 40 men who penned the Holy Scriptures over the course of 1,500 years.
Personally I think a lot of my friends who like the red letters more embrace them because they can use the purposely vague parables of Jesus to insert their own theological agendas into the conversation. But even the disciples were surprised when Jesus just flat out "said it like it was" without parabolic, confusing language. John 16:29 reminds us of this when it says, "Then Jesus' disciples said, 'Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.'"
Check this passage out in Matthew 13:10-15
"The disciples came to him and asked, 'Why do you speak to the people in parables?' He replied, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: 'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'"
In other words Jesus was purposely confusing with his parabolic language because he came, not to establish his earthly kingdom right away, but to die on the cross for the sins of humanity. That's why I'm convinced that the gospels are best understood through the lenses of the epistles. That's also why I'm convinced many people avoid the gospels so they can insert their own meaning/kookiness/heresy as their own punchline to the parables of Jesus.
6. "I refuse to believe that a God of love would send people to hell."
It is real.
God hates sin.
That's why he lit the flames of hell to begin with.
God is loving.
That's why he crushed his own Son so that we could be eternally redeemed from it's ferocity.
7. "The gospel of Jesus is not a set of propositions."
The word "gospel" means "good news." This news is communicated with words in the form of propositions. This news centers around a personal relationship with the God of the universe. More to follow...
Starting this Friday afternoon our latest Dare 2 Share Uncensored podcast will be posted on www.dare2share.org
I challenge you to watch these podcasts, stay tuned to the blog and watch the sparks fly! I also challenge you to engage the conversation. Understand that I'm starting the really busy part of my conference travel schedule this weekend. So I may just pull the pin on the grenade and leave the room, trusting my theologically aligned friends to respond, tort and retort.
Stay tuned...it should be a lot of fun!