Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is Jesus in Your Heart?

This statement is one of the most confusing, convoluted, messed up statements that is uttered in many churches!!!   Amazingly, we ask this statement so often to those children in our fellowship and, because they are children, their tendency is to think in a very concrete manner. If there is anything we need to be crystal clear on, it is the Gospel. I have said many times to our congregation that there is not a Gospel for adults and a Gospel Jr. for children. There is one Gospel and it must be embraced totally, no matter if you are a child or a senior adult! There was a time that I used this phrase, but as my children grew up and I listened to their questions, I began to think through things biblically with the Gospel as my focus -  I then realized that describing Jesus “coming in your heart” clouds the Gospel truth… it doesn’t clarify it. Below is a great article written on this subject for you to think through.

10 Reasons NOT to Ask Jesus into your Heart
By Todd Friel

The music weeps, the preacher pleads, “Give your heart to Jesus. You have a God shaped hole in your heart and only Jesus can fill it.” Dozens, hundreds or thousands of people who want to get their spiritual life on track make their way to the altar. They ask Jesus into their heart.

Cut to three months later. Nobody has seen our new convert in church. The follow up committee calls him and encourages him to attend a Bible study, but to no avail. We label him a backslider and get ready for the next outreach event. 

Our beloved child lies in her snuggly warm bed and says, “Yes, Daddy. I want to ask Jesus into my heart.” You lead her in “the prayer” and hope that it sticks. You spend the next ten years questioning if she really, really meant it. Puberty hits and the answer reveals itself. She backslides. We spend the next ten years praying that she will come to her senses. 

Telling someone to ask Jesus into their hearts has a very typical result, backsliding. the Bible says that a person who is soundly saved puts his hand to the plow and does not look back because he is fit for service. In other words, a true convert cannot backslide. If a person backslides, he never slid forward in the first place. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) No backsliding there. 

Brace yourself for this one: with very few if any exceptions, anyone who asked Jesus into their hearts to be saved…is not. If you asked Jesus into your heart because you were told that is what you have to do to become a Christian, you were mis-informed.
If you have ever told someone to ask Jesus into their heart (like I have), you produced a false convert. Here is why. 

1. It is not in the Bible.
There is not a single verse that even hints we should say a prayer inviting Jesus into our hearts. Some use Rev. 3:20. To tell us that Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts begging to come in.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” There are two reasons that interpretation is wrong.The context tells us that the door Jesus is knocking on is the door of the church, not the human heart. Jesus is not knocking to enter someone’s heart but to have fellowship with His church. Even if the context didn’t tell us this, we would be forcing a meaning into the text (eisegesis). How do we know it is our heart he is knocking at? Why not our car door? How do we know he isn’t knocking on our foot? To suggest that he is knocking on the door of our heart is superimposing a meaning on the text that simply does not exist.
The Bible does not instruct us to ask Jesus into our heart. This alone should resolve the issue, nevertheless, here are nine more reasons. 

2. Asking Jesus into your heart is a saying that makes no sense.
What does it mean to ask Jesus into your heart? If I say the right incantation will He somehow enter my heart? Is it literal? Does He reside in the upper or lower ventricle? Is this a metaphysical experience? Is it figurative? If it is, what exactly does it mean? While I am certain that most adults cannot articulate its meaning, I am certain that no child can explain it. Pastor Dennis Rokser reminds us that little children think literally and can easily be confused (or frightened) at the prospect of asking Jesus into their heart. 

3. In order to be saved, a man must repent (Acts 2:38).Asking Jesus into your heart leaves out the requirement of repentance. 

4. In order to be saved, a man must trust in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).  Asking Jesus into your heart leaves out the requirement of faith. 

5. The person who wrongly believes they are saved will have a false sense of security. Millions of people who sincerely, but wrongly, asked Jesus into their hearts think they are saved but struggle to feel secure. They live in doubt and fear because they do not have the Holy Spirit giving them assurance of salvation. 

6. The person who asks Jesus into his heart will likely end up inoculated, bitter and backslidden. Because he did not get saved by reciting a formulaic prayer, he will grow disillusioned with Jesus, the Bible, church and fellow believers. His latter end will be worse than the first. 

7. It presents God as a beggar just hoping you will let Him into your busy life.This presentation of God robs Him of His sovereignty. 

8. The cause of Christ is ridiculed. Visit an atheist web-site and read the pagans who scoff, “How dare those Christians tell us how to live when they get divorced more than we do? Who are they to say homosexuals shouldn’t adopt kids when tens of thousands of orphans don’t get adopted by Christians?” Born again believers adopt kids and don’t get divorced.
People who ask Jesus into their hearts do. Jesus gets mocked when false converts give Him a bad name. 

9. The cause of evangelism is hindered. While it is certainly easier to get church members by telling them to ask Jesus into their hearts, try pleading with someone to make today the day of their salvation. Get ready for a painful response. “Why should I become a Christian when I have seen so called Christians act worse than a pagan?” People who ask Jesus into their hearts give pagans an excuse for not repenting. 

10. Here is the scary one. People who ask Jesus into their hearts are not saved and they will perish on the Day of Judgment. How tragic that millions of people think they are right with God when they are not. How many people who will cry out, “Lord, Lord” on judgment day will be “Christians” who asked Jesus into their hearts?
So, what must one do to be saved? Repent and trust. (Heb.6:1) The Bible makes it clear that all men must repent and place their trust in Jesus Christ. Every man does have a “God shaped hole in their hearts,” but that hole is not contentment, fulfillment and peace. Every man’s heart problem is righteousness. Instead of preaching that Jesus fulfills, we must preach that God judges and Jesus satisfies God’s judgment…if a man will repent and place his trust in Him. 

If you are reading this and you asked Jesus into your heart, chances are good you had a spiritual buzz for a while, but now you struggle to read your Bible, tithe, attend church and pray. Perhaps you were told you would have contentment, purpose and a better life if you just ask Jesus into your heart. I am sorry, that was a lie.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Failed System of Traditional Student Ministry

A few weeks ago I copied a blog on Student Ministry and then wrote my thoughts on the articles. I came across this blog a few weeks ago and felt that it was well worth posting. I believe it summarizes what I spent several weeks highlighting. Let me say I thank the Lord for our mentors and Bro. Bubba that “get it” when it comes to our students. You will find the blog below or on this link: http://nateedmondson.com/2012/06/25/just-teach-em-the-good-book/

Ideas and insights for current church leaders from the on deck circle.
Just teach em the good book
Posted on June 25, 2012    14

I’ve been to a lot of youth groups. Like a million or something. The reason there are so many youth group stereotypes is because they’re all about the same.
Now, recently everybody has caught onto the whole “millennials are leaving the church” thing. A bunch of people are proposing a bunch of different reasons for why, and offering a bunch of different strategies to fix it.
I thought I’d share my opinion.

  • The problem: nobody knows the Bible anymore.
  • The solution: teach people the Bible.
“Nah, that won’t work.” Yea, because dodgeball, stupid intro games, stupid videos, and stupid stories from the youth pastor have been working so well.
Even the “serious” part of youth groups is pretty stupid these days. Here’s how a typical youth group message goes:
  • Stupid intro story about when the youth pastor was in high school
  • Reading of one verse
  • No explanation of the verse
  • Application of the verse: “Guys, God loves us… and we can change the world. We just need big faith that He can do it. Here, read this book Sun Stand Still.
(The Sun Stand Still thing is just a joke.)
Now, please hear me. I don’t mean to disrespect you if you’re a youth pastor. I especially don’t mean to belittle your desire to help students encounter God. But here’s the thing: the reason students are leaving the church when they get to college is because they don’t believe anything significant enough about Christianity to keep them once they get there.
Here are the core things we teach:
  • God and Jesus love you no matter what
  • You should be a good person
  • You should change the world
The problem is, all of that is sexy in the world right now without the church.
  • God and Jesus love you no matter what… because for God to refuse to accept someone would be intolerant… so of course God loves us no matter what
  • You should be a good person… exactly. We should all be nice so we can live peacefully and in harmony
  • You should change the world… totally! Look at Tom’s shoes, he’s really making a difference! Oh, and we should stop human trafficking!
Please hear me. People desperately need Jesus Christ. Jesus is only found one place. All the Scripture leads back to Him. So let’s just teach it. Let’s make our primary strategy to teach God’s Word. We have to help students see that the Bible addresses the issues they’re dealing with, and that it’s the voice they need to obey, because it’s the only voice that’s true 100% of the time.
As long as we boil Christianity down to a few core ethical principles, people won’t be sticking around. They get those everywhere.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Great Marriage Advice

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in a blog that I have had such joy in doing premarital counseling recently – that the couples the Lord has brought together to be married, have been such a blessing. When I come across biblical advice in regard to marriage I try to save it and use it at different times as I teach. The advice below is among the best I have ever seen and it would be a wonderful gift for any parent to give their daughter on her wedding day.

15 Marriage Tips
Throughout my life, I have ever been on the lookout for wise advice. How blessed the young woman who received the following gift of love which is n'er too late to take to heart:

(Prior to his daughter's marriage, Mr. Richmond put into her hands a paper of directions for her future conduct, which, for simplicity, affection, and sound practical wisdom—may be considered one of the best dowries that a Christian parent could bestow on his child.)

My much-loved daughter,

When your sister Mary left her paternal roof, I gave her a paper of admonitions, which I requested her to read often. I do the same for you, in the form of a friendly string of maxims, to regulate your conduct in your new and very responsible situation.

1. Aim at keeping a devoted heart for God in the least and most common transactions of every hour—as well as in those events which may seem to call the loudest for manifestations of Christian prudence and principle.

2. Pray regularly and frequently, not seldom and occasionally—for grace to live by.

3. Remember the Christian principles and examples of your father's house, and everywhere endeavor to preserve its character, by consistency in conduct, conversation, and temper. Keep in constant recollection—the wise, prudent, and conscientious example of your dear mother.

4. Form no hasty friendship; and none whatever, but such as may promote seriousness of heart, tongue and life.

5. Beware of cheerfulness degenerating into levity. Let no natural vivacity of temper, no occasionally indulged sallies of humor and jocularity—throw a shadow over the exercise of solid principle. Little foolish things give a color to character, and are more easily imitated, than serious and good sentiments.

6. Guard against hasty judgments of character, and above all against uttering hasty opinions, and making remarks to the disparagement of others. Particularly avoid making the errors, failings, faults, or follies of others—the subject of rash and unguarded remarks. Be known for charity, forbearance, and kindness. Be slow to judge—rather than swift to speak.

7. Wherever you are, in the first place, remember that God's eye is upon you; and then imagine also that your husband and father are present. It may be a fanciful—but it is a profitable supposition.

8. Keep Christ's golden rule, "Do unto to others—as you would have them do unto you" in perpetual remembrance. It is the panacea for most of the social evils of life.

9. Be conscientious towards all; friendly with few; confidential with fewer still; strictly intimate with fewest of all.

10. When you think of your father, bear with his infirmities and pardon his faults—but remember his principlesand instructions, so far as they have been agreeable to the Word of God.

11. Do not be content with anything short of deep, sincere, diligent, and decided piety.

12. If you and your husband happen to differ in opinion or feeling on any point—remember whom you have promised to love, honor, and obey—and this will settle all things.

13. Of your husband's warm affections towards you, I entertain no doubt—strive to preserve them by daily elevation of character; and not so much by fondness—as by prudence and dignity. May you both learn to raise a home of marital happiness—by mutual wisdom and love.

14. Observe great simplicity and plainness in dress. You should be a pattern to others in this respect. There is a just complaint made of many females who profess to be pious—that they are far too showy and mirthful in their outward apparel. Remember the apostle Peter's injunction, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

15. Christ has been made known to you fully and freely; let Christ be your all in all, both now and forever.

Receive my parting advice in love, and be assured, my beloved child, that it comes from the affectionate heart of your dear father."
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. 
Proverbs 31:10-12

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Call to Manhood

Before I even begin this blog/letter, please let me state that it is with a burdened heart and a great deal of thought and prayer.  I want to state openly and before anything else, that I am sending a copy of this letter to both men involved and am, of course taking personal responsibility over what I am saying in this blog.  I do not believe that we have a right biblically, to handle things in an open forum when the Bible calls us to go to someone directly and, I do not believe we should be so cowardly as to post “anonymously” – but I will say that I have chosen to post this blog, rather than just send the letter, because both men have made their stands and beliefs in a very open and “public” manner, and I believe it should be called into question in an equally open manner to address the concerns.   I am not perfect, and do not claim to be.  I am infinitely fallible and capable of any sin known to man – including my heart’s desperate desire for peace and longing to avoid conflict – a sin I battle in my ministry often.  I write this letter and blog, not with the wisdom and knowledge of an expert, but as someone who has walked and lived in a ministry that has required me to stand on biblical truth many times and battle my desire for peace as I seek to glorify God in conflict.   There is a time to stand – even if it creates conflict, because it is RIGHT and BIBLICAL to do so. 

It should also be noted that the church, First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs and Pastor Stan Weatherford, issued a public apology this past Sunday for the actions that have occurred.  While the apology stated that they were sorry for “the hurt that was brought” to the couple, and that they recognized that the church is made up of people who “intentionally, at times, choose not to follow the Lord’s will”…this apology still falls short in dealing with one specific area – will our response to sinfulness be active and taking responsibility, or be passive and compromising in trying to avoid conflict at all costs.  I am so thankful that the Church and the local community are facing this issue and dealing with the harm it has caused in a positive manner, but I hate to think that a valuable lesson in manhood is going to be overlooked in the attempt to make peace. 

A Request for Mississippi Baptist Leadership to Evaluate the Definition of Manhood:

One of the most enjoyable things that I do as a Pastor is on Thursday mornings when I have the opportunity to lead Men's Fraternity. One of the first things we went through in this men’s Bible Study, was the definition of manhood. This definition was so good, I put it on the wall in our boys playroom (actually as teens, they now call it the “man-cave”). But the definition is: “A man rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and expects the greater reward…God's reward.”  My thoughts ran to this definition this week as I pondered the tragic decision that was made by the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, MS. to not allow an African American couple to have a wedding ceremony in their facility. However, I must confess after further reading and studying the matter, my concern for the church abated some as I saw multiple reports that this was a minority of the congregation that seems to have worked behind the scenes to disrupt such a Christ honoring event as a wedding ceremony. I have personally watched a small militant and divisive group cause great harm in churches working in cowardly, behind the scenes manner. However, as a believer (especially in Mississippi), I believe we cannot “gloss over” this issue and simply let it go: there is more going on than just a wedding here.   After much prayer and examination of this issue, and going based on just what these men have stated publicly, about their own beliefs and reasons, I believe responsibility falls to two brothers in Christ who I hope will consider the definition above. I believe these two brothers had a responsibility to act and react in a biblical manner regarding overt sinfulness; it is to these two brothers that I feel we, as believers, should respond as they have made their decisions publically:    

The first is to Pastor Stan Weatherford, who I am sure had no desire for the type of press he has received. I fully understand the difficulties of being a Pastor, and I have experienced first-hand, having to make tough decisions that I knew could most certainly endanger my job and may cause difficulty for our church in the short-run. I know the turmoil that this can bring to a family and I can imagine the pressure he must have felt in attempting to lead First Baptist Crystal Springs through this crossroads. However, this decision to acquiesce to the bigoted minority, or even a majority, and simply move the wedding away from the church, is to bow down to a complete compromise of the Gospel. If we hold to Scripture as being inerrant and we do, then we believe that marriage is not simply a gift from God to us as people, but we believe that marriage is a living, breathing illustration of the relationship between Christ and His Church. He is the creator and definer of marriage, not us, because He set it up. Therefore, marriage is a picture of the Gospel – of Christ redeeming His imperfect bride and making her without blemish for His glory.  We are His simply because He chose us to be for His glory and through His work of grace alone…we are a bride that is undeserving and in need of His grace.  And this same grace that is shown to us through the picture of marriage is the same grace that goes out to any race, any color and any nationality.  For Pastor Stan to bow to a "vocal minority" (his words) is not pastoral move, but a move of passivity to protect his job and, I believe also to keep his church from conflict.  However, this picture of the Gospel is too valuable and too important to make light of to simply avoid conflict.   

I find it strange that we had untold thousands support Chick-Fil-A for their biblical stance on marriage, and are “up in arms” about the issue of homosexuals having a "kiss in" at some Chick-fil-A's - but we have not heard alarm for this bigoted decision allowed by this Pastor and this Church (even in Mississippi!). My guess is the greater damage could be done from Pastor Weatherford's decision on allowing racial prejudice to dictate a church decision, than from a stance on homosexuality. While I wholeheartedly agree in the biblical definition of marriage, I think the point is moot if I don't have a biblical understanding of how that marriage illustrates the church and Gospel. The church is a local group of believers that are joined to together and united first and foremost, through the grace of Christ found through the cross (there is much more regarding doctrine accountability but this shortened definition will do for this). The point is that what unifies us is the grace of God, not our favorite football teams, nor our skin color or country of origin. To be silent or to compromise on an issue as crucial to the Gospel as bigotry, is to miss our calling completely. By allowing bigoted thinking to keep two individuals from celebrating this covenant of marriage before God in the fellowship of believers, is to mar the picture of the Gospel going forth to all nations. 

Now, for the individual who had an opportunity to clearly speak for Mississippi Baptists and give a uncompromising definition of marriage and how it relates to the Gospel; Dr. Jim Futral. When given this opportunity to speak with grace and boldness, here is his quote: "Mississippi Baptists both reject racial discrimination and at the same time respect the autonomy of our local churches to deal with difficulties and disagreements under the lordship of Jesus." Well, obviously there is a misunderstanding of Lordship here. Christ is my Lord, therefore I can't hate someone for their skin color, for their nationality or for any other reason, because He is Lord - He forbids it; and, as a believer when I do something Christ forbids, I must repent. I certainly believe if Pastor Weatherford made the decision to have homosexuals marry in First Baptist Crystal Springs that Dr. Futral would come out stronger than he did on this issue.   I believe we make such an issue over homosexuality because we are more confident that we are not dealing with that in our own lives – it is an open, defining sin that the Bible calls sin (meaning you either are, or are not a homosexual)…but racial prejudice, well…we like to believe that is a little more “murky” and of course is not nearly as critical, right?   Even our Baptist Faith and Message sets the two side by side when it says in section XV:
"All Christians are under obligation to seek and make the will of Christ
supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods
used for the improvement of society and the establishment of
righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when
they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual  by the saving grace
of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose
racism, every form of greed...all forms of sexual immorality, including
adultery, homosexuality and pornography."

Now, if Dr. Futral heard of a church allowing homosexuality or showing pornography on couple’s retreats, I imagine he would not simply say: "We stand against all forms of sin, but it is a matter of church autonomy on homosexuality." No, if he did, his job would be on the line. But amazingly we are passive, with such tepid responses when dealing with open bigotry and racial prejudice.  I am not attacking Dr. Futral or Pastor Weatherford as we have all made decisions we wish we would have done differently, but a clear attack on the Gospel in this fashion demands a stronger response.  Dr. Futral had no problem stepping out and being one of few Executive Directors to sign his name on the controversial and potentially divisive "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation." This document caused a great deal of turmoil with brothers on both sides working in missions together; brothers that get the Gospel right. Dr. Futral made an amazingly strong stand on that issue with such potential divisiveness across the convention, yet such a weak response on this issue.  Given our State’s history in bigotry and prejudice, and what a disturbing misrepresentation of the Gospel this example of bigotry was, why not a stronger response here? Why choose to take such a weak stand on this issue?  To avoid conflict in your own “backyard”?  Or was it because it was not a group signing a document, but only one man being asked to respond and take a stand in the face of obvious sinfulness.  

In conclusion, this negative situation was an opportunity for First Baptist Crystal Springs, Dr. Weatherford and Dr. Futral to call for repentance and stand for the Gospel. It was as simple as "rejecting passivity" and when that isn't done, one can never accept responsibility. Here is an opportunity for God to use this situation to display His glory through His people holding to truth. Let's do so in one accord and pray that in coming days we all more aggressive in doing right.