The Alt-Right is Incompatible With the Gospel of Christ

Worth your time…really.

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My 2017 Reading Plan

I like to read books. 

While some of these books have changed my life, others have been a complete waste of time. No doubt, all of them have shaped me to varying degrees. When thinking about how to plan my reading well, I’ve learned that a structured plan is best for me. So in the above picture you’ll find what I plan to read in 2017. I share this with you not to impress you or to somehow get you thinking that I’m smarter than I really am, ha! I do this because I really do think these will be fruitful ideas for your own reading this year.

I’ll explain each choice below:

(Disclaimer: before I pick up any of these books know that the most important book I’ll be reading this year is my Bible. No Christian should pick up a book, until they’ve read their Bible first…onto the list)

Kingdom Come: Sam Storms foundational work on the Amillenial position. This was in my list from last year, and because I never got to it last year it’s my first book up this year.

Family Worship: I’ve admired Joel Beeke ever since I first heard him preach in 2012 at the Desiring God Pastors conference. He’s a big proponent of family worship, and seeing the benefits of family worship in my own family makes me want to do it better. This will help me and you as well.

A Quest for Godliness: J.I. Packer is one of the most refreshing authors of our time. Because of this each year I try to read a Packer book. Put the beauty of the Puritans together with the clarity and helpfulness of Packer and you’ve got a gem of a book. I’m eagerly waiting to get to this one.

Thoughts for Young Men: Small books are helpful. J.C. Ryle extends help to all young men here by calling them to a life of continual reformation and refining. Though short, I’m thinking this one will hurt to read, which, will be good for me and you once picked up.

Simplicity in Preaching: Again, small books are helpful. Every year I make sure to read a book on preaching, to stay sharp, to stay humble, and to remain teachable…so Ryle is on deck for 2017 for my preaching encouragement.

The Legacy of Luther: Did you really think I’d get through the 500th anniversary of the Reformation without a book on Luther? No way! My reformed fibers are full of gusto as we approach this year, and I can’t wait to get into this one. You need to read this, especially since it’s year 500 this year.

The Puritan Hope: Iain Murray is becoming one of my favorite authors. After reading his book ‘The Forgotten Spurgeon’ last year I looked on my shelf for another Murray book and I found this one – thus it’s on my shelf and list for this year.

9Marks of a Healthy Church series: Few things have been more helpful to me as a pastor than 9Marks ministries led by Mark Dever. These are short books on each of the marks of a healthy church, so I plan to tackle them quickly and joyfully and be reminded of what I’m to be focusing on in God’s calling for my life.

A Peculiar Glory: If I have time left in the year, I want to read some Piper. No words need be given to describe this man’s influence on many. I want to be more influenced by him, and I know this one will be good.

What are you reading this year?

Thinking on 2017 Resolutions?

Since I have been a Christian, my resolution for the upcoming new year has largely been the same. With 2017 quickly approaching, let me explain.

As December ends and January begins I find one desire growing in me: to know God better this year than last. I want to be able to say at the end of 2017, that I know God better than I did in 2016. I want to be closer to Him, I want to talk to Him more and in a more intimate way, I want to know His Word more, I want to feel His joy more, I want to be more like Him, and most of all I want to love Him more than I did in the previous year.

How will all this be accomplished? I could make a bunch of resolutions to do it. For example I could make resolutions to read more, to pray more, to fast more, to rebuke more, to evangelize more, etc. Those are not bad resolutions, but they are all ‘fruit’ issues. Rather than doing any of these I want my resolution to get at the ‘root’ of my soul. Thus in 2017 I want to: 1) seek a deeper and holier life, and 2) seek the Word of God more, all with the aim of 3) treasuring the gospel more.

You see, if I treasure the gospel more this year than last, all of those things I listed will happen. If I do not treasure the gospel more this year than last those things will likely decrease. So instead of going at specific ‘fruit’ issues, I want more heart work being done, more ‘root’ issues.

Where do I get this in the Bible? Titus 2:11-12, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” I may be godly if concentrate on reading the Bible more. I may be godly if I make it my aim to share the gospel with every person I meet. I may become more godly if I try to ‘do’ more things. But the only sure way you and I will become more godly, is by reflecting on the gospel; because it is the gospel, the grace of God that has appeared, that teaches us, or instructs us to live godly in this present age.

Titus 3 also shows this. In chapter 3 Paul gloriously describes the gospel in verses 3-7. Then in verse 8 he says, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.  These things are good and profitable for men.” When Paul says ‘these things’ he means the gospel that he described in verses 3-7. Then in v8 he asks a question: What is it that causes believers to carefully engage in good deeds? What is it that is good and profitable for men? The gospel.

When believers treasure the gospel, good deeds flow forth in abundance.

So my resolution this year, is the same as last year, and will most likely be the same as each new year comes that God wills to bring us. I want to treasure the gospel more, so that I grow more. When I grow more, I know God more. When I know God more, I love God more. When I love God more, I will love what God loves. What does God love? Two things: His glory and His Church. When I love His glory and His Church more, I’ll be more useful to for His glory within His Church, and my soul will be filled with infinite pleasure and delight.

So my desires for this new year are aimed at the increasing of my joy in Jesus, above all things. Will you join me this year in this glorious pursuit in 2017?

A Preposterous Hypothesis for Black Friday

As James ends chapter 4 and begins chapter 5 do not be fooled into thinking that James is finished with his critique of the wealthy. After condemning their pride and arrogance in 4:12-13, he continues in 5:1-6 by pressing the wealthy and criticizing their ungodly use of wealth. A quick glance over the whole of James reveals that there is no other passage quite like 5:1-6. In all of James this is without a doubt the harshest, most severe word James has for his community.

Be warned: I am going to talk about something today that will offend some of you. As James did with his community, so I must do so now, especially today on Black Friday. We’re going talk about Money today. But not only money, we’re going to talk about your money. And not only your money, we’re going to talk about how you use your money. But before we get to that point we need to walk through this text to see the reason James used such severe words against the wealthy here.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (James 5:1-6)

James criticizes the wealthy for being four things in this text:

Hoarders (5:1-3)

Did you notice how James begins this second section on the wealthy in the same way he began the first one? “Come now, you rich” shows that James, again as in 4:13, isn’t afraid of the wealthy in the community. He could have been afraid of them and be tempted into thinking that because they have money they therefore have more power and must be treated differently. He does no such thing. Here in these first three verses James calls them hoarders. The language he uses here shows us this: their riches are rotting, their clothes are moth-eaten, and their gold and silver are corroding, and James even says the evidence of their riches rotting will be evidence against them, therefore they ought to weep and howl because judgment is coming. Rather than doing what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:19-20 (laying up treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy) they were laying up treasure here on earth, in what James calls the “last days.”

Defrauders (5:4)

Moving into 5:4 James continues his harsh, but proper, treatment of these wealthy folks by calling them defrauders. They are called defrauders not because they have large properties but because on those properties they employ laborers who work and make a living by taking care of the property, and rather than paying them what have earned these wealthy landowners kept it back for themselves. These working class people need to be paid so they can make it and take care of their own families, but apparently some or most of the money that is supposed to be allocated for them is being used to pay for the landowner’s extravagant living. What happens to those who are overlooked? Who heard the cries of those who weren’t getting paid their fair share? God does. “Their cries have reached the Lord of hosts.” Not just “the Lord” but “the Lord of hosts” to show that God will avenge His own people when they’re mistreated with His own army, the heavenly host. This is no small matter. To take what rightly belongs to someone and use it to make your life more comfortable is disgusting.

Indulgers (5:5)

James calls them indulgers in 5:5 because these wealthy landowners took the money they wrongfully kept back from their workers and used it to live in luxury, self-indulgence, and fatness. Notice here it in 5:5 it gives more context to when they did this? Earlier in 5:3 it says they did this “in the last days” and here in 5:5 it says they did this “in the day of slaughter.” What does that mean? Remember the context to which James is writing into. James 1:1 says he wrote this letter during the dispersion, meaning he wrote this letter when persecution hit the Church and spread them, or dispersed them all around the country. This is what he’s referring to when he says the wealthy wrongfully used the money due to others for their own gain “in the day of slaughter.” During the time when the wealthy could be using their own resources and money to care for the persecuted believers and congregations in the area, they didn’t care at all and went out and got fatter in luxury, freely indulging in whatever they so desired while their brothers and sisters were being put to death for preaching the gospel.

Oppressors (5:6)

Because of all these things in 5:6 James says these wealthy landowners oppress the righteous by condemning and murdering them, and like Jesus these righteous men being condemned and murdered do not resist or avenge themselves. “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil, if anyone slaps you on the right cheek turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)

So as you can see, what these wealthy landowners were doing is nothing short of fantastically wretched. They turned their backs on their brothers and sisters in a time of need and lavishly turned to luxury and fatness. Now for the hard part for us: God is not saying riches are bad, he is not giving Robin Hood (stealing from the rich to give to the poor) a glowing recommendation. What God is saying is that we can sin grievously by how we use or don’t use our money. Are we hoarders, defrauders, indulgers, or oppressors? More than we know. And Black Friday reveals this.

Anyone notice the title to the blog today? A preposterous hypothesis for Black Friday? What is this hypothesis that sounds preposterous? Acts 20:35, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

The preposterous hypothesis for us is simple: giving and tithing.

Black Friday is a day for the Church to show themselves to be different, by using our money in a God-honoring way rather than spending it on our own comfort and luxury. May you use today to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust can destroy.”

Giving Particular and Specific Thanks

Have you ever wondered why many of us will be gathering with family and friends this week to celebrate thanksgiving? Of course we may say ‘We’re gathering together because it’s Thanksgiving.’ Or maybe you’d say ‘We’re gathering together because it’s what we always do.’ Let’s think a little deeper about this. When we gather for Thanksgiving, why are we gathering? Do we give thanks? Do we express our gratitude? More so, what are we thankful for? Or, who are we thankful to? To family? To friends? To God? Does this thankfulness only show up in our lives in November? Does this thankfulness lead to living differently throughout the rest of the year?

Colossians 3:15-17 has a few things to teach us about thanksgiving.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Thankfulness is mentioned three times in this passage. In v15 we’re to be thankful along with others who have been called into the peace filled body of Christ. In v16 we’re to pursue the Word of Christ together in that body through teaching, admonishing, and singing…with thankfulness abounding in our hearts to God for who He is and what He’s done. In v17 we’re to do all we do in the name of Christ while we give thanks to the Father through Him.

Thankfulness together. Thankfulness in worship. Thankfulness in all we do.

This coming Thursday and Friday I think the majority of Americans will gather together to eat and watch football without giving a second thought towards a true giving of thanks. Let’s change this. Rather than gathering with family and friends to celebrate thanksgiving in general, how about we think about who we give thanks to as well as what we’re thankful for? How about we give particular and specific thanks? What do I mean?

God is Holy, Holy, Holy, thank Him for this.

God created all things for His glory, thank Him for this.

God, when He didn’t have to and at the right time, sent His Son into the world to redeem a people for His own possession, thank Him for this.

God has saved us into a new family, the Church, thank Him for this.

God gives His Church rich communion with Himself as we gather together to worship and live life together, thank Him for this.

God gives His Church rich communion with one another as we gather together to worship and live life together, thank Him for this.

God, in His common grace, gives us families, tasty foods, exciting sports, and even naps to enjoy, thank Him for this.

God is now continuing the work He’s begun in us, thank Him for this.

God will one day finish this great work in us, thank Him for this.

Notice the common refrain in this list? God…God…God…God…God…God. God is the One we’re to be thankful to and thankful for. And we’re to be thankful not only this week but throughout the whole year as we do life in His world. Gratefulness is not an optional side dish in the Christian life, it is to be the ordinary and consistent bent of the heart. Romans 1:21 makes the case that ingratitude or ungratefulness is the gateway to the most heinous of sins. Let us be warned: if we will not be thankful, horrible things are to come.

Don Moen sang it well, “And now let the weak say, ‘I am strong’ Let the poor say, “I am rich, because of what the Lord has done for us.” Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One, Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.”

May you give thanks this week, and every week for the rest of your life.

For the Lord’s Sake….Submit to Trump

Donald Trump is our new President. I’m sure there are many mixed responses to this. Joy. Fear. Angst. Maybe even anger. Whatever you’re feeling I want you to be encouraged today. I’ve written a longer than usual post today. As you can expect it is political, but Lord willing, I’m hoping it will give you some guidance on how to live in light of these current events.

1 Peter 2:11-17 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

First, let’s see the context our passage by looking at the first two chapters of 1 Peter.

Peter is writing to Christians living in Asia Minor who are beginning to suffer for their faith. In the first verse of his letter he calls them ‘elect exiles of the dispersion.’ This dispersion or ‘diaspora’ is a term used to describe believers who were scattered abroad due to persecution. That he calls them ‘elect exiles’ reminds his audience of two things. First, that he calls them ‘elect’ reminds them of God’s predestining love and His election of them to salvation through Christ. Because God sovereignly saved them they would have been encouraged to remember that God can sovereignly keep them in the midst of suffering and difficulty as well. Second, that he calls them the ‘elect exiles’ reminds them that because of their faith in the risen Christ they are truly exiles, aliens, and sojourners in this present world. They do live in the world but this world isn’t their true home. They’re to be looking ahead to the heavenly country whose Maker and Builder is God where their citizenship truly is.

These two things were meant to be encouragements to this group of suffering Christians Peter is writing to, and today these same two things are meant to be encouragements to any Christian in difficulty or suffering. We have been sovereignly elected by God from before the foundation of the world, we have been ransomed by the blood of Christ which is more valuable than silver or gold, and because of these things Peter reminds us that we have an inheritance that is ‘imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.’ So for the Christian, at all times and especially in times of suffering, we must remember that the best is always yet to come. This raises a question: in the meantime while we’re doing life as exiles and aliens here, how are we to live? Peter begins answering that question for us in chapter 2 by calling us in 2:1 to ‘grow up into salvation.’ It’s a call toward maturity and away from immature faith. Well how do we do that? How do we mature or grow up into salvation? Our passage tells us.

v11-17 answers our question about how to do life here while we’re passing through as exiles waiting to be in glory by bringing up the Christian’s conduct. v11 calls us to abstain from the things called ‘passions of the flesh’ or in other words those things ‘which wage war against your soul.’ The word abstain doesn’t just mean do ‘not do’ but ‘keep a far distance from.’ Just as a traveler doesn’t embrace the customs of the nation he’s traveling through, Christians as exiles here in this world aren’t to embrace the customs of this world.

Even more, the customs and natural ways of this world wage war against our souls, which is more reason to abstain from them. The word flesh here doesn’t mean physical or bodily. ‘Flesh’ means the old sinful nature that is within us…always luring us away from God and seeking to enslave us to sin. v12a brings this same thought a bit further by extending our inner struggle against fleshly passions to a public setting. We’re to keep our conduct ‘honorable’ or good, excellent, and upright before the Gentiles, basically before the watching world. So taking v11 and v12 together the meaning is that the inner life of a Christian abstaining from fleshly lusts leads to an honorable public life from the Christian. So if you’re doing v11 and you really are abstaining from sinful lusts you’ll at the same time be living an honorable life before the world as v12 calls for. And the opposite is also true. If you’re not doing v11 and you’re not abstaining from sinful lusts inwardly you at the same time won’t be living an honorable life before the world as v12 calls for.

Peter doesn’t stop here, he continues. Did you notice the reason why Peter wants us to live such an honorable life in v12b? “…so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” What? This should be strange to you. We’re accustomed to thinking that an honorable life would be seen as honorable, but in v12b Peter says the honorable life of a Christian will cause the lost world around you to think you’re an evildoer even though they can recognize your own good deeds. Notice it doesn’t say ‘if’ they speak against you, it says ‘when’ they speak against you. This is a promise. An honorable life before God will lead to being dishonored before men. Remember what Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:12? ‘All those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Does that seem odd? That the world would recognize good deeds yet still conclude us to be evildoers? Sin never does make sense does it? But even when the world labels us as an evildoer, the reason we want to be honorable is that the world would see our good deeds and glorify Christ at His 2nd Coming.

This is the principle at work here: we don’t need our own good works to be saved. Praise God?! We’re saved not by our own works, not even by the most righteous of our own works, but by the fully sufficient work of Christ in behalf of sinners like you and me. We praise God for the work of His Son because Jesus took the punishment for us and became man so that men could become sons of God. All of this leads to something within the heart and life of the Christian. Redemption doesn’t stay stagnant within us, no, it’s always moving deeper inward and further outward. Once Christ’s fully sufficient work has saved us, His work within us by His Spirit produces good works in us. Thus, a true understanding of God’s grace to us in Christ leads to holy living. These good works are cultivated in us by God inwardly (through enabling us to abstain from fleshly lusts and passions and live honorably before the world) and then those good works are put on display publicly by God so that the world sees them and glorifies God.

So here is the principle Peter has set up for us to see: God doesn’t need our good works, but who does? Our neighbor does. Because it’s by seeing our good works that our neighbors will glorify God.

Now comes the question that flows from this: what kind of good works does Peter have in mind?

This is where we must get political, be prepared.

From chapter 2:13 to the end of his letter he mentions many kinds of good works we can and ought to engage in, and all of these are good works our neighbors can witness for themselves. But what is the first good work Peter mentions? What is the first good work that our neighbors are to see in our lives so that they would glorify God? v13-17 gives it to us – our submission to governing authorities, and that means submission to our next President, Donald Trump.

In v13-14 Peter states it, in v15 Peter gives the reason for it, and v16-17 Peter summarizes it. Let’s take these as they come in the text.

The Statement (v13-14)

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.”

Many people today believe that the Biblical authors do not agree in their doctrine. They pit Moses against Isaiah, Paul against Jesus, and Peter against John…and claim that because there’s no unity in doctrine throughout the Bible we should throw the whole Bible out. Hogwash. See here the evidence of the agreement among the Biblical authors. What Peter says in v13-14 is, on its right, a concise summary of what Paul has already said to us in Romans 13:1-7. They not only agree on our call to be subject to our governing authorities, they both place a heavy weight and a high importance on our call to do so to governing institutions, whether it be emperors, kings, or monarchs, Presidents, Senators, or Representatives, or their governors sent out throughout the nation to administer penalties on the law breaker and give praise to the law keeper. We are to be subject to our authorities. But note that Peter says something explicitly here that Paul only says implicitly in Romans 13. Peter says we’re to be subject ‘for the Lord’s sake.’

So, the submission we’re to give our civil authorities is a submission that is done to honor God. For the Lord’s sake we submit to Caesar. For the Lord’s sake we obey laws. For the Lord’s sake we pay taxes. For the Lord’s sake we engage in political matters. This shouldn’t surprise us because Scripture is filled with multiple examples of the call to have a Godward bent on all of life. 2 examples: 1 Cor. 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Col. 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” The Bible doesn’t allow us to think any sphere of our life is a sphere that God isn’t Lord over. So when you vote or when you don’t vote; when you discuss political matters with a friend; when you state a political opinion; or when you share a politically charged meme on Facebook, remember that Christians are to engage in politics ‘for the Lord’s sake’ because all of life is to be done ‘for the Lord’s sake.’ God is the One who needs to be honored in our political affairs. Don’t mishear me. This doesn’t mean God frowns on us having or sharing/talking about deep political opinions in public. This doesn’t mean we can’t call the government to repent when they refuse to function in their Romans 13 God ordained manner. God is truly honored when we obey our governing authorities for His sake as much as God is truly honored when we disobey our governing authorities in order to be obedient to Him. So this is the statement, let’s look at the reason.

The Reason (v15)

We know we’re to be subject for the Lord’s sake, but while that attitude of the heart largely happens inside of us, Peter continues on and gives us a reason to be subject that is more public. “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

‘For this is the will of God’ is a statement so rarely used in the Bible that when it is used we ought to pay close attention to it. Do you want to know the will of God? Do you want to know what the will of God is for your life today? Peter’s answer: do good, for it will silence fools. When Peter says here that we’re to ‘do good’ he doesn’t just mean a general kind of decency or virtue done to mankind like picking up trash on the side of the road, as good as that is. In context, the good Peter is speaking of here is civil obedience. When the believer obeys the governing authorities their conduct not only serves as an example for all men but also serves to silence the foolish ignorance of others who refuse to submit to the governing authorities and act as their own king. We know of a bunch of examples of this happening. Isn’t this how movies always end?

For example: in every Back to the Future movie even a child can tell who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. Biff, always tries to be his own man and act according to what he thinks will best serve himself, while Marty and Doc always try to right the wrongs caused by fluctuations in the space-time continuum by their own moral and good actions. What happens at the end of each movie? Marty and Doc win, Biff loses, and somehow Biff always finds himself underneath a pile of manure. When we read v15 about the fool who is silenced, Biff is the character I want you pay attention to. Other than being covered in manure at the end of the movies what always happens to Biff? He is always shamed by the uprightness of Marty and Doc.

Peter says the same thing is in play with Christians and the watching world in relation to government. By the Christian submitting to governing authorities, obeying the laws of those authorities, and even disobeying those same governing authorities for the sake of obeying God there is something about our actions that even fools recognize as good, and from seeing our good works the false charges or accusations from those fools are silenced. So when God’s grace is poured into our hearts at the moment of conversion, that grace changes how we engage with the government, and when unbelievers see how Christians engage with the government they will be silenced…that is, if we truly are submitting. So where does this leaves us? We’ve seen Peter’s statement, we’ve seen his reason, now to end see his summary.

The Summary (v16-17)

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

So we’re to live in freedom. By faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us, we’re to live in, enjoy the fullness of, take great delight in, and drink deeply of the freedom and liberty that Jesus lived and died and rose to give us. This freedom defines our lives. If God is for us who can be against us? But, freedom isn’t the only thing that defines us. Peter continues…he also says, make sure our living in this glorious freedom doesn’t lead to a cover-up for sin or an excuse for rebellion.

Rather, what does freedom in Christ lead to? Serving everyone around us. Peter’s argument here is that for the Lord’s sake, we serve our neighbors by submitting to our governing authorities….when we do this our neighbors see the glory of God.

Where Will You Be On 10/29?

October 29th is a day to mark off on your calendar because it is the day of the first (and from this point on Lord willing, annual) Publicans Conference. Andrew, Matt, Sam, and myself are eager to join with you and share the Word of God with you. We’re eager to sing with you. We’re eager to see you encouraged, hopeful, and stirred for the glory of God anew. Our theme for this first year is WE ARE PILGRIMS. Admission is FREE because we want to bless you with a robust God-centered day of gospel glorious-ness. So if you live in or around the Gulf coast, come join us! Here’s five reasons why you should:

From 9am-3pm we’ll be:

  1. Gathering to glut our souls on God
  2. Hearing from 4 speakers
  3. Engage in 2 Q&A’s
  4. Enjoy the fellowship and encouragement of the saints
  5. And get some freebies, yes freebies

Most of you know, but perhaps some of you don’t, that we Publicans are book people. We read books, we write about books, we have pictures of dead authors on our walls, and we do not feel the least bit ashamed about this. In a day when deep, clear, and communicated theology is lacking within the Church, we hope to be a light shining in the darkness. The reason why we love good books, from both living and dead authors, is because in them we grow in our knowledge of God, and the more we grow in the knowledge of God the more we abound and delightfully enjoy God. We believe our joy in God glorifies God, so we read to make ourselves happy in God. This is why we love reading Sproul and Calvin, Piper and Luther, Packer and Spurgeon, etc. Sure they’re great guys and we enjoy spending time with them through their books, but we read them not because of them, but because of God. Do not miss this.

We want to share this with you. The first 50 people who walk in the door at 8:30am on October 29th will receive 3 free books. ALSO, there will be a book giveaway during the morning session, and a larger book giveaway during the afternoon session. Free conference? Free encouragement in what matters most? Free books? Fellowship? Why would you not come?

So where are you going to be on October 29? I hope to see you soon.

Adam

5 Helpful Answers to Andy Stanley

Back on August 28th Andy Stanley was a few weeks into his sermon series called Who Needs God. That particular message, called For the Bible Told Me So, was Stanley’s attempt to correct what he thinks is an error in Christianity, specifically that Christians place far much emphasis on the Bible and not enough emphasis on Jesus. A few days passed by and a friend told me of the message, so I went onto the North Point website and watched it….yikes.

The further I got into the message the further my angst increased. This happened for two reasons. First, what Stanley put forth in that message was wrong and second, it was historically deceptive. I shared my grievances and was challenged to reach out to Stanley rather than just talk about it…so I did. The first time I got blocked by a general response, then someone personally responded asking me to listen to the message again, and then after I persisted to speak with Stanley I got blocked by his personal assistant who told me that I need to listen to the whole sermon series to get the gist of what Stanley is up to. I never got through. I am fully aware that I am an unknown and largely unimportant pastor in the whole scheme of things, but when did it become alright for a pastor to be so cut off from other pastors that he is unwilling to take a quick call and talk through these things?

After being unable to get through to Stanley I thought about blogging about why his message is so unhelpful and harmful to the Church and the lost, but to my great joy a few a guys already did and they’ve done a wonderful job explaining the issues. I am posting this blog today to help point out where to find all these things for yourself. Follow the links below:

Stanley’s Message: The Bible Told Me So – “If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards. If the whole Bible isn’t true, Christianity isn’t true.”

Andrew Jaenichen’s Response: Do We Really Believe the Bible? – “My faith is in a risen Savior. Who came, suffered, and died as the Word of God declared would take place, and now has risen from the dead 3 days later and ascended to the right hand of the Father as testified to by the apostles. I believe because of the work of Christ in me and I am assured of His love and promises because of His written Word to us, both the Old and the New. Yes I believe in the Event and in the Words that testify to it. Both before and after its occurrence.”

Russell Moore: Signposts: Reflections On My Conversation With Andy Stanley – “At our recent ERLC national conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with pastor Andy Stanley. Andy and I have a lot of significant disagreements about ministry, but our conversation was fascinating and helped me and everyone at the conference think through some important issues. In this episode of Signposts I reflect on my time with Andy Stanley, and how our dialogue about ministry and theology sharpened my own thinking about Scripture and the church.” (audio)

Michael Kruger’s Response: Is the Bible Foundational to Christianity? – “However, the sermon itself was deeply confusing and left many questions unanswered about the proper role of God’s Word in our lives. Unfortunately, much of the confusion in the sermon was driven by Stanley’s commitment to a particular methodology about how to reach non-Christians.  For whatever set of reasons, Stanley has become convinced that the Bible gets in the way. I disagree. On the contrary, the strategy of downplaying the Bible for the sake of the Gospel is a false dichotomy.  The two cannot and should not ever be pitted against each other. What God has joined together let man not separate.”

Al Mohler’s Response: For the Bible Told Me So: Biblical Authority Denied … Again – “In the end, we simply have no place to go other than the Bible as God’s authoritative revelation. Christ, not the Bible, is the foundation of our faith — but our only authoritative and infallible source of knowledge about Christ is the Bible. A true defense of the Christian faith has never been more needed than now, but an attempt to rescue Christianity from its dependence upon Scripture is doomed to disaster.”

What to Remember About Tonight’s Debate

When it comes to watching the debate tonight there are many things to keep in mind. There are a lot of people who don’t want to vote for Donald Trump, but there are still a lot of people who highly doubt they can even trust Hillary Clinton, so she’s going to try to prove her credibility. As for Donald Trump there are a lot of people who think he’s completely un-Presidential, so he’s going to try to show his readiness for such a task. We should be paying attention to these things. See how they respond to questions and to one another. But, before we get lost in the political maneuvering and all that we need to remember about tonight, as Christians, we cannot forget 1 Peter 2:11-17.

Here’s why.

Peter is writing to Christians living in Asia Minor who are beginning to suffer for their faith. In the first verse of his letter he calls them ‘elect exiles of the dispersion.’ This dispersion or ‘diaspora’ is a term used to describe believers who were scattered abroad due to persecution. That he calls them ‘elect exiles’ reminds his audience of two things. First, that he calls them ‘elect’ reminds them of God’s predestining love and His election of them to salvation through Christ. Because God sovereignly saved them they would have been encouraged to remember that God can sovereignly keep them in the midst of suffering and difficulty as well. Second, that he calls them the ‘elect exiles’ reminds them that because of their faith in the risen Christ they are truly exiles, aliens, and sojourners in this present world. They do live in the world but this world isn’t their true home. They’re to be looking ahead to the heavenly country whose Maker and Builder is God where their citizenship truly is.

These two things were meant to be encouragements to this group of suffering Christians Peter is writing to, and today these same two things are meant to be encouragements to any Christian in difficulty or suffering. We have been sovereignly elected by God from before the foundation of the world, we have been ransomed by the blood of Christ which is more valuable than silver or gold, and because of these things Peter reminds us that we have an inheritance that is ‘imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.’ So for the Christian, at all times and especially in times of suffering, we must remember that the best is always yet to come. This raises a question: in the meantime while we’re doing life as exiles and aliens here, how are we to live? Peter begins answering that question for us in chapter 2 by calling us in 2:1 to ‘grow up into salvation.’ It’s a call toward maturity and away from immature faith. Well how do we do that? How do we mature or grow up into salvation? Our passage this morning tells us.

 

v11-17 answers our question about how to do life here while we’re passing through as exiles waiting to be in glory by bringing up the Christian’s conduct. v11 calls us to abstain from the things called ‘passions of the flesh’ or in other words those things ‘which wage war against your soul.’ The word abstain doesn’t just mean do ‘not do’ but ‘keep a far distance from.’ Just as a traveler doesn’t embrace the customs of the nation he’s traveling through, Christians as exiles here in this world aren’t to embrace the customs of this world. Even more, the customs and natural ways of this world wage war against our souls, which is more reason to abstain from them. The word flesh here doesn’t mean physical or bodily. ‘Flesh’ means the old sinful nature that is within us…always luring us away from God and seeking to enslave us to sin. v12a brings this same thought a bit further by extending our inner struggle against fleshly passions to a public setting. We’re to keep our conduct ‘honorable’ or good, excellent, and upright before the Gentiles, basically before the watching world. So taking v11 and v12 together the meaning is that the inner life of a Christian abstaining from fleshly lusts leads to an honorable public life from the Christian. So if you’re doing v11 and you really are abstaining from sinful lusts you’ll at the same time be living an honorable life before the world as v12 calls for. And the opposite is also true. If you’re not doing v11 and you’re not abstaining from sinful lusts inwardly you at the same time won’t be living an honorable life before the world as v12 calls for.

Peter doesn’t stop here, he continues. Did you notice the reason why Peter wants us to live such an honorable life in v12b? “…so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” What? This should be strange to you. We’re accustomed to thinking that an honorable life would be seen as honorable, but in v12b Peter says the honorable life of a Christian will cause the lost world around you to think you’re an evildoer even though they can recognize your own good deeds. Notice it doesn’t say ‘if’ they speak against you, it says ‘when’ they speak against you. This is a promise. An honorable life before God will lead to being dishonored before men. Remember what Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:12? ‘All those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Does that seem odd? That the world would recognize good deeds yet still conclude us to be evildoers? Sin never does make sense does it? But even when the world labels us as an evildoer, the reason we want to be honorable is that the world would see our good deeds and glorify Christ at His 2nd Coming.

This is the principle at work here: we don’t need our own good works to be saved. We’re saved not by our own works, not even by the most righteous of our own works, but by the fully sufficient work of Christ in behalf of sinners like you and me. We praise God for the work of His Son because Jesus took the punishment for us and became man so that men could become sons of God. All of this leads to something within the heart and life of the Christian. Redemption doesn’t stay stagnant within us, no, it’s always moving deeper in and further out. Once Christ’s fully sufficient work has saved us, His work within us by His Spirit produces good works in us. Thus, a true understanding of God’s grace to us in Christ leads to holy living. These good works are cultivated in us by God inwardly (through enabling us to abstain from fleshly lusts and passions and live honorably before the world) and then those good works are put on display publicly by God so that the world sees them and glorifies God.

So here is the principle Peter has set up for us to see: God doesn’t need our good works, but who does? Our neighbor does. Because it’s by seeing our good works that our neighbors will glorify God.

Now comes the question that flows from this: what kind of good works does Peter have in mind? From chapter 2:13 to the end of his letter he mentions many kinds of good works we can and ought to engage in, and all of these are good works our neighbors can witness for themselves.

But what is the first good work Peter mentions?

What is the first good work that our neighbors are to see in our lives so that they would glorify God?

v13-17 gives it to us – our submission to governing authorities.

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

Peter calls us back to what is really important for the Christian as we watch the debate unfold tonight. For the Lord’s sake, we serve our neighbors by submitting to our governing authorities….when we do this our neighbors see the glory of God.

A FREE Conference You Should Go To

Did you know? This coming October 29 The Publicans we’ll be hosting our first ever Publicans Conference. The theme is ‘We Are Pilgrims.’ Why should you come? Simple: the Christian life is a pilgrimage, a journey, a voyage of the most exhilarating kind. It has a clear beginning and a desired end, rich with meaning for this life and the life to come. This pilgrimage is filled with joy, delight, and triumph as well as pain, fear, and danger. Courage is needed and suffering is certain, yet the Gospel moves us onward. We are pilgrims.

There will also be two large book giveaways as well as freebies for the first 50 people through the door. Check out the info below, cyou soon!

WeArePilgrims Front

WeArePilgrims Back

Details:

Date: October 29, 2016

Location: SonRise Community Church, 9970 Ridge Road, New Port Richey, FL 34654

Schedule:

8:30 – Doors open

9:00-9:15 – Welcome and Introduction

9:15-10:15 – Session 1: The Creation of a Pilgrim (Matt Noble, Ephesians 2:1-9)

10:15-11:05 – Session 2: The Life of a Pilgrim (Sam Knox)

11:05-11:35 – Panel discussion – Adam, Andrew, Matt, Sam

11:35 – Morning Book Giveaway

11:45-12:45 – Lunch Break (we’re asking that you either bring a lunch or quickly grab lunch somewhere locally, allowing enough time to return by 12:45)

12:45-1:45 – Session 3: The Privilege of a Pilgrim (Adam Powers, Jeremiah 29:7)

1:45-2:35 – Session 4: The End of a Pilgrim (Andrew Jaenichen, Hebrews 13:14)

2:35-3:00 – Panel discussion – Adam, Andrew, Matt, Sam

3:00 – Afternoon Book Giveaway

3:05 – Closing

Mourning and Responding to Orlando

While politicians and presidential candidates are using the largest shooting in U.S. history as a platform for their prospective gun-control policies, most of the rest of us are just left saddened, confused, and angered by such a tragedy. Here are two ways to respond from The Gospel Coalition:

a) Mourning, Longing for Truth and Love (from Nabeel Qureshi):

As an ex-Muslim who loves America and my Muslim family, my heart is hurting beyond expression.

Today we witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history: 50 tragically killed in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. The authorities announced the details just a few minutes ago: it was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a devout American-born Muslim who had pledged his allegiance to ISIL.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Mateen’s father has said the shooting had “nothing to do with religion,” and that his son may have committed this crime because he saw “two men kissing in Downtown Miami a couple months ago.” But no one goes on a killing rampage for seeing two men kiss. Clearly there’s more to this than his father doesn’t see. I do not blame him, though. His son has just died, and he’s not in a state to think clearly. We ought to be praying for him.

None of us can think entirely objectively, especially at the heels of a terrorist attack charged with so many political controversies. The rhetoric and agendas are flying, even though the dust has not yet settled. Gun control? Homophobia? Islamophobia?

As we are clouded by agendas and struggling to react, two opposing positions are coming to the fore: “Islam is a religion of peace and Mateen’s actions therefore have nothing to do with Islam,” or “Islam is inherently violent therefore we must see all Muslims as latent threats.”

As an American and a former Muslim, my heart is torn by these two poles of rhetoric. Those who take the first position are endangering my country by overlooking the very real cause of Jihad, which are the teachings and history of Islam. (See my article “How Does Jihad Compare with Old Testament Warfare?”) Those who take the latter position are endangering my Muslim family and friends, loving and patriotic Muslims that are as innocent and American as the rest of us.

The fact is, the vast majority of Muslims are loving, peaceful people who would never want to hurt any American or homosexual. I know this because I was deeply rooted in the Muslim community, and not a single Muslim out of the thousands I knew were violent or harbored violent tendencies. (The community I am referring to is in Norfolk, Virginia, with Sunnis, Shias, and others attending the same mosque. It was an open-armed and diverse Muslim community.)

Regardless, Islam itself has always taught that gays should be executed. Muhammad commanded: “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done” (Sunan Abu Daud 4447). Imams who have been trained in these Islamic teachings are teaching in our communities. Just three months ago, an imam who is well known for proclaiming Muhammad’s teachings on homosexuality spoke in Orlando. In a prior speech about homosexuals he was noted to have said, “Let’s get rid of them now” (video and news article). The imam spoke at an Islamic center that is less than 20 miles from the site of today’s atrocities. Some American-born Muslims, such as Omar, are taking teachings like these at face value, listening to their imams and following Muhammad.

b) 5 Ways Christians Can Respond (from Joe Carter):

It happened again.

In the dark hours of this Sunday morning some 50 people were killed and another 53 were injured in a terror attack in gay nightclub in Orlando. President Obama has called it an “act of terror and an act of hate,” and it’s being described as the most deadly shooting in American history.

The news of such violent atrocities comes to us so regularly nowadays that we may feel numb, helpless to know what to do or say after such events. But as followers of Christ we can’t simply shut out the pain and despair. We must bring light and healing.

These horrible events of recent years have targeted a wide variety of people: military personnel, movie-goers, elementary school children, and now patrons of a gay nightclub. All have dignity as made in the image of God. The death of any leads to mourning, whether they were targeted at random or not.

Over the years several writers for TGC have provided wise guidance on how to respond. These five calls (pray, pause, grieve, love, hope) to action apply to the most recent in a string of tragedies.

The End of a Remarkable Writing and Speaking Ministry: An Update on J. I. Packer’s Health

199A0573_02-300x533Good post from Justin Taylor recently on J.I. Packer:

We at Crossway learned this week that J. I. Packer (who will, Lord willing, turn 90 years old in July 2016) has developed macular degeneration in his right eye. His left eye has had macular degeneration for over a decade. He consented to let this information be shared publicly.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for those over the age of 65. The macula is a small spot near the center of the retina that helps to focus on objects straight ahead. Degeneration of the macula does not in itself lead to total blindness, but it can make it nearly impossible to read, write, or even recognize faces.

The disease struck Dr. Packer’s right eye over Christmas, which means (at time of writing) he has only been living with this for the past few weeks. He is unable to read, and therefore he will be unable to travel and speak. Because so much of his writing involves initial working with a ballpoint pen and blank paper, he is also unable to write.

You can read Ivan Mesa’s TGC interview with Dr. Packer today on his perspective on these developments.

Two of his final books have had resonance with the challenges he is currently facing: Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength (Crossway, 2013) and Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging (Crossway, 2014).

In the latter volume, he explained the difference between a worldly and a biblical view of aging:

How should we view the onset of old age? The common assumption is that it is mainly a process of loss, whereby strength is drained from both mind and body and the capacity to look forward and move forward in life’s various departments is reduced to nothing. . . .

But here the Bible breaks in, highlighting the further thought that spiritual ripeness is worth far more than material wealth in any form, and that spiritual ripeness should continue to increase as one gets older.

The Bible’s view is that aging, under God and by grace, will bring wisdom, that is, an enlarged capacity for discerning, choosing, and encouraging. In Proverbs 1-7 an evidently elderly father teaches realistic moral and spiritual wisdom to his adult but immature son. In Psalm 71 an elderly preacher who has given the best years of his life to teaching the truth about God in the face of much opposition prays as follows:

You, O LORD, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth. . . .

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent. . . .

But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Ps. 71:5914-18)

And Psalm 92:12 and 14 declare:

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. . . .
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green.

This biblical expectation and, indeed, promise of ripeness growing and service of others continuing as we age with God is the substance of the last-lap image of our closing years, in which we finish our course. Runners in a distance race, like jockeys in a horse race, always try to keep something in reserve for a final sprint. And my contention is going to be that, so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out. The final sprint, so I urge, should be a sprint indeed.

I thank God tonight that James Innell Packer’s course is not yet finished and that he is still running the race. In accordance with this counsel, I pray it will be a spiritual sprint through the finish line.

Star Wars & the Ancient Religion

From Peter Jones:

The appearance of a new episode of the Star Wars film series is an important moment for Christian witness. To be sure, we can shrug our shoulders, since Star Wars is old news. Or we can enthusiastically introduce our grandchildren to what we might think is a beloved, harmless yarn. Or we can—and should—discover in the series an occasion to sharpen our presentation of the gospel message and help our children and grandchildren, and anyone else who might be interested, to understand the culture in which they live.

In this famous and creative saga, which we must respect for its artistic value, we find many positive ideals—bravery, friendship, love, and spirituality, and others—which help explain the success of the series. However, in examining Star Wars’account of the mystery and nobility of human life, the Bible’s answer, in comparison, emerges with incomparably more convincing power.

The Star Wars Phenomenon

Answering questions of morality and spirituality was the goal of George Lucas when he created Star Wars. In the 1970s, in the heyday of secular humanism, people were hungry for spiritual truth. Lucas realized that stories were more powerful than intellectual theories—especially for children. He intended to produce a children’s fairy tale set in outer space as a “teaching tool” for the re-creation of “the classic cosmic mysteries.” In so doing, he influenced audiences young and old and deeply affected the last few decades of Western civilization. The new films will no doubt extend that influence into the next generations.

Understanding Worldview

As millions of people stream, perhaps naively, into theaters this weekend to reconnect with the powerful Star Wars adult fairy tale, most of them will be unaware of the worldview that gives this saga its structure and coherence. The term worldview simply means the way we think about the world without stopping to think about it. The fish doesn’t need to think about the water in which it swims. I’ve spent much of my teaching and writing years showing that there are only two ways to see the world. I call them “Oneism” and “Twoism,” which is another way of describing what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:25. He says that there are only two ways to be human—we either worship nature (in a thousand different ways) or we worship the Creator. If you can count from one to two you can understand worldview. Worship of nature is Oneism because nature is all there is and everything is made of the same stuff. “All is one!” This is the essence of a pagan worldview. Worship of the Creator means that in all of reality there are two kinds of existence: the uncreated Creator, and everything else, which is created. That is the worldview of Twoism.

By this standard, Star Wars is clearly Oneist. In spite of the fun elements we all enjoy, the message of the film is self-consciously pagan. If this sounds harsh, check out the following elements.

A Oneist Approach to Morality, Creation, Spirituality, Redemption, and Death

Here are some of the Oneist principles we find in the Star Wars movies:

  • Morality is what you make it. The Force is either good or evil, depending on how you tap into it via your emotions. There is no objective distinction between good or evil.
  • Existence creates itself. Obi-Wan Kenobi says, “The Force is an energy field created by all living things.” There is no Creator/creature distinction.
  • Spirituality is found within, not revealed from the outside. Luke Skywalker must trust his feelings, empty his mind of questions, and “feel the Force flowing through him” in order to create his own truth.
  • In redemption, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader optimistically “saves” the galaxy and destroys the Emperor, though evil cannot ultimately be eliminated, because evil is an integral part of a Oneist world.
  • According to Yoda, death is eternal sleep.

Specifically, Star Wars Contains a Pagan View of God

Lucas said he desired to produce something spiritual, but the spirituality he proposes is clearly not based on biblical Twoism. This is most obviously the case when the constant pagan blessing “May the Force be with you” replaces the typical biblical blessing, “The Lord be with you.” For Lucas, God is a “force”—not a person. Nature, containing that “force,” is part of the Force. God the transcendent Creator, who is separate from creation, does not exist. This makes Star Wars, at the deepest level, Oneist.

But just how Oneist? To answer this question, we need a little background. You may want to watch the Ligonier teaching series Only Two Religions, especially part three, “Carl Jung’s Alternative Spirituality.” Very simply, Lucas’ terms “dark side” and “light side” come directly from Carl Jung. Jung was an anti-Christian Swiss psychologist of the last century. His enormous influence planted seeds of Oneist pagan thinking that now flower vigorously in our culture. Part of Jung’s legacy is Star Wars.

George Lucas picked up Carl Jung’s ideas from a man he called his “mentor” and “friend,” Joseph Campbell, who was a committed disciple of Jung. A highly influential thinker in his own right, Campbell rejected Christianity and became an expert in pagan myths. He produced a highly successful PBS documentary series, The Power of Myth (1988), filmed, in part, at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch.

It was Jung who introduced the “spiritual,” pagan myths about joining the dark and light sides. For him, this meant the rejection of the biblical Christ and the worship of the Gnostic God, Abraxas, who was half-man and half-beast—a god who combines all opposites. This joining of the dark side and light side, of good and evil, of God and Satan (in his estimation), is what Joseph Campbell called “the monomyth” of “the ancient religion,” which he taught to Lucas. Thus, Darth Vader is “the balancer” of the light and dark forces.

Though Lucas doesn’t go as deeply into such ideas as did Jung and Campbell, he popularizes their ideas effectively. We see the joining of opposites in the following areas:

  • everything is relative;
  • there is no distinction between animals, humans, and machines;
  • there are no moral absolutes;
  • there is no unique divine/human mediator;
  • there is no God, separate from us, who is creator and redeemer.

How Has Our Worldview Been Transformed?

Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727), one of the West’s greatest scientists, said many years ago: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being… . This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all.” Thanks in part to Lucas, many now believe that humanity is that intelligent and powerful Being, empowered by the Force, and that we will save ourselves.

Will the ‘Force Awaken’ with the Same Force This Time?

Doubtless, The Force Awakens will attempt to capture a new generation of naive myth lovers. The trailer declares: “The Force is calling to you. Just let it in.”

With enough money and imagination, there is every reason to think that the Force will reawaken pagan thinking in a new generation of Western believers who have already bought $50 million worth of tickets for the December release. Moreover, the appeal of paganism has certainly not diminished since the ‘70s and ‘80s. The movie is bound to catch the imagination of those who now call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Our contemporary world now embraces Eastern pagan spirituality:

  • In Iceland, even atheists are joining the fastest-growing religion, Zuism, which is a pagan faith from ancient Sumeria.
  • Faerie Magazine (for people who believe in fairies) is the nineteenth most popular lifestyle title of the 157 sold at Barnes & Noble.
  • Millions of Americans practice forms of Eastern meditation and yoga to be released from the bondage of opposites and to succeed in joining the dark and light sides of existence.
  • In rediscovering “the Force,” these eager spiritual ticket-holders believe they will find themselves “in heaven,” as one fan recently said.

A Christian Response

A large part of my life has been dominated by Star Wars imagery, as I have published a trilogy responding to the pagan phenomenon that it represents. Thus, I wrote The Gnostic Empire Strikes BackSpirit Wars, and Return of the Rabbi (as an ebook—in printed form, Capturing the Pagan Mind). These “wars of the spirit,” popularly revived by Lucas, represent, as noted above, the only two spiritualities offered: the “monomyth” of pagan Oneism or the historic gospel of biblical Twoism. With Stars Wars, we find ourselves at the very center of this timeless spiritual struggle.

To Go or Not to Go

I believe there are good reasons for viewing this film. We can certainly respect its artistic and entertainment value. Galactic battle scenes and human drama are entertaining. But also, by seeing this movie, Christians can sharpen their understanding of both contemporary culture and their appreciation of the Christian faith, allowing them to see in antithetical clarity both the Christian message and the message of Star Wars in order to present the gospel in a fresh way for our time.

In doing this, we follow what Christians have done throughout the ages. We need to realize that when Obi-Wan Kenobi instructs Luke to follow “the ancient religion,” this is a clear technical reference (for those in the know) to “pre-Christian paganism.” The gauntlet is thrown down in a call to theological confrontation. But this ancient, modernized “religion,” while implicitly claiming to be true, creates immense problems and gives no satisfying answers to the major mysteries of life:

  • No impersonal force or “it” can meet the deep affective and moral needs of human persons.
  • No human or impersonal source can give an adequate account of origins, since such an account fails to provide a convincing explanation of either personhood or of intelligence, on which the universe, and this movie, in particular, are based—including the love between Luke and his father and the technological wizardry that makes Star Wars so much fun.

Only a transcendent, personal, triune Creator can do that. Only the truth of such a personal God can meet our deepest needs.

At this relaunch of the seductive Star Wars myth, with its declaration that “all is finally well because all is one,” the world needs to hear not a clever myth. It needs to hear a bold proclamation of an historical fact—the fact that in Christ God defeated the darkness of the evil empire of human sin. He now grants real deliverance to needy human souls and a real promise—not of impersonal “eternal sleep”—but of a future eternal resurrected life and a face-to-face meeting with Him, our Maker and loving Redeemer.

Dr. Peter Jones is executive director of truthXchange, a ministry that exists to recognize and respond to the rising tide of neopaganism. He has authored several books and is the teacher on the series Only Two Religions.

The AntiChrist is Coming to Town

Pope-FrancisWell, I’m sure by now you’ve heard the news – the Pope is coming to town.  Do you think I’ve chosen too strong a title for this blog?  Perhaps some of you will think so.  Though this language may shock you did you know the most of the orthodox confessions of Church history call the Pope the AntiChrist?  Here’s two examples:

1689, London Baptist Confession of Faith: The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” – (chapter 26, article 4)

1646 Westminster Confession of Faith: “There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.” (chapter 25, paragraph 6)

Both of these documents, the 1689 London Baptist Confession and the earlier 1646 Westminster Confession, are strong and robust, gospel centered documents that uphold the truth of the Scripture and have for centuries brought light onto what orthodox Christian belief is.  Though we can’t really be sure if the Pope is in fact the AntiChrist, we can be sure he has the spirit of AntiChrist in him (1 John 2:18).  My conclusion is that the Pope is a heretic under the condemnation of Galatians 1 for not teaching the true gospel.  If you’re still reading this by now let me explain why I think this.

When the Reformation broke out it was Martin Luther who defended of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  This essential doctrine teaches that all who come to Christ by faith are justified and made right before God.  If justification is by faith it necessarily means that justification isn’t by works.  And justification by works is exactly what the Pope still teaches and spreads.  This is nothing short of tyranny, because no amount of work done by man could ever lead to a right standing with God.  We are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace along, to the glory of God alone.  Anyone who disagrees with that is under the condemnation of Galatians 1.  Am I the only one who has said such things?  No.

Charles Spurgeon also said something similar: “The Protestantism of England is the pay-master of the Pope. I am ashamed that sons of the Reformers… should bow themselves before the beast, and give so much as a single farthing to the shrine of the devil’s firstborn son. Take heed to yourselves, ye Protestants, lest ye be partakers of her plagues; touch her not, lest ye be defiled. Give a drachm to her, or a grain of incense to her censors, ye shall be partakers of her adulteries and partakers of her plagues. Every time you pass the house of Popery let a curse light upon her head: Thus saith the Lord:—‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities”

To add offense to offense here, did you know the Catholic Church held a council in response to the Reformation?  It was called the ‘Council of Trent’ and during the 6th session they made this statement: “If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.”  Though the language is a bit archaic, do you see what they ‘re saying?  If anyone says we are NOT justified by works, let him be anathema (accursed).  That’s strong language, and it’s still what the Pope believes.  How do I know this is still the teaching of the Pope?  The declarations and anathemas of the Council of Trent were confirmed anew by both the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the official “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (1992).  This has yet to be revoked.

Christian, beware the teaching that comes with Pope Francis.  It is nothing but works based nonsense.  It is not the gospel.  Pray for him, that God would change his heart, and turn him to the truth of Scripture.  Pray also that God would rescue the millions led astray by this false teaching, that God would give them understanding from His Word revealing the lie of salvation by works and give them a true knowledge of the gospel.

He may be coming to our cities, and may be welcomed by many.  But be sure of this, his gospel is a false gospel that hurts man and dishonors God.

Tullian Tchividjian: Recovering After Failure

Author and most recent pastor of Coral Ridge PCA Tullian Tchividjian was featured on the Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast this past week discussing his recent moral failure and how he and his family are working through this tough season.  I was encouraged by what I heard, and I hope you’ll be too.

If you don’t have time to listen to the 30 minute podcast, the whole interview can be summarized with this quote from Tullian: “If I hide from everyone and only allow the world to see me when I’m doing well, I don’t believe the gospel.  The gospel frees me to let other people see my life at its worst because in Jesus I am forever loved and accepted.  The message of God’s grace I have preached I must now fight to live.”