What Are They (er, ah, We) Thinking? Part 1
In 2007, Emerging Church author Dan Kimball published a booked titled, They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations. In the book, he explains what he thinks are the main obstacles to reaching younger generations for Christ. To be sure, there is hardly anyone who has been part of a local church for any length of time who hasn’t been put off by some practice of the church, or hurt by another member of that body, and the author of this blog is no exception. Frequently, things I may find off-putting about the church are just matters of personal preference or taste. Yet sometimes there are substantive problems that should be addressed with the leaders of the church. Sadly, as a minister, the most hurtful things that have been done to me have come from other ministers, and not from rank and file members of the church. No doubt there were times when I should have been hurt or offended that I just didn’t realize it at the time, or else I decided to have thick skin and not let someone get to me. A long time ago, before I was ever a Christian or part of the church, I made up my mind to have a thick skin, rather than waiting for an opportunity to be offended. It has served me well, and at times perhaps a little too well.
But if there is one thing that does get under my skin and really bugs me, it’s the readiness with which the visible Church of Jesus Christ accepts false teachers and their false teachings these days. On occasion I will have something on my mind that may cause me to have difficulty going to sleep—finances, a family matter, the economy, politics, wars in the world, crime, etc. However, these things rarely keep me awake for any length of time to be noted. What does cause me real loss of sleep at times are things like false teachers, heresies, the refusal of Christians (especially church and denominational leaders) to call out blatantly false doctrine and theology, and the open invitations extended to those who teach false doctrines to come into our churches and denominational functions. All these things cause me to question where my children and grandchildren will be able to attend church in 10 years for a diet of doctrinally sound biblical teaching and godly fellowship. Will there be any churches left that preach the Bible in an exegetical (drawing the truth out of Scripture) manner? Or will they all be doing the latest “relevant life principle” topical series?
This brings me back to the subject of my opening sentence: Dan Kimball’s 2007 book titled, They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations. I give credit to Kimball for his personal involvement with unbelievers, his apparently sincere desire to see people really saved through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, and his emphasis on prayer. He also rightly states that churches develop their own sub-cultures, but I take issue with the premise of his book that unbelievers actually like Jesus.
The Jesus that unbelievers like is usually the one they’ve created in their own image, rather than the Jesus revealed in Scripture. Their favorite Bible verse is usually, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, NKJV). If they can think of the title of any hymn, it’s likely, “Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild” (words by Charles Wesley 1742, music by Martin F. Shaw 1915). Of course, the actual words of the hymn would no doubt refute what they think the title suggests.
They also love Bible proof-texts like, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world” (John 3:17a, NKJV), or the compassionate words of Jesus to the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11, NKJV). Yet they ignore, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36 ), and the other words of Jesus to the woman caught in the act of adultery from the last phrase of John 8:11, “Go and sin no more” (NKJV, literally: go and stop sinning).
The bottom line is that the two main reasons people do not like the church are these:
- They hate Jesus Christ and His cross (John 15:18-16:3; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
- They love their sinful manner of living (John 3:18-20).
One of the major complaints of unbelievers against Christians and the church is that we are dogmatic. News flash! The real Jesus is dogmatic:
Answering a question from one of his disciples named Thomas, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me‘ ” (John 14:6, NKJV). That’s extremely narrow, exclusive, and dogmatic. So, are we to believe Jesus, or the ideas of our culture? I go with Jesus!
To the self-righteous religious leaders, Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44, NKJV). That’s a pretty nasty theological spanking to the elite of the religious community. Was it harsh? Yes! Was it an accurate assessment of those to whom He spoke? Again, yes! Truth hurts, but truth heeded can heal. Compare other harsh words Jesus spoke to the religious hypocrites with the idea Jesus is some sort of wimp, and you will see that Jesus is a strong man (Matthew 23:23-28).
Jesus forcibly drove out those who had made the Temple a den of thieves (Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48). This is the same Jesus who said to Nicodemus, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world” (John 3:17a, NKJV), and to the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11, NKJV).
On the other hand, Jesus is also gentle and gladly received little children,
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.
15 “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them (NKJV, cf. Mark 9:33-37).
So, yes Jesus is gentle, loving, kind, compassionate, and so on, but those things do not negate strength, rather they exemplify it. Because He is strong, He is certain about how to get to God—it’s through Him alone. The postmodern fascination with uncertainty is no credit to it. This twisted philosophy believes that doubt is faith. It isn’t. Doubt is just what it’s always been, doubt. The Bible condemns doubt (Matthew 14:31; 21:21; Mark 11:23). Jesus is also strong against sin, and clearly condemns unrepentant sin.
This brings us back to the main reasons unbelievers don’t like the church. 1) They hate Jesus Christ and His cross (John 15:18-16:3; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31), and 2) they love their sinful manner of living (John 3:18-20).
So let’s look at these various aspects of the real reasons unbelievers don’t like the church.
First, they hate Jesus Christ, and in turn hate His church.
18 ” If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
22 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.
24 “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.
25 “But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’
26 ” But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.
27 “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
16:1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.
2 “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.
3 “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. NKJV
Are you going to believe Jesus or the excuses of unbelievers as to why they don’t like the church? I hear people proclaiming with too much predictability that they are basically “good” people. I usually respond by asking them to define “good”. “Good” in their mind is always a relative thing that operates on a sliding scale— “I’m not as bad as _________” (fill in the blank), or “I’ve never committed _____” (again, fill in the blank). But that isn’t the problem.
The problem is that if we have broken the Law in even one point, then we are guilty of breaking the whole Law (James 2:10). At issue is the fact that we are not as good as Jesus Christ, and we are not even basically “good”. We are basically evil (sorry Joel Osteen). Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings” NKJV. Again, who are you going to believe? Too many people have chosen to believe Joel Osteen and their own deceitful hearts. If people do not believe the Bible, then they are deceived by their own corrupt heart and mind. What’s the answer to this dilemma? Repent of your sins, and receive the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, purchased by His blood on the cross.
Unbelievers (and CINO’s“Christians in name only”) also hate the cross of Jesus Christ because it’s foolishness (literally: stupid or moronish, It comes from the Greek word mōria, from which we get words like moron) or a stumbling block (literally: a stone that causes stumbling. It comes from the Greek word skandalon, from which we get the word scandal) to them. So the cross is stupid and scandalous to unbelievers (i.e., the perishing of verse 18).
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;
23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption —
31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” NKJV
So, if you still view the cross as foolishness or a stumbling block, rather than as the power and wisdom of God, then the Bible says that you are perishing. So, you need to repent of your sins (that is to change your mind and turn away from your sins) and be saved. Again, if you have any arguments about this, take it up with the Author of The Book—that would be God. At this point I would also point out that no matter what your sin, you are no worse a sinner than the author of this blog, and you CAN be forgiven.
Second, they love their sinful manner of living (John 3:18-20).
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” NKJV
The Bible does not say that sin isn’t fun or enjoyable, at least for a little while. If sin wasn’t pleasurable, then the Bible wouldn’t repeatedly warn us to stay away from it. However, the pleasures of sin are short-lived, and its rewards are unbearable. The Apostle Paul warns us of the wages of sin in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NKJV Realizing the short-lived nature of the pleasures of sin, Moses chose to suffer with the Hebrews, rather than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He counted the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, looking forward to an eternal reward.
24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. NKJV
In conclusion to this introductory blog post as to what on earth the church is thinking in allowing itself and its theology to slide into never, never land, let me encourage all those who read this post to be good Bereans, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11, NKJV). Notice the Bereans were commended for this. Don’t just take someone’s word for what the Bible says, but check it out for yourself. Also, if someone says that the Holy Spirit told them something, then check it out with the Bible. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1, NKJV). The Bible is the authority, and not someone’s experience. Peter reminds us of the authority of the Scriptures over every experience, even over his eyewitness account of the Transfiguration of Christ. Experiences are subjective, and may be true or false (accurate or inaccurate). The Scriptures are objective, and are always true (the Bible is always right and true, even if my understanding is flawed).
2 Peter 1:16-21
16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;
20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,
21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. NKJV
So, if something our favorite authors, preachers, pastors, teachers, or conference speakers teach is contrary to the Bible, then they are wrong and the Bible is true. It’s no more complicated than that.
Thank you very much, and have a Blessed Day in the Lord Jesus Christ!
His Hebrew name is: Yeshua haMashiach or Yehoshua haMashiach