Monday Morning Musings

“I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Ps.122:1) I have been going to church for more than forty years since I gave my heart to Jesus Christ, and I still feel this way about the house of God.  I long for the verse that says, “the power of the Lord was present to _____.”  The text says “to heal,” but I have left it blank because of the potential for God to move supernaturally in all types of ways, in the lives of those who have an open heart towards Him.  It is also why I have chosen from time to time to write about “Monday Morning Musings” - thoughts related to the worship services on the Lord’s Day just ended.

Christ on display!  Marriage is designed by God to be a living illustration of the relationship that Jesus Christ has with His church (Eph.5:22-27).  So, yesterday morning as part of our worship service, we were delighted to unite in marriage Jaime Bourquez and Kara Pinnick.  By marrying people during a public worship service our desire is to glorify God and give Him the place of honor that belongs to Him.  In the wake of 2 billion people who watched the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton on Friday, I was reminded that every marriage has a “royal” element to it since God is invested in the success or failure of every marriage

There is always a danger in sequels.....but I preached on “The Wedding Planner II.”  This was based on the original sermon in 2008 on what and why we do what we do in our weddings, and the “blend” that we are contending for.  The title is intended to ask the question: are we going to God and His Word for direction and guidelines not just in preparing for a wedding, but in preparing for a life!  I preached from (1Tim.2:9-15) primarily from the woman’s perspective of what gifts and plans she brings to her wedding day.  There are three powerful gifts highlighted in that passage of Scripture.  The first is the gift of modesty.  This is an across-the-board concern in our culture today.  An article appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) which is a must read for every parent with daughters called, “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”  This was not written by a fundamentalist preacher, but by a wife and mother lamenting the sexualizing of young girls today who are bombarded with images and products that tout the benefits of sexual attraction.  This is happening at a younger and younger age.  There was a time when you could say to people, “Just keep things modest” and everything would be fine.  The problem today is people hardly know what the word means, and you find yourself in the awkward position of having to “explain” in detail what modesty means.  One pastor remarked:
In recent years, I have become increasingly grieved by the immodest dress of both brides and bridesmaids at the weddings I officiate.  I have observed a number of young ladies in our fellowship who have dressed modestly all their lives appearing on their wedding day in extremely provocative dresses, exposing more of themselves than on any other day of their lives.
Modesty is not exulting in some kind of old-fashioned, homely, unstylish frumpiness; but true modesty is the Holy Spirit-empowered guardian of virtue and testimony.  Verse 9, “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote, “Modesty means avoiding exposing intimate parts of the body, and avoiding emphasizing private or alluring parts of the body in your dress.  They’re yours; keep them to yourself!”  I have to say that the new Duchess of Cambridge was able to be stylish and elegant without being immodest!  The second gift is the power of words!  Verse 11, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness” is not demeaning of women, but it is clearly emphasizing the place and power of her words.  Marriage is built on WORDS!  This is the importance of the wedding vows, for they represent the sealing of the covenant.  A woman’s words also have incredible power to either build up or to tear down (Prov.14:1).  If marriages are held together by the glue of commitment, then they run smoothly by the oil of communication.  In particular, words that communicate to your spouse: YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN MY LIFE!  The final gift in planning for our wedding day is the value of virtue.  The verse is a bit cryptic, I know, but vs.15 says, “she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”  Salvation is the key in any marriage because it is “reversing Eve.”  It is God’s grace and power reversing the consequences of the Fall, or the effects that sin has had on the human race.  When a woman’s supreme relationship is with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then it undergirds everything about her and her marriage.  This is why the value and testimony of a godly wife is precious “above rubies.”
Now, this is priceless.  I closed the message with a quote from an early opponent of the Gospel, a skeptic named Libanus.  He said, “What women these Christians have!”  When women gain their sense of femininity and dignity not from the prevailing culture, but from a vital relationship with the true and living God, there is an unmistakable “something” they possess.  At the end of the service, I had a brother who just recently has been saved come to me saying how he really saw this truth!  It was hard to put into words, but he said, having come from a life without Christ, and his knowledge of and relationship with various women, that there really WAS something different about Christian women!   Ah, yes, God is so good!

Sunday night I moved into the realm of apologetics in a message “Air Conditioning Hell.”  One of the things that plays a large role in leading people is sound doctrine.  (1Tim.4:16) “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  The message was a response to a new book by Pastor Rob Bell, “Love Wins” - A Book About Heaven, Hell, And The Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived.  The book is essentially an attack on the traditional Bible doctrine of Hell and everlasting punishment.  There is nothing new here, but the (re) emergence of liberal theology, error coming in a new suit or with different packaging.  The title of “Air Conditioning Hell” was not an attempt to be flippant about an eternally serious subject, but it came from a remark about all the attempts to modify Biblical theology concerning the subject of Hell.  Dr. Paige Patterson wrote, “Evangelicals have voted by the silence of their voices that they either do not believe in the doctrine of Hell, or they no longer have the courage and conviction to stand and saying anything about it.”  There’s always a danger when we shape theology to suit our culture, and not merely adapt methods to reach our culture. 

Rob Bell doesn’t believe people will experience the Hell the BIBLE talks about, a place of eternal punishment (Mt.25:46).  He writes, “I’ve written this book for all those, everywhere, who have heard some version of the Jesus story that caused their pulse rate to rise, their stomach to churn, and their heart to utter these resolute words, ‘I would never be part of that.’” Not surprisingly, TIME magazine picked up on this as its cover story for Easter week, “What If There’s No HELL?”  Rob Bell feels that this doctrine is keeping people from coming to Jesus, which is a bit strange, since the Lord himself used very explicit language when talking about Hell and eternal judgment.  The problem with his logic and presentation is that he moves from one inaccurate caricature (of God) to another, by using a series of straw men and knocking them down.  Another problem with his approach, is that he’s not really grappling with the holiness of God, the justice of God, or the wrath of God in a meaningful way.  On page 107, he writes, “At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence.  The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God.” 

There is a name for this false Gospel, and it is universalism.  Universalism is the doctrine that teaches all humanity will eventually be saved.  Ultimately, it says that all people will end up in heaven, and none in Hell.  Rob Bell denies he’s a universalist, but his book affirms all the core beliefs of universalism.  So it’s like the expression, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”  In my preparation, one of the most revealing things was the response by an Anglican pastor who already bears the scars of battling with Universalism within the Episcopal Church.  He’s also had to deal with the likes of a heretic, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and when he sees Rob Bell’s book it’s a “deja vu” experience with one major exception: they call themselves evangelicals!  The reason that this should concern us is that a false gospel misleads sinners and fails to save.  Universalism’s attempt to write off God’s wrath ends up diminishing God’s holiness, cheapening the Cross, dismantles the urgency of evangelism, and distorting Biblical truths.   H. Richard Niebuhur famously distilled liberal theology into this sentence: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

What is our response to all of this supposed to be?  First and foremost, it emphasizes our need for a deeper understanding of the Gospel!  (Jude 3) wrote, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the Faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  The battle is always over “the Faith” and especially our understanding of the Gospel.  This is where (Romans 1:16-18) is invaluable, because it presents a complete and concise picture of the eternal truths of the Gospel.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,  as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  In the end, this produces a potent incentive for trusting in Christ as well as a compelling motivation for telling others.  I am told that when the FBI trains its agents over counterfeit money, their strategy is not to show them all of the fakes and forgeries produced around the world.  Instead, they only allow their agents to see, to touch, and to handle the real thing.  They know when someone is thoroughly acquainted with the real thing, there is no problem in identifying the counterfeit when it comes along.

 I’m sure Rob Bell is convinced that his approach will somehow result in sinners thinking better of God in the long run (I didn’t know the Lord needed a public relations makeover).   Plus, I’m not saying that I have all the answers down pat in a nice, clean, antiseptic way.  The tragedy with Rob Bell and others like him, is that while he is a bit of a “media darling” right now (everyone wants to interview him),  when all is said and done, he’ll be nothing more than a “cheap date” in their eyes.  This is why he needs our prayers and those who would come under that harmful influence as well.  Until then, (1Cor.15:1,2) “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.”