Sunday, December 11, 2011

Soft, Effeminate Christianity

Back in 1999 church historian Dr. Leon Podles wrote The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity. The ground breaking volume traces the historical and sociological roots of what has become the lopsidedly feminine cast of modern Christianity. More recently Christian comedian Brad Stine has  characterized the phenomenon as the "wussification" of men. In Genesis 3, we see the origin of male passivity when Adam wimped out on his God-given responsibility to resist evil and lead with the truth.

Back in 1890 Horatius Bonar, Scottish churchman and prolific and popular writer, warned against this soft, effeminate Christianity that comes when men are afraid to resist evil and falsehood and to fight for what is good and true. What Bonar saw then is now rampant in today's culture of passive, emasculated men, which unfortunately is more and more evident in the church.

"For there is some danger of falling into a soft and effeminate Christianity, under the plea of a lofty and ethereal theology. Christianity was born for endurance…It walks with firm step and erect frame; it is kindly, but firm; it is gentle, but honest; it is calm, but not facile; obliging, but not imbecile; decided, but not churlish. It does not fear to speak the stern word of condemnation against error, nor to raise its voice against surrounding evils, under the pretext that it is not of this world.

"It does not shrink from giving honest reproof lest it come under the charge of displaying an unchristian spirit. It calls sin ‘sin,’ on whomsoever it is found, and would rather risk the accusation of being actuated by a bad spirit than not discharge an explicit duty. Let us not misjudge strong words used in honest controversy. Out of the heat a viper may come forth; but we shake it off and feel no harm.

"The religion of both Old and New Testaments is marked by fervent outspoken testimonies against evil. To speak smooth things in such a case may be sentimentalism, but it is not Christianity. It is a betrayal of the cause of truth and righteousness. If anyone should be frank, manly, honest, cheerful (I do not say blunt or rude, for a Christian must be courteous and polite), it is he who has tasted that the Lord is gracious, and is looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.

"I know that charity covers a multitude of sins; but it does not call evil good, because a good man has done it; it does not excuse inconsistencies, because the inconsistent brother has a high name and a fervent spirit. Crookedness and worldliness are still crookedness and worldliness, though exhibited in one who seems to have reached no common height of attainment."

Dave Brown is Director and Pastor-at-Large of the Washington Area Coalition of Men's Ministry (WACMM) founded in 1999 to serve and support pastors and churches in the mid-Atlantic region.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Men on Fire

In 2004 Denzel Washington starred in Man on Fire, the story of a man consumed by vengeance. John Piper's new book Bloodlines tells of men on fire when their hearts are transformed by the gospel and they are consumed by fervent living for Christ. Check out this excerpt:

Apathy is passionless living. It is sitting in front of the television night after night and living your life from one moment of entertainment to the next. It is the inability to be shocked into action by the steady-state lostness and suffering of the world. It is the emptiness that comes from thinking of godliness as the avoidance of doing bad things instead of the aggressive pursuit of doing good things.

If that were God’s intention for the godliness of his people, why would Paul say, ‘All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Tim. 3:12)? People who stay at home and watch clean videos don’t get persecuted. Godliness must mean something more public, more aggressively good.

In fact, the aim of the gospel is the creation of people who are passionate for doing good rather than settling for the passionless avoidance of evil. ‘[Christ] gave himself for us…to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works’ (Titus 2:14). The gospel produces people who are created for good works (Eph. 2:10), and have a reputation for good works (1 Tim. 5:10), and are rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:18), and present a model of good works (Titus 2:7), and devote themselves to good works (Titus 3:8,14), and stir each other up to good works (Heb. 10:24).

And when they set about them, the word they hear form God is, ‘Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord’ (Rom. 12:11). The gospel does not make us lazy. It makes us fervent. The Greek for fervent signifies boiling. The gospel opens our eyes to the eternal significance of things. Nothing is merely ordinary anymore.

Christ did not pursue us halfheartedly. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the uttermost (John 13:1). His death gives the deepest meaning to the word passion. Now he dwells in us. How will we not pray for the fullest experience of his zeal for the cause of justice and love? ‘So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith’ (Gal. 6:10).

by Dave Brown, Director and Pastor-at-Large, Washington Area Coalition of Men’s Ministries

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tebow Told to Stop 'Jesus Talk'

As a recent guest on a Phoenix radio station, former Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer shared his thoughts about current Denver QB Tim Tebow, While he appreciates what Tebow is doing to revive the Broncos, Plummer wants Tebow to shut up about Jesus.

 “Tebow, regardless of whether I wish he’d just shut up after a game and go hug his teammates, I think he’s a winner and I respect that about him. I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ then I think I’ll like him a little better. I don’t hate him because of that, I just would rather not have to hear that every single time he takes a good snap or makes a good handoff.” 

When asked his reaction to Plummer’s advice, Tebow told ESPN:

"If you're married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife 'I love her' the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and every opportunity?

"And that's how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ is that it is the most important thing in my life. So any time I get an opportunity to tell him that I love him or given an opportunity to shout him out on national TV, I'm gonna take that opportunity. And so I look at it as a relationship that I have with him that I want to give him the honor and glory anytime I have the opportunity. And then right after I give him the honor and glory, I always try to give my teammates the honor and glory.

"And that's how it works because Christ comes first in my life, and then my family, and then my teammates. I respect Jake's opinion, and I really appreciate his compliment of calling me a winner. But I feel like anytime I get the opportunity to give the Lord some praise, he is due for it."

What makes Tebow say this? Why won't he take Plummer's advice (and perhaps millions of other football fans) and keep his mouth shut about Jesus Christ?  Well, it seems Tebow actually believes and lives out what the Bible says about a Christian's first love...

Colossians 3:17, 23
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…Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”

Revelation 2:4
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Tender Warrior's Prayer

We Were Soldiers is one of the great war movies of all-time. It is based on the book We Were Soldiers Once… And Young by Lieutenant General (Ret.) Hal Moore and reporter Joe Galloway, both of whom were at the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam. The film was directed by Randall Wallace who also did Braveheart, Pearl Harbor, and Secretariat and stars Mel Gibson.

We Were Soldiers graphically dramatizes the Battle of Ia Drang, the first confrontation between the American and North Vietnamese armies. The Valley of Death was a football field-sized clearing called landing zone X-Ray. There on November 14, 1965 Colonel Moore and 400 young troopers from the elite newly formed American 7th “Air” Cavalry were surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers dug into a tunnel fortified mountainside. The ensuing battle was one of the most savage in U.S. military history. The movie is a outstanding tribute to the nobility of brave men in harm's way, their common acts of uncommon valor, and their loyalty to and love for one another. Randall Wallace and Mel Gibson present Hal Moore as a Tender Warrior. Among the several scenes where Hal Moore’s faith is portrayed there’s one in a chapel where Moore prays with one of his young soldiers, who just became a father, before they both go to war. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Christian Man Finds His Identity in Christ by Tullian Tchividjian

This is an excerpt from his new book Jesus + Nothing = Everything (pp.132-133)

The gospel frees us from this pressure to perform, this slavish demand to “become.” The gospel liberatingly declares that in Christ “we already are.” If you’re a Christian, here’s the good news: who you really are has nothing to do with you—how much you can accomplish, who you can become, your behavior (good or bad), your strengths, your weaknesses, your sordid past, your family background, your education, your looks, and so on. Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours; his strength, not yours; his performance, not yours; his victory, not yours. Your identity is steadfastly established in his substitution, not your sin. As my friend Justin Buzzard recently said, “The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you; it frees you from what you think about yourself.” You’re free!

Now you can spend your life giving up your place for others instead of guarding it from others, because your identity is in Christ, not in your place. Now you can spend your energy going to the back instead of getting to the front, because your identity is in Christ, not in your position. You can also spend your life giving, not taking, because your identity is in Christ, not in your possessions. All this is our new identity—all because of Christ’s finished work declared to us in the gospel.

Paul speaks of our “having been buried with him [with Christ] in baptism,” in which we “were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Our old identity—the things that previously “made us”—has been put to death. Our new identity is “in Christ.” We’ve been raised with Christ to walk “in newness of life”—no longer needing to depend on the “old things” to make us who we are.

When we truly see and understand all these aspects of what we’ve become in Jesus Christ, what more could we possibly ever want or need in our self-identity? Here in Christ we have worth and purpose and security and significance that make utterly laughable all the transient things of this world that we’re so frequently tempted to identify ourselves by.