Thursday, January 31, 2019

Men, Moralism and the Gospel

Many men in the church today do not know what the gospel is. They cannot restate it nor explain how they live in its good. Nor do they love it and savor it. They may say Jesus is Lord, but can’t explain why. They cannot tell you why they go to church or serve or give money there. They can't explain how the gospel informs and empowers how they live during the week. They are unable to give credible evidence in word and deed to convict them in the eyes of others they are really followers of Christ.

The gospel is where we must start when talking about what a biblical man is to be.  And if we fall short of believing and loving the gospel, then we fall short of everything else too, prayer, evangelism, discipleship, leading our family and loving our neighbor and enemy. The foundation of manhood therefore is the gospel. The first priority of any ministry to men is to continually, boldly and passionately teach them and remind them of the gospel, our greatest treasure. Then we must show them of the fundamental difference between the gospel and moralism. Moralism is rampant in churches and consequently floods their teaching and leading men.

What is the gospel?

My late mentor R.C. Sproul put it this way:
"The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.”

***Check out John Piper's six-minute presentation of the  gospel and why we never outgrow our need for it - Here

*** Also, check out this short overview from Burk Parsons - Here

What is moralism?

Moralism has different meanings, but in relation to Christianity, it is the practice of keeping various moral laws so as to please God and obtain and/or maintain one's salvation. Moralism is similar to legalism where keeping the Old Testament commandments is advocated in order to achieve and/or maintain salvation...To the Christian faith, moralism is the position of obtaining and/or maintaining our right standing with God by behaving morally often using tips, techniques and methodologies borrowed by the secular culture.

****For a more detailed description click Here

Why the Difference Matters

Dr. Michael Horton in his book Christless Christianity, The Alternative Gospel of the American Church puts it this way:

"Reduce Christianity to good advice and it blends in perfectly with the culture of life coaching. It might seem relevant, but it is actually lost in the marketplace of moralistic therapies. When we pitch Christianity as the best method of personal improvement, complete with testimonies about how much better we are ever since we “surrendered all,” non-Christians can legitimately demand of us, ‘What right do you have to say that yours is the only source of happiness, meaning, exciting experiences, and moral betterment.’ Jesus is clearly not the only effective way to a better life or to being a better me. One can lose weight stop smoking, improve one’s marriage, and become a nice person without Jesus.”

Self-help, self-improvement via methods, tips, techniques and therapeutic moralism is how the world pursues personal happiness, purpose and peace - which can never ultimately satisfy restless, hardened human hearts. Yet many churches and ministries have bought into it. Self-help, therapy or religion cannot cure the sin-saturated human condition. Sin can only be killed, crucified, and that has to be done by Jesus Christ who then graciously gifts new life to all who repent and believe in Him.

Another brief way to contrast the two:

Moralism says, “I’m clean because of my clean moral living.”

Gospel says, “I’m a filthy moral failure made clean only by the blood of the Son of God.

Moralism says, “I obey because its my duty and, therefore I am accepted.” 

Gospel says, “I’m already accepted because of Jesus, therefore I really want to obey.That's my deepest desire”

Moralism is oriented toward my keeping the rules and “doing the right thing.

Gospel is oriented toward being completely dependent on and enamored with Jesus

What's At Stake:

Dr. Albert Mohler describes why moralism is often difficult to resist:
"The danger is that the church will communicate by both direct and indirect means that what God expects of fallen humanity is moral improvement. In so doing, the church subverts the Gospel and communicates a false gospel to a fallen world.

Phil Vischer, creator of the Veggie Tales, once said this in an interview:

I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s moralism.

Pastor Donald Barnhouse, once asked in a radio interview years ago what it would look like if the devil took control of Philadelphia said this:

If Satan took over Philadelphia, all of our bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No ma’am,’ and the churches would be full every Sunday… where Christ is not preached.”

In closing..

There is so much more that can be said about the gospel and its false rivals and the bible does so from cover to cover, from the first garden to final garden. But is one passion encapsulates the historicity and truth of gospel:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." - 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

PLEASE NOTE "Of first importance"

The gospel is not afterthought or something to be brought to our ministry work or men's gathering once in awhile, but is of "first importance" and at the very heart of our ministries to men. It is of first importance because it is through the gospel that God works to take men from death to life and give them the greatest treasure of reality - His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

New Battlegrounds for the Souls of Men

Adding fuel to the campaign against what the media and culture elites have labeled "toxic" masculinity, the American Psychologists Association (APA) issued a study saying “traditional” masculinity is a "pathology" that is harmful and needs to be cured. One of its authors said, "If we can change men, we can change the world", echoing the emasculation movement’s agenda since the Garden of Eden. 

Shortly thereafter, the venerable razor company Gillette came out with a commercial not about shaving but one stereotyping men as rude, crude, and worse (Video Here). All of this fed more male bashing and drumbeat to obliterate "toxic" masculinity but it’s also sparked fierce backlash and awakened some creative counter-punching. Check out some of those reactions below:

Egard Watch Company’s Response to Gillette - HERE

Barbasol Shaving Company Preempted Gillette with this ad back in 2013 - HERE

Culture critic Ben Shapiro gave this point-by-point rebuttal of the Gillette’s ad and its ideology - HERE

‘What is masculinity’ is a crucial topic that needs full, open debate in the culture. Gillette is giving at least a chance to engage it.

Today men are more confused and conflicted about what it means to be a man than at any time in history. If men are that confused, then women are confused about femininity and children are confused about what it means to be a child. As go the men, so go the marriages, the families, the churches, the communities and the culture.

The crisis among men is not how God has designed, wired and purposed men for what He created was good, very good. But it’s the actual absence of biblical masculine virtues and models that leads to so many sin-bred, social pathologies. It’s not that biblical manhood has been emphasized too much but not much at all.  Years ago the church relinquished the field to secular culture to define and model manhood and then watch what men without God produce. Gender itself is now being radically redefined and modeled by culture elites while churches remain in the tall grass.

At the heart of mature, traditional masculinity is God’s Word, which bestows on men benevolent responsibility to lead, to provide for and to protect women, children, the innocent, the weak and the vulnerable. What that means was sanctified and modeled by Jesus Christ in the 33 years in walked on this earth.
God created us male and female in his image with different and distinctive DNAs, biologies and roles and responsibilities. In unprecedented ways and with blazing speed, the secular culture is denying and rebelling against God’s design and order.

A famous cigarette billboard ad back in the sixties pictured a burly, bronze-faced, muscular macho man with a cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth. The script said, "Where a man belongs." That was a lie. John Piper once wrote, "Where a man belongs is at the bedside of his children, leading in devotion and prayer. Where a man belongs is leading his family to the house of God. Where a man belongs is up early and alone with God seeking vision and direction for the family.

So how did we reach this state of confusion and conflict about manhood, womanhood, childhood and even what it means to be human made in the image of God, Well, here’s what God says:

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Romans 1:28-31


Men Are Called To Be Warriors for Life

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
- Jeremiah 17:9-10

I spoke to a group of men this week about watching the clip of New York lawmakers in thunderous applause over their having legalized baby killing. Under the new law, the mother gets to decide if the child is a human being. In addition to doctors, nurses, midwives and others are now authorized to do the executions right up to the moment of actual birth and  protections for surviving babies were repealed (thus authorizing infanticide).

Kermit Gosnell ran a Philadelphia abortion clinic for 30 years where he murdered
with impunity thousands of babies, often killing many mothers in the process. Routinely he delivered babies alive and then cut their necks with scissors. The grand jury called him the “butcher of women.” ABC News labeled him America’s biggest serial killer. He’s serving life without parole.

Gosnell always maintained his innocence saying he was just ahead of his time, and that someday he would be exonerated. I believe the State of New York just did exonerate him and others states like VA, RI and NM are quickly moving to do the same.

Over the last few years men and women from many Montgomery County MD churches locked arms and mobilized in prayer and action against the notorious late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart. After years of public protests and education, faithful sidewalk counseling of women who visited the clinic and creative engagement with the clinic’s ownership, Carhart was sent packing last year. Men like Pastor Charlie Baile were not silent or passive but went straight to the point of the battle.

As men, one of our crucial God-given responsibilities is to respect, protect and defend the innocent and the most vulnerable among us. We cannot and must not remain silent in the face of the great evil of abortion and infanticide as many of us have in the past. We all need to be awakened from silence in the pulpit and pew as never before to give voice to life. Martin Luther put it this way, “At the point where the battle is fiercest, there the loyalty of the soldier is most tested.” This is our battle test - to be warriors in behalf of life as God calls and equips us to be.

Edmund Burke once observed “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Pray that you will not be counted among the “do nothings. Ask God to link you to battle buddies with whom you can go to war against legalized abortion and infanticide and everything that corrupts the image of God.

Every human being - pre-born or born  -
no matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter what they have done or have had done to them — possesses intrinsic dignity, value, worth and dignity because we’re all made in the image of God. If we cannot or will not protect and defend the most vulnerable, the least among us, then no one will be safe from those who would marginalize, enslave and destroy anyone who is different from them and their goals, whether for comfort, convenience, power or hatred.

German pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
initially supported Adolph Hitler but he became one of the founders of the Confessing Church, which opposed the Nazification of German Protestant churches and the incremental purging of the Nazis chosen target groups. He wrote the following poem that has echoed down through the decades and must be re-heard by this generation of believers about what is at stake in the battle for life.

“First they came for the communists and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a communist. 

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks...I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” — Jesus (Matt. 12:34, 36-37)