Where Is The Discernment??

“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and steadfast — if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made minister.”—— Colossians 1:21-23

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What if you were inside your home sound asleep and didn’t realize the house was on fire and quickly burning to the ground.  What if you had a terminal disease, in which you only had a short period of time to live, that doctors, family, and friends knew about, but you were unaware.  Or what if the things you believed about faith and church were not actually true.  Would you want to know??

We all know the answer.  Of course we would want to know.  But when it comes to discernment about Christianity and churches these days, people would rather not hear the “bad news”.

The truth is that what many are following and believing about “Christianity” is no where near the truth of what we see in the Bible.  I don’t go a day without seeing, hearing, reading, or meeting with those that are claiming to be following the Truth, but don’t realize that what is disguised as true faith, is only leading them to destruction.

Let’s be clear.  It’s time for all believers to wake up.  The cost is too great; eternity is at stake.  And I for one, can’t sit back and watch as those around me walk around like everything is just fine when many believe and are a part of something that is leading to their eternal demise.

I know some may be thinking, “Here we go again, another post about how ‘all’ churches are bad”.  Or that, “Randy is just ‘upset’ and has is out for anyone who doesn’t believe ‘just like him’”.

The truth is that there are very few people these days that I find who are humble and teachable enough to talk about the real issues happening within so-called churches.  And even more rare are those who are really committed to reading and studying the Bible to be able to sift through truth and error or even truth and opinion.

I do admit that I find myself pretty upset at times.  But even more, really sad about the direction in which I see so many going.  When I, and those believers I talk with, struggle with being able to point to any churches that are actually preaching and teaching the Bible, as well seeking to live out the true characteristics of the Church we see in Scripture, it is really troubling.  This is the reason that I cannot sit idly by watching people embracing things that are so unbiblical.  It is crushing.  I care far too deeply to not speak up and warn anyone and everyone I am able.  Even if I need to speak repeatedly about the same things.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a remnant of earnest believers seeking to follow the truth of Scripture.  And I know there is a remnant of churches that are seeking the same.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  Much of what we see today is not really what the Church looks like from what we see in the Bible.  Enough with the excuses that there are “no perfect churches”.  And if we are really honest with ourselves, let’s not simply “settle” when we know that the pastors, leaders, and people in churches aren’t willing to make bold stands for the Truth; especially when it is not popular.

When you read through the Bible, it is clear that God cares deeply about the Truth.  In the New Testament, it is one person after another pleading and appealing for people to remain steadfast.  If it mattered that much in Scripture, shouldn’t all who claim a faith in Jesus have the same zeal for the Truth??

It is easy to sit back and not question whether what we are being taught or what we believe about faith and church is right.  It is easier to keep the status quo than be known as confrontational.  The old cliche is that it is called the “comfort zone” for a reason.  We have been told that inviting our friends to church, “serving” in the church, being activists for “social justice”, and doing community service projects are stepping outside of our bubble and being a part of “something bigger than ourselves”.  But in reality, these things look more like the world than truly “going and making disciples”.

I have been warned throughout my time in ministry that I need to be careful in criticizing churches and what people believed.  And I have taken that advice to heart and still often think about that counsel.  It is important to not rashly go after things without careful prayer and study.  I’ve also learned that when there is clear danger, we must speak up.  People may not like hearing the truth, or even like us because of us trying to share the truth in love.  But what most miss is that it is quite unloving to not tell someone the truth; even if it is difficult for all involved.

We must contend for the faith.

Paul reminds us in the first chapter of Colossians of our prior life of being engaged in “evil deeds”, all that Jesus has done for us, and the critical importance of finding ourselves “firmly established and steadfast” in the faith.  This isn’t just a suggestion, but a command that we must examine ourselves with daily; that we are personally growing in applying God’s Word to our lives and surrounding ourselves with others doing the same.  We must not “move away from the hope of the gospel” in order to compromise, accommodate, or even be afraid that we might hurt people’s feelings because of speaking the Truth.

Churches and what people believe about Christianity are truly on fire, have terminal diseases, and much of what is being modeled is not true.  It may all sound good and be wrapped up to sound “Christian”.  But we also know from 1 Corinthians 11:12-15 where it says, “But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”

We must take what we are seeing today extremely serious and separate ourselves from the clear compromises.  I challenge each of us to consider how to define the Church from what we see in the Bible and not by what is being peddled as “christianity” and “church” today.  I bet we would all find that we need some serious adjustments in order to truly be living as the Church.

In the next post, “What Is The Church??”

Hyper Grace, Antinomianism, And The Gospel

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.  For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”——Jude 1:3-4

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Radical.  Scandalous.  Messy.  Outrageous.  Relentless.  Extravagant.  Inexhaustible.

These are some of the terms that those in the Hyper Grace movement often use to describe God’s grace.  Over the past few years I have noticed a great increase of those active in the Hyper Grace movement.  To simply define “Hyper Grace”, it is an extreme focus on God’s grace to the detriment of many other important and foundation doctrines of Biblical faith.  Those that are promoting Hyper Grace often embrace the term openly.  They believe that grace can only be hyper because Hyper Grace is all that there is.  But there is a big difference between truly understanding God’s abundant grace versus what the Hyper Grace proponents really mean.

I’ve been really reluctant to write this post.  Not because it isn’t of great importance, but because of the difficulty in trying to keep something of this magnitude short and concise, but also informative.  In no way is this blog post meant to even begin to touch on the greater depth of the subject of Hyper Grace, Antinomianism, and the Gospel, but rather some of my observations over the past few years.

If you haven’t heard of Hyper Grace, I’m sure you have most likely seen the signs of it.  At the root of the Hyper Grace movement seems to be a conflict over Justification and Sanctification.  Justification, for those that aren’t familiar with that term, is the point in which a person is made right before God and forgiven of their sins by their faith in Jesus through His death and resurrection.  Sanctification, is the ongoing work of God in a person’s life that leads them into greater faith and obedience; resulting in becoming more like Christ.  As you can see, these are two critical elements of understanding the Gospel and true salvation.  How someone views both Justification and Sanctification can dramatically change the way one views faith.

In my observations, the Hyper Grace movement focuses almost exclusively on Justification.  They whole heartedly believe that we are saved by grace and faith alone.  At this I give total agreement.  There is no way in which we can ever think we can do enough good works to earn salvation, but are saved only by our faith in Jesus’ sinless sacrifice done on our behalf.  Where it seems the trouble begins for those in the Hyper Grace camp is that they seem to confuse Justification and Sanctification as essentially being one and the same.  Hyper grace proponents seem to believe that because of Jesus’ “finished work” on the cross, there is no need for willful active obedience on our part.  Although they won’t claim that sin is acceptable, they seem to believe that our sin no longer has any bearing on our lives; outside of the possible consequences of sin.  Therefore, Justification ends up being the most critical, whereas, Sanctification is merely a passive result of God’s work in a believer’s life.  No need to be concerned sin, but assured that all sins past, present, and future are paid for; no matter if there is any tangible repentance leading to obedience as a result.

Those that criticize the Hyper Grace movement tend to be labelled as “legalists”.  What is meant by this is that those who exhort people to actually live out their faith in obedience are seen as more concerned about following “rules” than focusing on what Jesus has done for them.  This description of calling those who stand for repentance and obedience, “legalists”, is no where near the truth of what we find in Scripture of true legalists.  Legalists in Scripture were more concerned about following man-made traditions, ceremonies, and rituals than actually walking in obedience to God.  Those that are earnestly calling people to faith and obedience are not “legalists”, like the Hyper Grace proponents like to accuse them, but rather are those standing for Biblical Truth.

The second part of the equation that comes into play with those in the Hyper Grace movement is, Antinomianism.

Antinomianism simply means “without law”.  What Hyper Grace proponents seem to do is take their liberty in Christ as a means of living without the need to follow Biblical commands.  In essence, because of Jesus’ “finished work”, we are no longer held accountable for sin and no longer need to feel the guilt or burden if we do fall into sin.  Many, if not all, in the Hyper Grace movement deny any charge of Antinomianism.  This is understandable because this is a serious charge.

What happens is that some in the Hyper Grace movement struggle so much with Justification that they use their beliefs as a means of assuring themselves and others of salvation without the fruit of any true repentance.  They often talk a big game about being “sinners saved by grace”, but some use this as a cover of not actually repenting of personal sin.  This is a serious problem of giving unrepentant sinners assurance of salvation without really having to come to grips with sin.  This is where the accusation of Antinomianism actually does seem to fit in a practical sense; even among those that fervently deny Antinomianism.

Those that preach Hyper Grace also often accuse others of not properly distinguishing between Law and Gospel.  They say that the Law in Scripture points to our sinfulness.  The Gospel is thus God’s cure, whereby those who believe in Jesus are promised salvation.  The Law is therefore powerless to overcome the penalty and bondage of sin, revealing our sinfulness.  The Gospel is thus the message of salvation to all who believe in the Lord Jesus (Acts 16:31).  No issue here.

But where the trouble arises in the area of distinguishing between Law and Gospel, goes back again to misunderstanding the distinction between Justification and Sanctification.  When a person puts their faith in Jesus, a person must not only recognize their sinfulness, but also repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15).  Just because a person puts their faith in Jesus, may make them in right standing before the Lord, but doesn’t mean they still don’t have the need to continue to repent of remaining sin; as it seems those in the Hyper Grace movement don’t tend to deal with properly.

The Hyper Grace proponents tend to only see the Old Testament Law through the lens of revealing general sinfulness, but miss that the entire Old Testament continues to teach and instruct us in God’s Way and what obedience and righteousness looks like, with the understanding as believers, now living under the New Covenant.  In other words, although we are forgiven of sin through our faith in Jesus, it implies that we continue to turn away from sin to a growing faith and obedience to God.  This obedience, and ongoing Sanctification, is brought about through God’s work and conviction in the life of believers, but we still must humbly submit and continue to seek to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8).

Now don’t get me wrong, our Justification doesn’t depend on our Sanctification.  In other words, our salvation doesn’t depend on what level we attain in ultimately walking in obedience and putting to death the deeds of the flesh.  But there is also no excuse to continue to live in sin when paying the penalty for our sin is the exact reason for Jesus’ sacrifice.  Therefore, we are Justified by our faith in Jesus and are being Sanctified as the Lord brings about conviction; leading us to greater faith and obedience.  But what I observe among the Hyper Grace movement is that there is often a great lack of exhorting believers to obedience; even to the point where it is almost non-existent.  That is why most of their sermons, messages, books, and so on, focus more on what Jesus has done for us rather than truly making mature, fully devoted disciples of the Lord.

I’m aware that this blog post may be far deeper theologically than many of my other posts.  There may be a lot that some might not understand and may be way over the heads of others.  What I hope is that through this post you may begin to understand some of the things that are being promoted and the things we must be very careful to embrace, even be on guard against.  There are many popular pastors, teachers, and authors in the Hyper Grace movement that are gaining a growing following.  My suggestion is to spend some time researching Hyper Grace and Antinomianism to see how dangerous these things can be to faith and salvation in Jesus.  These Hyper Grace proponents can make a very convincing argument for what they believe and why others are wrong.  But when you start to understand their beliefs and get to the heart of what they are actually saying, it becomes even more clear of the threat to Biblical faith.  As always, you will begin to see their associations with others in the Hyper Grace movement as well as those oppose.  It is important to look at these associations because they help to reveal where people stand on these and other issues, as well as other serious errors that follow.  In other words, the people they surround themselves with and what crowds they run in uncover their true beliefs.

The true Gospel is at stake and there are many pitfalls that follow the Hyper Grace movement that should cause us all to pause and consider the consequences that are giving people a false assurance of salvation when people don’t really understand the true cost of repentance and discipleship.  God’s grace is truly amazing.  But we can’t take His grace for granted.  We must seek to recognize our sinfulness, continue to repent, and seek to walk in greater faith and obedience to the Lord.

Social Media Downfall

Social Media has opened a wide door to communicate and keep in touch with people.  Along with smart phones and tablets, people can now share thoughts, pictures, and video in the moment they happen.  With all the positives that can made for Social Media, it has far reaching negative consequences as well.

Many people use Social Media to keep up with friends and family.  Others like to share whatever the trend is of that day.  For some, Social Media is a means to rehash the old chain-letter.  Whatever the case may be, I think most would agree, there has become very little value in most of what is being shared these days.  People are often so quick to share things in cyberspace that they may at least think twice about sharing in the “real world”.

I think any of us who have ventured onto these platforms can attest that we have seen some pretty shocking things.  Not just the things that individuals post, but also the aggressive comments that others make.  Social Media has in many ways become a place to air out personal grievances and attacks with little to no concern about the consequences.

In what should be a platform that people can share their lives along with thoughts, ideas, and maintain real world relationships, Social Media has turned into an online world devoid of many of the things that we would have hoped for.  The world is going to be the world, but we that profess a faith in Jesus should exemplify higher standards.

What is most troubling about Social Media are those who claim to be pastors and leaders, yet many post the most absurd, random, obscure, and un-biblical things you can imagine.  Many of these popular “Christians”, become celebrities by personally interacting or having others manage their accounts for them on a daily basis.  There are even those that have people “on staff” in which their whole job description is dedicated to maintaining their web presence and social media accounts.  And while people may have good motives in trying to connect with people, their posts often do more for self-promotion and tickling the ears of their followers than really pointing people to a Biblical faith in Jesus and true discipleship.

The idea of seeking to connect with the world has gotten to the point where many justify these practices as “outreach”, or even “evangelism”, but if you spend any time really sifting through these posts, you will be truly appalled at what people actually believe and who they associate with.  Although they may sometimes post verses here or there (usually out of context), most tend to share whatever catchphrase they or others have happened to come up with that week.  Post, share, retweet, forward, follow, like…repeat.  It really is the endless cycle of thinking people are impacting the world for Jesus, but most are really only spewing garbage and dragging God’s name through the mud in the process.

You would think that would be the end of it.  But it gets worse.

As I mentioned above, the comments people often make are way out of line.  In an perfect world we would like to think that we could have a civil dialogue about theology, faith, and life in these online forums, but that rarely, if ever, does that actually happen.  I have personally been attacked online and have seen way too many times to count, others being berated and belittled because they happen to be standing for the Truth.  Sadly, many pastors and leaders are leading the charge in attacking those with whom they disagree.  It is truly shameful.

I have had to learn that in both my personal life and ministry that I must be very careful in my use of Social Media.  It is easy to buy into the idea that you could reach out to those you might not have a great opportunity to share faith with otherwise.  Although this still may true to a certain extent, Social Media must never be a replacement for actually connecting with people in the real world.

It’s a sad reality that so many have fallen into the unending need to be a part of this online world.  You see the results as people are glued to their devices eagerly awaiting what is posted next.  For some it has become an obsession and for others, an all out addiction.   The amount of time that is wasted simply out of curiosity to not miss out on something is tragic.  I think all of us have witnessed being out at a restaurant and seeing a group of people or a family with each of them focused on their devices and not noticing anyone or anything else around them.

Another area of great concern is the lasting consequences Social Media can have in a person’s life.  What may be shared today, may be something that can destroy lives, relationships, careers, and ministries in the years that follow.  These are critical things that should give us great pause personally, but also for children growing up; to walk along side of them and make them aware of the dangers that can follow.

With the advancement of technology, it has provided some really remarkable achievements in productivity, efficiency, and communication.  We are now able to stay connected to people around the world in real time.  But with the advancement in technology, it requires us to adjust our lives to make sure we are standing firm in the faith and not being swept away by the ways of the world.

It is good to continually examine how we use our time, as well as the things we are sharing.  It is important that we really think about the impact that these things are having in our lives.  This goes for Social Media, but also in everything we do.  We must not allow Social Media to be our downfall, but rather in faith and obedience, continue to stand for the Truth and represent Christ well in all our ways.