Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pulpit & Pen blog - Caught in Ashley Madison Leak? Do Not Despair.

Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. -Matthew 27:3-5
So much Scripture could be cited to discuss the sad aftermath of the Ashley Madison affair. Reports are being published that men caught red-handed by the personal information upload are attempting to escape the guilt and shame by ending their earthly lives, thus bringing upon themselves the immediate judgment that Hebrews 9:27 describes (and very probably, the judgment that Revelation 21:8 describes for the cowardly and murderers).

You may find that, in God’s providence, this article appears before your eyes mere days after your own adulterous activities were laid bare for anyone to find. Perhaps you’ve been discovered already and your heart is full of fear, shame, and bitter poison today. Perhaps you are pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before someone peruses the data and finds your information. Perhaps you fear losing everything.

That is all part of the way God created and administers the universe and human affairs. We human beings think so much of our own cleverness and discretion. We deceive ourselves and move forward with the anticipation that we can hold it down, we can keep good secrets, we choose our friends carefully and portion out information according to great shrewdness… until the day when we find that our idolatry was part of a greater web of lies we tell ourselves and others.

Numbers 32:23
But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.
Matthew 10:26
Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
Matthew 12:35-37
The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Sooner or later, your sin will be brought to light. You might hold that light at bay for 80 years, the length of your very mortal life. If so, let me offer you a word of sarcastic congratulations; your standing command is to glorify your Creator and spread His Word, and instead you elected to store up power for and exalt yourself (Luke 12:13-21). “You had one job”, as it were, and you discarded it for the sake of that which will crumble into dust (Matthew 6:19-21), relationships that will be forgotten, achievements that will burn up (2 Peter 3:10-13), and voices that will serve as witnesses against you on that great and terrible day when you stand before your Creator to be judged (Revelation 20:11-15).
If your name is on that Ashley Madison list (as well as if it isn’t), here is what your Creator and Judge is commanding you to do:

1) Grieve, mourn, and wail.

James 4:4-10
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God…Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

2) Repent.

Mark 1:14-15Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Acts 3:19 – Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

3) Check your repentance and examine yourself, for there is more than one kind of repentance.

2 Corinthians 7:8-11For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

4) By *NO* means think that suicide is an answer that holds any good, any promise of escape, or any possible relief.
To think such a thing is to ignore the whole Word of God and to engage in the worst kind of self-destructive self-deception, and to give the devil as much victory in your life as it is possible for him to have. We saw earlier that Judas’ remorse did not lead him to tears and to redemption. It led to his suicide.
And what happened after Judas killed himself? He, like all other cowardly murderers, went to Hell. Forever. There is no relief, ever, from anything in Hell. Lay aside for a moment all the harm that the self-murderer inflicts through his action on anyone who loves him. Just being in Hell is worse in every way than even the most horrific sufferings that anyone can imagine on Earth, which is why Jesus cautions us that it profits a man nothing to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul (Matthew 16:26). How much less a good thing is it to lose everything and in response to that, lose one’s soul, as Judas did?

5) Fall on the mercy of Jesus. Fall down at the Cross. Beg Jesus to save you and make you new.
The life of Peter, which we’ll look at in a moment, is instructive in this. Look at King David for now, though. He and God were tight. Had everything going for him. Then he did the Ashley Madison subscribers one better – he was king and saw a woman he lusted after, and she was married, but he was the king and so what? and so he took her, pure and simple.
Then he murdered her husband to simplify the matter.
Then he delayed months.
Then he was caught.
Then he repented.
He mourned and wept. He fasted. He prayed. He humbled himself. He confessed.
The Lord disciplined him.
Then the Lord restored him.
David wrote Psalm 51. Go read it. But that’s not the end of the story.
Some years passed and David sinned again. See above.
Then he did it again. And then again.

Lamentations 3:39-40Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins? Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the LORD.

And there’s the answer. Return to the Lord. Your ugliest sin demands the ugliest death imaginable, and yet there too God has provided. Jesus, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God without blemish or stain, was tortured, abused, and messily murdered to set the vilest sinner free.
Jesus cleans.
Jesus redeems.
Jesus restores.
Jesus can make your life into something worth living, because He Himself is the only One worth living for. He has eternal life in His hands, and He has defeated the most humiliating and undeserved death conceivable, through His victorious resurrection from the dead. He is able to make you clean and to restore you.
Jesus’ close friend Peter found that out.

Matthew 26:69-75Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

But did Peter kill himself? No! Read on…

John 21:15-19
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”… When He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”

This is the testimony that same Peter gave near the end of his life, looking back on the indescribable mercy of the Son of God. You have sinned, as Peter did. Let this be your testimony too. Cling to it. Repent. Let go of your pride. Confess your sin fully. Be set free. Walk in the light. Follow Him.

1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Relationship evangelism

Jason Engwer made the following excellent observation:
I recently heard somebody commenting on how Christians often use Facebook, Twitter, and other media to do things like post photographs of their children and discuss sporting events, yet say nothing about subjects like God and the Bible. I've been astonished by how many people's Facebook accounts are a form of evangelization for secularism... They have so much to say about their children and grandchildren, friends, music, movies, television, sports, their jobs, politics, travel, food, etc., but so little to say, if anything, about matters like God, theology, and apologetics. When people see something like your Facebook account, blog, or Twitter page, do they see a secular, or nearly secular, lifestyle?
I'd disclaim that there are very important matters we should be discussing, and a lot, other than theology and apologetics, such as national sin, Christian obligation in response, and how we are confronting the culture with the Gospel. But a charitable reading of Engwer's remark could subsume those things under his having mentioned God, so let's let that go.

A friend responded on my Facebook wall:
It is called relationship evangelism. I see Facebook as a tool to build relationships. When you build a relationship with someone and get a deep look into their everyday lives, then people feel comfortable coming to you and talking to you about other things including religious beliefs. Why would anyone want to come to you for support if they feel you are going to judge them?

We let others know we are sinners too and our hope for a better tomorrow doesn't come from what we do but instead because of what Christ did for us.

I am not a better person because I go to church, abstain from certain things, or preach more than someone else. I am a better person because my heart is right with God because of what He did, not because of what I do.

"In the last days many will come to Me saying, didn't we preach in your name, heal the sick, raise the dead, and I will say to them, depart from me I never knew you" Jesus said.

We have to be careful that we do not preach to be seen by men but only speak to people as led by God. If a person's motive for posting is so others see you as a "good Christian" they will have their reward with men. If their motive for posting is because the Holy Spirit put it on their heart, the reward will be from God.

I have serious, serious reservations about this notion of "relationship evangelism". A few reasons why:
1) By aiming not to offend with too much overt Jesus, you show that you are willing to not be all about Jesus pretty much all the time. And that provides an example for others to follow. They can justify also not being all about Jesus because you aren't.
2) Most of the time, "relationship evangelism" is used an excuse NOT to share the Gospel. People never get around to it.
3) When/if you do get around to it, how credible will your profession to love Jesus be since you rarely talk about His being the King of your life?
4) Relating to people is not exclusive to being overtly all about Jesus. What you're actually doing is relating to people who are not convicted of their sin, while those who just might be convicted of their sin don't know that you are all about Jesus because you don't act or talk like you're all about Jesus. You're dealing with swine, in that case, and not even finding out that they're swine.
5) How can you avoid talking about Jesus all the time if you belong to Him? Where is your heart?
6) Where in the Bible do we ever see anything that looks like the relationship "evangelism" you propose?
7) When *do* you preach the Gospel? When you said "preach", did you mean "talk to someone one on one"? Did you (God forbid) mean something that a "pastor" does on Sunday mornings within the walls of a church building?
8) How is it the act of a friend to withhold the most important message that you have ever heard from them, the only news that can save them from Hell and eternally suffering the wrath of God?

You said:
\\I am a better person because my heart is right with God because of what He did not because of what I do.\\

I'd be really careful with that sort of language. You're not better. Anything good that you have or are you received from God by pure grace. It would be far better to say "I am better off". Saying "I am a better person" calls attention to yourself rather than Jesus.

You said:
\\We have to be careful that we do not preach to be seen by men\\

True, but ironically, your notion of relationship "evangelism" *AVOIDS* preaching so as to be seen (and esteemed) by men.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The negligible danger of making evangelism one's mistress

UPDATE: Tony Miano is on a downward slide into a very dangerous spiritual position and is leading his family down that path as well. As I said in my review of his book, "I sometimes honestly fear for him at the time when (not if) the elder(s) of his church fail him."
Well, now I fear for him even more. See here and then more importantly here. Lord have mercy. He who has presumed to lecture so many, block them on social media, and sow division between them and other believers on the basis of ecclesiology, "pastoral authority", "the authority of the local church", and whether one has been "sent" to do evangelism has shown himself to be an immature nomad, tossed about by winds and waves of doctrine.
Psalm 9:15 - The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.
Proverbs 29:6 - By transgression an evil man is ensnared, But the righteous sings and rejoices.

And yet...
Proverbs 24:17-18 - Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the LORD will see it and be displeased, and turn His anger away from him.

Pray for the man. Pray he will repent of all his bombastic rhetoric and realise the massive piles of hypocrisy in which he has engaged the last few years.

Certain street preachers of some popularity take every opportunity they can, it seems, to warn their readers/listeners against making evangelism and open-air preaching a "mistress" (here for example) and thus neglecting family, marriage, and the more "mundane" (as it were) aspects of church membership.
Yes, that happens, here and there. Yes, nobody should neglect their family or other responsibilities while they do other good things. Yes, it is a warning well taken. Yes, it should be stated here and there.
But is that a relevant warning to the vast, vast majority of professing Christians in America? Are we in the middle of a huge movement of men spending forty hours per week at work and then another forty out on the street or at the abortion mill preaching and evangelising while their families languish at home? No.
So, forget a "huge movement" - are we witnessing even a significant minority of the professing Christians of America doing so or anything close to it? No.
As conceded above, of course to do such a thing would be bad and sinful. But there's something else that is bad and sinful, which *is* in fact a vice shared by the vast, vast majority of professing Christians in America - a profound and vast complacency vis-à-vis the fact that people, BY THE THOUSANDS, are dying and going to Hell and murdering their babies, every single day, and that same vast, vast majority is doing nothing about it while they pursue their leisure, vacations, book studies, sports and fantasy sports, and potlucks.
These men are like doctors who during your annual checkup make a big deal out of your chronically stuffy nose while not even mentioning the fact that your aorta is 99% blocked and that your blood pressure and cholesterol are way too high. Upon coming to one's senses and a full realisation of the actual situation and its dangers, one would abandon that physician and warn others about his neglect and/or incompetence.