Saturday, July 24, 2010

RBC Youth Conference

For the fourteenth consecutive year the Rodgers Baptist Church will host a Youth Conference concurrently with their Missions Conference. The dates are Monday, July 26th – Wednesday, July 28th. As always, we are eager and excited to serve all those who are able to come. All youth in 6th - 12th grades and college students are invited to attend. Our prayer is that the youth conference will not only be fun but will also challenge your spirit for the cause of Christ.

This year’s theme is “Amplify!” and it is drawn from 1 Thessalonians 1:8 where Paul says of the young church at Thessalonica, “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad.”

After being changed by the impact of the gospel, the Thessalonians became a sounding board of the gospel message. They were a channel through which the gospel was amplified. The sounding board picture is a good one because a sounding board does not create sound, it reflects sound. It is not the sound's source, but it amplifies the sound for others to hear. The young church in Thessalonica amplified the powerful gospel message. We desire to be, and we want to encourage your young people to be, sounding boards of the gospel!

Pastor Robby Pollard of Berean Baptist Church in Houston, TX will be our conference speaker. Join us each morning at 9am as we are challenged from scripture to "amplify" the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our activities this year are a trip to Stonebriar Mall in Frisco on Tuesday, and an afternoon at Shenaniganz in Rockwall on Wednesday. The activities fee is $20. There is no charge for missionary kids. Registration begins Monday evening immediately following the service.

We have been busy with preparations and much in prayer for this conference. We are eager to serve you. Our desire is for God to be glorified and His people edified. Hope you can join us!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Engaging the (American) Culture

Should American churches curse their collapsing culture or isolate themselves from it or engage it? The answer must be to engage their culture. Separation from sin does not equal isolation from the culture. Therefore we must ask: What is the Biblical way for engaging our culture?

Here are four Biblical steps of engagement.

#1 – Preaching, not Politicking

Preaching, not politicking is the main strategy for unleashing God's truth into an ungodly society.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:21 – “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
The act of preaching and the content of the message preached seem like foolishness in the judgment of worldly wisdom. Both the strategy and the substance of gospel preaching run counter to what common sense might suggest is the best way to communicate truth to a sophisticated society.

Conventional wisdom says that if you want to get your point of view across in America, you must do it through the democratic process; campaign for candidates and lobby for legislation that reflect your point of view; harness the power of the Supreme Court and Congress and use them to halt the moral unraveling of the culture.

But preaching, in the public square and the private residence, not lobbying in the halls of congress, is the Biblical way, and the only truly effective way for Christ's churches to make His truth known. Incidentally, when Scripture speaks of “preaching” in a context like this, the reference is not exclusively to a message given from the pulpit. Paul is speaking of every kind of gospel proclamation; everything from open-air preaching to one-on-one personal evangelism. Whatever the venue, “preaching” is simply the clear and emphatic proclamation of the gospel. That's what Paul has in mind here.

That's your calling, in election years and in non-election years; when the President is pro-life or pro-abortion, you are called to stick to the message. Stay on point. Determine to make the message of Christ crucified, buried, raised, and coming again as the heart and centerpiece of everything you “preach”.

#2 – Gospel, not Law

Second, churches are to engage the culture with the Gospel, not Law, because the Gospel is what changes sinful hearts.
  • Galatians 2:21 – “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Paul was battling the error of the Judaizers who taught that the OT Law made sinners righteous. Paul answered their error by saying that if righteousness could be brought about by legislation, the whole Gospel would be unnecessary (Galatians 3:21). Paul’s argument dealt with the Law of Moses and its role in salvation. The law was given to awaken us to our sin, to reveal the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and to eliminate every possible option for salvation other than the transforming grace of God. The law didn't lay out a way of salvation, because law is totally impotent when it comes to transforming human hearts.

Now if that's true of Moses' law, which came directly from God, it is certainly true of earthly statutes that are the result of political wrangling and compromise. Law has its rightful place, and no righteous person would ever want to see a lawless society. But when it comes to the question of how Christians might transform an already evil-society, the answer lies in proclaiming the gospel, not in campaigning for legislation.

Laws have their rightful place in restraining evil and punishing evildoers. Romans 13:1-7 recognizes that. Even in the hands of such an utterly wicked ruler as Nero, the mechanism of government still functioned in that common-grace sense, to bring a measure of peace and order to the most fallen, sin-cursed society, but if your true goal is really the transformation and redemption of the culture, or more precisely, the salvation of individual sinners, law is not the proper tool for that; Gospel is.

#3 – Service, not Dominion

To influence your culture and community for Christ understand that preaching not politicking is how we make truth known, Gospel not law is what changes sinful hearts, and the third principle is: service, not dominion, is the most effective way to win people in any culture.Mark 10:42-45

Jesus is emphatic that His followers are not to seek greatness, or influence, or power in the kingdom of Christ by the raw exercise of authority over other people. Instead, Jesus says that the way to greatness is service. Be servants to others.

Let's be clear here: Jesus is not spurning the idea of legal authority or human government. Scripture recognizes and affirms the proper role of civil authorities, but here in this context Jesus makes a clear differentiation between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Caesar. The two kingdoms are run with completely different principles. They operate in totally separate arenas. They function with exactly opposite strategies. They are pursuing entirely different goals. The way they leverage their power and influence is therefore likewise thoroughly and radically different. Christ and Caesar rule different kingdoms, by different principles.

During the turmoil that followed the British Civil War, the Puritan General and statesman Oliver Cromwell seized control. He became known as the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, and he’d shout Bible verses during battle, such as Psalm 68:1: “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.”

But it would be wise to keep in mind what one historian wrote about Cromwell:
“His private morals were impeccable, [but] his public morals were no better than those of other rulers; he used deception or force when he thought them necessary to his major purposes. No one has yet reconciled Christianity with government.”
The problem, I believe, is the very thing Jesus highlighted in Mark 10:42-45 the kingdom of God is ultimately not advanced by the flexing of political clout.

#4 – Christ, not Moralism

The final principle for how churches should engage their culture is this: Christ, not moralism should be the primary substance of our message. Society is not going to be redeemed, or even influenced for good, by a moralistic message. The vast majority of the moralism we get from the religious right is lacking any clear reference to Christ or the Gospel. It is devoid of any Biblical authority, because it has been distilled into a purely political message. It is frankly indistinguishable from the teaching of the Pharisees.

Think about it: we don't abstain from every appearance of evil just because it's pragmatically expedient or rationally sensible to do that. We do it because that's what God's Word says to do. Remember that we are agents and ambassadors of Christ's kingdom. Christ crucified is the one proper subject and center of our message to a hostile world. Our first calling is to proclaim and glorify His name.

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). Worldly wisdom and political strategies can never save either society or individuals. The advancement of Christ's kingdom has never depended on democracy or even basic civil liberties. Even in very recent history churches in nations that are politically hostile to Christianity have flourished, while churches in the free, democratic, West have become anemic.

If our energies are so focused on defending our civil liberties that we neglect to make the gospel clear, we'll lose our liberty anyway, along with the influence of the gospel. That is precisely what has been happening in America in the past half-century. It's time we woke up to that fact. Preaching, not lobbying, is how we are supposed to make the truth known. Gospel, not law, is what changes sinful hearts. Service, not dominion, is the most effective way to win people in any culture. And Christ, not moralism, should be the primary substance of our message.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Country 'Tis of Thee

  • Psalm 33:12, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD."
  • Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people."
July 4th is the USA's birthday, and as such is a day of celebration. On the Fourth, Americans celebrate their freedom purchased by the blood of her patriots. America has been, and still is, a fruitful land; a blessed land of fertile farmlands, limitless opportunities, and matchless freedoms. America is a blessed nation.

The same is not true for every nation in the world. There are places on the planet where one's next meal is not to be taken for granted. There are places on this planet where there is no real possibility for prosperity. There are places on this planet where speaking and worshipping God freely cannot take place. There are places on this planet where it is not safe to raise children, where a good doctor or clean hospitals do not exist. U.S. citizens are truly blessed.

A Christian Heritage

The Christian heritage of the USA is undeniable. Even a cursory study of America’s past will show that a majority of Americans shared a common faith and ethic. Most of America’s earliest founders were self-professing Christians and their documents expressed a belief in a Christian worldview. Fifty-two of the fifty-five delegates to the Constitutional Convention professed to be Bible believing Christians. The most influential study of the U.S. ever produced must be Democracy in America, written in the early 1830’s by the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. One famous quote from that work is…
“there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”
The voluminous quotes of this nation’s Founding Fathers' faith are well documented. Here are just two examples.
  • In a letter written by John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, co-collaborators on the Declaration of Independence, Adams wrote: “The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence…were the general principles of Christianity.”
  • Patrick Henry was famous for his words, “Give me liberty or give me death.” But he also said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In its origin the United States was most definitely a nation heavily influenced by Christianity.

A Collapsed Culture

Is that still true? Is it possible to say that the USA still has a bond between the principles of civil government and principles of Christianity? When was the last time that you heard the Supreme Court say that it was your duty to elect Christians as your leaders?

This nation has now embraced the belief that…
  • It’s harmful to say a prayer...
  • post the Ten Commandments...
  • or read the Bible in the public arena.
  • Human life is not sacred, every year over a million babies are murdered in their mother's womb.
  • Homosexuality is just an alternative lifestyle.
  • Pornographic images should be protected as free speech.
Yet the words of scripture remain: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” and “Blessed be the nation whose God is the Lord” (Proverbs 14:34; Psalm 33:12). But will a nation be blessed when God is no longer the Lord?

Consider the words of Thomas Jefferson, who was not a believer, yet was wise enough to write, “Indeed, I tremble for my country, when I reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

A Biblical Engagement

Should the American churches curse the collapsing culture or isolate itself from it or engage it? The answer must be to engage the culture. Separation from sin does not equal isolation from the culture. Therefore we must ask: What is the Biblical way for engaging our culture?

There are some Christians who believe, in practice if not in statement, that the remedies for our social ills are legislative measures and conservative Supreme Court justices. They seem convinced that lobbying for political solutions to evils like abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and secularization, is the way to go.

That is one way, but not necessarily the Biblical way. If you are known for your political agenda more than for your commitment to Christ, your values are upside down. If you make the Gospel subservient to a political strategy or a partisan agenda, you're probably doing more harm than good. If your political rhetoric obscures, tones down, alters, or clouds the Gospel message, even ever-so-slightly, then you are hiding your true light under a bushel, and you ought to reconsider where the Biblical priorities lie.

Next week we'll look at four Biblical ways by which churches may engage the culture.