On Tuesday, November 6th, Americans will decide the direction our nation takes. We will either continue to travel the road of secular humanism, or we can return to the principles that once made our nation great.
As part of a national crusade to fight an IRS regulation banning clergy from addressing political issues a record-breaking 1,600 pastors participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday on October 7th. The Alliance Defending Freedom started this annual event in 2008 to give pastors an opportunity to use their pulpits to address political issues from a biblical perspective.
So how did the IRS even become involved in this issue? In 1954, Congress passed the (Lyndon) Johnson Amendment which revised the federal tax code to warn churches that they may lose their tax-exempt status if they promote or oppose political candidates or issues within their church.
Therefore, before October 7th of this year, 1,600 pastors throughout America mailed their sermons to the IRS in an act of total defiance while challenging the IRS to take them to court. In fact, this year’s participation rate was nearly triple the 539 pastors who participated in this event last year.
ADF Legal Counsel Erik Stanley said, “They preached sermons that talked about the candidates who are running for office in light of Scripture, what Scripture says about the candidates’ positions, and then they made specific recommendations as to each one of the candidates.”
Stanley, also added, “The IRS has never taken action against any pastors or churches involved in Pulpit Freedom Sunday – but the ADF will continue holding the event until it does. Our goal is of course to generate a test case and to have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional. It is the pastor’s job to determine what is said from the pulpit and not the IRS’s.”
The characteristic I most enjoyed about my job, as an airline pilot, was this: most everything was pretty much black or white. Pilots often hesitate when it involves dealing with “gray areas.” I found a statistic online that claimed there were over 220,000 Protestant churches in America. Therefore, simple math tells me that .0072727 (less than 1%) dealt with political issues on Pulpit Freedom Sunday. I do not understand why so many pastors have neglected to participate, but I do have a theory. It is my opinion that relationships have become more important than truth.
Our Lord commanded the church to go into the world and bring others to Christ. Sadly, it now appears that “the world” has been brought into the church. In fact, the word “undiscerning” identifies the main characteristic now prevalent in today’s churches. Why is that? It is because liberalism and political correctness has now largely replaced sound doctrine.
Writing or even thinking about the biblical Jesus in this age causes problems to arise. One problem occurs when we focus on only one of His attributes and lose sight of His many others. This can give us a distorted view of our Lord and Savior. In fact, we should not even consider any attribute of His that is not revealed in Scripture. The Jesus I know does not change:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” ~Hebrews 13:8
At our Lord’s Second Coming, He will lead an army to rescue Israel from the nations that desire to destroy it. No characteristics that we think of as meek, mild, or lamblike will be involved in that scenario. Neither did Christ reflect the characteristics of a lamb when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. Yet, He is and will forever be known as the “Lamb of God” and “the Lion of Judah.” These are two distinct and completely opposite qualities.
When I discuss ideology, I always emphasize the adjective “biblical.” Why is that? It is because it is only through the Scriptures that anyone can know the truth concerning Jesus Christ. Are you aware that every other perspective concerning Christ is mostly what men think about Him? Let’s read:
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; “ ~ Colossians 2:6-9
Homosexuals promote Jesus as being gay while secular progressives view Him as tolerant of others’ opinions. Is it any wonder that so many believers now fall prey to a distorted view of Jesus?
I totally support the pastors who stood against the IRS and preached about biblical principles. As a church, we must continually ask ourselves where we are obtaining our understanding about Christ. Are we relying upon Scripture, or are we seeking man’s opinions and speculations?
I have heard that some pastors do not address politics from the pulpit because they are afraid they might divide the church. That sentiment boggles my mind. I say this because we have already read Scripture that claims that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In fact, since Jesus does not change, believers should be “like-minded” when it comes to their political and social viewpoints. Let’s consider my statement within the light of Scripture. Let’s read:
“…fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” ~Philippians 2:2 2
Scripture commands believers to become “like-minded” because we are supposed to have “the same love.” The rest of the passage says, “…being of one accord, of one mind.” What is your understanding of this verse?
If church members truly know the biblical Jesus, they will be of one accord and one mind concerning the principles He taught. Therefore, this example alone negates the claim of any pastor who claims that he does not desire to create division within the church.
Yet, how is it possible that division could occur? The only answer is that some believers are following a counterfeit Jesus who can benefit no one. A phenomenon of today is identified as the “Emerging Church.” For some reason, young pastors desire to “reinvent Christianity” in order to make it more accommodating to our culture (particularly to young adults).
Is it any wonder that so many young people now say, “We love Jesus, but we don’t like his church.” You have to wonder what Jesus they are talking about. Even a cursory reading of the Bible would show them that the church is His “bride” who will be taken to heaven when He returns for her.
The Ragamuffin Gospel promotes the heresy of universalism, implying that God, in His love, simply winks at our sins. Do you understand why I emphasize maintaining a biblically view of Jesus as being vital to a healthy church today?. To leave that characteristic out of our understanding of Christ will lead to problems in our walk with Him.
The gospels certainly records information regarding our Lord’s own sternness with the Jewish religious leaders. Does the Jesus who confronted their hypocrisy sound like the Jesus who might be afraid of causing division within the synagogue? Let’s verify what our Lord said to the Jewish religious leaders:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” ~Matthew 23:13-14
In the same way the Lord blasted the religious leaders, He also offers a few rebukes directed toward Peter and the other apostles when they cracked and compromised on matters of spiritual truth. In fact, the book of Hebrews became the first book that indicates a rather harsh characteristic of Christ.
I am shocked to learn that so-called “evangelicals” would ever support Barrack Obama or the Democratic Party. Let’s consider a few general topics and simply analyze them in the light of Scripture.
Would our Lord support the use of Scripture to govern the principles and laws of our land, or would He favor the Koran? Would He claim that same-sex marriage is natural and an alternative view of human relationships? Would He favor declaring Jerusalem as the capital city of the Jewish people? What about the convenient termination of a human life?
If the church agrees with Christ, and is like-minded, who would possibly be offended by preaching against these issues? The indication of a healthy church is one where Christ is exalted for whom He is. Today, churches are running on “auto-pilot” as intimacy with Christ seems has been lost. Let’s read:
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,’These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent.” ~Revelation 2:1-5
The first three chapters from the book of Revelation are quite unique in Scripture. In them, we see Jesus directly addressing, encouraging, but mostly correcting the church. To say that He “gets tough” with His bride would hardly be an abuse of the text.
The churches to which Jesus was speaking existed during the time that John wrote Revelation and were located in the Roman province of Asia which is now modern-day Turkey. Six of the churches were within 100 miles of each other with Laodicea about 200 miles south from the northernmost church of Pergamos. None of those churches exist today.
However, the problems that Jesus raised can be seen throughout church history. Please allow me to read this description from Dr. William MacDonald, in his Believer’s Bible Commentary. He writes the following:
- Ephesus: The church of the first century was generally praiseworthy, but it had already left its first love.
- Smyrna: From the first to the fourth century, the church suffered persecution under the Roman Emperors.
- Pergamos: During the fourth and fifth centuries, Christianity was recognized as an official religion through Constantine’s patronage.
- Thyatira: From the sixth to the fifteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church largely held sway in Western Christendom until rocked by the Reformation. In the East, the Orthodox Church ruled.
- Sardis: The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the Post-Reformation period. The light of the Reformation soon became dim.·
- Philadelphia: During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there were mighty revivals and great missionary movements. This describes the evangelical church.
- Laodicea: The church of the last days is pictured as lukewarm and apostate. It is the church of liberalism and ecumenism.
These general observations ring true to history. In fact, it is not difficult to witness various aspects of the things Christ addressed to these seven churches now occurring within local assemblies throughout the world today. In other words, today the churches of Revelation are alive and not so well wherever believers gather together.
Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea all had issues that Jesus wanted corrected. Therefore, our Lord still desires this in our own churches. As the text clearly shows, these are not merely “suggestions” on His part. The church at Ephesus had many standout qualities: good works, perseverance, and critical discernment regarding doctrine and leadership. Even so, Jesus takes the fellowship to task regarding a very important issue. Jesus said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
Scripture never reveals how those believers came to lose their “first love.” However, exercising a little discernment can gives us an idea from Scripture. It is quite obvious that their good works, which should have been a byproduct that grew out of their love for Jesus, very likely took precedence over the relationship the Ephesian believers had with Him. The Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Galatians also seems applicable here:
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” ~Galatians 3:3 3
A believer’s love of the Lord must be central to whatever he does. When that begins to slip, what follows is an automatic slide into efforts generated and accommodated by the flesh. To whatever degree the flesh has its way, to that degree God’s grace is now displaced. That should be a simple principle to understand.
There’s little doubt that the church in our day would be even more prone than the Ephesians’ were to displace their love for the Lord, considering that the average believer today has been inundated and influenced by the numerous “self-help” teachings that have entered into Christian bookshops and our pulpits.
Joel Olsten and Rick Warren come to mind as new age gurus who promote self-esteem, self-love, self-worth, self-image, self-confidence, and on and on to make me “self-nauseous.” Furthermore, a preoccupation with self makes it difficult to recognize and receive a stern correction. Let’s consider what Paul said about this self-help nonsense.
Are you aware of the number of false teachers who claim that Jesus surely wouldn’t say or do anything to lower a believer’s self-esteem? That’s the Jesus of psychobabble and so-called Christian psychology. Remember, this is a false Christ fashioned by fleshly men whom the world loves, is accommodating to mankind, and doesn’t square with His Word.
Folks, the consequence for the Ephesians that drifted away from their “first love” would be the removal of their “candlestick.” There is no deep secret in the symbolism of the candlestick. It represents quite simply the light of Christ, who is the “Light of the World.”
The only way for our love of Christ to increase is for believers to grow in their personal relationship with Him. This includes reading and living out what His Word teaches. Without that discipline, the love of Christ, who is “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” will inevitably grow dim.
Let’s now logically apply what we have learned. As that light dims, it follows that a believer will have no basis for biblical discernment and will therefore cease to produce any spiritual fruit. Please notice that Jesus said, ” I will come quickly, and will remove your lampstand.”
One of the points I want to emphasize is the fact that it is Jesus Himself who is correcting His church. He is the one “getting tough” here. There has been a tendency throughout church history that continues today to deal with biblical correction when it is presented by “shooting the messenger” rather than heeding the message and repenting.
But why would Jesus speak to His bride the way He does? It certainly is not the way young men today go about wooing their brides in order to ensure that they show up at the church. Of course, what seems right to us because of worldly or cultural influences rarely conforms to the teachings of Scripture.
“These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” ~1 Corinthians 2:13-14
Nevertheless, this question remains: why would Jesus read His bride the riot act? Let me suggest some possibilities. First, everything Jesus says and does is good and for the good of those He addresses. Yet there is much more that we can surmise. Although we are to expect the Lord to return from heaven at any time for us His bride, we do not know when.
However, we do know what the spiritual condition of the world will be at that time. In the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord tells His disciples that the days prior to His return will be characterized by spiritual deception. In fact, this deception will be so great that, if it were possible, the very elect would be deceived.
Please remember that believers have always been subject to deception. Scripture warns us against falling for Satan’s “devices.” Furthermore, all of the epistles, which are written to believers, contain corrections of false doctrines that either had seduced them or had that potential. These are all situations the Lord knows His bride will face.
Christ’s sternness in one way may be compared to a drill sergeant who prepares his raw recruits for warfare. A drill sergeant, no matter what branch of service, is universally known for being hard on his men. His approach is a no-nonsense altitude because of his concern not only for his troop’s survival.
Similarly, believers in Christ (throughout the ages) have been subjected to intense spiritual battles. Our Lord’s concern is for how they fair in what they are facing.
He points out issues to the seven churches (as well as us today) that will seriously undermine our relationship with Him. Therefore, I cannot help but to evaluate the relationship of Christians who support politicians and cultural agendas that are in opposition to God’s Word. In fact, since all believers are to be of like mind, why would there ever be Christians who opposed these biblical values.
When pastors are afraid to confront sin, they have failed their congregations. That may seem insignificant compared to all the “good works” they are doing, yet works in our own strength have no eternal merit.
I hate to keep emphasizing this same topic, but churches that will not confront sin will remain under God’s judgment. In fact, Paul attempted to teach a spiritual truth using an everyday example of what happens when a little yeast is mixed with flour. Before we read this verse, please recall that the word “leaven” (in Scripture) is always a reference for sin. Let’s read:
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” ~Galatians 5:9
As the leaven of “self” enters in, the loaf of pride rises. This is the primary recipe for “works of the flesh.” Maybe this is why five of the seven churches received correction. However, two of the seven did not receive correction.
The churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia, received no correction from Christ. In fact, they are only given comfort and encouragement because they have suffered for their steadfastness in the faith. Let’s apply that to today’s political arena. In America, we have dedicated Christians undergoing persecution for their witness of biblical principles. If you doubt me, do the word “Chic-Fil-A” mean anything to you?
In fact, pastors who stand upon biblical values will receive condemnation from a secular media. At the same time, they will also alienate members who support non-biblical agendas. In there best interest, they have allowed a little leaven into the church in order to grow the size of the loaf.
Have you ever notice how large “seeker-friendly” churches are today? Sadly, there is a growing belief among a majority of America’s pastors that will prove to be quite damaging. This is the belief that the Christian church, including its members, should be a-political.
This explains why pastors are unwilling to take a public stand against politicized moral issues such as abortion, redistribution of wealth, and individual responsibility. After all, there is a belief that pastors are supposed to be above political issues and primarily focus upon spiritual issues.
Spiritual, moral, and political issues are inseparable. The religious freedom guaranteed to us in the First Amendment is a prime example of this. Without the will of others to engage in politics, the fundamental right regarding the moral issue of religious freedom would never have been realized.
The refusal of the church to take a stand on political issues (which are always moral issues) has weakened the moral authority of not only the churches, but our nation as well.
How can we lead if no one is willing to take a stand? Sadly, too many pastors now believe that their effectiveness is measured in how many people attend church every Sunday.
I guess the new mentality among America’s pastors is based on an unwillingness to make others feel uncomfortable. They must be afraid that members may find something else to do on Sundays. That viewpoint does not coincide with God’s Word. Let’s close with this verse:
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” ~1 Peter 4:17