Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Clean up your language!

With the ushering in of a new year, we often shed some of the old and look forward to something new. We want to change our eating habits, replacing bad foods with ones that will do us more good than harm. We may try to kick bad organizational habits in order to get scheduled and tidy. But what about our vocabulary? Are there terms and words that are just played out? Do we need to break out the thesaurus and resolve to abolish some of the tired, worn out phrases that dominated 2008?

This is the 34th year for the annual Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. So what’s on the chopping block?

Green – Have you gone green yet? Or are you turning green from the overuse of the term of environmental endearment and all its variants such as “green technology” and “green solutions?” As one person said, “I'm all for being environmentally responsible, but this 'green' needs to be nipped in the bud.”

Carbon footprint – I have never been 100% sure what this term means, other than it is a measurable (or at least ‘they’ think it is) means of determining one’s impact on the environment. As for me, I think I left my carbon footprints in my socks.

Maverick – As PeeWee Herman would say, “You don’t wanna get mixed up with a man like me. I’m a loner, a rebel.”

Bailout – Months after the ‘bailout’ of some of the nation’s largest corporations, no one is yet sure what it really means. It’s actually a term for what your cousin needs when he calls you from jail at 2am.

Wall Street/Main Street – A term that was clever for about five minutes, quickly became a worn-out cliché in true, American fashion. It was intended to pit those in middle class economies against the big corporations. But I don’t seem to live on either. I think I live on Cow Pasture Lane.

What doesn’t make the list, however, are terms thrown about in Evangelicalism that should go. Many are not Biblical and flat out misleading, while others need to be exercised with more caution.

Accept/Ask Jesus Into Your Heart – Of all the Evangelical lingo, this is the one most used in evangelism and is probably heard every Sunday in 99% of churches across America. The phrase cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, which is not in and of itself bad, but the concept behind the words is missing as well. The phrase started with a quotation of Christ from the book of Revelation where He says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” In context, however, Christ was speaking to a church that sickened Him. MacArthur says of this passage that “rather than allowing for the common interpretation of Christ’s knocking on a person’s heart, the context demands that Christ was seeking to enter this church that bore His name but lacked a single true believer. This poignant letter was His knocking.” As Ray Comfort says, pleading with people to accept Christ portrays Him as the poor beggar, hat in hand, standing outside, pitifully asking to just come in. Is Christ there when a sinner repents? Yes! He is longsuffering! But He is not standing by, simply waiting and watching for what you will do, a victim of our choices. He calls us to repent today! Salvation begins and ends with God. It is not dependent upon our asking. This phrase caused a dilemma in my mind during all my years as a false convert. I felt as if something were majorly wrong. My life did not seem to coincide with what I saw as true Christianity. But I placated myself by saying, “But I did what I was supposed to do! I asked Jesus into my heart, and now He is obligated to save me.” I had reduced salvation down to a magical incantation.

Personal Relationship With Jesus - Once again, a decent concept, but very short of true Christianity. The amazing part of being a Christian is that God, through Christ, IS personal to us. We are to live our lives in communion with Him in ways we never imagined before, and Christians do have a personal relationship with Him. But for many, this cliché falls into the realm of modern language, and the ramifications of a “personal relationship” are lost. God is not the neighbor in the sky that we just need to get to know better. Getting to know who God is can affect salvation, but unless He changes us, we do not relate to Him at all. If we just examine the word “relate,” we may get a better understanding. As a sinner, how do you relate to God? According to Him, you don’t! You are dead in your sins, and spiritual understanding will elude you. How does God relate to you? His wrath abides on you! And to make things worse, you are storing up wrath for your final judgment. So right off the bat, the relationship is broken. It is only through Christ that God’s anger and wrath toward you can be assuaged, and you can be brought into a right standing before God. We think of relationship as how we are toward another person when it comes to interaction and thought. In human relationships, we can improve on things, even turning bad relationships into good ones by consideration, thoughtfulness, and action. But it cannot be so with God! As sinners, we cannot “work” on a better relationship with God. Christ rightly relates us to the Father. It is not of ourselves. This term and the one before normally get strung together to form the double whammy “you can have a personal relationship with Jesus by asking Him into your heart.”

Believe – This is a biggie. The word is certainly Biblical, and I am not suggesting the cessation of its use. But we must be careful in how we use and explain the word and watch cautiously as to how our audience perceives its meaning. In this word, we find the crux of salvation. Misused, it can lead many down a path of false conversion. What mostly occurs from using the word ‘believe’ is the Santa Claus complex. The thought is that if we just believe the facts about God and Christ that we will be saved. Just look up the ‘plan of salvation’ on most church websites and see what you get. Here is a sample line from a popular tract producer: 'Believe that Jesus Christ died for you, was buried, and rose from the dead.' In salvation, one must certainly cross the hurdle of intellectual belief. If you do not believe that Jesus is the one, true way to the Father, then intellectually, you are disqualified from salvation. But just believing that Jesus died for me will not cut it. If you notice, the King James will often translate it as “believeth on” (John 3:36, John 12:44, 1John 5:10). Doesn’t it mean something different in our modern language than “believe in?” To believe on someone is to trust them. To believe on Jesus is not to simply believe that He is the Son of God and that He died for you, but to take His words and what He has revealed to us upon faith and trust Him! But let’s look at the term “believe in.” If a man rescuing a lost and injured hiker in the woods had to hook himself and the injured man to a cable attached to a helicopter and fly them both to safety, and the man says to the rescuer, “I believe in you,” does that mean he simply believes the facts about the rescuer? No! He believes he came to save him, he believes he can save him, and when he says, “I believe in you,” he is fully placing his trust in the rescuer that he will save him. But let me back up and play out the scenario that to believe means only to believe the facts about Christ and God. The facts are these: Christ, fully God, fully man, suffered eternal punishment upon Himself for your sin. He died, but overcame death and hell by rising again. He stands in your stead, satisfying the judgment that calls out for your blood because of your sin. If you truly believe those facts, then how can that not move your heart to repent, fall at His feet, and live a life utterly given to Him? It is like the parable told of the man who found the pearl of great price and sold all he had to get it. Christ is the pearl, and we are to forsake all to gain Him. It doesn’t say that a man found a pearl of great price, and really believed that it was a valuable pearl. No, the information he believed moved him to radical action. But it takes much more than the intellectual belief. The Holy Spirit takes the word spoken to us about Christ and makes it a living word that changes not only our intellect, but our heart and our will.

In the end, the above evangelical terms can really only be understood rightly by one whom God has converted. To the unsaved man, the terms mean only what the definitions hold at face value. Only God can make the meanings behind them real to a man or woman, but as Christians, we should be careful in how we present them to sinners.

There are many more terms and words we could discuss, but I will leave it to you. What else would you like to see changed in evangelical lingo?


Saturday, January 10, 2009

We need you!

Real Truth Matters is looking forward to what God can do in 2009! We are praying that God will use and grow this ministry to spread His glory to all men.

There are many things in the works right now, but the website remains the central focus and the constant throughout God’s activities through RTM. And we want this ministry to be interactive. You hear much from us, but we want to hear much from you! Not only is your response and reaction a confirmation of God’s work, but it is also a great encouragement to everyone involved.

If you read this blog, please leave comments if you feel led to. This is a place to discuss the issues and topics presented here. If you read this blog entry, leave a comment to let us know you are out there! We want to use God’s resources wisely and move in the paths he has laid for us.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What Are Your New Year's Resolutions? - Part Three

I want to round out this series on bringing the flesh into submission with a very familiar passage from 1 Corinthians 9. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Running the race (persevering in the Christian life) is about how you run. The goal is in mind, but it is only accomplished if you run in such a way to endure and make it to the end. A marathon runner who stops in mile number one of his twenty-six mile journey and eats four double cheeseburgers chased down by a chocolate milkshake will not run nor finish well. . . if at all. And the runner’s disciplines started long before race day. If one just burst on the scene of a race without knowing how to run or how to train, he will not succeed. The same is true in Paul’s analogy. And, because the physical is so inexplicably linked to the spiritual, the body must be brought into subjection as we run toward the goal of knowing Him more.

Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Controlling one’s self is crucial. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection. The word discipline, often translated as buffet, literally means to deliver a punch to the face, just below the eye. Paul is not requiring self torture or mutilation, but is showing us the severe stances we must take against our flesh. Christ said something along a similar line when He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” This is the kind of stance we are talking about here. It is a stance that is ready to bring the flesh under the control of the Spirit.

It will not be easy. The flesh will resist and fight. But as it quiets down and comes under God’s authority, you will see the spiritual wealth to be gleaned. I think this may be an often overlooked aspect of the much misunderstood principle of fasting. The flesh, being brought under control, subsides and submits to the Spirit of God in ways that are hard to describe.

I want to know my God more. Knowing Him surpasses anything the flesh and world have to offer. But our flesh can be a difficult customer to convince. Therefore we must be resolute in seeing the diminishing of the flesh, and the gain of the men and women Christ calls us to be. We belong Him. We are not our own. And through His word and Spirit, we can come to know Him, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
There are areas of my life, my flesh, that need to die so that I can know even more the excellencies of the one I call Savior!

Romans 8:12-13 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit, you but to death the deeds of the body, you will live.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

What Are Your New Year's Resolutions - Part Two

There are many barriers to controlling the flesh, but there is one I want to mention before we move on. There is a tendency to want to “feel right” about something before entering into disciplining the flesh. I heard some Christian brothers talking recently about behaviors in their lives that they knew did not honor God. But then they reasoned that they really did not feel bad about it and would have to wait for God to bring conviction before making any changes. While conviction does often come from God with feelings that are appropriate, we cannot knowingly defy God based upon our lack of felt guilt. I once heard a comedian say, “I used to think my brain was the greatest part of my body. But then I realized who was telling me that!” We too cannot rely on our flesh to solely inform us of which parts of itself want to be controlled or destroyed. We rely on the word of God.

1 Peter 1:13 says to gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” So how do we tie up the loose ends of our thinking and gird up our minds? I will borrow a bit from my good friend John MacArthur. In his two sermons on The Art of Self Discipline (highly recommended for deeper study:, he says to start about first realizing whose you are. You, as a Christian, no longer belong to yourself. You are not your own. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20 you were bought at a price. It is a price so infinite in value… the very life and blood of the Son of the Living God. Starting there brings things into perspective.

Secondly, we must remember the covenant of our salvation. When you and I were saved, we came to Christ as Lord. That means submission to Him and His ways. We were saved to submit the direction of our lives to the purposes of God. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Inherent in God’s covenant with us is our covenant with Him for Christ to be Lord over our lives. We often need to go back and remember that.

Thirdly, sin should be recognized as a violation of our relationship to God. Sin is not merely a violation of God’s law, it is a violation against Him personally. We often stress this to the unbelieving, yet we so quickly forget after we are saved. How even more important we remember this as we bring our flesh into subjection as children of God. We are partakers of the divine nature, and when we bring ourselves into sin, which is ultimately following the fleshly lusts that should be under control, we are joining Christ with sin. 1 Corinthians 6: 15-17 says Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” In sin, you march yourself and Christ into union with fleshly lusts. I often have the tendency to want to compartmentalize these things. I can sin over here, and give in to the flesh, yet keep that separate from my relationship with God. One can certainly try to do that, but according to scripture, it is impossible in reality. So sin is a violation of my relationship with Him and an abuse of His compassion and grace.

Fourthly, we need to have a God-focused conscious. The conscious is a God-designed tool to direct us in ways that are right and away from things that are not right. But the conscious does not stand alone. It can be dulled or misinformed. The way to properly inform the conscious is through the study and internalization of God’s word. We are not left to the whims of our feelings, but a mind that is shaped by the principles and words of God. Feelings will follow, but the Bible is our plumb line. Our conscious, properly defined by God, will either accuse us or excuse us. It may not always be pleasant, but it is necessary.

These lead us to reigning in the thoughts and imaginations of the mind. James 1:14-15 says that each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Our thoughts and desires must be brought under the rule of God. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says that this battle’s goal is to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. That is where we are headed, if we are His. That is our goal. As you read through the Bible, and especially commands given to us in the New Testament, you will see this theme across every page.

In the next post, I will wrap this up, and move forward in the new year with a new perspective on resolutions.