Saturday, October 2, 2010

The RTM Blog is Moving

It's official! The RTM blog is moving to our website. We will no longer post new blog entries here. All past blog entries have been copied over, and all new blog entries will be posted at the Real Truth Matters Blog.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Problem of Modern Evangelism Part 2

By S. Michael Durham

The following blog post is second in a series. (The first is here.)

Several key passages of Scripture give us special insight into the evangelistic methods of the apostles. One text of Scripture often cited is 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. It is a key passage stating Paul’s missionary intentions.
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
The famed apostle tells us that there is a pre-evangelistic work to be done. He would not argue against lowering as many barriers as possible to the hearing of the gospel. There is some truth to being relevant to audience. Whoever heard of someone trying to sell his products speaking a language the consumer did not understand? Surely, there needs to be some point of identification. Even Jesus became a man in order to win men. Thus, Paul’s cultural behavior took on the customs of the people group he was trying to reach. If he was preaching to Jews, he said, “I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews.” This in itself is a remarkable statement considering Paul was a Jew. What does he mean, “I became a Jew”?

The answer lies in the fact that after Christ saved him Paul did not consider himself a Jew, but a member of a new race of humanity. He tells the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul no longer saw himself under the law with its ceremonies, rituals and traditions. But when ministering to a Jewish audience he complied with their customs so they would not be offended. Paul knew the Jewish regulations no longer had meaning. He was clear in his teaching that observance to these laws and traditions had no saving benefit. Christ was the fulfillment of all the laws of Moses. However, he would not use his Christian liberty to close the door to the Jews. If he insisted on his liberties in Christ, he knew the Jews would not grant him audience.

The same was true when ministering to “those who are without law”; that is, Gentiles. However, Paul was quick to tell his audience that he did not in any way sin against God or violate his conscience. He added that he was not without law but was under the law of Christ. Why say this? So no one would misunderstand him to think he believed the end justified the means. You cannot disregard the will of God in order to fulfill it. Paul was strenuously opposed to trying to reach a sinner by being ungodly. In other words, Paul would identify as much as he could without compromising his new humanity, his identity with Christ. Paul wanted his readers—including us—to know that he was not lawless but obedient to the moral teachings of Christ. And not just outwardly, but also he kept the spirit of the commands of the New Covenant. He would not be involved in anything that opposed Christ’s spirit of holiness. Not even a soul is worth that price tag.

What is holiness? Short hair cuts, ties and long sleeved shirts? No, not at all! Holiness is to be other-worldly. It is not a difference in appearance, but in heart and mind. A holy man is a man who lives by the standard of anther world—heaven, not earth. He separates himself from anything that would spoil or stain his love for Christ. He will be more concerned that you see the glory of the Savior rather than some reflection of yourself. Therefore, the Apostle Paul lived as close to the Gentile customs as he could without being in conflict with the holy gospel he proclaimed.

Paul did not participate in worldliness or anything that would have given the appearance of evil. He tells the Thessalonians to “Abstain from every form of evil.” To the Corinthians he warns, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? . . . Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.’”

Yet, Paul is often used to defend compromising with the world. This text is the main barricade many hide behind to defend their personal infidelity with the world. And yet, Paul is very specific within this very text that he was not lawless. He carefully followed the footsteps of his Master and lived out Christ to the maximum.

Paul’s method of relevancy was not based upon how much he could be like his audience without sin, but what barriers could he remove so that his audience could hear what he had to say. It is not, as many have said, that Paul is advocating that you have to be like someone in order to reach that person. If you are to reach a biker, do you need to go buy some leather and a Harley Davidson? He is not saying that only bikers can reach bikers. But in order to reach a biker, any barrier that would keep a biker from hearing your words (other than his own hardness of heart) must, if possible, be removed.

Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Ministries (now known as OMF International) followed this same principle of accommodation. Born in England in 1832, Taylor became one of the most influential foreign missionary pioneers in modern history. A trained physician, Taylor went to China with a burden to reach the interior of China for Christ. The Chinese government made inland China off limits to foreigners. Much of the Christian work in that vast country was very small and located in a few costal cities. All European missionaries lived separately from the Chinese and maintained their western European culture. The message the Chinese received from missionaries was to become a Christian you had to become like the Europeans, which were considered foreign devils.

Hudson Taylor refused this logic. He realized that the missionaries had erected barriers between them and the Chinese. He chose to dress like the Chinese, eat like the Chinese and live among the Chinese. Greatly criticized, his principle began to work. Chinese men and women began to listen to him with a different perspective. Taylor himself put it this way:
In (Chinese dress) the foreigner though recognized as such, escapes the mobbing and crowding to which, in many places, his own costume would subject him; and in preaching, while his dress attracts less notice, his words attract more.
The issue to Taylor was removing the distractions so the unsaved could hear the message. This makes sense and does not require a man participating in questionable activities or immoral issues in order to prove his sincerity. This is all Paul was saying in the text we are examining. To make the apostle say anymore than this is to misrepresent him. It is the very
As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16).
In conclusion, if my oxford shirt, khaki slacks, and penny loafers is a distraction for my biker audience, then by all means, I shall put them aside and get me some leather. But my leather does not have to have demonic symbols or worldly advertisements on it. Nor do I need to compromise the Spirit of holiness and grieve Him by speech or actions not in keeping with Christ.

Surely, the apostle Paul did not mean that we have to be like sinners in order to reach sinners. If that were true, then what alternative are we offering the world? The greatest attraction a Christian has to the world is his difference from the world. Otherwise, why preach to the world “be like us” when we are so desperately trying to be like it?

However, as important as this text is, it is not the end of the matter. It is one principle concerning evangelism and not the sum. There is one principle that trumps it. And it was the heart of Paul’s missionary proclamation. It was so important that it influenced this principle of accommodation that we have examined in this article. In our next article we uncover this consuming motive.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Problem of Modern Evangelism

By S. Michael Durham

A great deal of verbiage has fallen upon our usually very quiet—too quiet blog. I am amazed at how anyone could feel very threatened by the likes of RTM. We have been recently informed that we are “ill-informed,” “cowards,” “untrustworthy,” “noncredible,” “false witnesses,” “nonchristian,” “misinterpreters of the Word of God,” “journalistically dubious,” “pharisaical,” and many things that I cannot write for public consumption. In other words, we’re not much. While I disagree with the above adjectives, I would agree that we are not much. Frankly, that is why we are so surprised by the attention we have received. I am sure that those whom we cited as proof of our concern have a much wider audience than we do. So, if we are all the things listed above and many other things we could not repeat, why the concern? If these people are doing the will of God why are they so bothered by our challenge? Should any of us be surprised if we are in the service of the Lord and men revile us? Why then not just brush us off and pay us no mind? I believe the answer is in the heart.

What do I mean? I am sure that many bands, musicians, and ministers want to reach people for Christ. They truly believe that what they are doing is effective and is God-honoring. We have not impugned this motive of the heart in anyone who has taken exception with our positions. Therefore, anyone who takes seriously the desire to reach others for Christ can be wounded when someone else who is just as serious about evangelism critically analyzes them.

For this reason, let us lay aside all personal feelings and examine this Scripturally. For the problem, as I see it, is much larger than music, bands and concerts. It’s actually a problem that has infiltrated local churches. It has everything to do with preaching, ministry, and how we evangelize.

The postmodern man seems to be no different than his modern father and his premodern grandfather. All three desire to do things their own way. The modernist believes his way was superior to the premodernist, while the post-modernist thinks he trumps them all. But all three believe they know better than their Creator. This they have in common, for it is common to man. We truly think that we can improve upon what we read in the Bible.

For example, we hail the apostles. We quote them regularly. We venerate them as the greatest examples of Christianity. But we refuse to live like them! The western church-world rejects the method of these extraordinary men, who in one generation took the gospel to the then known world. This generation cannot say we have taken the gospel to the entire known world. Granted, the world we know today is much larger than in the apostles’ day. However, we are more in number and resources than they. At the same time we have lost ground in Western Europe and North America. What did the apostles do that we rejected as useless and replaced with a sophistication that has failed? What is missing in our modern evangelistic method that with all its technological advances gets meager results? And why are we unwilling to listen to Jesus’ first disciples who without technology accomplished far more than North American Christians with all their advanced resources?

I believe the answer is one thing—let me step aside and allow the Apostle Paul to tell us—“But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Their evangelism did not lack compassion for the lost. There is no want of compassion in Paul saying, “for I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.” But the ultimate motive for their labor in the gospel was to please God: “not as pleasing men, but God.” This is what is missing in today’s preaching and singing.

We at RTM do not in the least suggest that motives are not genuine from the church house to the concert hall. But if I am only motivated to see lost people saved, I must say my motive is too low. I must be moved by something more than this, greater than this, and holier than this. What can be more, greater and holier than wanting to see people redeemed? One thing—to please the Redeemer who saves sinners.

A proclaimer of the gospel must first remember that he has been purchased. Our allegiance is not to the sinner, but to the Savior. As Paul, we are debtors to the lost; we are obligated to give the living dead (that is what I call sinners) the only hope they have for a resurrected life. This obligation is a moral and ethical obligation. It is the same obligation a man has who has the cure for a terminal disease. He has an ethical responsibility to share it with the dying. But our obligation to God is more than moral or ethical. It is the obligation of worship. The first and great commandment still applies, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). It is the obligation of love, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The Lord God has not treated as His enemies, but through Christ has loved us and purchased us as His own special possession.

It is not just a moral obligation to please Him. The pleasing of God is more than duty. It is my highest desire and pleasure. Why? Because I love Him. If we love God supremely, then pleasing Him must also be supreme. It is the same obligation that a husband owes his wife—his absolute love and devotion. For him to pursue another woman is wickedness. For us to pursue the salvation of the lost for the sake of the lost is adultery against God. To seek to please men in order to reach them is the first step on a slippery slope of spiritual adultery. And this is true not just for Christian artists. It is true with those of us who stand before a crowd of people and proclaim the unsearchable riches of the gospel of Christ.

Ministry has an inherent danger. It can become the means and the end. Success in ministry can become our goal and not Christ. Seeing people converted can easily become the ultimate goal. However, when it becomes the end, then we cease to be worshippers and become professional ministers. This is why I say worship and adoration trumps all other motives and must rule supreme. If I do not serve Him with this kind of heart, then my service can be nothing more than a terrible source of displeasure.

It is this motive that is missing today in most Christian heralds. We may have a myriad of good intentions, but we are missing the only intention that truly counts. We refuse to do what He has called us to do the way He has called us to do it. The modern missionary believes He has learned a better way. Better way? How can anything be better if God is not pleased? What if we reached the whole world but did not please the God who has commanded us to obey? What kind of success would that be? It is to succeed at failure.

Let us be agreed that evangelism done any other way, for any other motive, but to please God is wrong. It is not the way of the apostles whom we love to quote. It is not their modus operandi. It is not their method of obedience. In our next blog we unfold their ways and methods. Please, if possible, refrain from commenting until I have finished this brief series of articles. When I have finished and you do not agree, then by all means say so.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Deep Depths of Relevancy: A Response

We have been recently deluged with comments regarding a post on our blog from the end of July. It was about the Cornerstone Music Festival and the way the festival and bands are trying to attract people to the event. I cannot answer each one personally as most were posted anonymously. It seems better to start with a new post to answer questions as opposed to creating a long comments thread.

First, I stated that Texas Chainsaw Massacre was shown at the festival and was accused of lying. I got my information from a person who attended the festival. It is an eyewitness account. I assume that the movie was part of an evening as described by the Cornerstone website where they showed movies that were “not kid friendly.” They describe them as “movies your mother warned you about and that you watched anyway.” So that is where I got my info.
Next, most of the comments were negative against my assessment of the band Grave Robber. They are a band who dress in costumes that make them look like they are decomposing corpses. In the comments, many claim that the band is reaching a horror-punk subculture in a way that no one else can.

The question is, does the end justify the means? Do we really need to become more and more like the world in order to reach the world? Isn’t the very nature of a Christian one who has been saved from the world and is no longer a slave to the world and to sin and to the flesh? Grave Robber is trying to be like the world. They promote the fact that some of their influences include Alice Cooper, Type O Negative, GWAR, and Black Sabbath. So, in essence, they are saying “We are like those sinful things that your sinful flesh desires.” They are taking the worst of the world and trying to Christianize it. At the same time, they are giving credence to the very bands they mentioned. They do not speak against them but try to emulate them. And on a personal note, I know these bands well. I was a big fan of Type O Negative at one point, and they are not anything to try and emulate. Why do we need a poor, Christianized version of something evil?

Trying to use the world and its ways to attract people is against scripture itself. Here are a few: ". . . do not be conformed to this world. . ." -Romans 12:2. "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." -Colossians 2:8. "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." -1 John 2:15. "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." -1 Corinthians 3:19.
We just produced a video on this subject that may be helpful to you. Please watch it and remember that it is not based on what we think but what scripture says.

Next, some of the comments defended the sincerity and genuineness of the guys in Grave Robber. I am not saying anything against their sincerity or personal devotion. I do not know any of them. But as the old saying goes you can be sincere, yet sincerely wrong. Plus, even if someone was converted to Christ, the end does not justify the means. I rejoice over a conversion, but pragmatism is not the rule of thumb. Scripture is our only source of truth.

Some have questioned why I am against their celebration of death since death is natural and all around us. We do not rejoice in nor glorify death. Horror movies and zombies are unacceptable because they are not only glorifying death but glorifying death by entertainment. They also glorify the sin of murder. At this moment I can hear the argument of “Well, don’t we glory in the death of Jesus?”. Yes, but any such questions shall be ignored and not posted. There is great difference between the atoning sacrifice of our savior and the morbid fascination with murder and the death of sinners. Death is the result of sin. It should be preached but not gloried in.

Lastly, we will not allow comments that only call names or are rude or offensive. We don’t mind being disagreed with, but when someone resorts to name calling, we will keep it off our blog. I will respond to one comment, however, that resorted to such tactics. I was called a tie-wearing door-knocking do-gooder who would not have the guts to share Christ in a dark bar room at midnight on a Friday.” You apparently do not know me. First, I hate wearing ties. Secondly you envision me as a suit wearing fundamentalist. Funny. I am covered in tattoos as a result of the sinful lifestyle I had before Christ saved me. I know where this culture is. I was in it. As I said earlier, I loved bands such as Type O Negative. If you know anything about them, you know where I was. I was saved on my way to jail one afternoon. The sin I once loved I now hate. And as far as going to bars is concerned, I’ve been there too. I have been to bars in the middle of the night in order to share the gospel. I have labored with a fellow brother to bring the gospel to those folks because we were once one of them.

I urge the people who run Cornerstone and bands like Grave Robber to repent of trying to be worldly in order to reach the world. Don’t depend on gimmicks. Depend on the Sprit of God. Use scripture as your guide. Study the Word for yourself and seek wisdom from God.

Friday, September 17, 2010

God So Loved

By S. Michael Durham

Note the distinctive adverb used: “God so loved.” He did not just love, but He “so loved.” There is an eternity in the word so. Jesus could have said to Nicodemus, “For God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” and we would have accepted it. But Jesus adds the word so to make a statement. The Father’s love is much more than we can fathom. He did not just love us; He so loved us.

The degree of His love is seen in what He gave—He gave us His only begotten Son. He did not summon heaven’s angels and chose one of them to die. He did not look upon the celestial crowd and say to Himself, “Which of these do I love the least that I can sacrifice for men? Which of these can I spare and give up for the elect?” No, this He did not do. Rather, He looked to His right hand and upon His most beloved. He looked to Him who is more valuable than all the angels of heaven.

The Puritan John Flavel, quoting an unnamed author, tells of a famine in Germany and a poor family who wrestled with the decision to sell one of their children into slavery in order to buy food. Here is Flavel telling the story.

A poor family being ready to perish with famine, the husband made a motion to the wife, to sell one of the children for bread, to relieve themselves and the rest: The wife at last consents it should be so; but then they began to think which of the four should be sold; and when the eldest was named, they both refused to part with that, being their first born, and the beginning of their strength. Well, then they came to the second, but could not yield that he should be sold, being the very picture and lively image of his father. The third was named, but that also was a child that best resembled the mother. And when the youngest was thought on, that was the Benjamin, the child of their old age; and so were content rather to perish altogether in the famine, than to part with a child for relief.

How do you part with one child to save the remaining children? Which one do you choose? The one you love the least? But you do not love one the least. You love them all and each for their distinctive reasons. You could not so choose. Yet, God the Father willingly yielded His Son to the tormentors that He might save His enemies. The Father joined Jesus’ persecutors and rejected Him and tormented Him with the torment of the damned. Not only does it not compute; it is contrary to our own hearts as parents. “For God so loved.”

If you are a cold, calculated mathematician or accountant, you could say that you let the math answer the question—one for the many. Give up the one and get many in return. It’s the law of investment. If you are a politician you could reason the sacrifice of one political ally to gain many more allies. If you are a Caiaphas you can think, “it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:50).

But we are not talking about accountants or mercenary politicians. We are talking about God Almighty who loved His Son Jesus more than all of His creation and yet is willing to sacrifice Him because He so loved us. How do I get this?

Well, that is my dilemma. I cannot fathom God loving us to this degree. It baffles the mind but blesses the heart. My mind cannot understand it but my heart can believe it. And believe we must.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

History of the Modern Gospel: Session Three

The next video in the History of the Modern Gospel series is up. It is titled "Welcome to the Circus". It is our personal favorite, so far. Please watch, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Give According to Grace Part 4

By S. Michael Durham

We have one more principle to discuss that governs how New Testament believers are to give. According to the Word of God in 2 Corinthians 9:6, we are to give sacrificially: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

Most giving is based upon the principal of affordability. If we think we can afford to give, we do. Paul illustrates this with an agricultural metaphor. To sow sparingly is to sow what you think you can afford to lose. Think about it. Why would a farmer sow sparingly? Surely, he knows the more seed he sows the greater chance of a larger harvest. But in the first century, farming was more primitive than today. There were no farm stores to buy seed for present year’s growing season. A farmer would take seed from his harvest and use it for next year’s planting. Therefore, a farmer might decide to sow sparingly, concerned that his seed may not produce a good crop and hoping to ensure he’ll have seed the next year. He feared loss more than he desired gain.

This is the motive behind giving what you think you can afford. You give with an eye on possible loss. You think of things you could do with your money rather than invest in God’s kingdom. Whatever, is left over is what you think you can afford to give away. But, if we wait until we think we can afford to give we will give sparingly, if at all.

Sacrificial giving is motivated by a law of sowing and reaping. The more sown the more reaped. Therefore, the amount kept is more important than the amount given. This was true of the Macedonians. It was true of the poor widow who gave her last two mites. Most people look at the amount they give and congratulate themselves. But was it truly sacrificial? Look at how much you have after you gave and you have your answer. Sacrificial giving means that a poor person can give more than a rich person, even though the actual amount the rich give far exceeds the poor. Why? Because of the amount left over after giving. A. W. Tozer said,

Before the judgment seat of Christ, my service will be judged not by how much I have done, but by how much I could have done. In God's sight, my giving is measured not by how much I have given, but by how much I could have given and how much I had left after I had made my gift.

This is the attitude behind sacrificial giving. You think, “How can I sacrifice more so that I may reap more in the kingdom of God?” It is not motivated by a fear of loss but of gain. When you give, you never truly give it away. In reality, you are investing, and one glorious day you will reap your reward. Sow, and then sow some more!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to Give According to Grace Part 3

By S. Michael Durham

Grace giving is giving that is motivated and empowered by God’s grace. So far we have demonstrated that this New Covenant giving is commanded of every believer. We have also seen that it is to be practiced regularly and proportionately. Today, let us observe that grace giving is a giving that is generous. Paul commands Christians to give liberally.

Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which [you had] previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. (2 Corinthians 9:5)

Never think what is the least you can give. Think what is the most you can give away. This is the heart of Christian giving. But generosity is not determined by the amount given, but by other biblical criteria. Paul gives four conditions. First, give voluntarily. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 the apostle dictates, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” “As he purposes in his heart” means you give what you want to give. This is not some mystical formula where God tells you the exact amount you are to give. I do not say He doesn’t do that at times. But the Lord wants us to give because we want to give, not because it is our duty. The heart is to be engaged. Therefore, He lets you determine the amount most of the time.

Second condition, give without sadness. Again 2 Corinthians 9:7, “So let each one give . . . not grudgingly.” The words “not grudgingly” in the original language of the text means “not of grief." In other words, you should not give and then grieve as if you have lost something. You do not regret your giving. Your giving should never bring sadness.

Third, give unselfishly. Paul continues, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not . . . of necessity.” In other words, necessity or duty giving is not grace enabled giving. Giving out of necessity is selfish giving. You are giving to benefit self. For example, you may give because you fear God will chasten you if you don’t give. Or, if you don’t give, you fear someone will find out and think you’re unspiritual. Another example of giving out of necessity is giving because you want to be blessed with more abundance.

This is why high pressure and gimmicks to get people to give are forbidden. It isn’t just TV evangelists who are guilty of using such tactics to raise more money. Many pastors do so every time they preach on tithing. They lay law upon their congregants to either bring guilt or reward to increase giving. Have you not heard it said that if you sow your ten percent you’ll reap a hundredfold? That is selfish and it is sinful.

Lastly, Paul says, give joyfully, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Our word hilarious comes from the Greek word translated cheerful. Giving is worship and worship is to be a joyful expression of God and His grace to us. Next week we will give the last command concerning how to give according to grace.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Could Christians Really Face Severe Persecution in the U.S.?

A group of Muslims was recently denied a permit that would create a mosque in the middle of a small town not far from here. With the news being posted on various websites came tons of comments from readers. What I was amazed to see is that most of the comments are not only in favor of the Muslisms, but many in this "Bible Belt" area slammed Christians. Even when no one on a message thread had made any comment regarding Christianity as a defense for denying the permit, the "oppression of muslims" was seen as a Christian offense. This once again revived my belief that persecution is not far away for those of us in the United States. Here is a blog that we ran in 2008 during the presidential election campaigns. I think it is worth running again:

We’ve heard it for years now. Persecution of Christians is coming to the United States! And while the evidences of hostility toward Christians have certainly grown in our recent history, it always evaded my mind how hostility from a “minority of people” could turn into full blown persecution. Plus, aren’t we guaranteed freedom of religion in a nation founded on religious principles? No matter the hatred toward Christians, we could not be outright persecuted, could we?

 It did seem ludicrous to me in years past, but I am now coming to understand how it is possible and how it could actually play out in our nation. This is not prophecy in the sense of telling of future events, but the reality of persecution is now more real to me than ever.

So how can we go from a majority Christian nation to outright persecution?

Perhaps the story about Christians backing Barack Obama on One News Now will help illustrate. The story states that in a recent Barna survey, Obama and McCain are tied when it comes to how born-again believers intend to vote. Barna defines born-again as those “who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus and believe they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.” How can that be? How can half of “born-again” Christians support a candidate who openly supports abortion (and even voted against a bill that would require babies born alive in botched abortions to receive medical treatment) and openly supports homosexual rights? Hard lines are being drawn, and in those lines are the future of persecuted believers.

I believe the chink in our previously impervious amour is the seeming divisions in the Christian world such as what we see above. There seems to be two or more Christian worlds within American Christianity. And the poles continue to drift further apart. Those who adhere to Biblical values, such as those of us who know abortion and homosexuality are wrong, are vilified as the most radical element of our faith. We have people like Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and Rob Bell in the Christian community who never raise anyone’s ire, yet there are those like James Dobson, John MacArthur, and Al Mohler who never seem to stop catching the flack of open, verbal persecution. So what is the difference? Aren’t we all Christians?

This is why I used the term “seeming divisions” when referring to the Christian world. There are no divisions in true Christianity. The real division is between those who are converted and those who are not. The lines are being drawn between those who are His and those who claim to be His but are not. 

And those who are truly saved are deemed as radical and dangerous. Now we can see how a nation can persecute Christians while still allowing ‘Christianity.’ Those who are truly born-again must draw the dividing line between themselves and those who are false converts. It is essential not for the sake of causing division, but for the sake of the Gospel. Yet the world will love those who claim to be the Church but in reality are not. The world will hold them up as true models of Christians and persecute those who really are. The false church is already in bed with the world and pleases it immensely. Therefore the true Church will be persecuted by a people who feel that this radical group is a danger to the state and to the state’s wellbeing. After all, the mantra for abortionists and homosexuals is one of civil rights, correct? Can you already see it coming? Bible publishers are being sued for printing scripture that decries homosexuality. Hate crime laws ban speech that agrees with scripture and Biblical teaching. The false church will flourish, and Christianity will still be accepted. . . as long as it agrees with the world and the state. This is the case currently in China. 

And we will be the enemy. We will be those who oppose societal advancement. We will be persecuted.

But the bright spot is that we have Christ. And He is worth it. Our treasure is not in comfort or ease. . . our treasure is in Him. And there is no difference to gain Him through ease or adversity. And persecution holds to scripture, so we should not be surprised. In fact, we can be comforted that He has told us these things before hand, and therefore His word is true.

–John 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” - John 15:8 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” -John 16:2 “the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” 2 Timothy 3:1-9 “1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.” 

Read about our brothers and sisters who are already facing violent persecution at

- J.T.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to Give According to Grace Part 2

by S. Michael Durham

In our last article we shared two guidelines that God gave us through the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. First, giving is required of all believers; and second, our giving is to be done regularly. In this article we want to explore an additional guideline: giving proportionately.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” All believers, rich and poor, are to give in proportion to their income. The difference now from the Old Covenant is that law does not determine what the percentage is for everyone. The Holy Spirit determines it for each person.

You cannot give what you do not have. Paul acknowledges this in 2 Corinthians 8:12: “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” Many of the poor looked upon what the rich could give and were tempted to think that their giving was meaningless. They could not give the amounts the wealthy could. Therefore, Paul says we are to give “according to what one has.” And that giving should be proportionate. In other words, a poor man can give as much as a wealthy man considering the percentage he gives in relation to what he keeps. In other words, the proportion is not a comparison of what you give to what someone else gives; it is a comparison of what you give to what you keep. The more the Lord prospers you, the more you can give. So your giving is based upon the degree of God’s giving to you.

The more good we receive the more good we can do. This is the proportionate giving Paul is teaching. The wonderful Bible commentator Matthew Henry shares as much in his commentary on verse two of 1 Corinthians 16.

They were to lay by as God had blessed them, in that proportion. The more they had, through God’s blessing, gained by their business or labour, their traffic or work, the more they were to lay by. Note, God expects that our beneficence to others should hold some proportion to his bounty to us. All we have is from God; the more he gives (circumstances being considered), the more he enables us to give, and the more he expects we should give, that we should give more than others who are less able, that we should give more than ourselves when we were less able. And, on the other hand, from him to whom God gives less he expects less.

Make it your resolve to give in proportion to what God gives you. The more He gives, the more you ought to give. You will discover God’s giving will increase as you give.

Friday, August 20, 2010

RTM Ministry Update

Ecclesiastes 3:13 says, “. . . every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” It is a blessing to labor for the sake of the gospel. Our toil is so much easier knowing that is for the Savior who died. His words echo through the ages and we have heard them, “My yoke is easy.”

We, at RTM, consider the completion of our improved website the gift of God. We rejoice to announce that it is finished and you can look it over at

The improvements include:

· A better index for resources

· A new video page

· Easier readability

· RTM ministries page

· HD video

· Blog within website

· Additional products

Finally, we are also producing a new video series: The History of the Modern Gospel. This video series explores the roots of modern, false gospels such as easy believism, revivalism, and the social gospel. These heresies are often hard to detect because of their long histories and associations with the church. Yet, when their young roots are uncovered, and they are matched against the true gospel, their damning flaws are evident. The introduction is posted, and a new installment will be released each week. We pray that this series will help open the eyes of false converts and those to whom God is now revealing truth. We also pray that they will become a tool for you as we fight the fight of faith and shine forth the true gospel, Jesus Christ.

Please pray for us as the Lord gives you ability. Our needs are small compared to His great resource. Also, drop us a line and let us know what you think of both website and new video.

Desperately Depending on Grace,

The staff of RTM

How to Give According to Grace

By S. Michael Durham

People don't give what they ought to give. The reasons vary from indebtedness, hearts enslaved to things, fear of losing financial security, a spirit of hoarding; but all of these reasons can be reduced to one—they don’t really love Christ and His kingdom as they should. It is not a financial problem but a spiritual problem.

But there is another reason: many don’t know why they should give or what they are to give. If the New Covenant has eliminated tithing, how does God mandate giving for the follower of Jesus Christ? This is the first of several blog posts that will answer the question.

First, we must remember that giving is commanded of every believer. 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul directs his readers, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (emphasis added). There are no exemptions. The size of your paycheck or even the lack of one does not exempt you from giving. If you have no money, then what do you possess that could serve the kingdom rather than indulge your flesh? You may ask, “What about grace? Aren’t we under grace rather than law? Isn’t the command to give a law?” The answer is simple: grace does not exempt giving because giving is a grace. And all are commanded to use the grace of God given in order to give.

Secondly, Paul commands giving consistently. Again, 1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” Paul commands systematic giving. Convenient giving is a luxury not often afforded in Christianity. It was not convenient for Abraham to offer up Isaac. It was not convenient for Moses to return to Egypt. It was not convenient for Jesus to die to Himself and to the cross. So, we should not give only when it’s easy.

Giving regularly reminds us from where our provision comes. And the more we are reminded of God’s provision for us, the more we will want to give to the provision of others.

Also, giving regularly is an antidote to materialism. By giving consistently, we constantly have opportunity to fight against selfishness, worldliness and greed. This is especially true when it isn’t convenient or easy to give, like when finances are tight—or when you want to squander money on something you may not need. Self-denial may not be vogue in most circles, but it’s still cool in Christ’s kingdom. This form of grace releases our hold on things. Better said, this form of grace releases the hold things have on us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Source of Grace-Giving

By S. Michael Durham

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

We are stewards. This is the theme of this series. And this can only mean we have given ourselves to our God and relinquished control. Now all you possess is not yours. It never was. Therefore, giving is not really giving, is it? If it’s not yours then you can’t give it away. But if you disperse and invest it as the Lord instructs you, well then, you are merely administrating or managing His possessions. Will He not keep and provide for you if you manage His affairs as He directs? Of course He will. What kind of employer do you think Him to be? He is an excellent Master who will not let one of His stewards lack what he or she truly needs.

Perhaps you have forgotten His kindness to you. Remember the terrible debt you were in? You owed holy justice a terrible amount, and you had nothing wherewith to pay. Hell, the eternal debtor’s prison where the inmates suffer the agony of their debt to God, was your due. Do you remember the guilt you experienced? The law’s stinger had deeply penetrated your soul and nothing could remove it. All of your religious activities did not lessen your agony. All of your good deeds and promises were band-aids that did not heal. No preacher could ease your pain. No church could medicate your wound.

But then came the Great Physician. He came to you. With hands that had been pierced by the law’s demands, He extracted law’s stinger with lovingkindness. Do you remember? The immediate relief was so great and inexpressibly joyful. Instead of the torrential pain there was a river of gladness. Your burden had been removed. The fever of hell’s torments had left your brow. Now a crown of rejoicing was in its place. Gladly, that day you swore allegiance to this Great Healer and promised Him your life in undying gratitude.

But has gratitude lost its power? Then return to Calvary and see this Great Physician work His medicine. This is what grace does. It lifts your gaze off of you, and fixes it upon the wounded, yet victorious, King. Watch Him suffer your hell, your pain, and your debt. He gave Himself, His wealth, His glory, His home and was reduced to the poverty of a world in rebellion, a world convulsing in its painful delirium of rejecting the only One who could truly love it. He was despised and rejected by His Father so that the same could love you. He was crowned with thorns so that you can be crowned with glory. This is Jesus, and this is our Master.

I ask you, if Jesus would do this to gain us, now that you’re His, why would He not treat you equally well? Let earthly treasure go, it cannot compete with this kind of love. It is not yours anyhow. You have been given heaven’s treasure. Let this life go and you will still live because you have been given life eternal .

This is the foundation of New Covenant giving. This is the soil from which germinates the Christian’s giving—the love of Christ. This is grace-giving.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Truth About New Covenant Giving Part 3

S. Michael Durham

In our last article we examined how the grace of giving works in the believer. We stated it works irrespective of economic class. From the wealthiest to the poorest the grace of giving can work. Second, we saw this grace work beyond human ability. It can empower you to give beyond what you think.

Let’s continue with a third way the grace of giving works in Christians: it works in the heart first, then the pocketbook. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the grace of giving in the Macedonian church and said, “And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). They did not just give money; they gave themselves. God doesn’t need nor want money; He wants you. Giving money without giving yourself does not work. I think this is the reason God gave mankind the concept of money.

Let me explain. There are two things that reveal a man’s heart: relationships and money. Usually money is deemed the most important since many relationships end over money. It has been stated the average American spends six hours shopping a week but only 40 minutes playing with his or her child. Money can consume the heart so quickly and do it in a way that seems harmless. The Bible warns of this again and again. Richard Halverson said, “All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’s character and how he handles money.” Therefore, I believe God gave the concept of money to man to tell a man’s heart. It always reveals what a man loves most. Did not Jesus say, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21)?

Not only did the Lord give money to tell a man’s heart but also to test it. Your use of money tells how much authority God has over your heart. If money has any grip on your heart, it will be there you will find the end of God’s authority over your heart.

Lastly, God also gave money to train a man’s heart. It is a constant challenge for most believers to keep selfishness at bay. Money and possessions is a constant tool the Lord uses to teach us to be like Him. We are never more like Christ than when we are giving. He will repeatedly come to us and ask us to give something away, perhaps things we consider dear, in order to develop Christ-likeness.

So, in the end, God’s grace works in you to give yourself. Once He has you, He will have your wallet.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just As I Am, OR Wait Just a Minute

Do you ever think you can’t bring yourself before God because of your sin, weaknesses, or shortcomings? You say, “No I can’t come to God like this. I have to come to Him with everything together.” Honestly, if you could really come to God only when you had things together, could you ever come to Him?

Come just as you are. Broken, bruised, or even shattered—bring that to God. He is full of grace and mercy. He wants you to come before Him with everything, just the way you are.

If you have a child who came to you all nasty, scraped up, and bruised, would you turn him away saying, “You know I can’t have you coming to me like this. Go clean yourself up and then come back.” The thought is totally absurd, yet we view God in this way. In Matthew 7:11 it says, “If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

Our Father would never turn us away. He actually ushers us into His presence and hears our requests, our heartaches, and our joys. So what do you have to bring before the Father today—your pains, joys, heartaches, or circumstances? Whatever they may be, bring them before your Father who can take these things and work them for good.


Monday, August 2, 2010

RTM Update

This is the email update we sent out to our website subscribers last week. If you are not subscribed, please go to . We'd love to be able to communicate with you!

God is very good to us! As we work to promote New Testament Christianity by promoting Jesus Christ as the Gospel, it is easy to look to our end goals such as completed websites, finished videos, new blog entries, and book chapters and become frustrated when it takes longer than we’d like to accomplish our goals. But God gently reminds us that
there is more to the ministry of RTM than the products of our labors. Not to sound selfish, but God is using this work and this ministry to do something in us at RTM as well.

Yes, He has called us to proclaim the Gospel. Yes, we want that
ministry to be fruitful and see souls converted. But God is making us at RTM more like His son through the process. It is our call, first and foremost, to walk in the Spirit, enjoying relationship with the Father. God uses various means and tools to bring this about. One of the tools He uses in our lives
is the work of RTM. He also uses relationships, our families, and other circumstances. In your life, He uses your employment, your relationships, and your circumstances to draw you to Himself.

There are those who consider their employment, for example, and think, “If I could only get a job in a Christian workplace or at a ministry, then my walk with God would be better everyday.” I think I can say that is not the case. God may very well be using your circumstances where you are to draw yourself to Him and enjoy Him in ways you could not otherwise.

I can say that I came into RTM with a two-fold purpose. First, I do want to reach people with the Gospel of Christ and see an end result that is fruitful. But before I even reached the point of knowing that God was leading me to RTM, I wanted to know Him more, experience Him more, and walk in sweet fellowship with Him. I surrendered to His agenda, not mine. I did not know at the time that it meant coming to RTM. I was up for whatever God had as long He used the process to grow me up into a man who walks in the Spirit, enjoying Him everyday.

I have to say that he has used my time at RTM to do that, but in ways I didn’t dream of. Some of those have been very painful as He has exposed some of the remaining sin that is so deeply entrenched in my heart. But I can say that it has been good. More amazing than that, it has not come about through the subject matter of our work. It has come about through means that are actually commonplace at most places of employment.

Don’t become discouraged when you look around you and don’t see yourself making it to the ends you have imagined. That “something better” is not out there somewhere. Things hardly ever turn out how we think they will anyway. Look to Him and see how He is using where you are right now to do something in you today. God is doing something; don’t miss it.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Deep Depths of Relevancy

I thought I had reached the point where there wasn’t much done in the name of Christianity that would shock me. America has taken just about every worldly device imaginable and tried to Christianize it. Yet there seem to be some last holdouts that are really just too bad to try to pass off as Christian. Or so I thought. It may sound very crude, and I don’t say this for the shock factor, but could you imagine someone trying to pass off pornography as Christian? After what we discovered this week, it doesn’t seem so far off.

The Cornerstone Music & Arts festival is an annual, four-day event held on a 500-acre plot in central Illinois. The main attraction is the music. Multiple stages showcase many different artists and bands who are supposedly Christian. You will probably recognize some of the bigger names: Toby Mac, Skillet, The David Crowder Band, Switchfoot, and the like. While these in and of themselves may present their own problems that would require another blog entry, the Cornerstone Festival has shown itself to have an evil underbelly that is not just a masked attack upon Truth but is bold and blatantly demonic.

The Apprising Ministries blog recently posted an article written by an attendee of the festival who experienced and saw things that are not only shocking but being passed off as Christian. Typifying the worst of the musical acts was a band called Grave Robber whose influences include bands and singers such as Alice Cooper, Type O Negative, GWAR, and Black Sabbath, just to name a few. If you aren’t familiar with these ‘artists’, consider yourself blessed. They are among some of the most evil and, yes, even bloody and gory acts that have been popular in the past 30 years. Grave Robber, decked out in masks and costumes that make them appear like, well, they were just dug up yesterday, even sometimes share the stage with members of the aforementioned bands. They refer to Jesus as the re-animator, and themselves as zombie slaves.

The audience really gets into their performances, too. Comprised of mostly teen-agers and young adults, they are often painted like zombies with make-up blood splatters on their clothes and dripping down their faces. And speaking of zombies, the increasingly popular zombie culture has now been adopted by “christians.” Cornerstone offered a zombie walk that was attended by more than 300 participants who dressed like the living dead. The march ended in a dance that would be considered in the secular world a rave.

Cornerstone also held a movie night that was billed as “not kid friendly,” even though people were encouraged to attend the festival with their entire families. The movies included The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The House of the Devil. First of all, if it is not good for the kids, then why is it good for the adults? Secondly, these movies are a celebration of some of the sickest and most reviled acts of sin imaginable. How is it even remotely possible that these things are edifying to a Christian?

So, you may say, why even point these things out? They are obviously a very extreme segment of a false Christian culture. Yet this is not the case. This is a major event attended by thousands of people that has been held for the past 27 years. There are many who are drawn by mainstream bands such as David Crowder, who, if they are not regenerated, will see their favorite Christian ‘stars’ associated with some of the most degrading and vilest forms of entertainment and fully accept them because that is what their flesh desires. And here, the organizers of Cornerstone, have given thousands of people a blank check for their consciences to pursue the lusts of the flesh because they label these things as Christian.

The organizers of the Cornerstone Festival are wrong with a capital W. They are purveyors of filth. If one cannot see this is wrong and know that the light of Christianity cannot mix with the darkness of Satan, they are in spiritual bondage beyond anything that we have ever seen before. This is the ultimate end of relevance. The overarching thought that one has to be like the culture and in the culture and part of the culture in order to reach the world is the root of this problem. And here we see it reach its logical conclusion. All this does is allow filthy, stinking, sinful people to follow the lust of the flesh and soothe their God-given consciences because they smack the label of Christian on it.

What this has done for us is give us a renewed soberness in the fight to which we are called. It also allows us to praise our Father for the fact that He has rescued us from these things. We are no better than the people who put on this festival. But God has dealt graciously with us to show us light that they have yet to see. If it were not for the grace of God, we would be doing such things, perhaps even worse things.

Continue to remain vigilant with us. Put on the full armor of God, girding your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance . . .

Stand with us and fight the good fight!

Ephesians 5:8-14 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:

“ Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Truth About New Covenant Giving Part 2

By S. Michael Durham

New Covenant giving is based upon God’s grace given to the believer. In this article, let’s look at how this grace of giving works.

First, it works irrespective of economic class. It works in the poor as well as the rich. Paul tells the Corinthians that although the Macedonians were “in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2). The word deep means “down to the bottom.” It’s to be as low as you can go. The Greek word Paul uses translated poverty is a word to describe a beggar. So, to be financially challenged is no excuse for not giving. The Macedonians were so impoverished that Paul at first refused their giving. Yet, in this extremely poor group of believers the grace of giving worked amazingly.

Second, the grace of giving works beyond human ability. Again the Apostle writes concerning the Macedonians, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (2 Corinthians 8:3). God’s power grants the believer to do things that are not either natural or based upon circumstances. Grace can empower us to give beyond what seems to be our ability to give.

I know many people today are concerned about the economy. I was talking with a deacon from another church and he mentioned to me how their giving had decreased because of the recession. But in light of this text, if Christians are giving by grace should recessions always decrease giving? It seems to me giving that is based upon the economy is not based upon grace.

Grace may work beyond a person’s ability but never beyond his will. God’s grace does not force us to give, but asks us to give willingly. Paul says, “they were freely willing.” Grace works in and through the will. We desire to give and even enjoy our giving. This too is amazing grace.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Truth About New Covenant Giving Part 1

By S. Michael Durham

If tithing is not God’s method for our giving today, what is? Last week we saw different tithes proscribed in the Law of Moses for Israel only. Practically, all giving in the Old Covenant was directed by laws regulating what and how much was to be given. But the law of tithe met its end in the cross of Jesus. In the New Covenant our Lord’s grace directs all giving and is regulated by the precious Holy Spirit. What then does our heavenly Father expect from us, His children?

To answer that question, let’s see how grace works to enable you to give as you ought. This will eliminate legal giving (giving only because it is required and only as much as required), guilt giving (giving because you feel guilty for not doing so), fear giving (giving because you fear God’s reprisals), or selfish giving (giving for gain or recognition or self-satisfaction).

The way the Apostle Paul teaches giving in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is by pointing the Corinthians away from themselves and to the grace of God. He then gives them two illustrations of grace-giving and then, finally, gives some commandments about it. I want to follow his outline.

Paul begins by showing us that giving is a gift to us. He says, “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 8:1). God had given the Christians at Macedonia a grace that enabled them to give in an awesome way. This should not surprise us. Any ministry we perform, God has gone before us and graced us to do so.

But the Corinthians could have said, “Well, that is how the Lord led the Macedonians to give. That is how the grace of God moved them. But He has not so moved us.” Perhaps Paul expected this, and so in verses 6-7, the Corinthians were commanded to seek this grace as well. “So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.”

According to the apostle, we are all responsible to seek God for grace in order to obey. Grace does not remove effort, and every Christian is to give by grace. Not only are we to have this grace working in us, but Paul says we are to abound in this grace: “see that you abound in this grace also.”

Evidently, the Corinthians did not excel in this grace. Therefore Paul directs them not to themselves to try harder, but to the grace of God so that when they do give they will do so in the strength of God.

Why? Because as anything else in the Christian life, the child of God is to live out the life of Christ. Perhaps a better way to say it is this: Jesus is to live out His life through us. If it is merely the fulfilling of our “Christian duty,” then who should gain glory and praise? We should, since we fulfilled our obligation. However, God designed the Christian life to go beyond law and duty, which no fallen man could keep. He implemented the New Covenant, with the life of His dear Son, to operate on the basis of spirit and love. The only person who can live up to a standard higher than law and duty is one who is being influenced by the Spirit and motivated by love. In this way God is the one glorified and praised.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'm Ready for My Close Up, Mr. Me

So is this what we've come to? For sale: a specialized piece of equipment that allows you to photograph your favorite subject - yourself! Well, maybe that is not the only application for the handheld monopod, but it does highlight a universal, human problem: the love of self.

With social media dominating the internet landscape, the love of self is more visible than ever. Facebook takes it to new heights. Where else can you see a series of 20 photos, all taken one right after another of one person? They are friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, and the daughter of your sister's boss's secretary. The poses are pretty standard. Camera held aloft, keep your chin down, and point your eyes up to the camera. Or, for those going steady, it is a photo of one kissing his/her sweetie. It's known as the "I've gotta boyfriend/girlfriend photo." Or, maybe its the group photo with friends, otherwise known as the I'm-not-a-social-reject photo. Or it's the funny photo, showing your sense of humor or creative ability. Or, perhaps it's just a photo of your closest friend - your Chihuahua. How sad.

No matter what photo you go with, Facebook exemplifies for our generation the love of self and the need to spread that love to others. While it may be used to stay in contact with others and keep up with friends and family, when it comes to what you put out to your public, it is often calculated, whether consciously or not, with the question of how will this promote self. Think about it. Why would a person sit in front of their computer either alone or with a friend, take a series of photos of themselves making various facial poses and post it for all their friends to see? The only reason is so show everyone themselves.

Why does anyone want to publicize the fact that they are Disneyworld right now, or they just sat down to eat at Olive Garden, or they just taught their dog to roll over? Or how about the friend who just changed her relationship status to happily-married-to-the-most-wonderful-guy-ever and posts that she just ran a marathon, baked her grandma chocolate chip cookies, rescued a cat from a tree, and spent time with her perfect children.

When people share information, they have a motive. They want to communicate something and elicit some sort of response from those with whom they communicate. When you look at the vast number of posts, status updates, and photos, you ask, "What is this person trying to communicate to me?" If we look at posts and honestly ask ourselves that question, you can more often than not come to one answer -"I want you to know that I am important, that I am doing something interesting, and I matter!" The collective masses are jumping up and down yelling "look at me, look at me!"

A recent study on Facebook use identified two major reasons why humans find it to be so amazing. First, they are entertained. This is not surprising. We are an entertain-me society and have been for a while. But the second reason why Facebook is so alluring delves into realms that movies and television can not reach. Users are socially compensated. They gain recognition and are allowed to build and maintain a social status. This is major draw, especially for such a narcissistic, self-love oriented society.

The study says, "individuals gain gratification when they are recognized; supported, or their
relationships with others are being admitted and maintained." They go on to state that is part of a person's "mood maintenance." It's a form of online group-therapy where we go around the room (or screen in this case), stand and say, "Hi, my name is . . . and here is what I did today and what I plan to do tomorrow and what I think about this and that." The user feels satisfied, recognized, and more important than before.

The new status symbols are a great number of comments and likes, and a friend who doesn't like your latest quip or photo must be shunning you. That's life in Facebook. It allows us to promote self and soothe the ego.

The problem? You are not the center of the universe. You are not part of the center of the universe. You are nowhere near the center of the universe. What we are doing is continuning to sheild ourselves from reality. We are the masters of our domain, our image, and our worlds. Yet it is all grasping at the wind. If there is a definitive point to this blog entry, I suppose it is this: don't waste your life on yourself! God created you to glorify Him! And you know what the amazing thing is? He is most glorified when you get your greatest satisfaction in Him; and more specificially in Him through Jesus Christ. God made the two to go hand in hand. His glory and your satisfaction.

Does that mean you need to get off Facebook? Maybe for some. But maybe how you use Facebook would change if your greatest satisfaction came from Him and not from the acceptance you get through self promotion.

This is really only the tip of the iceburg for this subject, but my 21st Century attention span has passed. I must now wrap this up and post it on Facebook~!