Justifying Lifestyles, Ignoring Scripture
In today’s postmodern climate, truth means nothing, and personal preferences mean everything. OK, we expect that from the secular world. But what happens when the church soaks up this dangerous attitude big time? We end up with a church in crisis, a church in decay, and a church which has lost its way.
We see examples of this all around us. People who call themselves Christians have sold their souls for a mess of ungodly porridge. They have imbibed deeply from the pools of relativism, amorality, and selfishness. The only thing that matters in life for so many believers is this: me and my happiness.
Thus anything that makes them happy they will pursue with a passion, regardless of how wrong it is, how unscriptural it is, how contrary it is to God’s standards. But we should not be surprised with this. If for decades now we have been preaching a me-centred gospel, then why should we be surprised when Christians live a me-centred life?
Far too much of contemporary Christianity is proclaiming the false gospel of personal happiness and fulfilment. As if Jesus died a cruel and horrific death on a cross so that Christians could just gorge themselves on selfishness and personal happiness.
I am not aware of any verse in Scripture that tells us that God’s desire for us is that we should simply be happy and live comfortable, self-satisfied lives. There are plenty of verses which tell us that God wants us to be holy, and to live a life of self-denial and mortification of the flesh.
But because so many churches no longer preach this message, hoping to woo unbelievers instead by offering them instant gratification, a problem-free life, and a me-centred eternity, we have reared a generation of Christians who think, “It is all about me”.
Of course Christianity is nothing of the sort. It is not about you and me at all. It is about the one true God of the universe who deserves our worship, our praise, and our obedience. It is not about what goodies we can get out of life. It is not about getting a new self-image, getting a new car, getting a great career, feeling good about ourselves, or losing weight for Jesus.
In our efforts to “win” people to Jesus, we have soft-peddled the gospel and watered down the clear demands of Christ. Gone is repentance, the forgiveness of sin, taking up our cross, and denying ourselves. It is pampering self, coddling the flesh, cozying up to the world, and making peace treaties with the Devil.
As a result we have some of the softest, flabbiest, lukewarm and self-centred Christians that the world has ever known. And I am speaking about the so-called evangelical churches here, not some of the spiritually dead mainline denominations.
There are far too many examples of this. A fellow I know who for a long time was a follower of Jesus decided at one point to dump his wife, dump his kids, and dump his faith. He is now shacking up with another woman. How does he justify all this? “I have never been happier in my life” he said. Oh really?
The Bible of course already speaks to this. It tells us that the pleasures of sin are but for a season (Heb. 11:25). Let him have his jollies now, but one day he will stand before his maker and have to give an account of his life. Do you think his “I have never been happier” line is going to cut it with a holy and righteous God? I don’t think so.
In the same way Hollywood hunk and one time Catholic Mel Gibson walked out on his marriage of 28 years and his tribe of kids, so he could make whoopee with his new Russian chickee babe. Of course that didn’t last too long. Now they are splitting up after just a year. And of course they now have a five-month-old daughter out of this bit of pleasure. What about her?
And now we hear that a famous gospel singer has declared that now she is a lesbian. Oh, and she is still a good Christian, she wants us to believe. Christianity Today had a lengthy interview with Jennifer Knapp, in which she tells us about how happy she is in her lesbian relationship. There’s that ‘H’ word again. As long as I am happy – that’s all that matters.
Who gives a rip about what the Bible says on this? Who gives a rip about what God calls sinful? Who gives a rip that living in known, unconfessed sin puts one outside of the Kingdom of God? But hey, what the heck, at least she is happy.
She informs us that she is now “living my life with a great deal of joy”. Indeed. Never mind what God thinks about her choices. Never mind what he has already declared on this issue. Never mind that he is God and he calls the shots, not us.
But I can already hear people saying, “But Bill, you are judging her!” No, there is no need for me to do that – God already has. He has made crystal clear his views on the matter. Hear what Paul says on this in 1 Cor. 6:9-11:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
It does not matter what your sin is. This message is strong and clear. The same for this fellow I know who is now in an adulterous relationship. Sure, we must pray for him. We must pray for Jennifer. But if we really love them, we will tell them the truth as God has declared it.
It is not at all loving to make excuses for sin, and seek to call white what God has called black. We either agree with God on these matters or we call him a liar. That is our choice. But please do not drag false notions of tolerance and acceptance into this, which reflect the world’s values, but not God’s
This decision by Jennifer is just one of many. Thus no need to single her out. She just happens to be a somewhat more public, high-flying example of the crisis we are in. But it is happening everywhere in the church. We are rejecting God and his word, and attempting to justify our clearly sinful and selfish behaviour.
As always, A.W. Tozer had much to say about such matters. Let me close with a few of his thoughts on this:
“The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has not done deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.”
“Christians today appear to know Christ only after the flesh. They try to achieve communion with Him by divesting Him of His burning holiness and unapproachable majesty, the very attributes He veiled while on earth but assumed in fullness of glory upon His ascension to the Father’s right hand. The Christ of popular Christianity has a weak smile and a halo. He has become Someone-up-There who likes people, at least some people, and these are grateful but not too impressed. If they need Him, He also needs them.”
“In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross; if he refuses the cross he remains on the throne. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. We want to be saved but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.”
33 Replies to “Justifying Lifestyles, Ignoring Scripture”
This is a sober reminder for all of us. A choice between personal ‘happiness’ and the Joy of the Lord looks simple on paper, but in real life it’s a constant spiritual battle. The battle has already been won yet we so easily surrender to the flesh. I know that if I try to do right myself I will fail, and every success is not my own but is by the grace of God.
Christians should remember that not only do they have God’s perfect moral law – something no other foundation can explain – but we also have access through faith to be empowered by God to live according to that moral law as Christ did. It’s particularly sad that public figures have failed in this regard but it also shows that none of us can be counted above any other – all glory is the Lord’s.
Enough rambling from me. I hope that’s coherent!
A possible idea some may get from your post is that being happy and God are mutually exclusive concepts. Of course, this would be false, but it does need to be said that God does actually want the best for us and the point is that this can never be achieved by saying a defiantly sinful lifestyle is OK.
Our happiness or joy here on earth is not a good goal, because even if that comes from good and godly things, it will end one day. I think C.S. Lewis wrote about joy being a byproduct of a godly life, but not the main goal of it. You actually can’t chase joy or happiness for itself, because it will always skip away. But what usually happens is that it comes unexpectedly when you are engaged in other ways – often in very trying times, and it is always more satisfying this way.
So, store up treasures in heaven, where the reward and true joy will never end. Jennifer appears to have traded something way more valuable than diamonds and gold, for fleeting pleasures and dust. So sad also that she is not alone in this. As Christians we must have eternal perspectives on life, and it is clear that this is one of the things – along with a good grounding in Scripture – that Jennifer is missing. But I pray that her story has a better ending than the one it is currently heading for.
Even this ending is better, but it makes the point of what actually matters:
A rich man dies and meets St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. He is very wealthy, but he’s been faithful and kind and St. Peter tells him, “Good news—you’re in!” But the man is sad because he loves his beautiful home and all his wonderful possessions and he thinks he’s going to miss them. So he asks if he can bring one bag of his stuff with him into heaven. St. Peter says that it’s against policy (you can’t take it with you, after all) but he feels sorry for the man. So he says, “Okay, you can bring one sack of your treasures with you, but only one sack.”
So the man returns to his estate and looks at all of his elegant and expensive things. He has a hard time deciding what to bring. Finally, he goes to his safe where he has hidden several solid gold bars. He thinks that these gold bricks are his favorites . . . he worked so hard to get them and they were his security when the economy was bad. So he stuffs them into the sack and carries them back to heaven. The path is steep and the gold is very heavy, but he eventually appears before St. Peter, tired and sweaty, dragging his sack.
St. Peter asks him if he can take a peek at what’s in the bag. The man proudly opens it and St. Peter looks in. Then bewildered and incredulous, St. Peter looks at the man and says, “Pavement? You brought pavement?!”
Fantastic article, Bill – thanks for a refreshing dose of not-man-centric perspective. 🙂
The question I have is, if the Bill presently before the Victorian Parliament dropping religious exemptions, and making ‘hate speech’ much more extensive in its reach, is passed, how long will you be able to post such a forthright article on the Internet, or in print, or in a lecture for that matter? I can see EOC reps barging into Bible college lectures to check out the content of lectures. The prospect is horrific!
Murray R. Adamthwaite
Sadly the EOC bill was passed yesterday. So yes, I suspect I will be among the first to be fined or thrown into prison. The EOC thought police will now be snooping around all Christian groups, and in Big Brother fashion will begin waging their war against Christianity.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I think the favorite verses of the prosperity gospel preachers are 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and John 10:10b.
With regards to the OEC bill being passed where were the Christians?
The problem is it is not just the prosperity teachers who are pushing a false gospel. Plenty of evangelical churches are preaching a gospel which says: come to Jesus and all your problems will be solved. Come to Jesus and he will do all these things for you. It is mostly a me-centred gospel which is heard today. But as Rick Warren said in the opening line of The Purpose Driven Life, “It is not about you”. Until we learn that lesson we will never be effective for Christ and the Kingdom.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
That is the million dollar question. Where indeed were the Christians? Around 99% seem to have been asleep at the wheel, or simply did not give a rip. This bill will impact greatly on any Christians who dare to proclaim truth in the public arena. But if the majority of Christians are not into this, and just want to live a happy, peaceful and comfortable life, then they have nothing to worry about. It will only be those who take their faith seriously and are willing to stand up and speak out against evil and anti-Christian bigotry that will be affected.
So in a way that answers your question. Most Christians will not be affected by this draconian new law because most Christians will never rock the boat, never dare to get out of their comfort zones, and never seek to “offend” anyone. The Bible talks much about the danger of being men-pleasers instead of God-pleasers. Tragically, the church seems to be full of them.
A.W.Tozer rightly said decades ago: “Christianity today is man-centered, not God-centered.”
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I’ve never accepted the American founding fathers objective of the ‘pursuit of happiness’. Sounds like part of the mentality and problem. They were Deists, not Christians, right?
No, most of the Founding Fathers in fact were Christians, not deists. And the original phrase was “life, liberty and the pursuit of property”. It was changed later on by Jefferson. The earlier Virginia Declaration of Rights had put it this way: “That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Bill the conundrum you describe sounds like what Watchman Nee spoke/wrote about as the distinction between “the work” and “the church.” I think it was a major theme in “The Normal Christian Worker” but I can’t put my hand to it just now.
He describes “the work” as the task of preaching the gospel, winning souls and discipling them into the Kingdom.
He describes “the church” as the place where the results of “the work” get to practice living the New Life in the new relationships essential for eternity (definitely my paraphrase, from memory only).
The parlous state of the church as you describe it above is the result of confusing the work with the church, so that we preach soul-winning sermons (relevant only to non-believers) within the confines of the church – wasting the teaching and practice time needed by believers, confusing new converts, and failing to be relevant because the preaching isn’t reaching those it is intended for.
This is what happens when the Bible’s moral commands are gradually eroded one by one. First of all, the mainstream churches allow divorce. Then they allow the ordination of women. Then they go soft on alcohol, drunkenness and drugs. It is no surprise that 10-20 years down the track Christians think it is ok to fornicate, abort babies and bless homosexual partnerships.
(Some friends of mine would say that the undermining of Genesis stands at the root of all of this — I am not sure I agree entirely with them, but it certainly is a factor.)
Once you start diminishing the Bible’s moral authority, you have a domino effect. The frightening thing is that many of the Christians who opt for a “soft” view on biblical morality say that what is most central in the Bible is grace and forgiveness. Who are we to say what is most central? The Bible is all truth. We are not at liberty to indulge ourselves in the grace of God while ignoring his holiness.
You mention the passing of the Victorian bill restricting free speech and, essentially, religious belief and everyone must be appalled by that.
It is staggering that the churches in Victoria, having witnessed the 2 Danny’s case, were not more motivated to stand against this change – but maybe that also highlights the extent of the self-centred attitudes prevalent in too many churches that “they were not one of us” and “we don’t like them anyway”.
The sad facts are though that I somehow doubt the majority of churches are any better outside Victoria!
On a slightly different tack, has anyone looked at the validity of this Bill in relation to Section 116 of the Australian Constitution which prohibits the free exercise of any religion coupled with Section 109 that gives Commonwealth Laws precedence over State laws?
Your citation of Section 116 of our Constitution is apropos (although it does not prohibit the free exercise of religion, but prohibits any law which inhibits the free exercise of religion – an unfortunate typo). I wrote to a Labor politician yesterday drawing his attention to this, albeit without citing the precise section. Astonishingly, in his reply he said he was unaware of such a provision, and that he would be interested to see it!
So there we have it: MPs who don’t know the contents of our Constitution. It should be part of the job description of any MP; a mandatory requirement. Likewise, the Australian public should be aware of its contents, and Christians certainly should.
Our own Founding Fathers may not have all been Christians, but they certainly acknowledged the God of Christianity and the Christian consensus of the populace at the time. And by “religion” they clearly meant Christianity. Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and “Aboriginal spirituality” (read Animist idolatry) were NOT issues at the time.
I will certainly be responding to this MP and pointing out Sections 116 and 109.
Murray R. Adamthwaite
Well Bill – one thig is for certain – I am going to write to our Anglican Archbishop in NSW where I reside and ask him if he is aware of this and what is he going to do about it – as I said in one of your earlier articles this week – active opposition to this sort of insidious rubbish needs to be come from the top down and needs to be orgainsed – I will let you know how I get on. Also I would appeal to any body who is from NSW who subscribes to Bill’s page to get involved and do the same thing as I am going to do. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind now that Satan is on the march and he is moving against the church through socialism and political correctness among other things. I feel that the church is about to be sifted and I for one do not want to be found to be lacking. This is our figt and Christians out there who sit back and say “Oh well the battle belongs to the Lord” are kidding themselves – I cannot remember the name of the person who said it but the words were absolutely riveting “We should pray as if everything depends on God and act as though everything depends on ourselves”. Come on God’s people, get moving!
I contacted Peter Stokes of Saltshakers last night, and he made it clear that if the EOC come after him with their officers (and the homosexual community has mentioned Saltshakers by name as high on their hit list), they will have a fight on their hands just to get in the door. He will insist that they have a warrant to:
1. enter the premises;
2. examine any files in cabinets or on computer;
3. confiscate any documents, books or computer files.
He will not co-operate at all, and if charged, he will face court. He says, “If these thought police want a fight, then bring it on. My cause is with the Lord, not lawyers.”
I fully support him, and this may be just the fight that the Christian Church needs to wage. Regrettably, there are so many who do not support Peter and what he stands for: they are either on the left themselves, or they blithely say, “Let the Lord deal with these people in His own way” The Cromwellian dictum seems to have been well and truly forgotten, “Trust in God; and keep your powder dry.”
Murray R. Adamthwaite
Thanks for the correction. I realised my error too late (when I read it on-line), but am glad you clarified what I at least meant to say!
“He has made crystal clear his views on the matter.”
No, he hasn’t.
Paul uses the word “arsenokoitai” which does not translate into “homosexual offenders” as the translation you have quoted states.
From here: (http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibc1.htm)
“The second term is “arsenokoitai” in Greek. The exact meaning of this word is lost. It seems to have been a term created by Paul for this verse. “Arsen” means “man” in Greek. So there is no way that “arsenokoitai” could refer to both male and female homosexuals. It seems that the translators gave in to the temptation to widen Paul’s condemnation to include lesbians as well as gay males.”
Nowhere does the Bible condemn female homosexuals.
Sorry, but I must call your bluff here. All your comment does is tell us:
-You don’t know a thing about Koine Greek.
-You don’t know a thing about the Bible.
-You are pushing an agenda.
-You are likely a lesbian who is trying to justify a lifestyle by ignoring Scripture.
The term rendered by the NIV in 1 Cor. 6:9 as “homosexual offenders” and in 1 Tim. 1:9-10 as “perverts” is arsenokoitai, which literally means males who take other males to bed. The compound word is made of two terms, arsen (= males) and koitai (= bed, from which we get the word coitus, ie., intercourse). Sex between men, or homosexuality, is clearly in view. Both of these two terms come directly from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) version of the two Leviticus passages. Lev. 18:22 contains the former, while 20: 13 has the latter. So Paul clearly has the Holiness Code in view when he used this term. It seems that Paul coined this term from the two Leviticus texts.
As to the biblical condemnation of lesbianism as well as homosexuality, try this one for starters: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:26-27).
As New Testament scholar James Dunn notes, “Paul’s indictment seems to include all kinds of homosexual practice, female as well as male, and was not directed against one kind of homosexual practice in distinction from another”.
You simply provide a perfect example of the very thing I wrote about in my article: seeking to justify a clearly sinful lifestyle by denying or twisting the biblical texts.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I will email Peter Stokes to see if there is anything specifc I can pray for – I think he is going to need it!
With the new anti-Christian EOC law passed in Victoria, anyone actively standing up for Christ in the public arena can expect a knock on the door from the thought police. So we need to ask ourselves: ‘am I ready for jail time?’ See my new article here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/04/17/when-the-thought-police-come-knocking-on-your-door/
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Takes a lot of guts to write this article. Likely to offend many church leaders. But I know you are no man pleaser. You persistently contend for the faith regardless of the cost. The gospel that is preached today is different from the one the apostles preached. The gospel today highlights the benefits and blessings for a ‘believer’ as to the original gospel that highlights the cost of discipleship. The gospel today is the broadway gospel and attracts many thousands. The gospel the apostles preached is the straight and narrow way and many find it offensive and keep their distance. Thanks Bill for standing up and contending for the faith.
As Paul says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Good article Bill: God bless you. I would like to quote from The Catechism of The Catholic Church: 2357: “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex…”2359 “Homosexual persons are called to chastity.”… 2396: “Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography and homosexual practices”. End of quotes.
Unfortunately, Humans are sinners, but if they sin, must get up again, confess their sins, turn away from them and with God’s help, start over again on the chaste life.
Jerry Gonzalez, Perth
Amen! Keep it up Bill, what your saying we are preaching …non stop, shouting it from the rooftops to come back the Biblical Christianity. 2 of our Ministers and 3 of our missionaries recently went to a church in Brisbane to hear a man speak of a visit to hell, the Pastor of the Church kindly decided to do his usual 15 minute message on ‘give us your money’, they all testified to hearing the man state the following ‘God does not ask for our lives, but he does ask for our finance’ ?!?!?!?!? WHAT!???? a classic example of where many denominations to whom just 12 years ago preached and practiced the truth in their churches have fallen to, where the heck is this rubbish in the Bible?!?!? can anyone show me please??
There are many stories of people going to hell and coming back and claim that God wants to use them to warn the living about the reality of hell. But this does not tally with the parable that Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19 -31). The parable is about a rich man who was tormenting in hell and asked that he be allowed to return to the living to warn his family members about the reality of hell, as it would then be easy to convince them leading to their repentance, if they hear directly from someone who has been to hell. But Abraham in Jesus’ parable said “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” We need to discern testimonies like this and ensure they do not contradict what Jesus said.
In fact we need to be discerning at all times. The wolves are very bold now so much so that they come to the church undisguised simply because many welcome them.
If every Christian was doing their own little part to bring in the kingdom of God with your own degree of committment Bill, the world could be very different. Instead of turning away and hiding from what seems too depressing, or too hard, or too demanding we should be praying to discern what God wants of each of us, in all this. We need to be fully aware that St Paul did not include any passengers in his description of the Body of Christ. To speak the truth in love is not intolerant and scripture tells us somewhere that failing to do so makes the one who has a duty to speak complicit or also guilty! To state facts is not the same as making a judgement about the state of someone’s soul. Only God can know the exact state of anyone’s soul so we rightly leave both justice and mercy to Him; but to fail to speak when clearly called to speak the truth or defend the truth makes the silent one both remiss and guilty. Until all our churches make clear to us the gospel imperative to be holy, and help us fully recognise what that means for how we live our daily lives, you will continue to be one of the small army of voices crying in the wilderness. I thank God for you Bill, may He bless you always and all your concerns,
I appreciate your kind words. And you are quite right: if every Christian were doing his or her bit, we would not be in such dire straits as we are today. But sadly, it seems that the majority of believers don’t want to know about these things, and don’t care about these things. And sadly, it always seems that 10% of Christians are doing 90% of the work.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I am involved with a Christian radio station. We have deleted all of Jennifer Knapp’s music because of her sinful lifestyle. I belive many others have done the same.
Thanks for the article.
In a consumer society it is good to have reminders that everything is not about me.
Unfortunately too many Christians (myself included) get caught up in comfort and not in living a God-based life.
A W Tozer, one of the rare breed that one could call a true prophet is the man that nails it, with his “timeless” classic The old Cross And The New”
Another in the same league is Oswald Chambers consider, his October 5 MUFHH
Another Scottish Baptist T A Sparks (a cohort of Tozer) is in the same league, his in depth observations of Church life are second to none.
These are our true fathers in the faith but now are mainly forgotten.
“It is about the one true God of the universe who deserves our worship, our praise, and our obedience. It is not about what goodies we can get out of life.”
When I read these words, I felt as though God had come down and invaded my territory. What could be better than God being the centre of everything?
What could be better than a world that has no claim on you?
What could be better than seeing the word of God come alive and miraculously change lives?
What could be better than seeing the saints full of the Spirit of God and doing exploits in his name?
What could be better than seeing the demise of a man controlled church?
What could be better than seeing the control freaks running the church being put out to pasture?
What could be better than seeing the manifest glory of the Lord fill the earth?
It is all there for the taking, that is, if we want it. If we don’t God won’t make us enjoy the best.