Alphabetical collapse

Hear the audio at: Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Introduction

Much like the death of an old, sickly relative, some tragedies occur in slow motion and the culmination of the tragedy, while not surprising, is no less grievous. And this is what happened when Relient K brought on genderqueer “Christian” artist Semler to open for their upcoming tour, putting yet another nail into contemporary Christian music’s (CCM) coffin.

Semler, whose full name is Grace Semler Baldridge, is a woman who claims to be non-binary, genderqueer, and a Christian. She’s the first openly 2SLGBTQIA+&$ artist to chart no. 1 on iTunes in the Christian category with her EP, Preacher’s Kid, which includes lyrical gems such as,

“And I cut my hair because I’m worth it
And these days I bеlieve in Bigfoot more than God”

Or,

“The first song I learned spoke of Bethlehem
So is that prophecy or is that brainwashing?
Cause no one ever pitched the Greek gods
And I don’t know why not
I think that Athena’d understand me”

Or,

“I’m saying ‘F*** a saviour’
And if she can’t take it then she’s small
I’m gonna ask a lot of questions
Because I’m giving this my all
You know the people preach now
Well they’d be putting us through s***
And if you don’t sanction that then why are you rewarding it?”

The transmission went out

Ah, yes. F*** a Savior indeed. Who needs him? And let’s conflate Sunday school with brainwashing. We should never teach our kids what we believe to be the truth. Side note: Would it be brainwashing for Semler to teach her future kids to be LGBT affirming?

But as noted, this isn’t surprising. In the last several years we’ve seen members of Jars of Clay, dcTalk, Audio Adrenaline, and Switchfoot, as well as the likes of Amy Grant and Lauren Daigle become “affirming.” We’ve even seen Jennifer Knapp and Ray Boltz come out as unrepentantly homosexual.

So the K Car had a flat tire and got towed to the shop, only to discover that the transmission was blown too, but this is what happens when basic maintenance hasn’t been done since, say, 1989.

But this hasn’t happened in a vacuum and isn’t solely due to theological liberalism, which Machen accurately called a totally different religion 100 years ago. No, it’s due to ostensibly Bible-believing pastors who 1) Refuse to actually teach what the Bible says and 2) Can’t keep it in their pants.

Swapping grass roots for AstroTurf

The failure of the church growth/seeker sensitive/attractional model is obvious. They spent so much time trying to get non-Christians in the door that they forgot to teach, well, Christianity. The promise of the movement was to get shallow for a while to get some people saved, and then, years down the road, get them deeper into doctrine.

That never came. Instead, we got quotes like this from Steven Furtick.

“If you know Jesus, I am sorry to break it to you, this church is not for you. ‘Yeah, but I just gave my life to Christ last week at Elevation.’ Last week was the last week that Elevation Church existed for you. You’re in the army now; we do one thing. We preach Jesus so people far from God can know Jesus… If that doesn’t get you excited and you need the doctrines of grace as defined by John Calvin to excite you, you (sic) in the wrong church. Let me get a phone book. There are 720 churches in Charlotte; I’m sure we can find one where you can stuff your face until you’re so obese spiritually that you can’t even move.”

Thus, the gathering of the saints to worship God on the Lord’s Day was shifted from worship – which it had been for 2000 years and doing just fine, thank you – to evangelism. It shifted from catechesis and reciting the Apostles’ Creed to three poorly covered Coldplay songs and a TedTalk on three steps to improve your marriage with a Sinner’s Prayer at the end. Of course, it’s not called a sinner’s prayer, because we don’t talk about sin anymore. Nah, come to Jesus for help with your mistakes and whoopsies and to help him cure your addiction. Jesus will be your spiritual Nicorette, but don’t expect any pastoral followup or accountability. We gotta keep people in the building so they can be evangelized just in case that first prayer and raised hand and signed card didn’t take.

And if you were wondering, that quote from Furtick violates at least John 21:15-17, Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 28:18-20, John 8:31-32, Acts 2:42, Titus 1:7-10, Titus 2:1-10, 2 Timothy 4:1-4, and 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

The pastors’ pants party

So, as Relient K caves to the spirit of the age, we shouldn’t be surprised when that news breaks the same week as Tavner Smith, pastor of Venue Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., announced a four-week sabbatical, after which he’ll be right back in the pulpit. That wouldn’t be a big deal, but he’s in the middle of a divorce and has been videoed kissing one of his worship leaders, leading to eight of Venue Church’s staff resigning when Smith refused to step down.

And Smith isn’t alone in this category. Venue is part of the Association of Related Churches (ARC), a church planting network that has myriad ongoing lawsuits and at least five other publicly scandalized churches within the last year. Though vaguely orthodox, their website has more about their founding and mission than it does about any kind of statement of faith; it’s not even immediately clear to the uninitiated whether they’re trinitarian, or believe in justification by faith alone, or hold to the hypostatic union, or even believe in the general resurrection on the last day. They’re even so transparent that they’ve removed their constitution and bylaws from their website.

Of course, this isn’t a problem exclusive to ARC. Former PCA golden boy Tullian Tchividjian was sacked from a pastoral position in 2015 for engaging in an extramarital affair, and then he caught on in a non-pastoral position at another PCA church the very next year, only to have that job burn down, fall over, and then sink into the swamp when it was revealed that he had a different affair before the one that got him sacked. No word on if those who had previously sacked him have also been sacked, but he did end up planting another church, and those responsible for that decision should be sacked.

And then you have the ongoing allegations of sexual abuse in the SBC. That’s an ongoing, sensitive topic on all sides of the issue, but its presence is enough to warrant inclusion in our list of alphabetical collapse between the SBC, PCA, ARC, Relient K, CCM, and LGBT.

The spirit of the age is overt sexual license. And if our pastors aren’t going to be held accountable for not keeping it in their pants, you can rest assured that those who follow them will follow suit and also not keep it in their own pants. Why even wear pants at this point?

Yes, he said that

This all fittingly coincides with the death of Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu, most renowned for his opposition to Apartheid in South Africa. But he was also a diehard liberal theologian, going as far as to say, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic. I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say, ‘Sorry, I would much rather go to the other place.’” Let’s ignore every biblical command about that behavior or that God setup sex and its parameters, and let’s ignore that Jesus affirmed that.

Instead, we should ask the important questions. Did God really say that he created them male and female, and that a man should leave his father and mother and cling to his wife (Matt. 19:4-5)? Did God really prohibit homosexuality (Lev. 18:22)? Did God really attach moral qualifications and a good reputation to the office of pastor/elder (Titus 1:6-9)? Did God really put the kibosh on women as pastors (1 Tim. 2:12-15)? Did God really say that we contribute nothing to our salvation (Gal. 2:16)? Did God really command accountability within local church membership (Matt. 18:15-20)?

And if those questions don’t feel kind of slithery at the moment, you may want to have a gander at Genesis 3, get through your cage stage when you realize that the bulk of American Christianity had been watered down for 30-plus years, and join those of us who truly want to see God crush the head of the serpent under our feet (Rom. 16:20).

Greer Christmas Hymn Sing

Hear the audio at Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” – Psalm 133:1

Contrary to popular opinion, unity doesn’t involve ignoring differences of opinion or conviction. In fact, unity embraces those differences while highlighting a bigger, more important objective, which is happening this Sunday evening, December 19, at 6:30, in the Greer City Park.

As currently slated, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, and more will sing about the Incarnation and read fulfilled prophecies from the book of Isaiah. The Lutherans will keep their sacramentology, the Presyterians won’t be repenting of baptizing their babies, and the Baptists still won’t recognize each other at the liquor store, but they all trust in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.

And afterward, in between puffs on a pipe, the Presbys may try to convince the Baptists that enjoying a beer is as biblical as devouring a casserole. And the Baptists may rib the Lutherans over Marty’s treatment of Zwingli. And everyone should make fun of the dispensationalists for not existing until 1830.

But what we’ll also do is share stories as to how we ended up at our respective churches. We’ll tell of what God has done in our midst and in our contexts, which, believe it or not, can actually be diverse within a five-mile radius. And that’s the point exactly. It’s about what God has done, not what we mustered up to put on Instagram, though the voices of the saints are a much better TikTok soundtrack than what usually goes on there.

December 19. 6:30 pm. I hope to see you there.

Answers geared toward morons

Hear the audio at Anchor, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

Introduction
Not only is the Overton Window a thing, but one can tell exactly where a culture’s window lies when ostensibly “respectable” media outlets cover what a public figure says. And by cover, I mean engaging in copy-and-paste jobs with a straight face while pretending a thought is halfway rational.

This is what happened last week when Guitar World let everyone know about these gems of tweets from feminist punk icon Tobi Vail, most known for her work in the band Bikini Kill.

“Can someone explain to my (sic) why people who play guitar have decided to revive shoegaze/dream pop and embrace dumb retro s*** like Weezer in an era filled with violence, economic inequality, and abortion bans? The guitar pedal industrial complex is not the sound of the revolution.”

This was followed by:

“What I’ve learned today: a bunch of a**holes really like the music I dislike and misunderstand the question I’m asking: why are people who play guitar focused on performative introversion, abstract soundscapes, and banal formalism while there are literal fascists on the streets?”

The temptation
Now, the temptation we may have, particularly if we write think pieces for the Gospel Coalition, is to carefully craft a nuanced response about how there aren’t actually fascists in the streets, that economic inequality of outcomes isn’t inherently a bad thing, and that Christians should be in favor of not dismembering babies. One could even be forgiven for being in support of free markets in the form of the aforementioned “guitar pedal industrial complex,” and you can feel free to buy your pedals at westminstereffects.com for handwired, theologically sound guitar effects for the glory of God and the joy of his people.

Instead, what we must learn to do is to treat this nonsense in the same fashion God does. Laugh at it. And I don’t mean a tiny chuckle. Full, glad-hearted, belly laughter. The kind that makes tears well up in your eyes and lasts so long that you lose your breath. The kind described in Psalm 2 when the nations rage and plot in vain. God chuckles and holds them in contempt.

My apologies for all the genitalia references
There was a time, not so long ago in a galaxy not so far away, when Vail wasn’t gracing the digital pages of guitar rags as if her opinions mattered. Rolling Stone’s 1993 review of Bikini Kill’s first album described them as, “yowling and moronic nag-unto-vomit tantrums,” but we’re not here to talk about adjectives that would also describe AOC’s political platform.

Rolling Stone actually did us a favor in giving us those terms. Vail throws a perpetual tantrum and won’t stop until she gets that sweet, succulent universal basic income so she can keep making music in a band that can’t stay on beat. I’m seriously wondering why anyone would take a woman seriously when she’s in a band called – I kid you not – girlSperm. This is who we’re taking seriously now?

And lest you think I’m not acting like Jesus, this is just more proof that you don’t “love people into the Kingdom.” Vail needs Gospel, and before she gets Gospel, she needs Law. She needs a mirror to be held up to her God-hating heart so the filth can be exposed. Jesus did this by telling people they were swallowing camels, calling a king a fox, and asking hypocrites why they had entire sheets of plywood sticking out of their faces like Geordi La Forge on steroids (Matt. 23:29-32, Luke 13:32, Matt. 7:5). Paul did it by saying the Judaizers should cut off their junk (Gal. 5:12). And if that’s too shocking for you, don’t read Ezekiel 23.

Answer not a fool, but also answer the fool
This is all an attempt at obeying the paradoxical Proverbs 26:4-5.

Answer not a fool according to his folly,    
lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    lest he be wise in his own eyes.

We shouldn’t answer Vail’s objections to reality on her terms, regardless of her inevitable attempts to label me a misogynist. We can’t ignore the fact that only one of us has a worldview that recognizes that despite containing the word “men,” menstruation is only done by women and not just “birthing people” or “ovarian egg releasers” or “humans who have periods.” I only made up one of those.

No, morons need answers geared toward morons, and again, I’m speaking biblically via 1 Cor. 1:20. God has made foolish – and that word is where we get the English word “moron” – the sophistry of the world, and we should treat it as such. Nuancing an answer to abject, objective stupidity “for the sake of the relationship” doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

But when we contend for the faith that has been delivered with finality to the saints (Jude 3), we do it with joy, not with sour demeanors (My citation here is basically the whole Bible.). We do it this way because we want Vail to kiss the Son, lest he be angry with her, but she will be blessed if she takes refuge in him (Ps. 2:12), and we know the only way that happens is if he does a work in her and raises her spiritual corpse to life (Eph. 2:1-10). This is true idiocy, so says 1 Cor. 1:25, but it’s an idiocy that results in righteousness and sanctification and redemption, an idiocy that will wipe away every tear, and will result in the praise of his glorious grace (1 Cor. 1:30, Rev. 21:4, Eph 1:6).

So pray for Tobi Vail, that God would regenerate her dead heart, and use the same boldness to both pray for your own loved ones and to give them the only news that can save their souls, regardless of the cost.

The Civil War on Christmas

Hear the audio version at Anchor, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

Introduction
For the record, I’m not a fan of Christmas lights on houses, pretty much ever, and never when they’re multicolored. I find them tacky, and I’m not sorry about it. In fact, I won’t be erecting a Christmas tree for the third year in a row due to our storage situation. After the presence of creatures with too many legs was discovered in the last tree (It was stored in an outdoor shed), it was all I could do to keep my wife from calling up the Joint Chiefs of Staff to immediately drone strike our house.

Regardless, the War on Christmas is not quiet on the Western Front, as we now have a civil war being waged against Early Christmas. And by Early Christmas, I mean the myriad decorations that bedecked yards and living rooms alike the day after Halloween. This is serious stuff. You can’t skip Thanksgiving like that.

Two quick disclaimers
By Christmas, I don’t mean anything that has to do with Santa Claus. For one, St. Nicholas of Myra was way cooler and slapped far more heretics. For two, he ain’t real. Stop lying to your kids (Matt. 18:6)

But also, if you’re one of those who blasts Christmas as a pagan holiday, you can go back to your regularly scheduled programming of the theological equivalent of Alex Jones. I don’t have time to deal with that.

Now, on to my robust, incredibly thought out arguments.

Let people enjoy things
This is my response to people who mock “sportsball” whenever a big game is on and being celebrated or bemoaned on social media. Just let people enjoy things. We get it. You don’t like it, but nothing morally wrong is going on here. Move on and do something productive. And, no, whining about everyone liking the fact that the Atlanta Braves just beat the Houston Astros in six games for their first World Series win since 1995 (#ChopOn) is not productive.

Another month is probably a good thing
Our so-called holiday season in the Christian West, one could argue, is actually backwards. We have Thanksgiving, when we are thankful for God’s blessings and eat too much. And then we have Christmas, when we are thankful for the Incarnation of God the Son and eat too much.

In reality, taking two months of the year to celebrate what C.S. Lewis called the greatest miracle ever would not be a bad thing. Without the Incarnation, you have no reason to be thankful to the triune God, because without the Incarnation, there is no life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and if the dead are not raised, then we’re wasting our time and hellbound (1 Cor. 15). I, for one, would not argue with singing “Christmas” carols in church more often, because the Incarnation is important all year.

But either way, a true, full-bodied celebration of the Nativity – again, sans fat guy in a red jumpsuit apparatus – is exponentially better than what Thanksgiving has turned into, what with crappy football and tryptophan comas. And seriously, turkey is the blandest, worst possible holiday food. There’s no way to make that bird properly flavorful. I will die on that hill.

Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas.

Neon signs from God

Audio

WordPress is giving me fits with trying to embed the audio. Go here to hear it on Apple Podcasts, here for Spotify, and here for Anchor.

Introduction

There are times when God gives us signs that we’re blind to. You know, the cute girl who tells you she loves you… in the Lord. Or your friend at lunch vaguely gesturing at his chin to let you know you have mustard all over yours. Or the giant neon sign of God telling everyone that a particular celebrity pastor is to be avoided.

Said neon signs are easier than ever to see, thanks to the advent of social media. Gone are the days of needing to walk into a Christian book store or tuning into TBN to consume heresy; it’s now available on the supercomputers we carry in our pockets.

Disclaimers in anticipation

And in anticipation of some who say we shouldn’t call out false teachers by name, I’ll just reference Jude and Romans 16 for the general principle, and 1 Timothy 1 where Paul says he has handed Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan. Gosh, Paul, way to promote unity. Satan? Really? Dudes are trying. Just cut ‘em some slack.

And for a record second disclaimer heading into the rest of this piece, I know some of you will tell me that the guy I’m about to call out has benefited you in some way in the past, to which I have three responses.

  1. God draws straight lines with the crookedest of sticks, which, yes, includes yours truly. That does not, however, excuse a supposed teacher of the Word from saying that the sky is plaid.
  2. Sometimes God protects his people from hearing garbage. The third person of the triune God indwells every born-again Christian, and he filters things we hear in order to help us set our minds on things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-8).
  3. If a teacher makes you feel better about your situation because you feel better about yourself, the point has been entirely missed. He didn’t help you; he just massaged your ego and ultimately pointed you away from Christ.

And finally, before someone asks if I’m willing to die on this hill, I will then ask him if he’s willing to kill me on it. The correct equation for the tango is 1+1.

Now that that’s out of the way, allow me to present: 

Exhibit Q

I present to you the following pull quote from a recent sermon, which was tweeted and Facebooked by Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, as a highlight of that sermon.

“Following Jesus doesn’t change you into something else, it reveals who you’ve been all along. What would it be like to see the you that God sees … [sic]” – Steven Furtick, Oct. 24, 2021

The post understandably generated massive amounts of pushback, what with being so clearly unbiblical and running afoul of 2 Corinthians 5, Ezekiel 36, and Ephesians 2. The post was eventually deleted, which is a true rarity for Furtick and his ilk, but the sermon it was pulled from is still readily available. No retraction or apology for the confusion has been offered.

Regardless, that post and most of Furtick’s sermons are honestly no different than Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You, but more on that later.

What goes around is all around

The saddest part is not that some will trash me for calling out a false teacher, nor is it that Furtick still somehow has defenders. No, the worst part is the sheer volume of shares and likes his post got before it was jettisoned into the Internet ether. It’s an indicator of how biblically bankrupt American pop Christianity has become.

As Ricky once said, what goes around is all around, and what’s truly all around Furtick is his associations with first-level heretics, which routinely comes out in his teaching.

He pals around with known modalist TD Jakes, and Furtick has taught that Jesus changed form into the Holy Spirit. He’s hung out with Joyce Meyer, Rod Parsley, and Jesse Duplantis, and has preached at Osteen’s “church” multiple times, so would it surprise you that he preaches the classic Word of Faith heresy that God is enabled or restricted by whether you have enough faith?

From the pile of dead horses

Lest you think I’m only willing to whip Furtick like a rented mule, I already have a pile of dead horses that we can beat. This is just the latest turd in the American Christian punchbowl that proves that we don’t care if it’s poop or sherbert, just as long as the consistency and texture is right. And if you are what you eat, the presence of flies and maggots should be self-explanatory.

Furtick’s nonsense comes right on the heels of a string of gaffes among those who claim the name of Christ. Todd White’s “Jesus became a child molestor on the cross” message was less than a month ago. Tack on Benny Hinn’s false repentance of the prosperity gospel and the amazing amount of false prophecies about COVID and Trump, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato, and baby, you’ve got a stew going.

But I’m the one who’s unloving for telling people that the bridge is out and that I’d prefer to not see my spiritual siblings Evel Knievel themselves into the Grand Canyon. I won’t apologize for trying to install detour signs to keep people on the straight and narrow, and what my detractors will miss is that I’m pointing to something deeper and richer.

Just answer the question

Before we adjourn, I’d be remiss to not answer Furtick’s question from his post. What would it be like to see the you that God sees?

We have two options.

The first is a corpse, and not one that has just been mostly dead all day but all the way dead. So dead that we can’t get deader. We don’t feel happy and we don’t think we’ll go for a walk, and the guy with the cart has to get to the Robinsons’ because they’ve lost nine today.

Or he sees the King instead. And how do we know he’s the King? Because he hasn’t got crap all over him. And by crap, I mean our pet sins to which we have erected altars, temples, websites, stadiums, and strip malls. The gremlins we feed after midnight like porn, lust, gluttony, gossip, murdering the unborn, bitterness, rage, self-righteousness, envy, slander, homosexuality, legalism, New Age spiritualism, laziness, and yes, unguided zeal.

We have that crap all over us, which is why our first federal head hid (Gen. 3:10), and it’s why Isaiah understood himself to be a dead man when he saw Christ in the temple (John 12:41, Is. 6:5).

But this is also the same God who didn’t clinch his Godness with white knuckles but added a real human nature to his divinity in order to raise the spiritually dead to life now and the physically dead to life later to make it against regulations to take the nine pence and put us on the cart.

The second person of the triune God learned obedience and was crucified in order to make men right before God because of those things and more, but the fact is that he took that punishment in order to make us a new creation and a royal priesthood in a Kingdom of his creating and choosing, and we will successfully storm the gates of hell, because even that can’t stand up to the God-empowered offensive of the church militant. 

But if we want reformation and/or revival, depending on the word brought to you by the letter R that you prefer, it’ll take more than big biceps attached to limp-wristed self-help talks, yelling at six overproduced services about how God has a wonderful plan for your life, if only you’d exercise your free will and let him give you a victory over your late power bill and unbearable boss. It’ll take more than adrenaline rushes and strobe lights and emotionally manipulative music.

It’ll take the idiocy of telling dead men to get up, and that’s the entire point.

That’s not how Sola Scriptura works. That’s not how any of this works.

Hear this episode here.

Introduction

“Where do you even see that?” my friend said. “I can’t see that in the text.”

And that’s when I knew we were having two different conversations, the most recent I’ve had where the application of Sola Scriptura – the doctrine that Scripture is the sole infallible rule of Christian faith and practice – has been misunderstood.

I’m going to give three basic principles of interpreting Scripture. These aren’t the only ones, but they’re really good starting blocks.

Scripture in history

Like many things theological, when we define Sola Scriptura, we have to also include what it’s not. It’s not ignoring historical context – that a particular book was written to a particular people at a particular time. There are, in fact, things that don’t have to be explicitly said that the original audience would have clearly understood.

One oft overlooked example is Jesus’ healing of the invalid at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. The man legitimately couldn’t walk but was always beaten to the supposed “healing” by people who walked or even ran there when the water was “stirred up.”

We know from history that this was in reference to the Greek faith healing Asklepius cult. No, you don’t get that directly from the words of the text, but John’s first readers would have understood that Jesus busted up into an ancient Benny Hinn healing event, went to the wheelchair bound guys and dying cancer patients that they keep hidden in the back, and actually healed the guy while Benny was busy helicoptering his $5,000 coat at people and healing exactly nothing but his bank account.

To put it another way, I wouldn’t have to explicitly spell out Bethel Church at 933 College View Drive in Redding, California, if I gave you hints about gold dust (read: glitter in the HVAC) in Redding. The cult wasn’t the point of the story; Jesus was.

Scripture interprets Scripture

Sola Scriptura also does not take books of the Bible in a vacuum. They’re to be interpreted in light of each other, with clear passages providing light for the more vague, and with the New Testament giving the substance and fulfillment of Old Testament types and shadows (John 5:39, Heb. 10:1, Col. 2:17).

This concept is outright abandoned by dispensationalists when it comes to the nation-state of Israel. They insist that Israel and the church are two different salvific programs, which is how they invented the doctrine of the Rapture.

The good news is that there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (Eph. 4:5), and there is one people of God (Matt. 16:18), the ecclesia, translated as church in English. When the New Testament was being written, the authors wrote and spoke Greek, and nearly every New Testament quotation of the Old Testament is of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This should shed tremendous amounts of light on their use of terms, and the cockroaches of faulty doctrine should scuttle away.

To put it simply, the Greek ecclesia means assembly or congregation, a corporate body. Every single time our English Old Testament reads “assembly” or “congregation,” the Septuagint renders it ecclesia. The Old Testament had a congregation or church of Yahweh, which is how “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” in Romans 9 makes sense, and how Galatians calls those who trust in Christ – the church – the true “Israel of God.”

Sometimes Scripture interprets Scripture in light of history

In a similar vein, a passage that has been abused to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are our spiritual siblings is 1 John 4:2, which reads in part, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Well, it says that Jesus had flesh, so I guess anyone who says he had flesh is good to go, right?

Since 1 John was written after the Gospels, it’s safe to assume that the original readers were familiar with both the Old Testament, which spoke of Yahweh coming to earth (Isaiah 7), and Jesus identifying himself as Yahweh (John 8:58). Therefore, it’s not a stretch for anyone familiar with Christianity to know that the claim was that God came to earth.

The issue is then the fleshy bits, and this ties into Scripture being written in history. 1 John was written at a time when the Gnostics were rampant. The cult of Gnosticism is rooted in gaining secret knowledge (hence its name being rooted in the Greek word for knowledge), and, depending on the sect, either a belief that all physical matter is evil or that Jesus only appeared to be man, though he was still divine. Some Gnostic groups went so far as to say that Jesus wasn’t even crucified and that he tricked the Jews into crucifying Judas instead.

The problem John was addressing was basically the opposite of what we deal with now. Then, they were cool with Jesus being God, but a man too? Why, that would lower God too much. These days, we can’t grasp there being a God in the first place, but we weren’t the primary recipients of 1 John, so we can’t import what’s going on in our culture.

Genre matters

The issue of literary genre may be the toughest sell for some who want to interpret passages such as the decreation/judgment language of Revelation literally. We understand metaphors and similes in the secular world, but God forbid we interpret anything in the Bible in a way that isn’t woodenly literalistic. Hear me out, and we’ll make this easier to grasp.

This is how Word of Faith clown Kenneth Copeland can claim that he knew a guy who said a sermon “blew him away” and then had his house destroyed by a tornado, because, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). You can apparently literally kill people, never mind the absurdity of that statement and the lack of context, leaving off “and those who love it will eat its fruits.” If you love death, you’ll use your words to wreck people, but you’ll also eat the fruit of that death.

As another example, John 10 features Jesus saying, “I am the door.” I’m sorry, Jesus. You make a better door than a window, but you are clearly God incarnate and not a door.

Do the hard work. It will pay off.

Matthew 24 is not about the Rapture

Hear the audio at Anchor, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.

This is a little different from my normal blog format, and it’s partially because my normal podcast doesn’t have an episode this week, but it’s also because it wasn’t written as a blog.

What you’ll read below stems from a discussion I led in my small group a couple of months ago. We spent four weeks on how to read Matthew 24, with me making the case that the entire thing is prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and that it is not about a supposed rapture of the church. One of our members respectfully disagreed and said she didn’t see my points, so we set up our next discussion to be a non-debate of sorts. She presented her case, and we opened things up for questions, and then I presented mine and took questions. We didn’t have a back-and-forth exchange where we tried to demolish each other, but we did have a charitable exchange of ideas specifically addressing our interpretations of Mathew 24:36-51.

Here is my presentation, wherein I attempt to disprove the notion that Matthew 24 teaches a pre-tribulational rapture:

There are two ultimate points of disagreement here:

  1. Has all of Matthew 24 been fulfilled? My position is obviously that it has and that it doesn’t teach a rapture of the church.
  2. The driving force behind the doctrine of the rapture is rooted in a distinction between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church.

The system known as dispensationalism and the doctrine of the rapture were invented by John Darby in 1830s England and were popularized by the 1850s. Its core distinctives were that Israel and the Church have essentially nothing to do with each other, so God has to remove the Church from the world in order to finally deal with Israel again. Therefore, the rapture doctrine was developed.

What is important, however, is to let Scripture interpret Scripture, especially when the second person of the Trinity interprets it.

Before his crucifixion, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in John 5 for not seeing that the Scriptures – which in his day only meant the Old Testament – were all about him. After his resurrection, he does a Bible study in Luke 24 with two disciples on the road to Emmaus about how the Old Testament points to him.

We get a window of what that looked like from Paul in Col. 2:17. The Old Testament is a shadow of the things to come, and the substance belongs to Christ himself. Gal. 3:7-10 tells us that the true children of Abraham are those born of faith and chapter 6 refers to the Church as the “Israel of God.” Romans 9 digs in even deeper: “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel;” those who belong to the true, spiritual Israel are those who belong to the promise of the Gospel. The Church did not replace Israel as the people of God. Rather, the true Israel was expanded to include those of all tribes, peoples, and nations.

What we see consistently is that Israel is the parenthesis to the global church. Dispensationalism gets this exactly backwards.

Charles Spurgeon, a contemporary of Darby’s in England, said this, which has been edited to tame some of his sarcasm: “Distinctions have been drawn by certain exceedingly wise men (measured by their own estimate of themselves), between the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ, and those who lived afterwards. We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ do not belong to the church of God!

“Why, every child of God in every place stands on the same footing; the Lord has not some children best beloved, some second-rate offspring, and others whom he hardly cares about.

“These who saw Christ’s day before it came, had a great difference as to what they knew, and perhaps in the same measure a difference as to what they enjoyed while on earth meditating upon Christ; but they were all washed in the same blood, all redeemed with the same ransom price, and made members of the same body.

“Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages. Before the first advent, all the types and shadows all pointed one way —they pointed to Christ, and to him all the saints looked with hope. Those who lived before Christ were not saved with a different salvation to that which shall come to us. They exercised faith as we must; that faith struggled as ours struggles, and that faith obtained its reward as ours shall.”

But how is it that the true Israel is the Church? Because the Church is in Christ (Romans 6) – we’re in or connected to the only faithful Israelite who ever lived, who wasn’t even 100% from the line of Abraham, as he was also descended from Gentile women – Rahab and Ruth the Moabite.

Just like Jesus is the second and true Adam, he’s also the second and true Israel.

Now, we have to remember that Matthew was written to a primarily Jewish audience. See if you can pick up on some themes.

Jesus goes to Egypt under a man named Joseph in chapter 2.

He comes out of Egypt and goes through the Red Sea of baptism in chapter 3

He then spends 40 days in the wilderness and actually obeys God in chapter 4, on the way to his conquest of the land promised to him, which is the entire earth.

And so we come to the beginning of Matthew 24:

The disciples ask 1) when will the temple be destroyed and 2) what will be the signs of the end of the old covenant age and the Lord’s coming.

This is all one thing in their minds, and Jesus responds as he has consistently taught them.

Remember: Scripture interprets Scripture. We’ve already (Author’s note: By already, I mean in previous weeks) talked about how the Old Testament uses the phrase, “The coming of the LORD,” but what about Matthew itself?” 

I’ve made a point to use the plural “y’all” in the following verses, so we know exactly who Jesus is talking to.

“When they persecute y’all in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to y’all, y’all will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” – Matt. 10:23

So, the Son of Man will come in some sense before the Apostles will have had the chance to fully evangelize first century Palestine. What else do we have?

“Truly, I say to y’all, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” – Matt. 16:28

He’s already been teasing this conversation for some time, and he tells his disciples to not be led astray, to not be alarmed by wars and rumors of wars, that they will be delivered to tribulation and murdered. He tells them that when they see the military force spoken of by Daniel, which the original readers would have understood, to get out of town. Don’t turn back. 

If this is a rapture text, what sense would it make for Jesus to warn people to 1) get out of town and 2) not to go back and get extra clothing? If they were being raptured, they wouldn’t need either of those, and they wouldn’t even be able to because they’d be in midair. This is Jerusalem’s parallel to Sodom. The powers of the heavens will be shaken (more on that shortly), and the Son of Man will come on the clouds in glory. This equates him to being God and is parallel to passages like Exodus 34 and Isaiah 19. He then sends his angels out in gospel harvest throughout the world, which is still going on now.

In verse 34, Jesus tells his followers that the generation he was talking to wouldn’t pass away, putting a timeframe of about 40 years for these things to happen. If they didn’t, Jesus was a fraud and we shouldn’t worship him. We have to be careful with verse 35 about heaven and earth passing away. Jesus isn’t saying that heaven and earth will be destroyed and then recreated. Remember that in Romans 8, creation groans and anticipates the revealing of God’s people. It WANTS us to be revealed, not because the creation will be destroyed, but because it will be renewed by God working through his renewed people. We’re new creations, but we have the same bodies and souls as before.

There are two texts Jesus is referring to. The first is Jeremiah 33:25, where God equates his establishment of covenant with how surely heaven and earth are established. Jesus here isn’t talking about destroying and recreating everything that exists but establishing a new order – the new covenant that we’re in now. 

The second is Isaiah 65, where, after God pronounces judgement on covenant-breaking Israel and says he’ll save his elect, he says he creates a new heavens and earth but also says people will still die and sinners will still die and go to hell, so he’s not talking about literally recreating heaven and earth but the new covenant order. 

And on to our text for today, finally.

Concerning the day and hour of what? Of all the things he just spoke of. In his humanity, Jesus didn’t know the exact day or hour of his coming and Jerusalem’s destruction, but he DID know a timeframe – this generation.

In verses 37-39, He says the coming of the Son of Man, which I’ve already established has precedent for not being the Second Coming but judgement, will be like the days of Noah. By that, he means that the unbelievers swept away won’t have a clue about what’s coming. They’ll be doing their thing until verse 40 when one is taken and another left. Well, who was left in the days of Noah? Noah and his family were left. Everyone else had their lives taken. This takes us all the way to verse 44 with, “Therefore y’all must be ready,” because he’s still talking to the disciples, and he’s not telling Peter, James, and John to be prepared to be taken out of the world via rapture.

Who then is the faithful and wise servant/slave? The one who obeys Christ. The one who is in Christ, and our master and Lord Jesus has set us over all his possessions, which is everything. We currently reign with him over everything, though that hasn’t been totally realized. We’re in the already/not yet. 

Unbelieving Jews believed that Yahweh was delayed in sending his Messiah, and beat their fellow Jews who believed in Jesus, and they got drunk, and Christ came on a day they didn’t expect in AD 70, and he judged them with the harshest of condemnation. Remember that in Matthew 11 he said that it will be “more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for y’all.”

But there is good news. We don’t have to worry that we’ll be left behind, because we’re in Christ, and he doesn’t lose any of the sheep that the Father has given him. He has made the perfect sacrifice on our behalf in order to present his church as blameless before the Father, and our salvation is secure in him.

Let’s depoliticize sports

Hear the audio at Anchor, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.

Introduction

The last year and some change has unleashed a tsunami of political statements during sporting events. George Floyd’s murder led to Black Lives Matter statements on fields and courts, along with myriad other team based slogans decrying racism. The football team formerly known as the Washington Redskins has changed its name, citing racial justice concerns. And now, the San Francisco Giants have gone rainbow clad for Pride Month, which used to be Gay Pride Month, but is now apparently a celebration of just one sin instead of two.

Regardless, whether it was the initial act of Colin Kaepernick staying seated and later kneeling for the national anthem to protest police brutality or Donald Trump saying he should be “fired” and calling him an SOB, the battle in the trenches is no longer between offense and defense but between progressivism and traditional values and/or patriotism. Many, myself included, have become exhausted of the barrage of virtue signalling and have called for at least a cease fire. Sports are a form of escapism, after all.

But at the same time, politics and sports have provided captivating storylines throughout the years. Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles?” call from the US hockey team’s defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics was a poignant moment during the height of the Cold War, when the Doomsday Clock read seven minutes to midnight before a nuclear war. The Brooklyn Dodgers signing Jackie Robinson and breaking baseball’s color barrier helped pave the way for the Civil Rights movement 15 years later. Pat Tillman gave up a $3.6 million contract in the NFL to serve in the army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, where he would be killed by friendly fire (Or maybe was murdered) in Afghanistan.

A common thread

You may have noticed the common thread running through each set of events. The first list, which features BLM and sexual deviancy celebrations, has a starkly liberal bent to it. Meanwhile, beating the Commies, not being a racist (Despite what the media may tell you), and serving in the military all fall squarely within conservatism, but don’t tell anyone that Tillman was an atheist who had become disillusioned with the American war machine and regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal and that there may have been a military coverup of his killing.

So it’s not a stretch to say that the revulsion toward the more recent on-field political statements is simply the wrong kind of politics for conservatives. To a point, I agree with them. For one, the fact that anyone, much less the sports leagues I follow, would give money to an avowedly Marxist organization like BLM is beyond me. For two, the fact that the Giants expected all of their players and staff to play dressup to appease the LGBT+++ lobby should raise our eyebrows. Were there no protests to be heard internally? But I digress.

Let’s get uncomfortable

I’ve now come to the point in this particular blog where I will be both cheered and jeered by sides who normally do the opposite when I write. Just stick with me. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming in no time.

Now, I understand that it’s typically bad form to wait over 500 words to define terms, but from here on out I will use the Google definition of politics, so we’re all on the same page. It is as follows:

the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.

This seems simple enough, right? If it has to do with governance, it is definitionally political.

So let’s see how consistent we can be.

Military families being reunited at games.

“God Bless America.”

Anything regarding a thin blue line.

Camo and flag based merch and uniforms.

The national anthem.

If your politics skew conservative, did the thought of eradicating those things from professional and major college sports produce a knee jerk reaction strong enough to pull a hamstring? Then you, friend, may have an imbalance in how you define what passes as politics in sports. Like it or not, the military and police are government agents, so literally everything about them is political. And the “Star Spangled Banner” is the song specifically chosen by the federal government in order to provoke a sense of loyalty to the country.

Ergo, if we really want to extract politics from sports, those things have to go too. At best, we can nationally refocus on things that matter significantly more than the temporary experiment in self-government known as the United States of America. At worst, we run the reductio on the left and get sports to a politically neutral position.

I will show you a still more excellent way

Of course, I’m not advocating for hatred of the US or insulting it before sporting events, but we have to be honest that celebrating the fact that we live in the same general vicinity doesn’t cut it. Congratulations, we occupy portions of the same 3.8 million square miles, but that doesn’t mean we share the same core values or worship the same deity.

We also have to be honest that we’re going to use our platforms to talk about what matters most to us. The question isn’t whether a god is honored at a particular event. The question is instead a matter of which god is honored.

I’ll put it bluntly. To celebrate anything or anyone as the highest good or God above all other than Jesus Christ – who was crucified and rose on the third day and sits at the right hand of the Father – is sinful. It is wicked. It is idolatry. It is idolatry whether Ibram X. Kendi’s racist notions of “anti-racism” are touted or whether the American soldier dying for your freedom is conflated with Christ’s wrath-absorbing death on the Cross. Even with July 4 approaching this weekend, celebrating the liberty of the United States from England’s tyranny is abject evil if it stops with being grateful for the Founding Fathers without expressing gratitude to our heavenly Father (Ephesians 5:20).

Call me crazy, but if we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, put in the work, I believe we can see the day when we collectively say, “Sure, America is great and all, but let’s sing about Jesus instead of America before this ballgame.” Jesus is King of the universe (Revelation 19:16) and all authority has been given to him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). You will bow now, or you will bow later (Philippians 2:10-11). To harken back to our definition of political, one could make the case that stating the fact that Jesus is Lord isn’t political, because he already has that power. He’s not struggling with or against anyone.

With that, my proposal to rid sports of all things political, is that the game should be played to the glory of God, with the athletes playing as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). It should not reference whatever “mostly peaceful” protest is occurring, nor should it hop on some bandwagon morality for a pregame ceremony. Instead, every contest, in my ideal world, would begin with a prayer of thanksgiving to the triune God in the name of Jesus Christ, and the song we would rally around would be the Doxology.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Sage advice for Dansby Swanson

Hear the audio at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Anchor.

Introduction

I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious, just like anybody who’s been around the game of baseball for any amount of time. Even in my church softball league, I have my routines, especially before hitting, and I don’t deviate from them. I don’t step on foul lines. I nag my teammates to not cross the bats when they’re resting against the fence in the dugout. I do not, however, care if you steal Jobu’s rum.

It saddens me, however, that the shortstop for my Atlanta Braves, Dansby Swanson (Dans-bae for those who have a crush on him) might as well have sacrificed a chicken, not a bunt, to Jobu when he burned sage throughout Truist Park to help the Braves break out of an offensive slump last month.

Most of the time, I would let this slide, assuming that Swanson was just another knucklehead athlete whose hippie mom suggested he run down to the nearest Bob Marley themed smoke shop to remedy his woes with the bat. Alas, Swanson is well spoken and frequently posts about his faith in Jesus.

Qualifications, disclaimers, and well wishes

Because of Swanson’s profession of faith, the rest of this blog will treat him as a brother in Christ, not an abject heretic or someone who holds to an entirely different religion, such as Buddhism or Islam. I will be blunt in the way a friend slaps his friend when he won’t wake up when his house is on fire, but any shot I take will be at the ideas, not Swanson himself. He has no reason to duck for cover from friendly fire. The wounds of a friend are faithful; it’s the flattery of the godless you have to look out for (Proverbs 27:6).

All theology is connected

Last month, Swanson made an Instagram post featuring song lyrics and a sweatshirt from Maverick City Music, which is a worship music cooperative that has recently exploded in popularity. In researching for this blog, I came across two disturbing findings, and I ask you to bear with me as I flesh out some things.

First off, Maverick City Music unabashedly works with Amanda Lindsey Cook. Cook is an enormous name in the worship music scene and is the embodiment of the modern Western church in her lack of doctrinal rootedness and discernment. A quick perusal of her Twitter features her talking about how worthy we are of God’s love (Romans 3:12 would like a word), sharing interviews in which she uses pantheistic language to describe God, and glowingly quotes the medieval Islamic mystic Rumi. This should already be causing alarm bells to sound in your mind.

But wait, there’s more!

A Google search for Maverick City Music reveals even more. Their site’s description on Google contains the text found at the bottom of their page, and it leads off with what they want you to know about themselves. The very first word boldly proclaims them in all caps to be “UNORTHODOX.” God forbid we try to think about the creator and sustainer of the universe rightly.

One can tell a lot about a person – but especially a Christian – by his influences. If I told you that I really like Billy Graham, then that probably means I value evangelism. If David Platt, then missions. If Karl Barth, being confused. But Maverick City Music? Well, they say they’re unorthodox, and this is just getting awkward.

Supplication over superstition

Unfortunately, another characteristic of modern Christianity is an immediate revulsion when using biblical language in a rebuttal to sin, and while Swanson burning sage may seem innocent enough, he said his goal was to “clean the air.” He wasn’t exactly being cute or doing some aromatherapy, so bear with me when I quote from Paul.

Every major translation renders the second word used in Galatians 5:20’s vice list as either witchcraft or sorcery. The fact that the Greek word, pharmakeia is used (where we derive our English word “pharmacy”), means we’re not only talking about funny hats, long beards, and/or Miss Cleo. We’re dealing with an entire realm that can include drug use and spells, including, yes, trying to purify the air of bad juju with sage.

But why? Why should we not learn to follow the abominable practices of the nations (Deut. 18:9-14) such as reading horoscopes, using tarot cards, thinking moon phases and the position of the stars affect our behavior and personalities, et cetera?

At root, it’s because it shows an unbelieving, untrusting heart. Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” A little secret – the Greek word translated as everything there means, well, everything. That includes job performance, including being among the 780 most elite baseball players on the planet, because, yes, God does care about the outcome of sporting events (Romans 8:28).

When we don’t take our needs to God in prayer and instead rely on superstition and rituals to get us out of a funk, what we really mean is that we don’t trust him with that particular need. I partially blame this on the pietistic notion that God only really cares about what’s going on in our “quiet times” and us keeping our noses clean by not murdering people or beating up hobos or committing tax fraud. But job performance, even sports? Nah, that totally doesn’t fit into the daily bread portion of the Lord’s Prayer. After all, we can’t have God governing the events and actions of humans in any meaningful way (Proverbs 21:1).

And about cleaning the air, as Swanson put it? Well, that already happened. If Satan is the “prince of the power of the air,” (Ephesians 2:2) and Jesus has defeated him, then it stands to reason that the air has already been cleaned. Our response should be gratitude to the one who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, which includes the air we breathe and use to make two-seamers cut in on righties.

2020, COVID, Trump, and false prophecies

Hear the audio version at Anchor, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.

Introduction

Ah, yes. 2020. That year of healing, prosperity, Donald Trump being reelected, and racism being ended in the United States of America.

What was that? None of those things happened? Let me check with my personal prophet and get back to you.

Well, it seems like he got it wrong. He says he’s sorry and that he was tuning into FM frequencies when God was speaking on the AM dial.

Smoke, meet my friend, fire

Whether it was Kenneth Copeland decreeing and declaring the COVID-19 pandemic to be over in the name of God (Several times, I might add); or Shawn Bolz prophesying that COVID-19 would be over in a matter of a couple of weeks; or Bethel closing their healing rooms due to COVID-19 (I’m not sorry for finding that hilarious); or Bill Johnson and others decreeing and declaring that racism was over in America; or the late, IHOP-aligned Bob Jones prophesying that the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl last year was a sign of end times revival; or Pat Robertson, Paula White, Kris Vallotton, Kat Kerr, Greg Lock, Bolz again, Copeland again, and scores of others prophesying – saying that God told them – that Donald Trump would win reelection, or that the election results would be thrown out, or that God would miraculously intervene and Trump would be inaugurated on January 20 (Depending on what day it was, of course), 2020 proved to be a trust buster in terms of those who claim to be prophets.

To Vallotton’s credit, he has apologized for missing the mark, but the error he made in the apology was in the attempt to differentiate between prophesying falsely and prophesying wrongly. Many of these people would agree that they heard from God and just missed it. The problem is that Scripture’s standard for prophesy is perfection, not a pretty good batting average or completion percentage.

From Deuteronomy to Jeremiah 29:11

The Old Testament knows two tests for prophets, both of them in Deuteronomy as follows:

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, “Let us go after other gods,” which you have not known, “and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. – Deuteronomy 13:1-7

And later, immediately after banning interpreting omens, something many of these so-called prophets love to do:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, “How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?”— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. – Deuteronomy 18:18-22

The first test is that if someone performs something miraculous, say, pretending to grow someone’s leg even though he won’t miraculously heal people at a hospital, but follows a false god, God takes that so seriously that under the Law, he would have been executed. While many mentioned here hold to heretical teachings such as kenosis and teach that Jesus went to hell to atone for sin, that is outside the scope of my main argument but is still vital to the overall tone. God’s name is not to be taken in vain by using the name of Jesus while describing someone who actually isn’t Jesus. I’m looking at you, Joseph Smith.

The second test is whether the thing actually happened or not. Did it happen? Cool. Did someone speak in God’s name and it didn’t happen? The standard in this case is to bat 1.000. A 4-for-5 day at the plate is a fantastic batting average, but four out of five or 99 out of 100 still falls short. God says he didn’t say anything to that supposed prophet. In fact, he’s not a prophet at all, and we shouldn’t listen to him.

Examples of false prophets being refuted abound through Scripture, like in Jeremiah 28 when Hannaniah falsely prophesies that Nebuchadnezzar would be overthrown in two years. Jeremiah responds by telling him that God didn’t say that and that Hannaniah would die that year. You can guess what happened that year and what didn’t happen in two years. That then leads into Jeremiah 29 and everyone’s favorite out of context memory verse, Jeremiah 29:11. The reason God reminded his people about his plans for them was because false prophets, whom God said he didn’t send, kept telling everyone that they were about to go home. God then tells them through Jeremiah that, no, it’s going to be 70 years, so go ahead and start a 401K.

Ezekiel 13 goes so far as to call false prophets jackals and says they’re not in the council of his people. Ergo, this is a salvation issue. For someone to say he is speaking for God when he really isn’t, excludes him from the flock and will send him to hell if he doesn’t repent.

The New Testament case is just as airtight. On top of Romans 16’s exhortation to mark and avoid false teachers, 2 Peter tells us that those who prophesy falsely deny God and that their destruction will be swift, much like what we just saw in Jeremiah. God will simply not stand for being slandered with words he never spoke.

Anticipating a common objection

One of the most common but most easily defeated objections comes from pitting Scripture against itself. It is claimed that Agabus falsely prophesied in Acts 21 when he said Paul would be bound hand and foot by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles. Paul is then accused in the Temple on false charges, beaten, and a mob forms before Roman soldiers arrested him and bound him with two chains. These parties will say that Agabus got it wrong, because the Jews didn’t specifically hand over Paul to the Romans, never mind the prophetic symbolism and the fact that Paul says, “I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans,” in Acts 28:17 and confirms Agabus’ accuracy. As an aside, see this blog for a more detailed treatment, but the short version is that saying the New Testament’s standards for allowing inaccurate prophecy are different than the Old Testament simply doesn’t hold water.

His sheep know his voice

We can take comfort that we don’t have to strain to hear God, nor do we have to perform some ritual to “get on his frequency.” He has spoken to us in these last days by his Son (Heb. 1:1), and the Word of God bears fruit and increases wherever it goes (Is. 55:11, Col. 1:6). This isn’t meant to wade into a continuation/cessation argument, but if God wanted you to hear something, you would probably have a similar reaction to Isaiah 6, and you wouldn’t have to guess. After all, Jesus said his sheep know his voice (John 10:27).

Not only do Jesus’ sheep know his voice; they actually listen and obey (John 10:16), so if the aforementioned parties are truly hearing and listening to God, they should obey his word in Deuteronomy 18 by resigning their ministerial posts, repenting of their sin and calling out to Christ for forgiveness for blaspheming his name and violating the Third Commandment. God doesn’t need them, and the Church will be healthier for it.