Monday, June 29, 2009

The Second Most Controversial Question

This column is slated to run in the July 7th edition of The Justin Texan.

Last time I wrote about the most controversial question in the Bible belt: “What is the gospel?” Today I would like to write about the second most controversial question: “What effect should the gospel have on our lives?”

On the surface of it, this does not seem like a controversial question at all. People expect some kind of effect from religious beliefs. If nothing else, it affects one’s weekly schedule. In other words, adherents attend religious services at places of worship. Muslims go to mosques, Buddhists go to temples, Jews attend synagogue and Christians go to church. In some cases, it affects their daily schedules. Muslims pray five times per day. Some Christians pray before every meal.

But what about the gospel? The claim of Christianity is exclusive; Biblically oriented Christians claim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). We claim that Christ is God in the flesh (Jn. 1:14). We claim that the message of Christianity has inherent power; the power to change people, not just their schedules. Scripturally, it is the power to bring a spiritually dead man to life (Eph. 2:1-7). Since this is true, the question remains: “What effect does this message have on us?”

To hear some professing Christians tell it, it has no effect. Almost all would agree that it SHOULD cause change in someone’s life, but some say that it does not always follow that a Christian changes. He might have made a religious decision, participated in a religious ritual (walking an aisle or getting baptized), or even joined a church. But do they follow through on their outward commitment? And if they do not, can they be called a Christian?

Once again, the big question is, “What does the Bible say?” What it says gives no hope to the professing Christian who is a hypocrite. The Bible says that those who call Christ “Lord”, preach and even have evidences of spiritual power will not be allowed into heaven if they habitually practice sin (Matt. 7:21-23). It says that those who claim to know the Lord and yet do not obey Him are liars (1 Jn. 2:4). The Apostle John also says that those who habitually practice sin do not know the Lord (1 Jn. 3:4-6). The Apostle Paul gives lists of sins, which if habitually practiced, prove the true nature of the professing Christian (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21).

These are all put forward in the negative sense. How does the Scripture state it positively? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away and all things have become new! In Luke 9:23 the Lord Himself said that if any man would come after Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross (be willing to die) and follow (order our lives after) Him! The Apostle James says that we must be doers of the Word and not just hearers who deceive only ourselves (Jas. 1:22).

Friends and neighbors, eternity is too long to be wrong about our position with the Lord. The Puritan Thomas Watson, writing in the 17th century, warned of those who would end up going to Hell with the hope of Heaven. Could that be you? Please, do what the Apostle Paul said and spend some time examining yourself to see if you really are a Christian (2 Cor. 13:5).

If someone claimed to have been hit by a logging truck, you would expect to see some evidence of the impact. Who is bigger? A logging truck or God? Why don’t we see radical changes in the lives of those who name the Name of Christ?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Broadway Baptist Gets the Boot

It was announced on the news of the Dallas affiliate of Fox that Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth, TX was voted out of the Southern Baptist Convention today. My wife can testify that when I heard this my response was, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” accompanied by me hopping up and down on the couch. Picture a fatter, uglier Tom Cruise\Oprah moment.

In May I became a Southern Baptist for the first time in my life. This was a big step for me because of my northern Independent Baptist background. In Yankeeville, many of the Independent Baptist churches view the Southern Baptists as a whole with a great deal of suspicion. The fights over the inerrancy of Scripture within the denomination caused most independent pastors to view SBC as a conflicted denomination full of compromise. Of course, a member church which has recently been supportive of homosexuals in their midst can do nothing but further that bad reputation.

The church I am a member of does not relate to any of the SBC drama at all, and is in many ways, completely atypical of a Southern Baptist Church. We practice church discipline, the sermons are expository, repentance AND faith are both preached, and there are no sinner’s prayers repeated. It’s not a country club; it’s a church. It’s about God, not about the good ol’ boys club. It’s about the Bible and no one is hiding behind their “relevance”.

So why am I so happy with the removal of Broadway Baptist? About a year ago I went with a small group of believers to preach at the gay pride parade in Fort Worth. This was the first time I actually preached at a pride parade. When we pulled up, we noticed that the parade was staging in the parking lot of Broadway Baptist. After the shock wore off, we reminded one another of what Jesus said about those on the “broad way” (Matthew 7:13-14). Most of the parade marchers were wearing shirts that read, “Jesus Would Not Discriminate”, which I can only assume came from Broadway Baptist. So, I had my opening springboard. “Does Jesus Discriminate? Yes, the Bible says He will on the day of judgment” (Matthew 7:21-23).

I was the first to preach, being the guy who brought the amplifier. I think I might have said a whole paragraph when a bunch of angry lesbians stormed across the street and started yelling all kinds of things. Apparently their Jesus doesn’t discriminate about the language they use either. One started yelling about how Ruth and Boaz were lovers. It was an experience, to say the least. I could have preached Joel Osteenese and they would probably have had the same reaction. Eventually they settled down and moved off to the side and we were able to preach for about an hour, to the background music of car alarms being set off trying to drown us out. Every open-air preacher should do this at least once in his life (which is probably going to be my grand total).

Broadway Baptist got what they deserve. Any church which actively supports what is condemned in Scripture deserves to be removed from their respective denomination. From hearing the rest of the story, it should have been done a long time ago. Apparently the church leadership thought it might be cool to have homosexual couples listed in their church directory.

The SBC in recent years has made big strides in the area of returning to their Biblical and theological roots. This purging of an apostate church is the best thing that can happen for the SBC. Disciplining a church should be a reminder to all of us that we too can fall into sin and heresy and be removed from membership. It results in purity in the professing body of Christ.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Most Controversial Question

Note: This essay will appear in The Justin Texan next week.

The most controversial, yet the most illuminating question anyone can ask a professing Christian here in the Bible belt is, “What is the gospel?”. In other words, “What is the Christian message?” Why is this controversial? After all, with so many churches throughout North Texas one would think that this question would cause the least amount of contention of any question that you could ask a church goer.

Could it be that it exposes the ignorance of the average church member regarding the most basic tenet of Christianity? Just the other day I had the opportunity to speak to a woman in her fifties who has been attending churches for many years. These churches included a wide range of denominations; everything from Roman Catholic to non-denominational. I asked her the big question: “What do you think the gospel is?” She said, “You know, I’ve been attending church for years and I have no idea. I have been hoping that someone would tell me (!). Would you please tell me?” And she was very sincere. It was a privilege to be able to explain the gospel to her in a way that made sense.

Folks, there is something desperately wrong when someone who not only lives in the Bible belt, but who regularly attends a non-denominational church in her own town still does not know what the gospel is! The biggest dilemma of all is the fact that probably 90% of the people who attend church cannot answer this question and yet call themselves Christians. How can someone be a Christian and not know what the gospel is?

Imagine that I call a plumber to come fix a drain stoppage in my home. Imagine that he shows up with a plumber’s van outfitted with all of the tools of the trade, a plumber’s uniform with his name sewn neatly above the pocket, even a license proving that he is an approved plumber. But imagine that as soon as he comes into my home he starts fiddling with my light sockets or ceiling fans but never looks under my sink or near a pipe. What would I be forced to conclude? No matter what his van looks like, no matter what his uniform says and no matter what his education may be, he is not a plumber. No, he is an impostor. A plumber should know something about plumbing.

Likewise, if a “Christian” wears the right clothing on Sunday, carries a baptism or church membership certificate, has a Bible, and is respected as a fine upstanding member of the community and yet knows nothing about the gospel, how can they be considered a Christian? Friends, they are impostors. A Christian should know something about the gospel. If you do not, then what message do you trust to be saved from the wrath to come? Faith must have an object and that object must be reliable. If you don’t even know what the object of your faith is, what in the world do you believe? How do you know it is true? How can you even evaluate it if you don’t know what it is?

Another way of asking the question is, “If I had three minutes to live, what would you tell me that I need to do to get right with God?” This is a good question. If you cannot answer it, you have good reason to be concerned about the nature of your own faith. As the Apostle Paul said, “Examine yourself, to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). For the answer to this most important question, please visit

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ray Comfort takes on CBS\Calvin Klein

Please keep Ray Comfort in prayer as this issue unfolds. May God be glorified by someone not just being offended, but taking a stand.

Costanza for NY Daily News

Ray Comfort: America Doesn't Need Calvin Klein's Dirt

Designer Calvin Klein has placed a "racy" new advertisement on a five-story-high billboard on a Manhattan building in New York City, which shows half-naked teenagers lying on top of each other in sexually explicit positions.

According to TV co-host and best-selling author Ray Comfort, Sex not only sells jeans, it gets massive free publicity on CBS primetime. CBS "The Early Show" (June 15th) more than willingly scrolled over and zoomed into the lusty billboard an amazing sixteen times, as the show's host interviewed an expert on why she thought it was wrong to show such images in public. The usual reasons were given: it wasn't good for children to see such pictures, etc.

Comfort says there's another reason why Calvin Klein should rethink the tone of its advertising. Presently there are 673,989 registered sex offenders in the United States,[1] and hardly a day goes by when some child isn't abducted, raped, and murdered.

Back in April 1999, ABC TV put a racy billboard of a naked woman lying on her stomach in Comfort's neighborhood in Southern California. The image had a small towel draped across her backside, to keep it legal.

Photo of billboard Comfort covered with orange blanket

When Comfort saw that, he purchased an 18-foot ladder, climbed up the billboard and stapled a huge orange blanket over that naked woman's body.

"I don't want some sexually depraved pervert getting off on ABC's dirt, and raping and murdering my wife or daughter," Comfort says.

Comfort then took a picture of the blanketed billboard and released it to the media, in the hope that ABC would take him to court for willful damage of their property. But they didn't.

"Calvin Klein's campaign not only reveals that they couldn't care less about the abuse of our women and children, it also shows that they have no regard for what God says is right and wrong," says Comfort. "So Mr. Klein, don't even think of bringing your dirt and dumping it in my neighborhood, because I will be up my ladder with a staple gun in hand before the glue on your smutty image is dry."

    Ray Comfort debated atheistic evolution on ABC's Nightline in 2007 and earlier this year debated on the BBC. He is the author of some 60 other books including "God Doesn't Believe in Atheists," "How to Know God Exists," and "Evolution: the Fairy Tale for Grownups." He is the publisher of "The Evidence Bible" and more recently, "The Atheist Bible (Unauthorized Version)" and, "The Charles Darwin Bible." His booklet, "The Atheist Test" has sold over a million copies.

U.S. Map of sex offenders: [1]

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Which Verse Says It All!

Note: This article appeared in The Justin Texan on May 19, 2009.

A few weeks ago I was privileged to be able to speak to a class at the University of Oklahoma. This isn’t a common occurrence for our ministry; after all, we are open-air preachers. It’s pretty rare to be invited to anything. People would usually rather that we just go away! A professor saw us on the quad and asked if I would come address his classes.

I began each class with my own testimony to God’s saving grace in my life and a brief introduction of our ministry. Afterwards, the professor opened up the floor for questions. It was a wonderful time. Questions like, “Why is Jesus coming back?”, “Is Gandhi in Hell?”, and, “What is the Christian message?” were asked. This resulted in a half an hour of explaining the gospel to each class. What a privilege!

My favorite question of the day was, “What verse do you think sums up the whole Bible?” This is a tough question. To pick one verse out of the 31,102 verses in the Old and New Testaments is a Herculean task. After thinking for a few moments, I answered, “2 Corinthians 5:21”. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (NKJV).

This verse is the gospel in a nutshell. God the Father made Jesus, the eternal Son, to be a sin offering on the behalf of sinners. All of the sins of the children of God were placed on the Son, much like the sins of Israel were placed symbolically on the head of the scapegoat during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. As the Lord Jesus hung on the cross, He was treated as we deserved to be treated. The whole wrath of God was poured out upon the Son. Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

When we respond to this amazing act of grace with repentance and faith (Acts 20:21), a great exchange takes place. Our sins have been placed on Christ. In return, we are credited with His righteousness. He obeyed the Law of God perfectly and that perfect obedience is credited to us, sinful lawbreakers! God the Father now treats us as He would treat His own Son! He looked upon His Son on the cross as if He were looking at our sins and treated His Son accordingly. He now can treat us as if we were the ones who were tempted in all points and never sinned!

This is the amazing grace that John Newton wrote (and we sing) about; sinners who deserve only Hell getting the perfect righteousness of Christ. We can be found “not guilty” when we stand before God in judgment! There are two conditions to receive this pardon: we must repent (turn from all known sin) and believe (completely abandon ourselves to the work of Christ on the cross). And that’s the kicker. Jesus died for sinners. If you don’t think you are a sinner, then you can be assured that Christ didn’t die for you. The gospel is for those who have been humbled by their own sin and the amazing grace of God expressed at the cross.

Some might say I should have responded with John 3:16. Others might suggest 1 Corinthians 15:3. For my part, I stand amazed by the grace of God in 2 Corinthians 5:21.