Thursday, August 23, 2007

Turning Triumph Into Tragedy: The "Church"'s Abandonment of the Gospel

With all my talk about T.U.L.I.P.s and R.O.S.E.s lately, I somehow forgot to provide any follow-up regarding the recent 2nd annual Stone Mountain Conference on Reformed Theology. As I mentioned in my post leading up to the conference, the theme this year was: "Recovering the Gospel: The Crucial Need of The Church". I won't dare attempt to review the entire conference for you here; but if you would like to listen to the four presentations you may listen to them at the Southwest Christian Fellowship website.

I would like to focus on the last question that was addresses by the conference speakers (Pastor Michael Leach, Pastor Robert Benson, Pastor Roger Skepple and Rev. Anthony Carter) during the final Q&A session. Yours truly submitted this question and the responses to it accurately reflect how far too many "churches" have deviated from the mission given to it by the Lord Jesus Christ. My question was this: "Many professing Christians seem to believe that since they are saved they have the Gospel in their back pocket; it is a done deal. Now they believe that they must go forth and conquer and take authority for the Kingdom. Is this valid? How should we respond"?

Pastor Leach, in his response, stated that this idea is called: "Triumphalism". It also goes under the title of "Dominionism", "Kingdom Triumphalism" and "Kingdom Dominionism". Whatever the title, it is NOT Scriptural. This idea has as it basic tenet that the church is here to take over. As part of that taking over, Christians (having gotten the business of getting saved out of the way) are to go into society and take back the territory that satan has stolen from them. We are to go back into the sectors of business, education and government and show 'em how to do things God's way. It even goes much further. This "triumphalism" even goes to the extreme of preaching that the church holds the key to Christ's return and that all of Jesus' authority has been given to the church to use on earth while He reigns in heaven.

While we certainly are to glorify God in everything aspect of our lives, the triumphalist ideal gives new meaning to the old cliche: " give a n@!#$% a rope and he'll want to be a cowboy"! Proponents of the triumphalist doctrine such as, Earl Paulk and Rod Parsley, believe that the church will one day rule the world thereby allowing Jesus to return. The saddest part of this whole mentality is that while all this conquering and taking authority over the earth is going on; very little preaching of the Gospel and the conquering of personal sin is going on. Whatever happened to "small beginnings"? There is much more to be said about "Triumphalism". Consider this article:Kingdom Triumphalism.

Even more piercing was Pastor Skepple's response. Pastor Skepple stated that those who adhere to the triumphalist doctrine are preaching a gospel; but they are not preaching THE Gospel. And according to the Apostle Paul: "even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed"(Galatians 1:8-9). Skepple warned that "any movement that doesn't allow you to say what Paul says in this passage, you know is false".

Pulling no punches, Skepple further cited Romans 5:1-4:

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have* peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and exalt in hope of the glory of God.And not only that, but we also exalt in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;and perseverance, character; and character, hope."

Emphasizing that as Christians we are commanded not only "to rejoice in hope of the glory of God" but also to rejoice in tribulations, Skepple stated that "any movement that does not advocate or support exalting in tribulation, difficulty, hardship, trial, failure; any movement that does not allow for the exaltation in tribulation, you know is unbiblical . . ." Strong words . . . TRUE words!

Another unfortunate outgrowth of this triumphalist thinking has been the transformation of the church into the corporation. Churches now boast of not being churches but being businesses. Pastors have traded being under-shepherds for becoming CEO's. Inevitably, the church ceases to be house of prayer and spiritual healing and now becomes the clearinghouse of networking, finance, and economic empowerment. How quickly is the lesson of the children of Israel forgotten. In their frenzy for position and power these triumphalist followers blend the faith of Christianity with the savvy of Wall Street, just as the Israelites blended faith in Yahweh with the religions of the Canaanites. It's called syncretism and idolatry and God hates them both. So much so, that He sent His people into captivity under those they so wanted to be like!

I hear your objection, "God never rescinded His original mandate to man that he subdue the earth and have dominion over it". Nice try. First of all, triumphalism is an absolute perversion of the creation mandate. If you reread Genesis chapter one, you'll notice that this mandate is given prior to Adam's fall (it was Eve's fall to0, why do we keep leaving her out!:-)); therefore this mandate was issued to all mankind not just Christians. Every man and woman from Adam forward was supposed to be keeping this mandate. Marriage, procreation, Sabbath-keeping was intended for everybody. Christians do not have a monopoly on these things. Secondly, triumphalism is a self-glorifying theology. It desires the benefits of the Gospel without the suffering of the Gospel. It craves victory now without having to follow the steps of Jesus. Here is the truth: following Jesus inevitably leads to a crucifixion . . . ours! We claim to want to follow Christ, but when we get to the cross we suddenly want to take a detour. The Apostle Paul made it crystal clear: "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake . . ." (Phil 1:29).

We naturally want a crown without the cross, but the writer of Hebrews said,

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 'MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.' It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline"?

According to Apostle Peter unjust suffering is the way to glory. The truth is, not many of us here in "persecution-free America" are worthy of it (me included).

We must return to the expository preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. True power exists nowhere else. The Gospel is THE POWER of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . . for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'the just shall live by faith'". Notice, "the righteousness of God" is revealed every time the Gospel is preached. How often do you think God's righteousness should be revealed? Notice, "the just shall LIVE by faith". "Live" here is an ongoing process. "Faith" is the fuel for the just person's living. How many times should we continue to hear the Gospel, even after we have been born again? Once for every sin we commit! That ought to cover it!

Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!

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