Don’t Be Afraid of Bad Disciples


Have you ever sacrificed your time and your energy to invest in other people? You probably spent time with them in discipleship, building them up in God’s Word, only to have them go astray and turn away from all you taught them. It hurts, doesn’t it? It seems like a life-investment with no return.

Christ definition disciple what is disciple christianThe founders of Southern Seminary in Louisville learned early in the life of that great institution the pain of a life investment lost.  One of the first and brightest students to come through Southern Seminary was Crawford H. Toy.  By all accounts, he was a brilliant student and became an early faculty member at Southern.  But then he went astray.

Basil Manly said that Toy “breathed an atmosphere of doubt” until it became his “ritual air.” Toy abandoned his position on the reliability of Scripture.  He left Southern and became a professor at Harvard, where he would later become a Unitarian.  This move crushed the founders of Southern Seminary, men who had invested greatly in Toy.  James P. Boyce, upon leaving Toy at the train station for his departure from Southern Seminary (and biblical orthodoxy), famously cried out—with his right arm held high: “Oh, Toy, I would freely give that arm to be cut off if you could be where you were five years ago, and stay there.”

What pastor or serious man of God would not freely offer himself as Boyce did to preserve the soul of a young man in whom he has made a life investment? Sadly, Christian history—beginning with Judas—is riddled with men who have been as close to the truth as darkness is to the light that shines into it, and yet have turned away in the end.  Such a turn from truth is grievous for a teacher to see.

Today is Reformation Day, October 31st.  As you celebrate the freedoms of the Protestant Reformation, remember that good and faithful pastors have paved the way for you to receive God’s Word. For those of us who speak English, remember William Tyndale, the father of the English Reformation.

William Tyndale was the first man to translate and publish the Bible in English.  For his translation and publishing efforts, he was killed—strangled, then burned at the stake.  And yet, his work remains.  Indeed, when the King James (authorized) translation was produced, the committee retained about 84% of Tyndale’s interpretations. Tyndale studied, labored, and died so we could have access to Scripture in our own language.

You may have heard the story of William Tyndale. But you probably haven’t heard much about Henry Phillips. Henry Phillips was something of a drifter, a castaway.  He was a gambler whose situation had become so desperate that he stole money from his own father to pay his debts. And yet, William Tyndale took him in.

Tyndale shared his meals with Phillips.  Tyndale made a life investment in Phillips, sharing with him the glorious joy of justification by faith alone.  Tyndale showed Phillips all his latest manuscripts and shared with him the plans he had for Bible publication in England.  Few people were given such privileged access by this great Reformer.

And in May of 1535, the life investment Tyndale made in Henry Phillips paid its diabolical Reformation Tyndale english persecutiondividend.  Phillips turned on Tyndale, leading him into a trap in which soldiers easily subdued the wily wordsmith.  Tyndale was led away to a dungeon in Vilvoorde Castle.  From there, he was taken to his death.  Henry Phillips was able to pay a few more debts with his blood money.

As we consider our own life-investments lost, let us be mindful of William Tyndale, whose great work still remains nearly 500 years after his death. He may regret the investment he made in Henry Phillips, but William Tyndale—I am sure—has no regrets about investing his own life in the work of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ultimately, the life investments we make are for the gospel. Thus, they are never in vain.

Happy Reformation Day! And keep up the good work.

Life Investments (cost and rewards)


Have you ever sacrificed your time and your energy to invest in other people? You spend time with them, sharing with them what you have learned and building them up in God’s Word, only to have them go astray, turning away from what you have taught them. It hurts, doesn’t it? It seems like a life-investment with no return.

Boyce broadus betrayal toy persecution tyndaleThe founders of Southern Seminary in Louisville learned early in the life of that great institution the pain of a life investment loss.  One of the first and brightest students to come through Southern Seminary was Crawford H. Toy.  By all accounts, he was a brilliant student, and became an early faculty member at Southern.  But then he went astray.

Basil Manly said that Toy “breathed an atmosphere of doubt” until it became his “ritual air.” Toy abandoned his position on the reliability of Scripture.  He left Southern and became a professor at Harvard, where he would later become a Unitarian.  This move crushed the founders of Southern Seminary, men who had invested greatly in Toy.  James P. Boyce, upon leaving Toy at the train station for his departure from Southern Seminary (and biblical orthodoxy), famously cried out—with his right arm held high: “Oh, Toy, I would freely give that arm to be cut off if you could be where you were five years ago, and stay there.”

What pastor or serious man of God would not freely offer himself as Boyce did to preserve the soul of a young man in whom he has made a life investment? Sadly, Christian history—beginning with Judas—is riddled with men who have been as close to the truth as darkness is to a light shining into it, and yet have turned away in the end.  Such a turn from truth is grievous for a teacher to see.

Tomorrow is Reformation Day, October 31st.  As you celebrate the freedoms of the Protestant Reformation, remember that good and faithful pastors have paved the way for you to receive God’s Word. For those of us who speak English, remember William Tyndale, the father of the English Reformation.

William Tyndale was the first man to publish the Bible in English.  For his translation and publishing efforts, he was killed—strangled, then burned at the stake.  And yet, his work remains.  Indeed, when the King James (authorized) translation was produced, the committee retained about 80% of Tyndale’s interpretations. Tyndale studied, labored, and died so we could have access to Scripture in our own language.

You may have heard the story of William Tyndale .  But you probably haven’t heard much about Henry Phillips. Henry Phillips was something of a drifter, aReformation Tyndale english persecution castaway.  He was a gambler whose situation had become so desperate that he stole money from his own father to pay his debts. And yet, William Tyndale took him in.

Tyndale shared his meals with Phillips.  Tyndale made a life investment in Phillips, sharing with him the glorious joy of justification by faith alone.  Tyndale showed Phillips all his latest manuscripts and shared with him the plans he had for Bible publication in England.  Few people were given such privileged access by this great Reformer.

And in May of 1535, the life investment Tyndale made in Henry Phillips paid its diabolical dividend.  Phillips turned on Tyndale, leading him

into a trap in which soldiers easily subdued the wily wordsmith.  Tyndale was led away to a dungeon in Vilvoorde Castle.  Then, he was taken to his death, while Henry Phillips was able to pay off a few more debts with his blood money.

As we consider our own life-investments lost, let us also always be mindful of William Tyndale, whose great work still remains nearly 500 years after his death. He may regret the investment he made in Henry Phillips, but William Tyndale—I am sure—has no regrets about investing his own life in the work of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ultimately, the life investments we make are for the gospel. Thus, they are never in vain.

Happy Reformation Day! And keep up the good work.

 

Can Christians Persecute Christians?


One of the most enjoyable aspects of earning a Ph.D. is sitting through courses known as “colloquium.” Basically, a colloquium is a gathering of Ph.D.’s (and Ph.D. wanna-be’s) for the purpose of debating ideas and pushing one another to think more thoroughly on a given subject, whether the subject is a theological perspective on art or a discussion of the impact of Second-temple Judaism on the writings of the apostles.

 

John Bunyan

John Bunyan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day, the subject of our colloquium turned to persecution, and I was asked rather bluntly by a professor whether or not Christians could persecute Christians. I had not thought of the question before. It is a question which has rolled around in my head ever since. My answer now is roughly the same as my answer then, “yes.” But the yes needs some serious qualification.

 

First, let me explain why the answer is “yes.”  Then, I will offer some necessary qualifications. From history and experience, the answer must be yes. After all, it was Anglican leaders who persecuted John Bunyan, keeping him in prison for a dozen years because he dared preach the gospel without the approval of Anglican leaders. Likewise, King Henry VIII was the head of the Church of England when William Tyndale was persecuted to death at his behest.

 

More to the point, I have a pastor friend who told me of a Sunday service in which he dared to question the dubious (but popular) seven-year timeline of a Tribulation Rapture.  For his efforts, he was rewarded with the wrath of a 78 year-old, angry deacon. Not content to debate the text of Scripture with my pastor friend, the aging gentleman instead made his way to the front of the sanctuary, holding onto and pushing off of pew after pew, until he finally reached my friend and punched him across the jaw with all his might. Fortunately, there was not much punch left in the deacon’s punch, but the point was made all the same.

 

The point (it seems to me) is that the flesh of all men—even professing believers—gets very comfortable with its religious outlook. And the flesh today is no more subdued by the righteousness of Christ than it was a thousand years ago. Anytime the righteousness of Christ is proclaimed or displayed by faith, then the flesh must harden (as Pharaoh’s heart did) or break (as David’s heart did once confronted by Nathan).

 

My friend is not alone in stirring up wrath in his congregation. I cannot believe it seems unusual to have people angry enough to fight. If the word of righteousness goes out, then surely not every heart will be broken. Some will get angry—including some who profess faith. Oftentimes, religious people are the most ready to lash out against others who teach the way of Christ more accurately. I know of three men who faced the wrath of a congregation because they dared to suggest that professing Christians with white-colored skin are exactly equal to professing Christians with black-colored skin.

 

And now that I think about it, in my 15 years of preaching ministry, I have been invited to fight on at least 3 different occasions as a direct result of maintaining the righteousness of Christ. The pastorate is not a place for wimps, but it is a place for peace-loving men—like Christ—to proclaim the righteousness of Christ, and face persecution (like Christ). So, yes, even in the midst of those who should believe all that you are saying, persecution is quite possible.

 

Part Two: Distinctions…

 

Christians Should Fight Obamacare (and the HHS Mandate)


The Family Research Council is calling on Christians to pray for those who are filing lawsuits against the Health and Human Services mandate. The mandate—which is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)–states that all employers must provide “preventative” care to all women.  The word “preventative” must be put in quotes because the Obamacare definition of the word is misleading.

When it comes to providing contraceptives in healthcare, the word preventative is a reference to preventing pregnancy, right?  In Obamacare, the meaning of preventative Obama approve hhs mandate against religious libertyis twisted like a Chinese acrobat to mean preventing children from being born. The HHS mandate in Obamacare calls on all employers (Christian, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Jewish) to provide both contraceptive drugs and abortifacient drugs. Contraceptive drugs prevent babies from being conceived (preventing pregnancy), while abortifacient drugs prevent babies (who have been conceived) from being born. That is an enormous difference and an unbearable burden for the conscientious believer who believes in the sanctity of human life.

Obamacare mandates that all employers fund abortion-inducing drugs.  President Obama’s view on abortion is extremely liberal, even to the point of allowing infanticide (which is killing or “allowing” babies born to die). Sadly, such views are now enshrined in our law and are imposed upon Christians who run businesses.

Thankfully, about thirty Christian employers have filed lawsuits against this injustice. One case (the O’Brien case) has been thrown out by a federal judge who does not believe that providing baby-killing drugs is a substantial burden on the employer.  Hopefully, the other cases (like Hobby Lobby and Tyndale Publishing) will fare better in the courts.

Some Christians would prefer to stay above the fray, as though there is a pristine approach to living Christianity without becoming embroiled in politics. I think such an approach is un-loving and too aloof to be considered gospel-worthy.  We are called to be salt and light. Failing to challenge injustice takes the sting out of our salt and the brightness out of our light. There are three reasons Christians must fight the injustice of Obamacare.

First, this injustice defies God. If anything, God is the God of life. He is the consummate life-giver. Every living thing is God’s personal creation (Genesis 1; John 1).  Every living creature gets his breath from God (Acts 17:28; Hebrews 1:3).  Jesus repeatedly referred to Himself as the life (John 11:25; John 14:6). God is decidedly pro-life. Death is a curse which entered because of sin (Genesis 3); and murder is the work of the evil one himself (John 8:44).  Abortion does not prevent pregnancy; it prevents a conceived human baby from being born. It kills a baby. That is not from God.  Abiding quietly by the practice for the sake of not “being political” is cowardice in the face of innocent children being slaughtered.

Second, Christians must fight this ungodly mandate for the sake of the 3,000 souls which enter eternity every single day through abortion.  Phil Keaggy wrote an apropos song which simply asks, “Who will speak up for the little ones?”  If not Christians, then who?  Those who know the author of life must speak for the little ones who do not yet have a voice.

Third, the view that Christians should not engage in political issues fails to understand the significance of being a Christian in America. Religious liberty is a fundamental (First Amendment) right for Americans, including Christian Americans.  Though Christians are to be first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom, we are also—at the same time—citizens of the USA.  As a result, we serve as standard bearers for freedom in the world. When freedoms are lost in the USA, they are also lost also in Pakistan, Nigeria, Libya, China, and North Korea.  We have a responsibility to the world. If freedom falls here, it will fall everywhere. It is the United States of America which tells the world that people should be free to worship and serve according to dictates of their own consciences. If we stop telling the world that people should be free, then who else will? The U.N? China?

In my opinion, we should be in prayer for those filing lawsuits against Obamacare and its ungodly mandate to fund abortion. We should pray that justice would prevail and that babies would be saved and that Christians around the world would be free to live out the gospel for the sake of humankind.