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“The Big If”

Holy Spirit,Image by kelsey_lovefusionphoto via Flickr

I spend a lot of time listening to the radio when I’m in my car, and most of the time I keep the radio tuned to WMIE. I like listening to the station we pay to broadcast on locally because it gives me an idea of what’s going on out there in the evangelical wasteland. Nothing jumps out as entirely out in left field, but I do hear the same set of weird statements and suggestions repeatedly. I heard one pastor the other morning state clearly to his congregation that he wanted them to take the “ninety day Malachi challenge” and start tithing ten percent of their income, and he offered each and every person who did so a money back guarantee! Yes. He told them that if any of them fell into financial hard times during the ninety day period, the church would return the money to them no questions asked. The pastor stated quite clearly that he wasn’t in it for the money, but that he wanted to teach his congregation a “lesson” about tithing: If you test God in these matters of tithing, God will reveal Himself to you to be real.

OBERAMMERGAU, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 28:  Jesus pe...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

On another program I heard a word of faith teacher tell his congregation, quite plainly, that Jesus’ name is a talisman that, when used properly, brings health and prosperity. I heard still another word of faith teacher tell me that if I used the name of Jesus regularly I could have victory over all my circumstances in life… If I used his name properly.

Ok, there are a lot of “ifs” out there with regard to Bible teaching. Lots of them. But I’m talking about “The Big If”. Here is the big one. “Jesus has won victory over death and Satan, and his victory is yours, if you believe and repent of your sin”.

There it is. And what’s more, people… Christians believe this schlock. They buy it hook line and sinker. Yes, the Bible does have passages where, when someone is confronted with their sin, they ask “what shall I do”. Yes, the answer that is given often times is “believe the Gospel”. Yes, people do regularly think that they somehow drum up faith within themselves. But that last thing about drumming up faith inside yourself?

Can’t happen. Impossible. Never in a million years. Not part of God’s plan. You don’t manufacture faith. You don’t. I’ll assert it again. You don’t drum up faith. There’s no spark of divinity in you that you can use to drum up faith. There is a part of you wants to hate God. That part of you hates God because it wants to be obedient. It wants to be obedient to God. It wants to obey because it thinks it has to. It hates God, not due to the fact that it’s helpless. Not because it perceives its falleness. No, rather it hates God because it doesn’t get to obey like it wants to, but rather God chose His only son to come into our human flesh, obey His righteous demands perfectly and make atonement for us. There’s a part of you that hates that. It hates the fact that Jesus is the one who get’s all praise and honor and glory for what he has done. It hates that it can’t make amends for the sins that it has committed.

There’s a part of you that hates that.

But it loves “The Big If”. It loves The Big If because that kind of teaching holds out the possibility that you can somehow contribute to Jesus’ work. You don’t want to receive all the benefits of Christ as a gift, but you’d rather earn it. The Big If leaves room for your works to somehow impress God. It leaves room for a Holy Spirit driven work that you did can be more lovely in God’s sight instead of Jesus’ works. It leaves room for improvement of self by self motivation.

I know all of you love “The Big If”. You do. You love to go out and buy books like “Purpose Driven Life”, or listen to Beth Moore teach you how to get rid of your insecurities. It’s because we all think too highly of ourselves. We think highly of ourselves by thinking that we’re ambulatory; able to move around as we please under our own power spiritually. What we don’t perceive is that this is a dream. It’s a dream where we can get up and move around and do spiritual stuff under our own power. What we don’t realize is that we’re lying on a gurney in a hospital ward, in triage, waiting for our physician to come administer to us the needed medical procedures and medicines that will keep us from dying…

I’m talking to YOU dear Christian. Where before you were spiritually dead, and now you’ve been raised to life, you are still not ambulatory. You are still crippled. You still have sin in you. You are still at times hateful to God. You are hateful to God in the same way a patient is hateful to their physician when he or she tells them the prognosis. You still can’t move. You’re paralyzed and can only speak. You want to move, but you can’t. The prognosis hits your ears and you start thinking about what you can do, but it’s to no avail. Your situation is hopeless. But you refuse to admit it.

Now, imagine a doctor saying to you, “this medicine will keep you alive, IF”… If what? If the medicine works? What could the IF possibly be? Do you feel like you’re going to live when the doctor himself isn’t even sure that it will help? You might live? You might die? This is how the Gospel is presented to you, week after week, bad sermon after bad sermon. Because it makes worldly sense that you should be adding some work of your own to the work Jesus has already completed on the cross, you believe a mixed up Gospel with all your heart never realizing how hopeless your situation really is. You are told, literally, “physician, heal thyself”.

Well, how about this, dear crippled Christians. Your Physician has acquired everything needed to keep you alive! And He promises to do exactly that! In Jesus Christ, you will live! He will raise you up in the last day! He is the resurrection and the life! He IS the way, the truth, and the life! He has become your Ransom! His promises are sure! His life is yours! You have life! And life more abundant!

No “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts”.

“But what do I do?” You ask?

Stop squirming.

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Live at Christ Lutheran In Cape Canaveral:Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons

In this live studio audience edition of Radical Grace Radio, we talked about Angels and Demons, and what they do in our lives. And we talked about the Angel of the Lord.

To listen to the show you can click on the play button or right click on “get mp3” and choose “save target as” to save to your computer.

Live at Christ Lutheran In Cape Canaveral:Angels and Demons

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Radical Grace Radio Road Show

For the first time ever, Radical Grace Radio is hitting the road. This Saturday Night at 6pm Radical Grace Radio is live at Faith Viera Lutheran Church. Pastor Gary Held is preaching at the service at 5pm, and Radical Grace Radio goes live, talking about the problems Christians face in the world of evangelism and unity.

Faith Viera Lutheran Church is located at 5550 Faith Drive, Rockledge, FL 32955, and you can phone the church at(321) 636-5504.

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RGR: The New Atheists: Broken by the church?

On Today’s show we’re continuing the theme of “Broken by the church” by talking about today’s so Called “new atheists”. The profile is simple. Many of them are outcasts from the church at large, and not church body or denomination is exempt from being the culprits here. We’ve done this. We created the situation where all these people have given up on the church and many times on Christ himself.

Listen today

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Desperate Hearts do Desperate Things

The other day after I posted about “why Radical Grace Matters”, I noticed just how desperate I seemed in the post. Even though I was venting, it wasn’t doing me any good to rant about the bad preaching of John MacArthur or how most of the preaching today is shoddy, vapid and shallow. Even though, like most people, I love pointing out the faults of the people around me, it was doing nothing for me with regards to addressing the problem.

But I want to address this tendency of ours to lash out at the ones who we believe have harmed us. It’s a sinful act that we get into, oh yes. I don’t think I need to put up the scriptures where Jesus calls this lashing out sin. He was well aware of the hatred that rises up in us when we are feeling betrayed or trampled on, and even more so when the slings and arrows are real rather than imagined. Like children we react to provocations from all sides, finding in us either a stifled emotion that only leads us silent disdain, or leading us into acts of so desperate that eventually they disturb even our nearest acquaintances, and eventually us too.

For whatever reason, we just don’t actually grow up. Oh, we put on a good show after we learn how act in polite society, but always bubbling under the surface is the tendency to hate. We already know that our hearts are “wicked and deceitful above all things”, but no matter how much we take this into consideration, we still run afoul of God’s law.

That’s why our hearts, indeed our fleshly hearts, are so desperate to impress God. We all know we’ve done something wrong, in fact, many things wrong. We already sense that we need to try and be reconciled with God and we’re constantly coming up with ways we hope will some how make the cut, desperately hoping against hope that something will finally atone for all the sin we’ve accomplished in our lives. But all the while this is happening, someone we hold in high esteem, usually a pastor (but increasingly our own well meaning brothers and sisters), is hammering us with everything that THEY think will be what atones for our sins.

So imagine how much more desperate we are when we are broken by God’s law, and given no recourse; no Gospel to console us. Imagine a heart that’s already broken, not only by God’s law, but a pervasive sense that God is totally against us. We look around at our lives; where we are daily facing financial ruin either due to job losses or medical emergencies and the like. We look at how things are going for us and we imagine that God is against us AND that there is no way to change his mind on the subject. Desperately we cling to the hope that somehow, somehow… we’ll find something.

So I’m reminded again of Elijah in 1 Kings chapter 19. I’ve often said, “I feel like Elijah under the broom tree”, because there are times when I’ve had the snot kicked out of me by all the doings of this world. I say, agreeing with him, “I have had enough! Take my life Lord! I am no better than my fathers!”. And indeed, even though God’s still, small voice comes to me each week through right preaching of God’s word, and I am fed by Jesus’ body and blood, I often continue to complain “I have been zealous for you Lord… but now they are trying to kill me too”.

But what I have in Christ is so vividly captured in the Theophany that is displayed here. Eventually, this broken man called Elijah, who was at the end so broken that he could only rely on God to get him through much traveling, was taken home in a chariot up into the heavens. And one day, I will meet my Lord and Savior in much the same way! Elijah was raised up into Heaven! Jesus will raise me up in the Last day!

Now, if that is true, then what are the implications of that with regard to how I perceive God’s attitude towards me? Is God against me if His promise to me is that I will be with him in paradise? And since it is true that He is for me, then that means even though they may be trying to kill me in many ways and diverse manners, it doesn’t matter! God is for me!

Who can be against me?

Why does “Radical Grace” matter?

I recently received one of those innocuous notification from a friend on Youtube stating that said friend had “favorited” a video, one featuring popular evangelical preacher John MacArthur. I had never heard this man preach before, and the friend who favorited the video is a Lutheran, so I figured I’d give it a listen.

Now, before I go any further, let me just say this. I had my guard down for this listen. I have a few people who I let my guard down when they preach. One, of course, is when Pastor Gary Held, my cohort on Radical Grace Radio, is preaching. It’s likely that I’d also let my guard down for a sermon by Greg LeSieur as well… but for this John MacArthur sermon, I had my guard down because it came from the favorites list of a Lutheran.

I’ll never make that mistake again. John MacArthur’s sermon nearly killed my faith. I’m dead serious. His sermon was filled with everything from Lordship salvation to works righteousness. He claims that, yes, Christians sin, but if you have a pattern of sin in your life, you need to “check your foundation” before it’s too late.

Now, I’m not trying to be too thoughtful here. I’m not interested in talking points, or well crafted prose. What I am interested in is expressing how angry I was with this man. I told Pastor Gary the other day “How dare this man try to take the grace and mercy of God away from me!” I was furious! I wanted to have John MacArthur in my studio for a few minutes, just long enough to ask him this: have you sinned today sir? If so, do you think your going to sin tomorrow? How about the next day? Yes to all? Do we see a pattern here yet? Is there now a discernible pattern of sin emerging?

So back to the point of the day. “Why does Radical Grace matter?” It’s simple, yet so difficult for people to grasp: Because we need the Radical Grace of God to match the Radical nature of our sinful condition. We are, as a matter of course, so sinful at any given moment that even if someone were to administer several CCs of curare and render you in a state of coma, the doing of passing out itself would be tainted by sin. The depravity of our existence knows no bounds. That’s literal. No pulling punches.

If people are only marginally sinful, then some form of mild grace from God would be sufficient. But the fact is, our sinful nature is matched only by one possible Godly response and that is the immeasurable grace and mercy of our Lord.

Radical Grace matters because it shoots for the dark recesses of our lives and fills up those lives with Christ. You all remember, I’m sure, of that description of the “God-shaped hole” that was a prominent evangelistic analogy for many years. Radical Grace tells us that there is a “sin shaped hole” in our lives that can only be filled with Christ!

I’ll be doing more posts on this as time goes by. I have to. It’s all I have.

How to fill your spiritual needs

Recognizing God’s blessings

On the way up to the station today, we we’re delayed due to two accidents on I95, involving what looked like ten vehicles. Praise God it looked like no one was seriously hurt in either accident, but it sparked a conversation that we had on the air… About how God blesses us even when things don’t go like we planned, and how our physical and spiritual needs are met.

We were going to have a conversation about online church, but all the show prep went out the window when we were delayed. We’ll have the conversation next week.

To listen to the show you can click on the play button or right click on “get mp3” and choose “save target as” to save to your computer.

How to fill your spiritual needs