Tag Archives: Pharisee

Baptist Dysfunction #2

phariseesI was raised believing in the old BAPTIST
acrostic (below). These are the things that supposedly made us ‘distinctive’ in our faith. But as I’m reading and learning, I’m discovering that most -if not all- of these do not mean what they used to… what they’re supposed to. If you haven’t yet, you should catch up by reading Part 1 here.  This post will focus on the Priesthood of the Believer & Individual Soul Liberty. (I’ve decided not to go in the order below, but to group them by their logical sequence.)

B- Biblical Authority
A- Autonomy of the Local Church
P- Priesthood of the Believer
T- Two Church Offices
I- Individual Soul Liberty
S- Saved & Baptized Church Membership
T- Two Church Ordinances

NOTE: Some readers of my last article noted that I write with an evident hurt buried deep inside.  I can’t really identify one singular pain… but I do recognize certain ‘sore spots’ that are sensitive to me. This article, in particular, will really reveal a couple of issues that can affect my blood pressure in a negative way.

P – Priesthood of the Believer

The Bible teaches (1 Peter 2:5) that believers are priests, each having his/her own access to God.  Since Jesus is our High Priest, we need no other mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).  So why do so many IFB pastors stand in this role?  Why do so many say things like: “Before you buy a home or change jobs, you should consult your Pastor.”?  Why do they set themselves up as some kind of ‘priest’ that can divine and/or discern God’s will for the membership? I’ve heard preachers use a church member who didn’t get his advice as an illustration for foolishness or rebellion! I’m a firm believer in getting counsel, but I also believe that Christians don’t need to ask their pastor for permission to buy a car!  Then they take it a step further and take the initiative to assign standards for every family (what to wear, what to listen to, where not to go…), leaving little room for the Holy Spirit to convict.  I believe our standards are far too low & too many!

In addition, the IFB movement has become so governed by a ‘performance’ theology. We’ve lost touch with grace. Why do we continually allow our leaders to set the measurements for us?  Doesn’t the Bible say that when we compare ourselves by and with ourselves we are not wise? Yet we continue to do it – we feed off of it, and it becomes a way of life. Read more about this here.

We define our spirituality by checklists of do’s and don’ts and we let other the fear of man dictate the lists. It’s more human to call a suit & tie your church clothes than to really obey Colossians 3:12-14. After all, it’s easier to measure the visible than the unseen. I still do it (far more than I even realize) and it is sin. The fear of man is a snare! For me, it took a long time to “find myself” after leaving the pretense that I was under, in large part because I had always defined myself by another man’s opinion / approval. It was a terrible mixture of my own insecurities fostered by the emphasis on performance by those surrounding me.

I – Individual Soul Liberty

Much of what defines IFB churches are ‘standards.’  Unknowingly, churches are bound in the culture war more than they are in a war for doctrinal #oldpaths. In the 1950’s, when the Convention was going south (waffling on major fundamentals), a remnant of Biblicists separated from the whole and became Independent, Fundamental Baptists.  In so doing, they became defined by their culture. Women wore skirts, churches used only hymns (with piano music) and black-bound King James Bibles, and preaching against ‘movie houses’ was common.

Examples abound… A pastor-friend was asked to leave his church in the 70’s because his son wore a white belt.  I know a man who wouldn’t let his wife wear pantyhose because they were ‘split-legged.’ I heard about an addiction program which required all participants to wear proper attire. If they didn’t have any, they were provided with disposable plastic skirts (for the ladies) to wear during the class.  No wonder it never got off the ground!

We have become so wrapped up in the externals. How refreshing would it be if we could go to a conference (IFB) and not to hear messages entrenched in legalistic manipulation. (Is Legalism a Bad Word?)  We’ve used some Biblical words to justify our shallow preaching when — according to Jesus himself — there are far weightier matters to attend to!!  The IFB movement is becoming known for its Pharisee-ism, and it doesn’t seem that much is being done to turn that around.  That’s not the fringe, that’s the mainstream. And, thankfully, the younger generation of new fundamentalists are not willing to stand for some of these non-essentials or die in a culture war that their parents / grandparents started!

Romans 14 provides limits for Christians who are ‘strong’ in their faith as they help the ‘weaker.’  It clearly states (v5) that we need to let every man to be fully convinced in his own mind.  What that means is… Give people the space to come to their own conclusions and form their own convictions.  I can hear it now… “But I’ve given them 3 months and he still hasn’t cut his hair. “Well that’s just crazy! Do you expect people to make up their own mind? What if they don’t decide to give up _________, what then?  “I don’t think that she’ll stop wearing britches unless I talk to her about it.”  I know, right!!  Christian liberty is a dangerous thing.  Sticky stuff here, folks.  Which is precisely why we can’t get too far from Matthew 7… the splinter & the plank.

Brothers, we’ve lost sight of grace and become lost in our religion that emphasizes fancy footwork and performance.  Let’s get back to grace and leave the condemnation behind (Gal. 5:1). Just because you change doesn’t mean you’re compromising. Jesus was hated because he was too far ‘left’ for the Fundamentalists of his day… so that puts you in good company!

 

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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Stone-Caster or Stone-Catcher?

woman-in-john-8A recent edition of Smithsonian Magazine focused on a handful of individuals who had won the magazine’s American Ingenuity Awards.  It highlighted one person who made an outstanding contribution to science, cinema, teaching, and social justice.  As an attorney, I was drawn immediately to an article about Bryan Stevenson.  Stevenson is a Harvard-educated attorney who has devoted his career to representing minors who face the death penalty.  (To set you at ease, this post isn’t about the constitutionality of putting minors to death.)

There were discussions about his religious upbringing, attending a Christian college, and what had drawn him into defending accused minors.  Towards the end of the article, he indicated the reason for his chosen career path; he said, “There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher.”  He spoke about Jesus’ actions in “defending” the woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery in John 8.  Christ’s willingness to protect this stranger – who everyone present knew was an adulterer and worthy of death under the law – seemed to be his inspiration! While he did not say so explicitly, it seemed he was just trying to stand between those who were undoubtedly “guilty” of some wrong but who faced a world ready to levy the harshest penalty allowable under the law.  He called himself “a stone catcher.”

“There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher.”

I was immediately convicted. While I would readily admit that mercy-and-truth and mercy-and-judgment must be balanced, I thought of times when I, like the scribes and Pharisees in John 8, was ready to pronounce swift and harsh punishment because it was “deserved.”  I thought to myself, “How many times have I been the stone caster rather than the stone catcher?”

Stone catchers must get in the way.

When someone has damaged their reputation or fallen into sin, the easiest thing to do is – well – nothing!  But Galatians 6:1 commands something very different.  It states: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  Frankly, I don’t know if there is a verse in the Bible that is less practiced in today’s Christian world.  But God has been clear.  If you are “spiritual,” it is your duty to get involved in restoration of the fallen – to become a stone catcher.

Stone catchers might get hurt.

If you get truly involved in protecting or restoring those who need it most, you might get hit yourself by those throwing stones.  That is, despite your innocence, you may become a target based on nothing more than your affiliation.  This can hurt.  However, there is another, more hurtful possibility.  The person you intervene on behalf of – the one in whom you invest time, effort, and love –  may let you down by rejecting your offer or reverting to their old ways.  Both are likely reasons why some are afraid to become stone catchers, but neither is a legitimate excuse for not get involved in the stone catching ministry.

Stone catchers many times get heckled.

If you make the decision to become a stone catcher, I can guarantee you that you will not be the most popular person with certain people – including some “religious” ones.  Questions, jokes, or insults might come if you take up stone catching.  Sadly, most prefer to talk to others about someone’s problems rather than talking with the person about their problems.  But what did Christ do with the woman caught in adultery?  He encouraged, and He restored.  When Christ extended mercy instead of harsh judgment, the scribes and Pharisees were not happy!  And if you review the chapters that follow (including John 9 and 11), you will see that the Pharisees began levying attacks with new fervor following this incident.  This also should not deter us.

Commit this year to mentoring a struggling teenager and taking him out to lunch, or to sending a note of encouragement to and regularly praying for someone who is rumored to have gotten upset about something at church, or, most importantly, to practicing mercy like Jesus did.  Give up your stone casting and take up stone catching.

Article by Bryan Likins

@bmlesq

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Raise the Standard!

Many churches define their rules as ‘standards.’ Some standards are given a higher ranking than others and are labeled ‘convictions’ while others which carry less weight are ‘preferences.’  Different churches, attempting to determine what is important based on the Bible, asserts these standards upon the congregation.  Some churches even create defining boundaries of fellowship and partnership with their standards.  But I firmly believe that our standards are too many and far too low…

Our Standards are Too Low!

A standard, by definition, is a sign or a banner used in wartime to rally the troops.  It is a symbol placed conspicuously to mark a point of direction.

For the church, our standard should be singular.  It should be Jesus Christ.  He is our banner (Exodus 17:15-16).  If there is one symbol that must mark our direction, it must be the cross!  We do a tragic disservice to our church and community when we place any lower standard than this (John 3:30)!

Jesus Christ is our goal (2 John 9).  If anything else is raised up as the rallying point to Christians, then something else will become the measuring stick for Christianity.  If anything besides the perfection of God (Matthew 5:48) is patterned, then each generation will model their own goodness and righteousness… leading to a slippery slope of decay from the inside-out.

Standards are what many churches measure their members up against… Is his hair short enough?  Is her skirt long enough? Their music has drums in it!  I heard they went to the movies!  He didn’t wear church clothes to church!  Their family went to the beach!  Did you know that he smokes?  Ahhhhhhh!  The list goes on and on… It is a shame that these rules (mostly man-made) have become the criteria / yardstick for sizing up a person’s spirituality.  Are these better than measurements than Christ himself?  Should we substitute some rule or line-in-the-sand for the Standard that has already been raised?

Yes, certain rules are profitable. (I am not an anarchist, by any means, nor do I endorse throwing the baby out with the bathwater.)  And yes, they can reveal a direction – either good or bad.  But these should never be the end, they are only by-products of the goal: Christ-likeness.  The end is not living up to standards, it is raising the Standard in my life to be like Christ.

Our Standards are Too Many!

Many churches do religion like the US Government does legislature: when a rule is broken or a loophole is found, it is time for more rules.  For example, there are now about 20,000 gun control laws in effect in America.  The answer is not more laws – but to get back to the intent of those laws in the first place.  Wouldn’t you agree?

That’s where the Pharisees got off track.  They were good guys.  Really good guys.  Yet Jesus condemned this group of very righteous, religious followers the hardest.  Why?  Because they let their rules get the best of them.  Rules about clothes.  Rules about church.  Rules about family.  Rules about pleasure.  Rules about everything.  They ended up getting so caught up in the rules, they lost sight of why they wanted to be a Pharisee to start with – love for the holiness of God.

See if some of my observations apply in your situation… Standards often give a false sense of spirituality.  Standards give credence to comparing yourself to others, which is not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12).  Standards focus on physical sins of the body instead of the spirit, which is far weightier in the New Testament (Matthew 15:11).  Standards can make people inappropriately accountable to a pastor / leader, bypassing the convicting role of the Holy Spirit.  An over-emphasis on standards makes room for the false accusation of ‘legalist’ to be applied.  Too many standards always create double-standards!

A Simple, Sensible Solution:

Make your standard singular… Jesus.  If you must have ‘standards,’ make sure every single one has a Biblical principle behind it.  One of holiness, of purity, of godliness, of separation.  Principles are timeless – they never change with the culture.  Here are a few principles that make sense:

1. Separation from the world – Christians are called to be Christ’s.  We should look, talk, and act like a child of God.  Being a Christian is something that should define you as a new creature in Christ.  (Romans 12:2, 13:4, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, James 4:4, 1 John 3:3)

2. Separation between the sexes – Our culture is in a gender crisis.  The distinction is being lost as the unisex movement takes over.  But God has given each male and female a unique identity and, with that identity, unique roles.  (Deuteronomy 22:5 is a perfect example.  Men should not be putting on a woman’s apron & trying to play mommy; while women should not work on a construction site or serve in the military!)

3. Separation from sin – Far too many Christians are comfortable with sinful entertainment, sinful habits, sinful lifestyles, sinful cravings, sinful words, etc.  Our inward convictions must drive us from our sinful behaviors.  (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14)

4. Separation unto the LORD – True holiness is ‘unto the Lord’ and not just ‘from the world.’  Righteousness without humility is just prideful piety.  (2 Corinthians 6:17; Psalms 119:115; 1 Thessalonians 1:9)

For 4 Principles on Determining Questionable Things (gray areas) … click here.

 

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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