Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Robots or Rebels: The Dangers of Growing up a Legalist, and Biblical Motivations for True Holiness - By Robert Pruitt

In Robots or Rebels, Robert Pruitt addresses the modern manifestation of legalism that has been around since the Church first appeared in the times of the Apostles, the ones stuck in true legalism he calls 'Robots'.  He also warns about rebels, who turn from legalism and flee to antinomianism.  As he says in the book, ""Rebels do not love Christ and do not desire to look holy before anyone.  Robots, on the other hand, desire to look holy while not realizing that true holiness only flows from the heart and life of one who sincerely loves the Lord Jesus. "   

Robots or Rebels  "Too many preachers and teachers today proclaim a gospel that saves from the penalty of sin, while not necessarily saving one from bondage to sin."  This leads to many who profess faith but who have no works, no holiness, to show that they are actually alive.  They do not have any evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in them, no evidence that they are among the ones God has chosen to work in to do good works that He has prepared for them.   

Churches full of tares may make professing Christians do a pendulum swing and focus solely upon good works, building up a legalistic system of salvation.  "Many in the church became so concerned with the sinful problems that were manifesting in the culture…that they ceased to ground people in the doctrines of the Bible. In other words, because of the need to maintain righteous lives in the midst of a more and more unrighteous culture, they sought to establish the superstructure of Christian living without the foundation of Christian doctrine."   Works-salvation is not salvation but guaranteed condemnation. 

 And then you have your rebels who see the wrongness, or hypocrisy of the legalistic system of salvation, and many of them turn to antinomianism while holding on to the title of 'Christian'.  Rebels bring reproach on Christianity as well.  "In seeking to become like the world, the rebel gives indication that the Word of God, the church, the gospel, and even the Lord Jesus, can have no real impact on anyone's life.  At times in order to prove that he is like the world, the rebel will live in a manner that is even more evil than is typical of those who are lost.  This individual may not only live in moral corruption, but may speak violently against the things of God.  When those who are lost observe such a person, they are turned away from the church, away from the Bible, and away from Christ.  Rather than encouraging the lost to repent an trust Jesus, these rebels are encouraging them on their way to hell.   Nothing could be more unloving."

 Pruitt emphasizes that Christianity is not the following of certain rules and doing good works to earn our salvation, and it is not the freedom to fulfill our fleshly desires, rather it is the freedom bought by Christ and His righteousness to actually be pleasing to God and to do works out of love that actually please Him, it is freedom from self, freedom from sin, and it is the freedom to be conformed to the image of Christ. 

Personally, I thought that the flow of the book was a little mixed up, at some points it sounded as though he was about to rebuke rebels but he goes on to critique legalists. And, this might seem a bit nit-picky, I also don't quite agree with his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8, as he seems to think that Paul is assenting that knowingly eating meat offered to idols is okay as long as it won't hurt someone's conscience.  We are going through 1 Corinthians in our church and have just reached that chapter, and it seems that Paul is not saying that it is good to eat meat offered to idols since in chapter 10 he points out that it is not really offered to idols but to demons and Christian's shouldn't have anything to do with that. So it is not just a conscience issue in that case but also, it would seem, an association issue.  It is alright if a Christian eats that meat ignorantly, but not if they know where it came from, since they do have knowledge and must use it rightly.   

 But overall I think that it is a pretty good book.  I'll end with one of my favorite excerpts that is dealing with the wrong focus on parachurch organizations, legalistic ones in particular, but this applies to any parachurch organization: 

"……Adding to the fertile soil for legalistic parachurch gurus to adversely influence churches and individuals is the modern idea that we must have experts in every area of life.  Rarely does a week go by that I (as a pastor) fail to receive a call informing me of a new video series that is "must viewing" for every church body.  The expert on marriage relationships; the expert on child rearing; the expert on interpersonal relationships; the expert on this; the expert on that has made a video series.  Surely no mere pastor can keep up with 'the experts.'  And so, we are encouraged to turn our churches over to Dr. ___________.  After all, he or she supposedly knows mor ethan any of the rest of us, and if we will just do what he or she says, we will all succeed in our Christian lives.  This is not intended to be a blanket condemnation of everything and everyone who is part of what might be called a parachurch ministry.  However, any and every time the parachruch dictates to the church rather than the other way around, parachurch is out of place.  And any individual who follows a parachurch ministry more closely than his own local church has a definite problem with his priorities, since parachruch organizations are never mentioned din the Bible…….If you listen to those trying to sell many of these products you are likely to conclude that pastors just aren't necessary anymore.  And why would anyone in the pew want to listen to old 'what's -his- name' week after week when they could be listening to 'the expert!'
Many thanks to Ambassador International for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)
This book may be purchased from Ambassador International
and Amazon.com, as well as other stores. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mission Drift - By Peter Greer and Christ Horst

Why do so many Christian organizations become secular within a generation or two?  How does one build a focused ministry that doesn't change its core purpose?  Peter Greer and Christ Horst provide some excellent answers in Mission Drift:  The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches.  They have examined and analyzed various ministries, some that have stayed focused on their Gospel focused mission, and some that drifted away from that focus have become secular in focus, not spiritual. 

Cover ArtThe authors make the interesting observation that "It is often Christians who seem most likely to be the biggest critics of bold Christian distinctiveness".  They quote the Christian Founder of Quaker Oats speaking of people "who are much interested in the loaves and fishes, but not at all in the faith."  They bring up organizations that were Christian at first, but now only help with material needs alone.  Greer and Horst also make the case that meeting material needs is not the most important thing, rather, giving out the Gospel is the most important.  Helping with people's physical needs does not save them for eternity, it only gives them comfort temporally.  Helping with a person's spiritual need of the Gospel helps them have a right focus here on earth whether or not they are comfortable, and has them looking for the Kingdom that will never end.  

They warn that Mission Drift is inevitable unless it is actively fought against. "Never underestimate currents and winds - pay attention to them" is one of their warnings.  Too many people think that they will be unaffected by physiological changes in society, moral trends and the like, and so don't consider them as threats.  But sooner or later, the Christian ministry that is not anchored down with core principles, beliefs and practices will drift along with the stream of popular thought. Many organizations that were Christian at first became functionally secular/atheistic over time.   

They also address the fear that if a ministry/organization doesn't compromise its core beliefs at any point, it might collapse. The book has the excellent statement,  "…how much better to collapse in allegiance than to survive by compromising what matters most?"  
I think that this is an excellent book and would recommend it to any Christian 'organization'. 

There are things that I do not agree with, but the only one I find worth mentioning is that the authors seem too ecumenical as they seem to consider Catholicism to be a correct presentation of the Gospel, and an accurate 'version' of Christianity.  But I think that it is only implied, not explicitly stated. 

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a free review copy of this book(My review did not have to be favorable)!
This book may be purchased from Amazon and from Bethany House Publishers