Facts and objectivity are rather big deals in the sales world of journalism.  Like every other part of business America, journalism outlets are competing for the attention and approval of the American populace.  So the taglines go something like “hard hitting facts” or “bringing you the scoop”.  After all, who wants to have yesterday’s scoop today in a world where old information is “so 30 seconds ago”?  What often goes unnoticed—and subsequently unquestioned—is perhaps the most important part of the business of journalism.  We can get so enamored with the presentation of a story that we forget the filter of communication—the worldview of the news stations and journalists bringing the news.   Someone has to decide what is news, and which person(s) or idea(s) will be favorably presented.

 

In the world of professing Christianity, the claim to “sticking by the Book” is very much akin to journalism’s claim to faithfully dabbling in objective facts.  If a church member or pastor is asked what they believe, you might hear something like “I believe the Bible”.  While this sentiment reflects the very biblical teaching of the centrality of Revelation to the life and thought of the Church, such responses can often leave us with a thought akin to the famous California surfer philosopher—“Whatever, dude”.  The meaning behind such a statement is often as varied as the people who assert it.

 

In the world of Bible reading and preaching, we often forget that it isn’t enough to study the Bible.  Philosophers of days past had a very wise saying—“Know thyself”.  It isn’t enough to examine the contents of Holy Scripture.  The human mind serves as a filter—a lens of interpretation—through which we understand the Word of God.  All men approach life with presuppositions—things that we “pre-suppose” to be true.  In a sense, pure objectivity then becomes impossible.  Rather, interpretation of biblical content becomes inextricably tied to the way in which we view the world and the Bible as a system, as a unified or unrelated whole.

 

The forgotten reality in Bible reading then becomes the exercise of considering our own lens of interpretation.  Various interpretive systems are known, for example, under such names as Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology, and Fundamentalism.  We have all grown up under some form of thought structure that sets into our minds a basic framework for how we approach the theology of any concept, doctrine, or passage of Scripture.  And the most important question then becomes discerning whether or not the Bible presents its own system of thought.  2 Timothy 1:132 Timothy 1:13
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13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  

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seems to assert as much when it commands us to hold fast the “outline” of sound words.  Biblical truth has an outline to it, a pre-standing structure through which we are to look at every part.  What lens of interpretive thought determines how you view passages of Scripture?  Bible reader, know thyself.

 

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The first time I can ever remember hearing “We need to get back to the early church”, I was in a place where many theological conversations have started—Starbucks.  I was harmlessly minding my own business, enjoying a cup of coffee and prepping for an engineering college course, when this phrase immediately grabbed my ears and I went incognito to cautiously hear more and get a peek at some coffee house philosophers.  As it turned out, a local charismatic church had a ministry to bring in young Christians from all over the country and put them through intensive cycles of training.  As I continued to listen, I heard questions and comments that had a ring of sincerity and truth mixed with confusion and uncertainty.  Turns out they meant really early—like, the Church in Acts.  It got my wheels turning on a question that has intrigued me ever since.  When we read the book of Acts, are we not presented with a picture of the Christian Church that causes our hearts to leap?  But just what does it mean, biblically, to “get back to the early church” of Acts?  What does that phrase men to 21st century American Christianity?  To those young people in Starbucks?  Let’s start with the biblical positives.

We Should Yearn For The Biblical Model Of Victory

Even though the book of Acts is filled with hardship and persecution, probably a large majority of Christians come away from this book excited at how God worked in such mighty ways and with an increased desire for God to move again in their own day.  While it is true that we must all be students of the Word, the Bible is more than a manual for filling our heads—it is a model for the yearnings of our hearts.  In its fullest sense, it is for head, heart, and hands.  The Bible is to fill the mind, enflame the affections, and direct the life.  But sometimes we forget that the Bible is a manual for serious and holy desire.  It is a healthy and God-honoring thing to read about how God moved in days past and yearn for that now.  Such desires help purge the life of sin and focus our spiritual lives to seriously lay hold of God.  In a day when the Church is often filled with pessimism, we can forget the obvious.  Do we have it as bad as the Church in Acts?  Is God down to 12 faithful men?  Even a few hundred?  The book of Acts teaches Christians in every generation to have unlimited confidence in the victorious march of the Gospel.

We Should Yearn For The Biblical Model Of Means

In the book of Acts, we largely see what the Church reaps and what the Church uses.  She reaps much God-given fruit.  She uses God-supplied means.  We see the Church involved in a very simple but overwhelmingly powerful ministry—a ministry that thrives because it restricts itself to the tools that God Almighty has supplied.  Preaching, praying, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper prove to be the heart and soul of religious life in the Church of Acts.  It is in faithfulness to these simple tools that the Church overcomes seemingly impossible odds.   Do you ever feel like the Church—or your own life—is stuck in spiritual mediocrity?  You know what?  There are no tricks in thriving Christianity.  It is when simple men and women take God at His Word and use His appointed means with holy desperation that God moves in mighty ways.

 

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  1. Lord, I was blind; I could not see
    In Thy marred visage any grace,
    But now the beauty of Thy face
    In radiant vision dawns on me.
  2. Lord, I was deaf; I could not hear
    The thrilling music of Thy voice;
    But now I hear Thee and rejoice,
    And all Thine uttered words are dear!
  3. Lord, I was dumb; I could not speak
    The grace and glory of Thy name;
    But now, as touched with living flame,
    My lips Thine eager praises wake.
  4. Lord, I was dead; I could not stir
    My lifeless soul to come to Thee;
    But now, since Thou hast quickened me,
    I rise from sin’s dark sepulcher.
  5. For Thou hast made the blind to see,
    The deaf to hear, the dumb to speak,
    The dead to live; and, lo, I break
    The chains of my captivity.

Author: William Tidd Matson

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Slogans are quite a handy piece of conversation starters.  One might find politicians of every stripe and affiliation asserting the necessity to “defend the common man”, commercials encouraging you to “just do it” in your choice of athletic gear, or automobile advertisements encouraging you to select their product because it is “like a rock”.  Such statements can be riveting, trivial, or even somewhat hilarious (watching reruns on Monday of Super Bowl commercials can demonstrate any or all three at once).

 

Let’s suppose we have an avid jogger who, after just finishing a 5 mile run in the city, finds himself very hungry and conveniently 10 feet from a hot dog vender.  It is quite a convenient and tasty choice to grab a couple of chili dogs and wolf them down with a large coke.  No doubt his hunger will be satisfied.  But this is also an easy way to more than erase all the good he just did for his body by expending (let’s say) roughly 40 minutes of sweat and labor.  Popular slogans in American post-modern culture are often just like this poor choice of post-exercise diet .  They are fun, tasty, convenient, and hip.  They also are rich in style but practically empty of the real substance of actual answers.  Perhaps this shouldn’t be terribly surprising in a culture where the American dream seems to more closely resemble “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” than “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness”.

 

As the Church, in the twentieth century, drifted farther away from exegetical and Word-centered preaching and ministry, she lost an emphasis on the Gospel, which alone is her only tool classified as the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16Romans 1:16
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16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  

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).  Sadly, rather than return in repentance and faith, many have chosen to mimic the success  found in public marketing by creating slogans that all-to-often humor or flatter the passer-by but rarely serve to warn of the wrath to come and point the eyes of the soul to Jesus Christ.  As a result, wristbands, t-shirts, and quips have flooded the Church market of youth groups and billboards that have systematically replaced the substance of the Gospel with the style of hip religion.

 

In these next several posts, we’ll examine one of these popular slogans: “We need to get back to the Early Church.”  So often, slogans in religious circles can have grains or nuggets of truth in them, and may often be intended to help address and remedy real problems.  Every Christian ought to care about the problems in our Churches and our precious nation.  But we have to care enough to examine every thought, slogan, or movement in the full light of the Word of God.  Why?  Because every Christian who seeks to meet a need, resolve a problem, or answer a question has only one resource that will stand the test of time (1 Peter 1:24-251 Peter 1:24-25
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24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: For: or, For that 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.  

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).  This means we have to love God and others in such a way as to give answers that last.  This means we have to be concerned about theology.  Yep—there I said it.  Christians have to love theology if they want to answer the problems of our day.  Why?  Because theology is simply the knowledge of God.  And because the Bible tells us that the knowledge of God is the only remedy to bring men from sitting in great darkness to see the eternal and everlasting light of God’s glory in Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:16Matthew 4:16
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16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.  

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, 2 Corinthians 4:62 Corinthians 4:6
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6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. hath: Gr. is he who hath  

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).  Theology, dear friends, makes all the difference, because the knowledge of God in our hearts is the only thing on which to build for time and eternity.

 

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The Gospel & Racism

by Ernie on January 22, 2013

Having grown up in rural Alabama, the reality of racism was something that I wasn’t immune to as a little boy.  Derogatory terms or disdain for a person of different color was something I often heard from my extended family.  As I grew up and learned the story of segregation and the difficulty that my fellow Americans went through-just to be accepted on equal footing because of their skin color-my thoughts were stirred as I realized there were tendencies in me that were not reflective of biblical truth.  This became especially clear to me when I was confronted with some aspects of what it meant to be God’s creation—and even more so with those who were joint heirs with me of the kingdom of glory.  Here are a few truths from God’s Word that helped me to see the worth and equality of my fellow creatures.

 

God made man in His image.  This fact alone, properly considered, should be the death of all racism.  Man fundamentally is a creature made in the image of God—we reflect His handiwork, have the same law written on our hearts, and the same desires and struggles in a fallen world.  There is no man who, as a sinner, has a greater marring of God’s image because of his skin color.  Genesis 6:5Genesis 6:5
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5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. every...: or, the whole imagination: the Hebrew word signifieth not only the imagination, but also the purposes and desires continually: Heb. every day  

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declares God’s view of fallen man and it has nothing to do with outward differences.  1 Corinthians 4:71 Corinthians 4:7
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7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? maketh...: Gr. distinguisheth thee  

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asks a pertinent question—who makes us different from each other?  To judge based on differences that result from God’s creative hand is ultimately to cast blame at God’s feet just like Adam did when he said “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12Genesis 3:12
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12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.  

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).

 

God judges us based upon our actions, thoughts, and desires.  We sinners are always looking at things opposite from God—“for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:71 Samuel 16:7
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7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. outward...: Heb. eyes  

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).  The Bible asserts throughout that God is holy, loves righteousness, and will not clear the guilty.  Jeremiah 17:9Jeremiah 17:9
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9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?  

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exposes the problem that God has with all men—“For the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  Jeremiah then tells us, in the next verse, how God exposes such a heart—“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reigns, even to give to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings”.

 

God’s purpose in redemption is to glorify Himself by building a spiritual superstructure from every tongue, tribe, kindred, and nation.  Revelation presents a beautiful picture of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would be a father of many nations.  Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who counted their natural descent from Abraham but were strangers to the works of Abraham.  Revelation gives us precious snapshots of what is going on in heaven—the people of every color, tongue, tribe, and nation are singing the praises of the Lamb Who sits upon His throne!  There the souls of a multi-colored throng delight in the works of Abraham as faith has been turned to sight and they sing in perfect harmony the praises of Him Who died for them!

Racism will only meet its end when we recognize our common Maker, our common image, our common sinfulness, our common Savior, and our common home with Christ.  In short, only the Gospel can bring sanity to minds filled with unreasonable and unjust hate.  The Gospel shows us our rightful place in the dust before a holy God and then causes us to rise in humble joy with all our redeemed kindred to praise the triune God Who made and re-made us for His glory.

“Man was made in the image of God–this fact destroys racism. Red and yellow, black and white–all bear the stamp of divine handiwork. And as we bear the same Maker we share in a common lot of misery by sin. But hallelujah! We therefore have a common Savior, a common salvation. The answer to racial tensions is therefore not ultimately political but spiritual–the divisions caused by sin are only healed at Calvary’s cross. It is from this alone that every knee will bow and every tongue confess; it is from this alone that every tongue and tribe and kindred will gather in sweet unity around the Lamb and sing in perfect harmony the praises of the triune God.”–William Giles

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