Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Galilean voice is saying, "Come, follow me."


The Gospel Coalition Blog
 2014

RUSSELL MOORE Can We Trade Sexual Morality for Church Growth?

From time to time we hear some telling us that evangelical Christianity must re-tool our sexual ethic if we're ever going to reach the next generation. Some say that Millennials, particularly, are leaving the church because of our "obsession" with sexual morality. The next generation needs a more flexible ethic, they say, on premarital sex, homosexuality, and so on. We'll either adapt, the line goes, or we'll die.

This argument is hardly new. In the early 20th century, this was precisely the rhetoric used by liberal Protestant Harry Emerson Fosdick and his co-laborers. Fosdick was concerned, he said, for the future of Christianity, and if the church was to have a future we would have to get over our obsession with virginity. By that, Fosdick didn't mean the virginity of single Christians but the virginity of our Lord's mother.

The younger generation wanted to be Christian, the progressives told their contemporaries, but they couldn't accept outmoded ideas of the miraculous, such as the virgin birth of Christ. What the liberals missed is that such miracles didn't become hard to believe with the onset of the modern age. They always had been hard to believe from the beginning.

Joseph's reaction to Mary's announcement of her pregnancy, after all, wasn't, "Well, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas." He assumed that she had been sexually unfaithful. Why? Because he and his contemporaries knew how people get pregnant.

But the Christian message isn't burdened down by the miraculous. It's inextricably linked to it. A virgin woman conceives. The lame walk. The blind see. A dead man is resurrected, ascends to heaven, and sends the Spirit. The universe's ruler is on his way to judge the living and the dead. Those who do away with such things are left with what J. Gresham Machen rightly identified as a different religion, a religion as disconnected from global Christianity as the made-up religion of Wicca is from the actual Druids of old.

Always Difficult

The same is true with a Christian sexual ethic. Sexual morality didn't become difficult with the onset of the sexual revolution. It always has been. Walking away from our own lordship, or from the tyranny of our desires, has always been a narrow way. The rich young ruler wanted a religion that would promise him his best life now, extended out into eternity. But Jesus knew that such an existence isn't life at all, just the zombie corpse of the way of the flesh. He came to give us something else, to join us to his own life.

If we withhold what our faith teaches about a theology of the body, of marriage, of what it means to be created male and female, we will breed nothing but cynicism from those who will rightly conclude that we see them not as sinners in need of good news but as a marketing niche to be exploited by telling them what they want to hear.

You can't grow a Christian church by being sub-Christian. That's why there are no booming Arian or Unitarian or Episcopal Church (USA) church-planting movements. But even if it "worked" to negotiate away sexual morality for church growth, we wouldn't do it. We can only reach Millennials, and anyone else, by reaching them with the gospel, good news for repentant sinners through the shed blood and empty tomb of Jesus Christ.

If we have to choose between Millennials and Jesus, we choose Jesus.

No Amendment

Some think the Christian sexual ethic is akin to our congregation's constitution and by-laws, that it can be amended by a two-thirds vote. But this isn't the case. Sexuality isn't ancillary to the gospel but is itself an embodied icon of the gospel, pointing us to the union of Christ and his church (Eph. 5:29-32).

This is why the Bible speaks of sexual immorality as having profound spiritual consequences (1 Cor. 6:17-20), ultimately leading, if not repented of, to exile from the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Sexual immorality isn't simply a matter of neurons firing. A Christian view of reality means that the body is a temple, set apart to be a dwelling place for
the Holy Spirit. Sexual immorality isn't just bad for us (although it is); it's also an act of desecrating a holy place.

There's little surprise then that the Jerusalem Council, while not placing the burden of the Mosaic ceremonial law on the new Gentile believers, did decree that the new brothers and sisters in Christ must flee sexual immorality (Acts 17:20). In a world of concubines and temple prostitutes and public pornography, a Christian sexual ethic was just as freakish and counter-cultural in the first-century Greco-Roman world as it is today, if not more so.

But the apostles maintained the pattern of sound words they were given because to do anything else would be to replace King Jesus with another lord, and to preach "peace" where there is still war, "Spirit" where there is still flesh.

They wouldn't do it, and neither should we.

Virgin births and empty tombs are hard to believe. Fidelity and chastity are hard to live. That's why we don't have a natural gospel but a supernatural one.

And that's why Jesus isn't a means to where we want to go. He's a voice calling us to where we don't, left to ourselves, want to go: the way of the cross.

If we want to reach the next generation, they must hear from us a Galilean voice saying, "Come, follow me." Anything less is just more marketing for an already well-marketed Broad Way. And the end thereof is death.

Russell D. Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.


Copyright © 2014 The Gospel Coalition, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 28, 2014

COME, HOLY SPIRIT!



MAGAZINE: HEMMETS VAN - (HOME COMPANION)
2014-07-24


Come, Holy Spirit!

I have not had the opportunity to attend any of the conferences held over the past midsummer, but I have listened to parts of the expositions that were broadcast on the Web-TV.

What really captured me and led me to seek God anew for myself and the body of Christ in Sweden was a message by a pastor from Ethiopia who spoke in one of the evening meetings during Nyhems Week. I sensed strongly that the message had a prophetic universal application addressed to Christianity in Sweden.

The story of Samson's tragic fate (Judges chapters 13-16) suddenly confronted me stood directly by his sermon with the same prophetic force that Nathan’s accusatory story before David once had. In our fervor to be relevant in the eyes of the world, we lose the power of God over our lives and become "just as weak and ineffective as any other human being."

The very wording seemed like a realistic summary of the state of Swedish Christianity. The message was rendered in a spirit of sadness, that we have lost the spiritual initiative but yet culminated in an encouraging salutation that "God is a God, one more time" - that is, he gives us yet another opportunity to assume our status in Christ and see the power of God manifest throughout our lives.

Because the sermon is still available on Nyhem Week website online, I will not try to restate the sermon but to say; it must be heard in its entirety. After I listened to the message, I began to reflect on how we got into that state of weakness in which we now find ourselves.

Since the 1960s, much of Christianity has become all too familiar, and we’ve assumed a too comfy relationship with the Holy Spirit. Spirit baptism and speaking in tongues now occurs also within traditional churches, those that previously had a wall of theological suspicion of charismatic spirituality. The authentic experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit has become commonplace and has been destructed to be a simple reception in faith.

In this way the pattern differs from that which characterized the spiritual guidance of the former Pentecostal revival. There "one prayed/pleaded oneself through” to be baptized in the Spirit, and which was for many an often long and difficult struggle. In this respect the ‘charismatic’ wave came as a liberation movement. No one would have to fight his way to the Holy Spirit, as the gift was already given. But we must also not ignore the fact that the prayer battle they talked about often became a sanctification process that led to a deeper joining together in the Lord.

Today we are in a "post-charismatic" period where we neutralized the life of the Holy Spirit through a superficial and comfy spirituality. Many are content today that they have spoken in tongues - but unwilling to develop the potential of "praying in the Spirit" or edify himself through developing his prayer language. The charismatic movement also became a challenge in the academic world in attempting to formalize the experience of the Holy Spirit in theological categories. The "Pentecostal theology" has contributed to a theological acceptance of the Holy Spirit but can also become an academic tool to "deal  with the Holy Spirit" without knowing or recognizing its potential or power.

Today we have lost our credibility as a Christian movement by a superficial and indifferent relationship with the Holy Spirit. He is indeed our friend, our helper, but he is also the fire that tackles "wheat on the threshing floor" when Jesus begins to use the chaff removal device. We simply have to become more serious about the Holy Spirit! I do not believe that the Holy Spirit has left us but the Spirit is grieved because we do not respect the purpose of his presence. Paul rebuked the church in Corinth; they lived with the Holy Spirit in a carnal and immature manner. But he did not want to limit their eagerness to discover and practice the full capacity of the gifts of the Spirit. "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit " We must realize our desperate need of the Holy Spirit. As a comforter, he can only perform His duty when we make ourselves dependent on him.

Some argue that Paul placed love as a key spiritual gift. As if love is anything we ourselves can achieve. But love in the first church was not a social project of general benevolence - it was the Holy Spirit's active presence in the believer's life. Without a life in the Holy Spirit, everything that otherwise seems separation from people in general, will also separate people from each other in the Christian fellowship. We need the Holy Spirit!! Jesus said; “do nothing until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Vi behöver både elden och kraften. Elden är till för att förbränna det som är skal utan kärna i våra liv, köttslighet och högmod. Kraften i Andens gåvor är till för att tjäna Gud och fullgöra vårt uppdrag att vara hans medarbetare för rikets tillkommelse genom att stå Satan emot och att i den helige Andes kraft verka för människors frälsning, befrielse, helande och upprättelse på alla livsområden.

We need both the fire and power. The fire is to burn away those shells that are without a core in our lives - carnality and pride. The power of the Spirit's gifts is to serve God and fulfill our mission to be his co-workers for the kingdom coming, by standing against Satan and through the Holy Spirit work for the all persons’ salvation, deliverance, healing and restoration in all areas of life.

Come, Holy Spirit!
Sven Nilsson




Translated by Sven Ljungholm, FSAOF, Liverpool

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Their next CHURCH visit will be when attending their own funeral.


I feel I must apologise to all those who have been following the recent reports relating to the FSAOF retreat in Sweden and expecting a sequential daily update. It was not my intent to divert from a rather straight-forward report focusing on the four day retreat. Each of the three keynote speakers alone deserve several articles highlighting their very worthwhile contributions on how we, former officers, and other committed Christians, can and ought to remain spiritually vibrant as we serve in our various capacities in the salvation war. However, in the short time that Glad and I were in Sweden, witnessing and reading about the general indifference to religion and all things spiritual, and the insipid state of the Swedish church, I felt led to push the half written retreat articles aside and to refresh myself intellectually on my own family’s centuries old faith history and the church to which all Swedes are tied, and do a little research and focus on the muddled church landscape in what is my ‘homeland’.

The questions, criticism and ‘answers’ tumble in from every direction and level of authority, from people in the know, those who think they know and those who have not a clue. But hey, in Sweden equality means everyone has a right to be heard no matter their experience or knowledge. And those seeking to be heard present themselves to 6.5 million members in the Church of Sweden (Lutheran), founded in 1527, who have for the most part neither faith experience or knowledge.

POLITICIANS CONTROL THE CHURCH

With no more than 3 percent of Swedes seeing the Bible as the reliable Word of God, the vast majority of the politicians in church governing bodies want ‘evangelicals’ out of power. The Church of Sweden cut its ties with the state (federal government) a year ago in a historic move to secure independence from government oversight and liberal theologians making further advances in controlling the affairs of the church. In reality, this agreement means that secular political parties hold the upper hand. "There is very little change," said Berth Löndahl, an evangelical Lutheran pastor in the southernmost city of Malmö. Löndahl concedes that ‘evangelical’ clergy within the Church of Sweden are statistically a "doomed species."

Christianity Today reported as the church in Sweden moved into the 21st century that, “Theologically ‘conservative’ seminary students in Sweden find the path to Lutheran ordination has insurmountable obstacles. Evangelical Lutheran pastors are all but locked out of all future senior positions in the Church of Sweden.

The church is controlled locally, regionally, and nationally by candidates who are only required to be baptized [as infants], need not confess to Christianity in any way, nor ever attend church. For most their next visit will be when attending their own funeral.

 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. - Isaiah 55:8

Sweden has chosen a new archbishop, Antje Jackelén, who distances herself from, and rejects the Bible’s foundational tenets, the very ones on which the Swedish church was grounded, and which has sustained it for more than five centuries. The new archbishop basically renounces the Christian values which have girded and sustained the Swedish church since the reformation, when King Gustav Vasa established himself, not the Pope, as head of the church​​. He then commissioned the translation of the Bible into the Swedish language and the translated text was basically the only Swedish Bible used until 1917.

Many were severely shaken and taken aback by the theological opinions Jackelén revealed during a questioning in Uppsala on October 1, 2013.
Antje denies that Christ was born of a virgin, rejects the existence of Hell, says that parts of the Bible are not true, believes all religions are equally valid, refusing to say whether Jesus or Mohammed most correctly reveals the nature of God.

The Swedish church’s elected archbishop is unable to in truth acknowledge or recite the Apostle’s Creed, at least the core that says; “I believe. . .in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.”

The candidates for the highest position in the Swedish church were asked if they thought Jesus presented a truer picture of God than Muhammed. With her evasive answer Jackelén suddenly emerged as the bishop who couldn’t choose between Jesus and Muhammed. Editors could have had a scoop – except few people cared! Most had distanced themselves soon after leaving Sunday School at age 8 or 10.

Kyrkans Tidning (The Church News) thought that the bishop’s answer might indicate that Christ is being relegated to the margins of the Church of Sweden. Sweden’s major daily paper, Dagens Nyheter (Today’s News) encouraged the candidates to demonstrate some theological backbone. In 2007 Antje Jackelén was elected bishop of the diocese of Lund after leaving her position at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, where she had taught systematic theology/religion and natural science. However, there is some question about her claim to be a professor of theology – and certainly not according to Swedish standards.

While a professor of the ELCA, Antje Jackelén signed a letter declaring her support of evolution and rejecting the Biblical account of creation. And
Jackelén rejects the Biblical authority on homosexuality.

The curriculum is linked to the so-called "progressive Christianity" movement. The eight primary tenets of this ecumenical, loose affiliation of mainline Protestant congregations include the belief that all faiths lead to God apart from the unique atoning work of Jesus Christ in his life, death, and resurrection; that the unbaptized should be admitted to communion; and that the historic, biblical doctrines of Christianity are, in large part, no longer helpful or necessary. This "progressive Christianity" therefore stands in direct opposition to apostolic Christianity.

The ELCA's official website makes this statement about the Virgin Birth, "while it remains official and normative for the Evangelical Lutheran Church today, it has not closed the doctrinal debate over Jesus’ conception for many Lutherans, and by inference that includes ELCA members." 

The editorial writer at the newspaper Dagen, Sweden’s largest Christian newspaper wrote that, it is time to accept the idea of a split within the church – between Christians and those who believe all religions are equally valid.

One of the church’s most preeminent theologians, professor Eva Hamberg, resigned her post as a member of the church’s theological council in protest against bishop Antje Jackelén’s failure to acknowledge and stand firmly behind the Church of Sweden’s profession of faith. As a reaction to what she termed ”the inner secularization of the Church of Sweden”, she also renounced her position as priest and her membership of the church.

Jackelén’s victory has been characterized as historic. For the first time in the church’s history the archbishop will be a woman. And while many hailed it as a victory for unification others saw it as taking yet another step towards its abolition.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. - Isaiah 55:8

Martin Luther said that one…."should take pains to have one definite and simple understanding of Scripture and not to be a wanderer and vagabond, like the rabbis, the Scholastic theologians, and the professors of law, who are always toiling with ambiguities." (LW. 8.209; Q. in Ibid.)

She does not believe that Jesus is the only way to God and doesn’t believe in the virgin birth or heaven and hell.

Should a fundamental requirement of the person leading the world’s largest church reasonably be that he/she is actually a Christian and believes the creed? Or should the election of the person be based on their apostasy, their ability to deliberately teach a false doctrine consistently, clearly and openly, and to be persistent about it, making them immediately identifiable with their flock?

The great tragedy is that millions of Swedish laypersons will continue to be kept in the dark about the degree to which outright apostasy has overtaken their church. And the ever-increasing likelihood, the absolute tragedy, that they will never hear the good news, not just the concept, but that nothing can compare with all that becomes ours in Jesus Christ when we find salvation. The Gospel offers forgiveness, justification, adoption and eternal life to those who are searching for purpose and meaning to those who have found that materialism and sensual pleasure are not the answer to the deepest yearnings of the heart.

Feed me, Lord Jesus, give me to drink,
Fill all my hunger, quench all my thirst;
Flood me with joy, be the strength of my life,
Fill all my hunger, quench all my thirst.

Sven Ljungholm
Swedish Lutheran Church - Adherent

Monday, July 21, 2014

Let's Rock it for The Man!


As we drove into the parking lot lo and behold what a nice surprise to see that there were reserved spaces for seniors.  We were warmly greeted at the church doors and found a seat in the auditorium near the back should we desire to make a quick exit.  We were early enough to take in the surroundings: a room that would seat a thousand people easily, a huge screen up front with a welcome together with the announcements.  There was no cross to be seen anywhere in the building, no organ, and no grand piano, and we discovered that the communion table with its “This do in remembrance of me” had been pushed to the back of the church on one of the side aisles, forgotten until the next time it was needed!

The people started to pour in and soon the building was packed.  It was then we were treated to an excellent woman musician playing the alto saxophone.  She played an arrangement of gospel songs and hymns with variations reaching both the high and low notes of the instrument.  It was masterful and one sat back thinking this can’t get any better.  She appeared later during the offertory and delighted us again, this time to a glorious interpretation of Fairest Lord Jesus and This is my Father’s World!

Then all of a sudden the whole battery of lights illuminated the stage and on walked the Praise Team!  Oh goody more religious nursery rhymes and Buddhist musical oms.  All the musicians were teen-age boys and they could play the electric guitars for sure and the percussionist was a black youngster enclosed in a wall of glass.  All hell broke loose as the drums let out a terrific roar and the show was on the track.  

Everybody to their feet, hands clapping, bums swinging, all eyes fixed on the screen, the words repeating themselves again and again:  “God’s love never runs out, never runs out, never runs out, never runs out, never runs.  It never runs out!”  One young fellow near the front was standing on tip toe, thrusting his index finger in the air as far as it would go,
and swaying to the right and left like the pendulum on a grandfather’s clock.
One of the young staff members came forward to pray and pray he did with passion gesturing all the while as he informed God that last week there were six hundred children in the VBS program and one hundred of them gave their hearts to Jesus, as if God didn’t already know.  Give him credit though there was a stream of consciousness in the words that could rival a James Joyce novel.  Prayer was offered for both sides of the conflict in Israel, for after all there are more Christians in Palestine, but God still favours the Jews and Canada stands behind Israel, and our PM is a good “Bible believing Christian”!

Next the preacher arrived on the stage wearing a “slim” in black suit handkerchief in pocket, a coloured shirt, tieless, with brown patent shoes. A young couple was having their baby dedicated.  We were informed that the dedication was not a baptism, and a little sermonette was delivered that salvation was something to be pursued by the parents as time went on with the child attending Sunday school etc. Then a short liturgy from a prescribed book was read which involved the parent’s promises and those of the congregation, with all the while a picture of the baby being shown on the screen.

The text for the day was 1 Peter and one thing we noticed right off is that both the liberal Baptist of last Sunday together with the fundamentalist of this, like to use the conjunctions “Um” “and-a”.  To give the man credit though one could tell from the screen that we were going to be blessed with an expository message, a good introduction, and four points.  People were all equipped with their Bibles, some were taking notes on the sheet provided in the bulletin, and others were texting on their I-pads or notebooks.  He spoke clearly so even those of us who were deaf could hear every word, the gestures were always appropriate, he had freedom to move around; there was just one irritating point about the delivery: he kept on taking off his glasses and putting them on or swinging them in his hand at least one hundred times with no exaggeration during the forty five minute spiel.  There was no doubt about the theology – those attuned to Calvinism and Dispensationalism could find comfort in assurances of God’s sovereignty even though the world was in a terrible state.  Indicative of that, according to a recent poll only 14% of Canadian born again believers read their Bibles, which meant that 86 per cent did not!!!

The sermon was over, the drummer started pounding the drums, the praise team hurried to the stage, the people got to their feet, and as soon as the guitars started to strum and the people started to sing we made a bee line to the door following many others who were anxious to get to their cars before being caught in a traffic jam.  Mary Lee’s response, “twice to the Baptists, enough is enough” or something that meant the same thing.  Apparently we are not going to become Anglicans, and not Baptists, we will see what the Pentecostals have to offer next Sunday at the Embassy.

Former on the beat!