Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Serpent in the Tree Goes Twist, Twist, Twist All Through the Church

A few days ago, I got an email from an old friend. "Did you see this on facebook?" she asked, and she pasted this:
"One thing I said was that it was high time that Christians open wide their arms, wide their churches, wide their tables, wide their homes to the LGBT community. So great has our condemnation and exclusion been that gay Christian teens are seven times more likely to commit suicide. Nope. No. No ma'am. Not on my watch. No more. This is so far outside the gospel of Jesus that I don't even recognize its reflection. I can't. I won't. I refuse. So whatever the cost and loss, this is where I am. Gay teens? Gay adults? Mommies and daddies of precious gaybees? Friends and beloved neighbors of very dear LGBT folk? Here are my arms open wide. So very wide that every last one of you can jump inside. You are so dear, so beloved, so precious and important. You matter so desperately, and your life is worthy and beautiful. There is nothing "wrong with you" or in any case, nothing more wrong or right than with any of us, which is to say we are all hopelessly screwed up, but Jesus still loves us beyond all reason and lives to make us all new, restored, whole. Yay for Jesus! Thank God He loves us. He is not embarrassed of any of us. I am not a scandal. You are not a scandal. We are not 'bringing down his band.' Anyway, my message to you today is simple, LGBT gang and all those who love you: You are loved and special and wanted and needed. The end." (Jen Hatmaker, Facebook, 4/24/16)
I assure you I'm not spending a moment of my time following Mrs. Hatmaker. But when something outlandish like this comes across my desk, I feel compelled to check it out. Anyway...
My first reaction: Well, duh.
My second reaction: Grace, grace, grace. Do some investigating. Maybe it's out of context. Maybe she'll clarify. Maybe it isn't as really, awfully, horribly bad as it sounds.
Investigating done, my third reaction: It's as really, awfully, horribly bad as it sounds.

I am not a scandal. You are not a scandal.
Whoopsie. Seems we've been dawdling at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil again, haven't we? Here. Let me wipe that juice off your chin:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. I Corinthians 6:9-11.
I am a scandal, you are a scandal, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Of course, there's the kernel of truth in there, too. Yes, all people matter. Yes, all people are important. Yes, all people have unquantifiable worth. But kernels of truth do not wise people make. Satan spoke kernels of truth, too.

Now, let's say she meant, Come as you are. Yes. Absolutely. Our churches are full of sanctifying ex-sinners, who enjoyed our sin and rebellion until God washed us. That's our testimony: what we were and what we now are and the difference between the two wrought by the saving power of Jesus Christ.

But she didn't mean that. She meant, Stay as you are. He's not embarrassed of any of us. True dat. God's not embarrassed;  He's offended. And God certainly doesn't mean for us to stay that way. And such were some of you, says Paul. WERE.

There's a world of difference between Come-as-you-are and Stay-as-you-are, a chasm of outer darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth. Come as you are; that is grace. Bathe in it. Give thanks for it. Stay as you are; that's hell. Run.

Opening wide their arms, wide their churches, wide their tables...
That would be Corinth. Hatmaker's just updating their playbook.
Paul's response? Knock it off.

Corinth was one sad mess of a church. They couldn't agree on the best teachers, they couldn't agree on how to come to the Lord's Table. But they appeared to agree on a wide open church to people who at the same time called themselves practising saints and practising sinners. It's important to note that Corinth wasn't rebuked for not being inclusive enough; they were rebuked for not being exclusive enough.

Jen Hatmaker is not flying under the radar. This is not a lost little lamb who just needs someone to come along and mentor her. She's not sitting on my couch pondering this deep, wide thing called grace, processing aloud, wrestling with issues of mercy and justice. Lots of us are. Lots of us are feeling the tension of how to show God's love and stand with Him on His Word. That tension is right and good. Truth and souls are at stake here.

Hatmaker is experiencing none of this tension. Worse, she is a nationally known speaker and author, charismatic, gifted...and very, very influential.  This is someone who has an incredible amount of draw among female believers, and she purposefully puts herself and her message out there. I can deduce but two things.
she is Biblically ignorant, in which case she should not be speaking or writing; she should be sitting under the preaching of God's Word in a solid church until she gets her spiritual feet under her
she is Biblically insolent, in which case she should not be speaking or writing; she should be repenting.
Either way, she should not be speaking or writing.

I know that the Christian community is divided on her, even among my own circle of friends. I figured clarification would eventually come, one way or the other. God has a way of removing middle ground, sooner or later. It now appears that that has just happened.

I've got five daughters, one daughter-in-law (with hopefully many more to come), and one granddaughter (so far). So this grizzly mama is passionately concerned about women like Hatmaker. To that end, I offer the only wisdom I can offer to all the women I love: RUN. Run fast. In the other direction.

Is Jen Hatmaker a real believer?
The gospel is simple. So I am willing to say that it is possible that she is a poorly catechized believer. But the gospel is also precise. So I am unwilling to say that it is probable. That's as much grace as I can muster without selling out.

One thing is for sure. Jen Hatmaker is preaching the wrong gospel because she's solving the wrong problem.

More to come...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More Than Hopeful

And He personally brought you out of Egypt by His great power. Deuteronomy 4:37

"Jesus is not 'anxious,' 'worried,' or 'hopeful,' " said Matt Chandler at Together for the Gospel last week, finger-quoting each of the adjectives as he spoke. It was the second time in as many weeks that I had heard a reliable source disdain the portrayal of Jesus as 'hopeful', the pacing God, wringing His hands over the possibility that some He had died for might not take Him up on His offer.

The week before, I had read this in J.I. Packer's book, In My Place Condemned He Stood: The Gospel will not countenance the degrading presentation of Christ as the baffled Savior, balked in what He hoped to do by unbelief. 

It's a good word. It's an important word. But let us not use 'hopeful' in the wrong application.

There are traits reserved for God. God is jealous, wrathful, and perfect. We are not. And there are traits reserved for us: sinful, fickle,...and hopeful.

In recent days, I am more and more convinced that hopeful is not a term we should EVER use to describe God. 'Hopeful' implies something that we yearn for but that is beyond our control. There is nothing that God yearns for that He does not get. There is nothing outside of His control.

Jesus did not offer us salvation.
He saved us.
Jesus did make salvation available.
He saved us.
Jesus does not 'hope' that we get saved.
He saved us.

And He personally brought you out of Egypt by His great power. He didn't ask or cajole. He is not like the modern daddy who gets down on eye level and pleads with his son, asking, "Would you like to come with Daddy?" No. A thousand times no. Rather, He takes his son's hand and declares, "You are coming with Me."

Some people don't like that. If Jesus secured salvation, then how does that explain those who do not receive salvation? Does it mean that Jesus did not secure salvation for some?
That is precisely what it means.

And that is precisely what it means to say that it is by grace we are saved, and that not of ourselves.
It is by unmerited favor that we are saved.

Everyone's special, Dash.
Which is another way of saying no one is.
If everyone is favored--then no one is. Favor implies disfavor. There can't be favor if there is not also disfavor. They exist side by side, or they do not exist at all. So if there is no disfavor, there is no favor. And if there is no favor, then there is no grace. And if there is no grace, friends, then we are not saved.

Aw, she's still in the cage stage.
No. I'm not. Or rather, yes. I am.
If cage stage means that I rejoice in a God who secured my salvation...
If cage stage means I am overwhelmed by God and His saving grace...
If cage stage means God is biggER, bettER, kindER, MORE merciful, MORE gracious, MORE glorious to me in the last eighteen years or so than He ever was in my first thirty years...
then I'll never be out of the cage stage.

Growing up, God was portrayed to me as hopeful.
It was almost the good news.
It was almost finished.
I could almost sleep at night.

Packer is right; it is degrading to present God as merely hopeful. And he's right again: Can we seriously think that this most precious blood would be spent with the possibility of an empty class of people called 'the saved'?!?!
As if He is not powerful enough or sovereign enough to save.
As if He is not entitled to grant favor.
As if...He was a mere man.
As if.

And because we have a God who is not merely hopeful, we are not merely hopeful, either. We do not yearn for something that may or may not happen. Our hope is certain and sure because God is certain and sure, and His plan is certain and sure. This same Jesus who personally brought His people out of Egypt by His great power has personally saved us by His great power.

This is Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

That's not hopeful.
That's a wrap.