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I was in line at Starbucks the other day and ordered my standard latte that has a whole lot more milk, syrup, and whipped cream than it does coffee. I walked over to add some sugar to the already overly-sweetened drink, when I noticed they were temporarily out of sugar. #firstworldproblems
I looked for an alternative, but the options weren't that great. Instead of "real" sugar, there was Sweet 'N Low, Spenda, Truvia, and Equal. These aren't truly sugar, but are "substitutes". They mimic the "real" thing, but the differences are subtle enough to be absolutely (and sometimes diametrically) different. I wonder if we can apply this same idea to the teaching of God's Word.
Paul said in Titus 2:1: “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”
Why did he say that? Because in chapter 1 of Titus, the Apostle Paul reveals that there are many who are teaching something that is NOT in accordance with sound doctrine. He said:
10For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.
I confess I'm a little shocked that Paul says "MANY" are teaching what they ought not to teach, because today it's no different. There’s a few things that indeed are substitutes, replacements, of good teaching. Here's 4:
1. Current Thinking
This causes you to stay “relevant” and entertain rather than proclaim the glory of God. If all a pastor/teacher is doing is sharing their opinion based on man’s wisdom then they really have nothing to say. But if instead we focus on the unchanging truths of God’s Word, which doesn’t return void, we always have the opportunity to be impacted and moved because God’s word is living and active.
2. Therapeutic Deism
This gives great “advice” that can be packaged as "Christian" but one will never learn the truth of the Scriptures, just someone’s counsel. Sermons begin to sound like magazine article titles at the checkout line: "5 ways to love your neighbor", "3 ways to stop being angry", etc. It isn't much different than "4 ways to be a better pet owner". And the worst part is that you can apply the advice to any religion or worldview. It is just therapy that you can insert into any religious belief or practice. It doesn’t need a suffering Servant on a cross, just good ideas, like the church is Pinterest. "Oh wow, that’s cute, let’s repost that."
3. Easy Belief-ism
This is the erroneous idea that Jesus is merely your Savior, so trust in Him and do whatever you want. But the Gospel isn't that Jesus is merely our Savior; the Gospel is that Jesus is Lord. We need to stop praying Jesus "into our hearts" and begin calling people to take up their cross, follow Him, and die to themselves (Luke 9:23). Jesus actually told us to do this daily.
4. Temporal Blessings
Sadly many people emphasize living for today without a regard to eternity. There's no talk about suffering or reward, just prosperity and ambition, success and happiness. I'm hard-pressed to read the New Testament clearly with this mindset without tip-toeing or flatly ignoring large passages including the book of Acts!
In the end, we must teach what accords with sound doctrine. That can't happen without a slow, methodical journey through all of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. I'm so blessed to be a pastor of a church that models this and a movement that is known for it. May we "preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Tim 4:2-6)
-Pastor Pilgrim Benham
The cross is the centerpiece of Christianity. But sadly, many people see the cross as cool, elegant, or even unnecessary. We studied Mark 15:21-47 and saw 7 different eyewitnesses at the cross.
Simon of Cyrene
We met Simon, the Libyan proselyte who was in Jerusalem to worship. We learned that Simon was forced to carry Jesus' cross, and that most likely he and his family received Christ after this encounter. Paul seems to mention Rufus (Simon's son's name) in Romans 16:13 as well as Simon's wife being an encouragement to him. We learned that even random encounters with Jesus can change people's lives forever.
The Thief on the Cross
Jesus was crucified between two thieves. Luke tells us in his Gospel that one of these thieves repented and confessed Christ as Lord. Even in our fleeting last moments there is hope that we can be with the Lord.
This captain of 100 Roman soldiers had observed dozens, if not hundreds, of crucifixions. Yet there was something about the way Jesus died that stood out to him and caused him to confess Jesus as the Son of God. Even people we write off as "unreachable" may be impacted by the Gospel as they see Jesus.
Mary Magdalene | Mary mother of Joses | Salome
These women would normally not be admitted as eyewitnesses in a trial, yet Mark uses them as key witnesses to Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. He also points out that they had been ministering to Jesus even as far back as His work in Galilee. They followed Jesus even to the cross, while the disciples (other than John) were in hiding.
Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph was a prominent Sanhedrin council member, yet boldly gets the courage up to ask Pilate for Jesus' body. He then methodically and carefully prepares Jesus' body for burial, allowing Jesus to be buried in his own (rich man's) tomb, a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
These testimonies tell us one thing: THE CROSS OF CHRIST CHANGES LIVES! Today we could be guilty of emptying the cross of its power (1 Cor 1:17) by trying to spice up our communication of the Gospel. But this is unneeded. We merely need to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:1-5) and be faithful to live lives that are daily crucified (Gal 2:20). The cross should inform every area of our lives and we should be known foremost as "People of the Cross".
I can't wait to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ this Sunday together with our community!! He is risen indeed!!