Daily Devotional 12-22-18

Volume 17, number 50, December 13, 2018
“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” -Psalm 119:105
When Worldly Words Enter the Church

Have you noticed how “wordsmiths” are able to frame the cultural issues of the day? They gain the “high ground”, so to speak. They soften the prevailing sentiments of a culture to make their ideas more acceptable. Proponents of abortion, for example, those who are all about murdering infants in the womb, call themselves “pro-choice.” They call an infant in her mother’s womb “fetal tissue.” Jim Crow laws in the south assured us that though there was segregation in the schools they were, after all, “separate but equal.” Unmarried people engaging in sexual intercourse say they are “sleeping with one another,” when the Bible calls it fornication. A married man with another woman calls it a fling or an affair while the Bible calls it adultery, literally pornoi (ourword is porn). 

The same has continued in the church of Jesus Christ for many years. In the mid 1970’s Dr. Jay Adams coined the term “nouthetic” counseling, which by the way is a Biblical term.[1] Dr. Adams was saying that pastors are “competent to counsel”, that they have the word of God which is all they need to deal with the problems people face within the church and world. However it was not long before psychotherapeutic language entered the church. We now pretty much accept these worldly words of self-esteem, boundaries, attachment theory, cognitive dissonance, defense mechanism, co-dependency, and so many more. Instead of using the Biblical word “sin” to describe one’s behavior, we now say that he is “wounded.” Rarely today do we find a counselor who depends solely on the word of God to help people through their problems.[2] 

A few years ago we began to hear the worldly word “social justice” enter the lexicon of the evangelical and Reformed church world. These leaders love to cite Micah 6:8 as their proof text for social justice, claiming that “our job is to turn the poor man’s life into a delight,” that a righteous man is in no way satisfied with halfway measures for the needy people in his community, that true justice includes generosity. In other words they combine, as a legal right, justice and mercy.[3] The Bible, however, contrary to what some have said, never speaks of social justice. It speaks of justice, or what we might call “giving each man his due”, to not cheat him or take from him his own property. All people should be treated fairly. The Bible also speaks of mercy. In relationship to God, this means not receiving what we deserve which is hell fire and judgment. In our relationship to others in the world, this means kindness, grace, helping those in need. 

The worldly use of the hyphen has also made its way into the church- as in Gay-Christian, Hispanic-Christian, African-American-Christian, Korean-Christian, Evangelical Christian, Progressive-Christian, and Conservative-Christian. Paul, however says that there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, Barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, but all are one in Christ (Colossians 3:1). Race, leading to racism (defined as a person or persons being prejudiced against another race, thinking his own race is superior), is not a Biblical term either. Paul, in his Aeropagus address, echoes the clear teaching of Genesis 1, 5, 11 that God has made from one man (clearly Paul means from one race), every nation of mankind to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation (Acts 17:26). There is only one race of people in all the world. The only difference between people is the amount of melanin one has in his skin. From this word race, of course, comes the worldly word, racial reconciliation. If we are reconciled to God through the person and work of Jesus Christ, then there is no need for so called racial reconciliation. It goes without saying, however, that if someone has in fact treated another person unjustly, then he must repent. Why do we even use these terms? What is the point? The words of Scripture must always supplant worldly words. 

The latest attempt at introducing worldly words into the church is fueled by the homosexual agenda. The church has always, until recently, used Biblical language in referring to homosexuality. The Greek words used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 malakoi(effeminate) and arsenokoitai (homosexual) are quite vivid and leave nothing to the imagination. Malakoi, effeminate, refers to the passive male partner in a homosexual relationship. Arsenokoitai, homosexual, refers to one who takes the active male role in homosexual intercourse.[4] Now, of course, we regularly hear the words gay, lesbian, same-sex attraction, same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ bantered about in the church. We have pastors telling their congregations that they have sexual attraction for men, but they promise to remain celibate. Some of them are telling us that they wish to be part of your family life, taking your children to school, tucking them in bed at night and reading them bedtime stories. These same people have introduced a church audit to help church leaders determine if they are “gay friendly”, open and affirming to the homosexual community.[5] We now have in the church worldly words such as transgenderism and gender dysphoria introduced by “Christian psychologists”.[6] The usage of these words, over a short period of time, lends credibility to the idea that a sex change operation can be acceptable, or that being confused about one’s sexuality is something to be embraced.[7] 

All these worldly words I have mentioned here are efforts, knowingly or unknowingly, to change the culture of the church, to alter the mission of the church, to alter the very gospel itself which we are called to proclaim. This is the old Hegelian dialectic at work. You remember that, don’t you, from your world history class in high school? The thesis is the status quo, the generally accepted norm for that particular culture. In order, however, to bring a change of the thesis or status quo, there must be upheaval. Within the church, this upheaval (or anti-thesis) is ushered in with worldly words. True, in the beginning there is significant push back, but eventually the worldly words are accepted and become mainstream. The result? A synthesis. We gain a whole new way of doing business in the church with a whole new vocabulary. Those who wish to maintain or go back to the status quo of Biblical language are then considered “old souls”, stuck in tradition, unwilling to bend with the times in order to be more relevant.

Let us remember, my friend, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the drippings of the honey comb. Moreover by them your servant is warned; in keeping them, there is great reward,” (Psalm 19:7-11).

Indeed, the word of God is a light to our path in a dark world. It gives light to our feet as we walk the treacherous path of life in this world. Are you using worldly words? Have you jettisoned Biblical words? If so, then get back, my friend, to Bible words to describe our culture and eschew the worldly words which undermine our authority and mission. 
1. From the Greek verb noutheteo which means to exhort, challenge, admonish, warn, putting sense into someone’s head, alerting them to serious consequences. See Acts 20:31, 1 Thess.5:12, Col.3:16, Rom.15:14, 1 Cor.4:14, Col.1:28, 2 Thess.3:15.
2. I know of at least one, Lou Priolo.
3. Tim Keller in Generous Justice and Colin Hanson in Young, Restless, and Reformed are two such examples.
4. Malakoi literally means fine, clothing delicate to the touch. See Matthew 11:8, Luke 7:25, men dressed in soft clothing. Arsenokoitai comes from two Greek words – arsen which means male and koite which means bed, literally a man who lies with a male as with a female. <www.neverthirsty.org>
5. <www.livingout.org>
6. Psychologist Dr. Mark Yarhouse speaking at Biola University and Covenant College, among other places, floats this notion to unsuspecting, undiscerning young people, giving these terms a sense of respectability and acceptance.  
7. “Transgenderism at the Evangelical Theological Society” <www.theaquilareport> November 23, 2018. “We should consider ‘transgender Christians’ as having a good self-understanding when they perceive themselves to be gendered opposite their biological sex.” 

Al BakerAl Baker is an Evangelistic Revival Preacher with Reformed Evangelistic Fellowship.  
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