Replacement Theology

November 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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All it takes is a quick glance around to see that we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto. In the matter of a few decades, the American landscape has changed to the point that it’s almost unrecognizable. The shift in morality and political agendas that has taken place makes it clear that something is definitely wrong with the nation. The degradation of society is blaringly obvious. Worldviews that directly oppose the statues of God are violently attacking the truths and followers of Jesus Christ. We see this and we complain, grieve, and moan. We can’t understand what’s going on. Tragedies are growing in number and magnitude causing the deaths of more and more people in more grotesque and horrifying ways and we’re left asking why. Church membership continues to decline for the major denominations in the U.S. and we seem flummoxed by what could be causing it. Meanwhile, liberal denominations and false religions are growing in number, as is the number of unchurched who just don’t care. All of these things just befuddle us, when we even think about them…Most of the time, we’re too busy participating in church events and “ministries” to notice. So what is the real problem?

Replacement Theology.

I’m not talking about the idea that the Christian church has completely replaced the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people. I’m talking about the idea that man’s ideas, methods, and message are better, more important, and more effective than the things that God has ordained for salvation, church structure, sanctification, and other things. While the face of the church has changed over the years since its beginning, up until recently (and some could argue – even now) it had the same functionality and substance. So what has been replaced? Let’s take a look:

Platitudes have replaced doctrine

The orthodox church founded by Christ and spread by the apostles who witnessed His life, death, and resurrection has been founded upon doctrines that are based on the truth of God. It is His very words, breathed by Him, that provide the foundation and structure of His church. These doctrines provide the guidelines for Christians to understand God, Christ, the church, and their role as Christians. Unfortunately, these doctrines are being replaced by Christian platitudes and taglines to help people feel comfortable. They do nothing to convict or help sanctify those same people (assuming they’re actually saved) and they’re not meant to. Their only purpose is to assuage the guilty conscience of those who sin against God or are ashamed of the truth. Recognize any of these?

“Let go and let God.”

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

“God has a wonderful plan for your life.”

“Listen to the still, small voice.”

“When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”

“God helps those who help themselves.”

“God knows my heart.”

“Give it to the Lord.”

“You can’t outgive God.”

These sayings are often meant well, but they are vacuous and some of them can’t even be supported by scripture! Why do we replace doctrines and sound Bible verses (in context that actually deal with the subject) with these cotton candy taglines? Because the taglines are less offensive. They don’t get under anyone’s skin and there’s no chance of them convicting someone of sin or unrighteousness. They allow the appearance of piety without the danger of driving off the goats who fill the pews and collection plates every Sunday.

Feelings have replaced conviction

Going along with the section above, many have replaced conviction with feelings. I’m not sure if this is the cause or effect of replacing of doctrine with platitudes, but it’s just as common. In Bible studies all across the country, there are study leaders asking their pupils: “What does this verse mean to you?” or “How does this verse make you feel?” This is both pathetic and disgusting. There is no connection between your feelings and the truth of a verse except for when that truth convicts you of your sins and leads you to repentance. But, because that might cause hurt feelings, disappointment, dissention, and a loss of funds and followers, we can’t have that! These days, feelings rule the interpretation of scripture. It’s about how WE feel about a verse, passage, idea rather than what God actually says. It doesn’t matter that God seems more than capable of articulating Himself and His commands with ease and clarity; what matters is that we can take and twist the scriptures so that they conform to us and the lifestyle that we are currently living. That way, we can call ourselves Christians and still enjoy the sins that we’ve become attached to.

Instead of worrying about our feelings, Christians are to be worried about conviction. We shouldn’t depend on feelings and should know that they are deceptive, fleeting, and irrelevant. Instead, it is the theopneustos scriptures of God that should drive our lives and our sanctification. If God says something is a sin, it should be enough. It should also cause us to repent of that sin and forsake it – immediately. If a brother or sister brings a sin to our attention, it should be seen as an act of love and concern for our wellbeing and eternity rather than an attack on us. We should expect to be convicted and it should be something we look for, even though it’s painful.

CEOs have replaced shepherds

In the modern day churches, the shepherd has been replaced by the CEO. Churches are no longer flocks being tended to and cared for by a shepherd who understands his role is given to him by Christ. They no longer accept the responsibility of feeding and caring for the sheep. Some of them have even been so bold as to tell their flocks that they’re being selfish for wanting to grow in holiness and for desiring the depth of the scriptures. “Men” like Steven Furtick (here), Perry Noble (here), and Ed Young Jr. (here) have made it clear that they don’t have any desire or responsibility to teach their flocks the deeper things of God. All of these “pastors” have mocked those Christians who want to be fed meat and not just milk.

Not only that, these men have made their churches into businesses. They are the CEOs and what they say goes. They cannot be overridden or trumped in the goings on of the church. They decide how the services will go. They see their congregations as employees who are there for the sole purpose of bringing money into the church. They are beamed into multi-site churches where they demand money (a tithe – not scriptural for Christians) in order to support ministries and building projects (like a 16,000 sq. ft. house!). They are not preaching the gospel in order to see men and women from all walks of life brought to repentance and faith in Christ. Instead, they are selling a product called “Christianity” where it’s all about closing the sale and getting people to make a commitment to the church and to “ask Jesus in their hearts”. The sale is closed with the (unbiblical) “sinner’s prayer” or the filling out of a card. This new consumer is then added to the ranks of the business model and given their orders to go out and bring in other “customers” who haven’t made that same commitment. There’s nothing about repentance. There is no vetting process to make sure that those who “commit” have actually gotten saved. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the numbers grow and the money keeps coming in. This is in addition to books and conferences where these “great men of God” (gag) spout superficial and blasphemous philosophies about how those listening can become “Greater” or “Unleashed!” and accomplish more for the kingdom of God.

If you fail to fall in line with the business mode and the “code” of conduct; if you fail to give your required tithe of money; if you fail to sign the gag order that doesn’t allow you to speak about how much the pastor makes (if you even know) or where the money is spent, then you are kicked to the curb and labeled as someone who doesn’t understand the “vision” of the pastor. You are someone who is impeding the mission of the church and are therefore someone who belongs under the bus.

Hypocrisy has replaced Holiness

It is becoming more and more common to see people going to church because it’s the “right thing” to do. And, according to scripture, it is. However, many of those going to church aren’t going because they expect to be changed or convicted so they can grow in holiness. Instead, a large majority of them are going because they want people to think that they’re pious. They dress in certain clothes, they raise their hands, they sing the songs praising God, and they “Amen!” the preacher; and it’s all a façade. The lives that they live outside the church look nothing like the stained-glass masquerade they’ve built at their church. Their lies and hypocrisy are safe because they don’t really interact with those in the church except at church events where the façade is engaged. Those that they do interact with either share in their hypocrisy. Either they are doing the same thing and it’s just a given that’s never discussed, or they see the hypocrisy and don’t say anything because that would be hurtful and insensitive and might drive away someone from the church. The one or two that may say something are quickly dropped as dangerous to the façade.

Participation in church ministries is the measurement of piety. “Bible study” is the evidence  that they are living right. Nevermind the fact that they’re ignoring the very words they’re supposedly studying! The depth of the scriptures and the truth in them don’t matter. All that matters is going through the motions and accomplishing something else that can be displayed on the latest social media outlets. These are all badges that help to foster the image that the piety is more than skin deep. And, because the hypocrisy is rampant, no one ever gets beyond the fear of being honest. It is much easier to ignore the sins and iniquity of others as long as others do the same for us. And so, there are no opportunities to grow, none to give an example of “simul justice et peccator” to our kids and other friends and family, none to give the love of Christ to others by showing concern for their sins. All of these things would send the modern church into a tailspin and cause half of the congregation to go running for the hills.

The irony in all of this is that Jesus dealt with this very thing during His time on earth. He constantly faced the man-centered ideas that the modern church practically swims in. Here’s how He dealt with them:

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.  “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.  “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (Mat 23:1-13 NASB)

Jesus continues throughout the rest of the chapter calling the Pharisees “sons of hell” (15), “blind guides” (vs. 16, 17, 19, 24, 26), “whitewashed tombs” (v. 27), “serpents” and “a brood of vipers” (v. 33).  They are “full of hypocrisy” and are the precursors to many of today’s professing Christians who act in the very same way. They were in direct opposition to His truth even as they thought they were keeping the Law of God! In their blindness and their desire to be loved by men, they were unable to recognize their Messiah when He stood in front of them.

Community has replaced Christ

These days, the concept of community has dominated a large portion of the landscape of the American church. People like Rick Warren, Judah Smith, Louie Giglio, and many others have spent much time and money emphasizing the “community” that is the church. They place all of the importance on the community and the building of it. The individual’s importance comes from what they can bring to the community (local church, global church). There is nothing else that matters. This idea of community has replaced Christ. The church is no longer a body of believers who nourish each other and help each other grow more like Christ. Instead, the church is now a community whose main “purpose” is growing the community through “outreach” and “social justice”. It is a mindless hive of busy people who do much but accomplish little in the effort to be relevant.

In contrast, the churches of yesterday were focused on grounding each individual believer in their faith and in their Savior so that they could glorify Him through His sanctifying them. The pastor was involved in the teaching of doctrines of the faith that would help the sheep have a solid foundation of what they believe so that they can preach the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ to those lost in darkness and on their way to hell. It wasn’t a superficial lesson usually reserved for the toddler’s Sunday School class. Instead, it was an indepth teaching of the implications and application of a small group of verses that would convict of sin, bring repentance, strengthen the faith of the hearer, and encourage them to persevere. There was teaching on the body of Christ and the expectations that God had for His bride, but even this was subordinate to the head of the body – Christ Himself. Social justice was a foreign concept because justice was rightly understood to be the condemnation/damnation of an unregenerate sinner for the sins they committed against God. Outreach was when the truth of the scriptures was preached and that truth rebuked the sinner for their sins and grabbed their attention with the truth of their situation in the eyes of the Living Judge.

The contrast between the churches of the past and those of today is stark. In the past, holy men of God stood up and thundered the truths of the Bible from a pulpit. Their voices were filled with both concern and righteousness, causing their congregants to tremble in their seats at the prospect of their sins. The children were taught the tenets of God at the youngest ages and were raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Today, we don’t see this at all. What we do see is the church of Sprite: “Image is everything/Obey your thirst”. Today, the life coaches stand on their stages in skinny jeans and sweaters quietly speaking about a watered-down gospel that has no power to save but brings comfort to those on their way to hell. They act like rock stars and celebrities giving messages that sound more like stand-up comedy routines than the preaching of the gospel.

The day when the church begins to love scripture more than money or fame; the day when pastors become shepherds instead of business leaders and preach sermons that adhere to the doctrines of the faith once for all delivered to the saints; the day when hypocrisy is called out as the sin it is; this will be the day when revival starts in the American church.

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