August 28, 2007

It’s Not Only What We Say – It’s How We Say It

This morning was interesting. I'm reading my usual set of blogs, which includes Perry Noble's (for those who don't know him, he's the pastor of NewSpring in Anderson, SC), and I was stunned to read this blog post.

First off, I will repeat as I have said in other posts on this blog, I AM NOT A PERRY HATER. I read his blog daily, I listen to his podcast, and I admire his passion, his enthusiasm, and his fervor to see the community God has placed him in changed. So before anyone reads this and says: "Well see he's just one of those that's against us", you're wrong.

Now, let's take a look at the post.

People from a churched culture grow up with a "safe" picture of Jesus–he had feathered hair, wore a white robe with a purple sash, was a constant giver of hugs and carried a lamb where ever He went.However, in reading Scripture that is NOT the Jesus I am seeing. I am discovering that if I want to become more and more like Jesus that I am going to have to drop my Sunday school perceptions and embrace the following…

Yea, you're right Perry. Jesus isn't tender at all. That whole scene with the adultress who was about to be stoned. Not tender at all. The restoration of Peter after the denial, not soft. Revelation 21 – No more tears, no more pain, new heavens, new Earth – you're right – Jesus is one tough mother. Truth is Perry, you're seeing the Jesus YOU WANT TO SEE, and when the Jesus YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE confronts you, you move right past that passage. We all do that to some degree, but to paint Jesus as one dimensional as you do here, is just as bad as the what you find wrong in the people you rail against.

One of my favorite stories is found in Matthew 21:12-16 where His passion is demonstrated by the fact that He whipped some tail!

Yea, and Jesus also had some pretty strong words for the disciples whenever they shot their mouths off in arrogance as well. Yes, Jesus condemned the religious establishment, but he also rebuked disciples for their pride and even cleaned up after Peter made a terrible mistake in the heat of passion during Jesus arrest. Somewhere the Bible says "Be slow to anger".

Keep something in mind–it wasn't the atheists, agnostics or even the devil worshipers that murdered Jesus…but rather THE most religious people in that time period.

Perry, we all murdered Jesus. Every one of us. Our sin and rebellion against God necessitated the death of Jesus. Were the Pharisees the immediate perpetrators? Yes. But we have all exchanged the Glory of God for something else. Which is why Jesus had to come to die in the first place. Also, have you ever read Acts 2:22-24 and considered the fact that it was God the Father who killed Jesus as this passage clearly says. The Jews were the instruments, but God the Father delivered Jesus up. Oh I'm sorry that' going too deep which you come to here in just a second…

Like it or not–Jesus didn't go to a bookstore, get a theology book by a dead white guy, get a group of guys together that were just like Him and give the world the middle finger because He was obsessed with "going deep!" If I meet one more group of guys who think they are becoming more like Jesus because they are theological superior to people (which, by the way, is PRIDE!) but do not know a lost person by name or refuse to exercise their spiritual gift…and yet claim to be godly…I am going to punch them in the throat! (For everyone who just got mad about that–please refer to #2!)

Nice rant there big boy. I can see Jesus up on the cross saying the same thing. Oh wait – he said "Father forgive them". He was full of grace and mercy, not violence and condemnation. Dude, you have a good point. Don't ever let the pursuit of knowledge of God quell our passion to put that knowledge to use to help people and transform our communities. But why do you constantly bash people who want to know more about God, study their Bibles, and learn as much as they can. Have you read 1 Peter 1:10-12? Even the angels "long to look" into the Gospel and learn more. Shouldn't we?

Pastors will say that God reigns and is sovereign…and then they will back down before a board of deacons or elders because they fear them more that God. If you are going to be like Christ–obedience, not prostitution (being paid to perform a service) is required.

Be careful about the "I've got God's vision and you don't therefore listen to me" syndrome here Perry. Paul outlined Elders for a reason. There is wisdom in obtaining Godly counsel. And there is humility in being subjected to others. That's the way Paul laid it out, and that's why a lot of churches have Elder councils. I guess I would ask you this question…"Have you ever thrown something out to your staff and then changed your mind after a group discussion? " If so, then didn't you back down to your staff? Why didn't you just go with our original idea? Were you afraid of your staff? Were you disobedient? Were you a whore at that moment? My guess is no. You were a guy who wanted to get to the best idea possible and trusted and loved the guys who were giving you counsel.

I read on a website once that a vision could not be numeric…and I will have to say that I about threw up! Jesus had a desire to reach the NATIONS! (Matthew 28:18-20) Now I am not the smartest man on the planet…but that's a lot of people.

I'm assuming Perry might be referring to a comment I made on one of his staff member's blog (here). And I will say it again. Numeric visions are hollow, man-centered, and prideful. I won't back down from that. I won't stray from that. I've been there Perry. I've been a part of numeric visions and I've found one thing. Numbers don't motivate people, people motivate people. From Maxwell's "training 1 million leaders" to Welch's "baptizing 1 million people" to a parachurch's "reaching 1 million children", I only ask one thing…why is always a million and why is it always nice round numbers? I would also ask, why does it take a number to get you out of bed in the morning and passionate about reaching people. Why? See the problem is we don't understand the Bible. Paul planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase. The numbers are not ours to shoot for. Ours is the faithfulness of our words and our actions.

I am as passionate about the Great Commission as anyone. But I do it because I believe the Gospel can transform people and I will not replace the Gospel with math. The Gospel gets me up, not arithmetic. People are people who have souls, lives, hurts, wants, desires, pains, victories, loves, angers, and opportunities. Do what you do because you love God and love People. Not because you're going after some freaking number.

This post is typical Perry. Huff, Puff, and blow your house down. But the rhetoric is beyond belief. In searching the Net, I found a speech given by someone rather famous which sounded eerily similar to this post. Here's the speech:

My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these religious people for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the religious poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited.

The author: Adolph Hitler in a speech delivered April 12, 1922 and published in his book "My New Order".

For those who would freak out about this speech, I am not comparing Perry to a fascist Nazi leader. I am, however, expressing concern for the rhetoric Perry is using because it is alarming and because of his position, he is an authority for many. For Jesus sake, tone down the rhetoric and stop the "us vs. the world" madness. Your fellow "religious Christians" are not the enemy. Sin is the enemy. And we are all guilty of it. Be a positive force for change, not a negative one. Fight against sin, not fellow pastors or churches.

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