God’s Justice: Is He Done ‘Striving with Man’? | Greg Laurie via WND

When wickedness is rampant, we wonder why God doesn’t stop it. We look around at our world today and wonder, “Why would God allow those terrorists to do what they did?” or “Why would God allow that injustice?” or “Why does God permit these things to happen?”

God is fully aware of what is happening. First he reveals his grace before he brings his judgment. The Old Testament book of Genesis begins with the story of the Garden of Eden, where everything was perfect. Adam and Eve lived in a beautiful garden with the incredible things God had made. Best of all, the Lord himself would show up as the sun was setting, and Adam would take a walk with God every day.

You probably know the story. The serpent entered the scene and deceived Eve. Adam disobeyed. Thus, sin entered the world. Then things went downhill rapidly. By the time we get to Genesis 6, God is saying that he’s sorry he made man (see verse 6). God was grieved in his heart. If someone dies whom you love deeply, you grieve deeply. God was grieving over Adam and Eve’s sin. He took no pleasure in it.

Then why does God send judgment? Because God is just. Abraham rightly said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25 NKJV). If people can flagrantly and continually break the laws of God and pervert everything God has made, everything that is right and good, then is it appropriate for the Lord to turn a blind eye? If God is just, then isn’t it appropriate for him to take action?

Some might say that is not very loving. But let’s just say you had a sweet little toddler who was playing in your backyard, and you saw a wolf suddenly jump the fence and move rapidly toward your child. What are you going to do?

Are you going to talk with the wolf? Are you going to try and hug the wolf? Those things won’t work. You probably would shoot him or hit him with something. Why? Because you love your child.

God loves His creation. God loves mankind. And the Bible says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (see Ezekiel 33:11). But God also said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Genesis 6:3 NKJV).

I wonder if the Lord has reached that point right now. He knows about every act of wickedness and perversion. He knows things that you and I don’t even know. In this day of instant information and social media, we practically see and hear everything in real time. I think that is one of the reasons we’re so stressed out. We don’t wait until tomorrow to pick up the morning newspaper; we get the news on our Twitter feed. That is the world we’re living in today.

In the days of Noah, God said, in effect, “That’s it! I’m going to bring judgment.” But against this very dark spiritual background lived a man who walked with God. Noah was that man. Sometimes when jewelers want to display a beautiful piece of jewelry, they will place it on a dark background. In the same way, sometimes we can better appreciate someone who lives a pure life when they are put against the backdrop of a very impure world.

Noah, a rare jewel indeed, shined against the very dark spiritual backdrop of his day. The Bible tells us that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8 NKJV). Did God have grace on Noah because he lived a righteous life? No. It is actually the opposite. The word grace means “God’s unmerited favor.” God extended grace toward Noah, and Noah responded to that grace.

That is how we all come to know God. You see, justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. And grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Don’t ever say to God, “I want justice in my life.” You don’t want justice; you want mercy and grace.

God extended grace toward Noah. “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” Ephesians says, “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (2:8–9 NIV).

God did not love Noah because he lived a godly life. Noah lived a godly life because he understood how much God loved him. There is a difference. The Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NKJV).

God loves you. Just embrace that and be thankful for it – even when times are hard. The apostle Paul said, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV).

In the book of Daniel we find a story about a law being passed that prohibited prayer. Can you imagine such a law today? What would you do? We know what Daniel did. We’re told in Daniel 6, “But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God” (verse 10 NLT).

If the Bible said, “He opened his windows and prayed, ‘God why did you let this happen?’” I would have understood that. But Daniel gave thanks to God because he was in the habit of doing so. That is a good habit to be in.

We cannot only give thanks when things seem to be good. We must give thanks because the Lord is good and because he is working all things together for good.

We’ve heard the expression, “It’s all good.” And in a broad sense, it actually is. I don’t mean that every little thing that is happens is good, because bad things happen. Inexplicable things happen. Hardships and tragedies happen. I am not saying those are good things. But I am saying that it’s all good in the sense that God is good. And God ultimately will work things together for his good and for his glory – and for our good as well.

 

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God’s justice: Is He done ‘striving with man’?

The 5 Main Reasons Spiritual Abuse Survivors Don’t “Do Well”

When a member of a spiritually abusive church finally gathers the courage to leave, life can get messy for that person and their family. How could it be otherwise, when one has been duped & repressed by a cultish faith group?

From those who have escaped spiritually abusive churches, I repeatedly hear that the “leadership” figures of said organizations use scare tactics equivalent to emotional blackmail. The threats go something like this:

The great majority of those that leave [insert cult name] don’t “turn out” for the Lord. You don’t want to lose your kids, do you? If you follow what we teach, your kids will go on for God.

Of course, such promises are no guarantee [I know several who stayed in and were either admitted to a psych ward or tried to commit suicide] …and the threats of such leaders are not purely true.

It is true that the majority of abuse survivors do not cope well in society after escaping, but NOT because they left the cult; rather because they had been in the cult. What is more, the “pastors” have created their own definitions of “turning out.” If a cult leader defines spiritual success by his own cultish terms and delusions, would you want to become his definition of successful? Thankfully, God’s version of “doing well” is far different than a cult leader’s vision.

Whenever survivors of a spiritually abusive or toxic church do struggle with holding life together, it is not because they fail the goals and teachings of the cult they left. Instead, they are on a messy but necessary road to recovery.

Here are 5 main reasons spiritual abuse survivors don’t “do well.”

1. The Legalism Effect: The Stunting of Growth in Grace

These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:23, ESV).

It is true that people (especially children and teens) who leave cults do not “do well.” However, their doing poorly is due to nothing other than the legalism of standards and traditions (a.k.a. “will worship”).

Legalism has warped the conscience. The guilt detector has been misinformed to go off according to failing man-made measures that (from misinterpretation) are holier than what God Himself biblically prescribes (by principle and clear command). In the case of a new believer, legalism does not allow one to grow in grace, due to being stunted by the “I’m accepted/approved by God, if I do this and not this” mentality of meritorious “Law-living.” In the case of a child, whose emotional and relational and mental paradigm are forming within the abusive context …[i.e. a legalistic culture, based on merited approval and an obsessive focus on what is wrong (with me or with everyone)], …an insatiable narcissism and “insecurity” (codependency) develop in place of empathy and a strong basis for relational joy.*

Instead of growing in knowledge of Jesus personally, the young or the young convert learns a cult leader’s aberrant ideals of piety. Instead of truth and grace (room enough to fail and grow without being condemned and outcast), they have a steady relational diet of exacting expectations and (if unmet) unmerciful castigation & inescapable stigma.

So, “good kids” (those that sought approval) and adults that were codependent on leadership, while in the cult, have no real confidence in their relationship with God and no real maturity in the Spirit. They have not grown in grace. They have not been rooted and grounded in love. And so, they can not authentically walk the genuine (mercy and joy rich) Christian faith. They have no foundation by which to war against the flesh and the world and the enemy as it appears outside the legalistic bubble of spiritually abusive “churches.”

Legalism has ironically left them with the inability to stop the indulgence of the flesh. God plainly forewarns about that in Colossians. The problem is legalists don’t think they are legalsists, just like the Pharisees said, “We see” (John 9:41).

*[As an aside, I marvel at how cultish pastors can so ardently preach against pride and fear of man, when they themselves figuratively breed them into the hearts of their followers. Cultish and toxic churches are full of it.]

2. Perfect Parents

Legalistic parents are most probably “former wild teens and 20 something adults,” who now want to spare their children the trouble, pain and tears they brought on themselves. That is noble. Unfortunately, that good desire turns to pride and control inside a legalistic church.

When “pastor legalist” says something like, ‘follow A B and C of what I teach, and your children will be godly and will not be like other teens,’ the appeal is extremely powerful. The parents begin the process, reluctantly at first. Then the parents want to be seen by other parents as faithful, successful and proper. They want to be well thought of.

For these reasons and for instilled fear of the “world” devouring their child, parents of students do not train & prepare their kids to be resilient Christians “in the world but not of it.” Spanking becomes their “go-to” method of rearing children, sometimes beginning at infancy and literally curbing the brain formation of the child and eroding the anatomy necessary for decision-making ability later in life.

Instead of guiding & training children, teens and young adults through exposure to age-appropriate life scenarios, perfect parents just keep sheltering and isolating their children at home, at toxic church, in the church’s academy/school, at an associated cultish college and seminary. They rely on the system created by leaders to raise their children, and all that sheltering and unreasoning restriction either creates angry rebels or greenhouse young adults, unable to interact socially and stand in the winds and weather of “outside” life. Also, the academic degrees that cost students and parents years in time and thousands in dollars are typically unaccredited… and their networking circles are often so isolated that chances of a career outside of the hierarchy’s direction are slim at best.

All I can say is: if parents think that ever-tightening controls and restrictions will gain the loyalty and maturity they desire from their teen, think again. Instead, gradually increasing responsibility, guiding wisdom, allowance to fail and assurance of love in failure, proportionate reward for succeeding, trust and accountability are the way to raise teens. Trying to control another’s heart in thought, feeling and behavioral minutia will only provoke them to anger… a thing forbidden by the Bible. It only will lead to teens being secretive and isolated or friend-needy in select areas of life. If parents want transparency from their teen, they have to create a culture of openness and transparency in their home.

Instead of trying to be a perfectly successful parent with 100% success rate with children “turning out,” parents need to teach age appropriate lessons from talking about their own life failures, corrective truths you found, perspectives gained and lessons learned; instruction and commands alone will not do it, because parents who rely on commands and “correction” alone are inadvertently putting up a front of perfection on themselves (which teens know is fake) and setting an impossible mark to attain. If we love our teens, we have to embrace any embarrassment they may bring us for the sake of their knowing gracious, loving, merciful and mature parents. They already know they’re not perfect. They just need to know how to succeed at being more like Jesus as the person God made them. You have made grave mistakes and did not give up on yourself. In that way, teens need you to love them as much or more than you love yourself.

Teens who leave cults don’t “do well,” because they had “perfect” parents who taught them nothing about life and relationships from genuine heart transparency. To the teens, it is fake and self-righteous religion.

3. A Distorted Sense of Identity

In cults, harmless interactions and even courteous acts are seen as highly suspect, as if sinfully motivated. Cultish people are good at making you feel dirty and unworthy, when you are nothing of the sort. But when natural interactions of everyday life, necessity and societal politeness are made taboo, the survivor’s inner tendency is false guilt; and this crops up in random, every day life to haunt the survivor trying to reforge a fully adapted professional and social life.

Additionally, the survivor may voluntarily leave the abusive institution in “good standing.” Yet, the above-mentioned “warnings” of ruination are touted. If the survivor indeed leaves, leadership may label him or her a “runner” (a “jailing effect” tactic; see below). Their failure is callously and resentfully expected by those they left; and if they should stumble, their story is used like a statistic after it passes through the gossip vine.

However, if the survivor who leaves does so as a result of being “disciplined” out of the church for what spiritually abusive leaders may call sin (ex. holding to valid ethical questions or biblical criticisms of a pastor), then add to the false guilt an intensified struggle with (despite knowing contrarily) the image of one’s self as “ruined” or a “hopeless case.” Now, the individual may not have sinned according to the Scriptures; but as cult leadership often practices nepotism, no accountability or faux accountability, manipulations, coverups, power projections, authoritarian controls, and breaking of professional confidence… it is hard to tell what has truly gone on behind the scenes.

When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you. The misinformation will feel unfair, but stay above it, trusting that others will eventually see the truth, just like you did. —Jill Blakeway

Whatever the case, non-biblical shunning and public humiliation/shaming often fuel the inner struggle of cult survivors. Historically, this has proven only to further alienate individuals and whole communities. Such needless and hopeless alienation happens because churches perform nothing short of excommunication by shaming & shunning & “handing over to Satan” …not to mention giving license for the rest of the church to stigmatize and gossip about the victim. The practical aim is clearly not the compassion and restoration Jesus prescribed, and it makes one’s sense of identity stick on the unredeemable. Such a false, inner stigma begs one (along with the accusations of the Devil) to give in to the false identity.

4. Jailing/Institutionalization Effect:

Not only do the effects of legalism and distorted identity experienced in cults play hugely against a survivor but so does the jailing effect of a cult.

The “Pyramid of Success”

Cultish leaders (knowingly or unknowingly) set themselves up as celebrities who can do no wrong and from whom all truth & blessing is dispensed. Celebrity worship works in the “church” just as well (or more) as it does in the movie, TV and music industries. Sooner or later, one’s entire existence—spiritually, educationally, professionally, relationally is wrapped up—not in sincere faith lived in the world for God, but—in the institution.

In order to build their own kingdom and forward their “cause,” cult leaders will suck in as many workers and constituents as possible, working them long hours and compensating them meagerly. Those who are codependent strive and struggle just for a little of the approval and promotion granted by the cult leader(s).

The pyramid of control, fear and awe often built by toxic leaders has enough gravity to attract and hold people, bizarre as it sounds; because people want to be seen as good, and people want to be accepted and successful. Members who want advancement in the eyes of the hierarchy often leave jobs and isolate from family and friends for the chance to be seen as “right” and seen as good (in the eyes of other toxic cult members and leaders). I know of leaders, who promise positions and prominence to these sort only to string them along.

Now, imagine gathering the courage to step away from all that and try to rebuild your life. Can you also imagine trying to see your way forward, having “wasted” so much time and having so much want of connection and genuine opportunity, not to mention a professional reference that you trust? The overwhelm is crippling.

Getting crushed by the pyramid is a large reason cult survivors don’t “do well.” It is a jailing effect cults use.

Fear-mongering and Lording

When a cult leader “warns” a would-be survivor of the ruination of those who leave, he subtly says, “you cannot successfully follow God without me, and God cannot use you to ________ without my instruction. In fact, you can’t just trust God to lead you on how to _______. You need me between you and God.”

I know of cult leaders, who have criticized their staff to the point of telling them they really had no talent in certain areas, just to keep them working at their institution. Likewise, the leader has used literal blackmail (threat of professional ruination) should a staff member leave.

If fear is the thing that keeps people, then it is certainly not of God. These are all humanly contrived ploys to keep people serving and to keep people dependent.

Fear and Lording are reasons cult survivors don’t “do well.” It is a jailing effect cults use.

Jail-broken

Spiritually abusive / cultish churches isolate and insulate themselves. Their reply to a world filled with temptation is to remove one’s self from all potential sources of temptation, as much as possible. Exposure to sinners is to be kept at a minimum—certainly do not befriend them—and only interact by absolute necessity and/or to give a relation-less gospel presentation. This is contrary to Jesus, who prayed that the Father would not take believers out of the world but keep (guard; implied by grace) them from evil.

By poor theological definitions of the “world” and by focusing on external actions instead of dealing honesty with the heart from which actions arise, legalists justify their social isolationism as “holiness” and “separation from the world.” The result is a group of better dressed and only slightly more technologically advanced Amish.

When one has been figuratively held in such an isolation chamber [or, sensory depravation tank], emerging from it can be an overload. To those in the isolationist group, the occasional overload is not a warning signal of paranoid isolationism but a badge of sensitivity against all things “worldly.” Whereas anyone can see the ills and detriments of a society that has lost its conscience, there is a great deal of difference between being desensitization and deprivation.

Cult survivors find it difficult to “do well,” because the “outside” is an overload… and (for children/teens) no one actually trained them how to successfully navigate the delights and dangers of love and life. They were only taught how to survive on the “inside.” Life chews up and spits out the naive. They are jail broken, having endured the jailing effect that cults often use.

5. Disorders Stemming from Abuse

Coping mechanisms of the mind in the face of trauma and/or abusive situations, mixed with well-founded distrust of “Spiritual Authority,” leaves the abused with a lot of crippling effects and an aversion for the caricature of God that has been etched into their minds and hearts.

Sometimes the abuse is so long, so repetitious or so heinous that the abused carries noticeable traits characteristic of mind and/or nervous disorders. I encourage everyone to realize 1/3 people suffer from some form of mental or psychiatric disorder.

Cult survivors don’t do well, because sometimes they literally could not take the abuse that “leaders” dished out… and their mind and body gave way. They literally can’t “just get over it,” and your suggesting they do so fails to see that repeated inner wounds can create rather permanent inner damage.

  • Depersonalization Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Clinical & Manic Depression/Bipolar Disorder
  • Clinical Anxiety
  • Eating Disorders
  • Cutting or other Self Harm
  • Chronic Anger — https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201602/anger-when-adults-act-children-and-why
  • Dissociative (Identity) Disorder
  • Physiological Addiction (stemming from self-medication to cope)
  • Hostile Attribution Bias
  • Learned Narcissism
  • Learned or Reactive Sociopathy
  • Passivity, Extreme Submissiveness and Inferiority Complex
  • Stockholm Syndrome

As a spiritual abuse survivor, I share HERE how I am finding healing from the many effects of the above “5 reasons,” and I include links to many good resources.

An Unpersuasive Paradigm – Christian Research Institute

“Jonathan Cahn is not shy about positioning himself as a modern-day prophetic voice. Within the last few years, he has authored two works — The Harbinger (Frontline, 2011) and The Mystery of the Shemitah (Frontline, 2014) — in which he hinted that America was on the brink of a great financial catastrophe.

However, he was circumspect when it came to the details of his declarations about the future, and his willingness to stake out a reputation as a prophet manifestly ends at the point where the present ends and the future begins.

In his latest work, The Paradigm: The Ancient Blueprint That Holds the Mystery of Our Times (Front Line, 2017), Cahn continues his tradition of declaring in great detail the prophetic significance of past events and stopping abruptly short with details at the line of demarcation predicting the future. He also continues his tradition, seen in his prior books, of relying on generous semantic expansions to draw unrealistic and far-fetched parallels between past biblical events and present-day historical events.1

A Paradigm of Parallels. In The Paradigm, Cahn’s efforts are exerted toward finding parallels between events surrounding biblical figures in the book of 2 Kings and events surrounding modern-day American political figures. According to Cahn, former president Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton have re-enacted events surrounding Israel’s King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, former president Barack Obama has re-enacted the part of Ahab’s son Joram, current president Donald Trump has fulfilled the role of Israel’s King Jehu, and Cahn himself has taken on (without the least hint of embarrassment) the role of the prophet Elijah (p. 232). Meanwhile, behind the scenes of these figures, America has taken a downward moral and spiritual trajectory that parallels that of Israel in Ahab’s time.

When it comes to the parallels Cahn draws, however, the effect is much like that of an examination of an impressionist painting; the parallels look convincing from a distance, but as the observer gets closer, the parallels dissipate into a vague mist. For example, Cahn draws a parallel between the ancient practice of sacrificing children to Baal and the modern practice of abortion (16). While both practices rightly evoke outrage among Christians, it is absurd for Cahn to draw a parallel between them. The victims are different: Abortion kills the unborn, whereas human sacrifice victims ranged in age from infants to the fully grown. More significantly, the purposes are different: Human sacrifice was performed for religious devotion, whereas abortions are performed for the sake of convenience, alleged hardship, and occasionally, to preserve the life of the adult mother. Ignoring these important distinctions, Cahn classifies both practices under the vaguer and more generalized phrases “killing of children” and “murder of the innocent” in order to manufacture a parallel. However, despite the awkward terminology of a few abortion advocates who describe abortion as a “sacrament” or using other religious terms (17), there is no religious component to the modern practice of abortion.

Ahab Redivivus? Other claimed parallels are no more convincing when examined closely, and Cahn frequently forges a parallel by making wide-ranging declarations without providing any factual support. For example, to tie Bill Clinton’s activities to Ahab’s, Cahn refers to the “scandal” of Ahab’s theft of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21). Cahn states that the Clinton presidency was known for scandals, “one right after the other” (69). However, in the context of that accusation, he refers to only two scandals in the eight years of the Clinton presidency: (1) Whitewater and (2) the death of Clinton associate Vince Foster. Neither of those scandals in any way implicated the Clintons of wrongdoing, as Cahn admits. This is in sharp contrast to Ahab, who was the driving force behind Naboth’s murder. On the other hand, Cahn does not mention, in this context, the signature scandal of the Clinton administration, which was Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. Why not? Because Cahn’s purpose is to draw questionable parallels between, respectively, Naboth’s vineyard and the Whitewater real estate dealings and the deaths of Naboth and Foster. The Lewinsky scandal would obviously be of no use to Cahn because, for all his faults, one thing King Ahab most likely did not do was cheat on his wife.

Cahn also yet again resorts to the use of vague terminology to make unlike events sound alike. Should it not make a difference that Naboth’s death was effectively a murder, while Foster’s was a suicide? For the parallel to be valid, should not Foster have been killed so that the Clintons could take possession of Whitewater-related property owned by Foster.2

Caught-22. Cahn also freely manipulates the data when it suits his purposes. He asserts that Bill Clinton and Ahab both reigned for twenty-two years (57; cf. 1 Kings 16:29) and presents this as strong evidence of a divine paradigm. However, to make Clinton’s career add up to twenty-two years, Cahn must start the clock at 1979, when Clinton was first elected governor of Arkansas, and then reach twenty-two with the last year Clinton served as president (2001). Cahn fails to mention that Clinton did not serve as governor of Arkansas between 1981 and 1983, which reduces his terms of office as governor to twenty years. Cahn attempts to erase this problem by classifying Clinton’s twenty-two years as the time he was “on America’s national stage,” or the time of his “political career.” Even these classifications are strained; Clinton was not “on America’s national stage” as governor of Arkansas (until he started running for president), and his “political career” started in 1974 when he first ran for the United States House of Representatives.

Many more examples of semantic equivocation and manipulation by Cahn could be offered. Some of his efforts verge on the comical. He refers to the following as, “The Paradigm of the Race”(158–59): “Jehu mounted his chariot and raced to the king’s palace….So Donald Trump would begin a race to the White House, the American throne.” This parallel entirely depends on the specific usages of the modern English word race, as it has evolved to refer literally to movement with speed as well as figuratively to nonphysical competitions like elections. The events themselves are entirely unlike one another.

Engaging Parallelomania? Despite the farfetched attempts to force matches between unlike events, it might be objected that Cahn’s methodology is no different than that of the authors of the New Testament, who drew their own parallels between events in their time and events recorded in the Old Testament. For example, several New Testament authors compared Jesus to the Passover Lamb of Exodus (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7-8; 1 Pet. 1:19). In such comparisons, the Passover Lamb is regarded as a “type” and Jesus is regarded as a fulfillment of that type.

To be sure, New Testament authors sought many such parallels between events in their time and events in the Old Testament period. Some of those parallels were even intentionally enacted. Jesus’ feeding of thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and some fish (Matt. 14:13–21; Mark 6:31–44; Luke 9:12–17; John 6:1–14) was clearly meant to echo Elisha’s feeding of one hundred men with twenty loaves of barley and some grain (2 Kings 4:42–44). It was also clearly an intentional act by Jesus to imitate, and supersede, Elisha’s act, and show that he was greater than Elisha. In that instance, Elisha was the type, and Jesus fulfilled that type.

Cahn’s adoption of this methodology, however, is inappropriate. The Old Testament types that were fulfilled in the New Testament era found their fulfillment in Christ. At the very least, it is presumptuous for Cahn to claim that God has specially instituted another round of types that had their fulfillments in modern times. Cahn arrogates to himself and to modern America a unique place in God’s economy that equates himself with a prophet, and America with Israel’s covenantal theocracy. The historical and evidential grounding for a unique station for himself, and for America, is dubious at best and self-serving at worst.3

The Last Trump? Given that Cahn matches Jehu with Donald Trump, does he worry that we will start to see America’s enemies taking territorial bites out of America (cf. 2 Kings 10:32)? No, he only refers vaguely to “national judgment” and being wiped off the face of the Earth (219). This is in sharp contrast to the detailed predictions offered by biblical prophets like Daniel, who foretold of specific empires for hundreds of years to come, or other biblical prophets who named specific enemies of the Jews, such as Babylon or Assyria, who would be the instruments of God’s judgment.

According to the flyleaf of The Paradigm, Cahn “has been called the prophetic voice of our generation.” Given the many semantic equivocations and manipulations Cahn engages, one can only wonder whether Cahn indeed deserves the mantle of a prophet. Either that, or the office of prophet has taken a decided turn for the worse in terms of quality control since the biblical era.”

— James Patrick Holding

READ ORIGINAL CRI POST

Jesus Is Not Your American Patriot | TGC

I live in the South, where “God and country” is a popular sentiment. Despite the fact that America was reputedly built on Judeo-Christian values, this seemingly honorable motto is problematic. It fails to promote an ideology that seeks God’s glory and multinational kingdom while encouraging American citizens to submit to his will.

Instead, it turns Jesus into a patriot.

Such a mentality tends to confuse God’s interests with those of a political party. It makes the United States the center of God’s affections, above every other nation. Critiquing the sentiment is seen not only as an assault on the principles of American democracy, but on God himself.

It conflates religion and politics, yielding a false god made in America’s image.

CIVIL RELIGION

This dynamic is not new. Many of America’s forefathers built this country believing God’s hand of blessing was on them to bring good fortune to their endeavors. And for centuries, many have attributed America’s superpower status to God’s favor.

Unsurprisingly, this dynamic has created a potent civil religion in our country. Compassion and justice for the poor and oppressed (Isa. 1:17; Prov. 31:8–9; Matt. 14:14) is often subverted for the sake of partisan values. The importance of wisdom and moral character in leadership (Luke 22:24–27; Prov. 3:13–18; Phil. 2:3) is overlooked for the sake of a political party’s reign.

To a watching world, our public witness and cultural credibility is undermined to the degree we seek social dominance over biblical faithfulness.

AMERICA ≠ NEW ISRAEL

So often the leader of this civil religion is Jesus, whose supreme interests seem to be “America first” and reinstating a golden age of traditional values. This Jesus is a mascot for a political team; he is not found in the Bible.

The Jesus of the Bible has one nation: his people (1 Pet. 2:9). He has one political interest: his kingdom (Matt. 6:10). We become citizens of this kingdom through faith in him (Rom. 5:1–2; Eph. 2:8–9). God’s number-one priority is his glory and the advancement of his kingdom (Matt. 28:18–20; John 6:38; 4:34). No earthly nation, including America, has a monopoly on God’s favor and blessing.

Additionally, the Jesus of the Bible shed his priceless blood for people from every nation (Rev. 5:9). All of God’s promises and blessings are directed toward the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multinational body of Christ.

In Christ we are all blessed, from the least to the greatest. From Englewood in Chicago to the Korengal valleys in Afghanistan, God has children all over the globe. Salvation has come to all nations. The United States is not a new Israel; …

DUAL CITIZENS

Instead of worshiping at the altar of a false civil religion, Christians have a dual citizenship: a lesser, temporary citizenship on earth and a supreme, eternal citizenship in heaven. Love of country is a good thing, but the interests of our eternal King far outweigh any interests of our earthly land (1 Pet. 2:9–10).

God is concerned with true worship—holiness, obedience to Jesus, and justice that flows from neighbor love (Isa. 1:14–20; Mic. 6:8; Rom. 13:9). He desires for his people, here and now, to look and operate like citizens of a coming kingdom (Matt. 6:9–10; 6:33; Luke 17:20–21). As dual citizens, we should engage culture and bring renewal to every arena—arts, business, education, agriculture, and yes, even politics. But we must not use Jesus as a mascot for our partisan agenda.

JESUS ISN’T AN AMERICAN PATRIOT

We must never become so patriotic that we cannot hold our own country, political party, and leadership accountable when they engage in unrighteousness (for example, see Nathan calling out David, John the Baptist calling out Herod, or Paul calling out Festus).

Jesus isn’t sitting in the heavenlies whistling “God Bless America” with the Declaration of Independence on his desk and pictures of the Founding Fathers on his wall. He won’t return in a pickup truck with “God and Country” bumper stickers and a flag in tow. Jesus isn’t an American patriot. God has made all people—including Americans—in his image, but we shall not make him in ours.

If Jesus is a patriot for anything, he’s a patriot for heaven. He rules a kingdom immensely better than America or any other nation. He is the Savior who will come riding on a white horse, with a robe dipped in blood, championing justice and the kingdom of God (Rev. 19:11–16). The flag our Savior waves is the flag of his own kingdom, to which all nations, tribes, and tongues will bend their knee (Phil. 2:9–11). Even the United States of America.

[edited quotations for flow of reading, emphasis]*

ORIGINAL ARTICLE*

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RELATED RESOURCES:

Civil Religion Has No Place in God’s House | TGC

6 Passages that Correct Pushy Pastors

  • He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice (Isaiah 42:2-3, ESV, bold mine).
  • I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he [draws upward], and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1-2, ESV, bold mine, brackets mine for dynamic equivalence).
  • I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now (John 16:12 ESV, bold mine).
  • And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal…” (1 Cor.3:1-4 NKJV, bold mine).
  • And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, ….preach the word… reprove, rebuke and exhort with complete patience and teaching (2 Tim. 2:24, 4:2, ESV, bold mine).
  • For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, foreveryone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:12-14, ESV, bold mine).

On any given Sunday, many pastors mount the pulpit, and many more people in the congregation begin to feel the weight of human pressure put upon them in the name of God. The pastors want the sheep to grow, to take what they think are steps in spiritual maturity. They often corrupt their God-given responsibility, either guilting the innocent or domineering and exerting control. Both stem from the clergy’s misplaced fear of failing God and others in their duty. I have heard name calling, passive aggressiveness, shaming and guilting, spiritual threats of disaster and loss, and forceful commands—all observably from frustration or desperation with sheep. I’ve witnessed manipulation & emotional blackmail, fear-mongering, social and professional posturing, meddling, and projections of power for the same reasons. Whatever the manifestation, it cannot be called leadership. These are examples of impatient pushiness.

The Inescapable Principle of Spiritual Capacity

Overbearing and pushy pastors either do not understand or do not regard the inescapable principle of spiritual capacity.

Spiritual capacity has to do with maturity; but more than that, it has to do with the necessity of process in spiritual progress. “….But you cannot bear them now,” said Jesus to His 12. God is more interested in the authenticity of our spiritual lives and our mental/emotional stability than the speed at which we are “finished.” He must widen us and broaden us before we can receive His “next.” One cannot go from point “A” to point “C” spiritually, without first going through point “B.” One cannot successfully fight spiritual battles before he or she learns to grow in grace, having been “rooted and grounded in love.” In other words, God does not provide level skips or cheat codes for his program of transforming believers into being like His Son.

A. W. Tozer writes similarly regarding spiritual receptivity in his book The Pursuit of God:

Failure to see [believers must develop a “lifelong habit of spiritual receptivity”] is the cause of a serious breakdown in modern evangelicalism. The idea of cultivation and exercise …has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals…. The tragic results of this spirit are all about us. Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit: these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.

The Proper Response to Perpetual Immaturity

If we are to lead like Jesus, much less be like Jesus, then we must observe and respect the principle of spiritual capacity—the ability of the Father to grow His own.

Maturing spiritually takes a lot of time, healing, failure & restoration, and renewal of mind before believers consistently & naturally speak the words of Jesus and do the works of Jesus. Some things the Father and husbandman of the branches has to teach and work into people’s lives—through trials and everyday circumstances of living in a fallen world—to grow their spiritual capacity and readiness. We must rest in the Father’s ability to do that work, just as Jesus entrusted His Disciples to the Father’s care for the branches (John 15, 17).

The Savior understood spiritual capacity with His Disciples; [they are ALL His disciples]. At any given time, He not only noticed their capacity but also never pushed them beyond their spiritual limitations. Our Lord was born to exude the proper kind of leadership. He never snapped off the bruised reed or snuffed out the smoldering wick. Rather, as Isaiah prophesied, The Messiah steadied the wobbler and fanned the struggling ember.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul apparently understood the principle of spiritual capacity with the carnal Corinthians; and the writer of Hebrews conveyed what capacity could have been known by the lifelong learners, who should have been teachers.

All of this is not to say pastors should refrain from correcting and guiding believers in their care. Jesus, Paul and the writer of Hebrews all corrected their audiences regarding perpetual disbelief, carnality, inability to receive spiritually, and resultant immaturity.

But, instead of name calling, passive aggressiveness, shaming and guilting, spiritual threats of disaster and loss, or forceful commands; instead of manipulation & emotional blackmail, fear-mongering, social and professional posturing, meddling, and projections of power, …let pastors correct and guide as Jesus, Paul and the writer of Hebrews.

“So Much More:” the Remedy

The repeated biblical example for correcting perpetual babes is to create hunger in them. One can only drive the sheep when pushing and prodding them from behind. Biblically, we see true leaders being out front and calling to the sheep in wooing tones about unknown plenty.

Jesus did strongly condemn the disbelief of the Disciples at times, but He never resorted to fleshly tactics to do so. He simply told them what was the problem—disbelief or thinking as men think, not as God thinks. When motivating them after the correction, He never went into a frenzy. Instead, He told them He had much more to give them. He pointed out what was hindering them from untold blessings, because He wanted to see them succeed and be as blessed as possible… with blessings that were kept behind what they did not know they didn’t know. He created hunger in them, and he treated them like—at any moment and all at once—they could set aside what hindered them to have his “next” for them.

Paul told the Corinthians they were carnal. Yet, like His Lord, Paul did not frustrate disciples by satirically pointing out their problems without providing solutions. “Until now you were not able to receive it,” he says, creating a sense of hope and hunger while correcting them at the same time. Paul gives the Corinthians the realistic goal of leaving their carnality behind in order to move in to the solid food of the Scriptures reserved for those who are mature. And, one gets the sense that Paul is the biggest fan of the Corinthians. He actually believes in the disciples he is given (Philippians 1:6-7).

The ever-learning Hebrews are no exception to being tantalized and coaxed by a leader out of immaturity. They know the holy temptation of becoming powerful in discernment and skilled in the “word of righteousness.”

At every turn, biblical leadership exemplifies and invites the immature to ‘move on to maturity,’ and they do so by communicating there is so much more to be had than spiritual babies can know.

Give the “Yes”

No one should stay immature, not as a believer and not as a spiritual leader. The shortcut to maturity in both roles is to say “yes” to God’s Design for expanding your spiritual capacity, to welcome trials of faith and by exercising discernment; and ultimately, to readily turn away from being a pushy pastor in order be so much more… the grand opportunity to fellowship with Jesus in how He loves and leads believers.