Deconstructionism and Reformation

Víctor Chininin Buele

One more story came through the Twitter world this week onto my eyes. One more human being, made in the image of God, abused by someone who professed the Christian faith, and ignored and not believed by those who were protecting the abuser, published a tweet announcing yet another exit. Leaving Christianity. Removing herself from church and Christian culture in order to heal.

I have always loved legos. It turns out that I spoil my children because I never had a lot of legos. My family worked super hard to provide for my needs, and I’m profoundly thankful. That includes both my blood relatives in Ecuador and my not-formally adoptive family in the United States. I know I cost them a lot of money. And they made sacrifices for me. I am thankful. But that still meant I didn’t have every thing I ever wanted. And that was good for me. My wife often reminds me of the wisdom of not giving the children everything that I didn’t have.

I always worked on building a city for Dedé, my cousin’s doll. And if I am honest, my doll as well. The doll had an airport with its own Air Force, a fire department, police station, train depot, an army. All the things a little boy could add to a city. And somehow abuelita managed to squeeze a few sucres here and there to make this possible. The doll even had its own church with me saying mass there.

When I started hearing stories related to deconstructionism, I felt like when it was time to tear down Dedé’s city to clean up before my mom would come back from the university. You spent all afternoon setting everything up. Only to have to put it all away and clean up. I remember once setting up every toy in our long hallway in Dedé’s triumphal parade only to have to tear it down and put the toys away. Abuelita did sneak in a lot of sucres here and there over time for us to have a hallway full of toys. So no complaining here!

I cannot believe how little I understood about how much people have suffered in churches. I still cannot believe how naive I was and how judgmental I was of those who seemed to be struggling and of those who didn’t seem to be struggling and still left.

Deconstructionism felt very pointless to me. And the conclusion always seems to be someone new calling himself or herself an #Exvangelical. It felt like somebody spent all the time setting up Dedé’s world only to tear it up and have to start all over again.

Until I had to go figure out what happened in our life and how to move forward. How to make sense of things that just don’t make sense.

I wouldn’t call what I have gone through deconstructionism. But I did have to go deconstruct a cohesive system of beliefs that resulted in a lot of hurt and pain. It was like trying to figure out at what point of the interstate we got off on an exit that seemed to just be getting us on a parallel road and before we knew it ended up taking us in the opposite direction of where we were supposed to go.

So, it struck me that Martin Luther went through this. If you really read the 95 theses, you will see that he didn’t have everything right. He wanted reformation. He didn’t want schism. Much less ever deepening schism. In the document he is very much under papal authority and is trying to spark a discussion by nailing thesis to the door. Instead, he ended up hiding under threat and setting the world alight.

What is different between the deconstructionism stories we see on Twitter and the Reformation that Luther sparked?

Tweets at their best spark the imagination. Barnabas Piper got me on a bit of a predicament the other day with a tweet where he stated this: “It’s remarkable how much deconstructing of the faith echoes the serpent’s words in Eden, ‘Did God really say…?’”

He, then, commented on the responses he received, “Some folks responding to this think I’m opposed to questions. I’m not. I wrote a book called ‘Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith’ in which I lift up questions as vital to faith.”

Precisely. We need to ask questions. I wrote elsewhere that when the heart is presented with a challenge, we have to respond. We either repent if we have been convicted of sin and live out that repentance and make restoration for what we have damaged. Or we make up reasons to justify to ourselves why we didn’t sin or why our sin is not that big of a deal or why we are justified to do what we did. However, before this spiritual and intellectual choice is made, another spiritual and intellectual choice must be made. We ask if the person is preaching the truth or not. Is what we are being presented with actually from the mouth of God or not? We must know.

It is remarkable how much indeed we have to be careful. Faith is supernaturally rational. We are not called to check our brains out at the door. We do need to determine if what we are hearing, reading, etc., comes from the Bible and if it’s an accurate representation or application of the text in its proper context. We can’t just make the Bible say anything we want. My theological hero John Stott said, “It is commonly said that the Bible can be made to mean anything one wants—which is true only if one lacks integrity.”

So, integrity is a key element here. We need to walk into asking questions fully aware of the potential deceptive nature of my own heart and of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in my heart if I am in Christ. We need to be people of integrity. Not of deception. Of light, not of the shadows.

We ask, then, questions with integrity, ready to go where the text takes us. Ready to demolish strongholds in our lives that keep us from Christ. Ready to learn and relearn. In essence, ready to reform.

And I don’t know why we are not ministering better to those who are said to be deconstructing. The motto of the Reformation church is to be the church reformed, always reforming. Reformation requires asking questions, having debates, being encouraged by one another’s faith. Being called to repent and calling others to repent. Reaching agreements. Studying the Word together. Squeezing that Bible for all that it has. Trusting in God, not in men. But not with a predisposition towards suspicion only.

I’ve had to ask questions about church governance, the roles of men and women in life and the church, church discipline and polity, the definition of honor and loyalty, slander and gossip, faithful preaching, counseling, pastoral ministry, and salvation.

I’ve been able to identify some of the exits that made the horrible detour possible, but I would be a fool to think I’ve got them all. Questions are still needed. If God were to grant repentance to those who hurt us and with whom we hurt others, there will be many other exits that will need to be explored together, deconstructed, if you will. For what reason? To build up the church, to reform it, to make it a more friendly and Christian home for the saints, a place of safety and holiness. A city on a hill for the unbelieving world to see.

Asking questions does not need to result in leaving the faith. I ask serious, legitimate, difficult questions about God, about the gap between His promises and what I experience, about the reasons He may have to not fix things the way I want them, when I want them, perhaps too much how I would want them fixed.

We have to ask questions. But our frame of reference must be not ignorant of the twin realities: (1) God is, and He can be found through the Word; and (2) we have made our local churches in many cases hostile places for people who are asking questions as a result of abuse. We are quick to call them gossipers and slanderers when we leave them with no recourse to seek justice and restoration within the church. We are quick to call them anti-institutional when we have built ecclesiastical structures that are slanted and unfair. We have sinned against many with the sin of favoritism, of preferring our leaders and the abusers over those who have had their lives destroyed.

Where is the compassion of Christ when we slam the doors on people or isolate them? Instead of leaving it all behind to go find the one sheep that is lost, we build tall walls and install electric fences to prevent them from coming in. We are masters at blame shifting and at focusing on the sins that come as a person responds to abuse and trauma. We discredit the accounts of those who end up lying because they were trying to be loyal and do what they were taught all along they needed to be—a submissive wife with a quiet and gentle spirit, a loyal pastor and a trusted friend, one who keeps confidences and protects the reputation of others.

We get our priorities upside down when we get on the defensive. Perhaps so many of these deconstruction stories would have different results if we really allowed these questions to penetrate our pride and deception and get us to where we need to get to together: reformation.

Are we ready to obey God and truly pursue reformation? It’s not like Dedé’s world out there. We need to get it right. We can’t just put it all away tonight and start all over again tomorrow. It’s not simple. It’s not pretty. It’s going to be humbling. This will require a lot of us.

When the Sleep of Jonah Is Not Passive but Abusive (Part 3)

Victor Chininin Buele

Continuing to show a kind of preaching that may look like expository preaching if you turn your head about 45 degrees, squint your eyes, take copious notes, and try to do exactly as it says, we have gone through a couple of marks of such preaching already.

We have established that this counterfeit preaching instills doubt on the hearer’s heart (but hardly ever on the preacher) by magnifying radical depravity in the hearer and minimizing the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. We have looked at ways in which this preaching drives in the concept that grace is silence and silence is grace, always instilling an equation that a confidence is the same as covering up unrepentant sin, that we are guardians of stories or of reputations in order to keep things quiet that shouldn’t be secret. Repentant sin is not something that goes in a vault. It comes up. In celebration.

Today, we will discuss the third mark of this abusive preaching: demonizing doubt and challenge.

Counterfeit Preaching Demonizes Doubt and Challenge

We saw that we are taught that grace is silence and silence is grace. What do I mean by that? Everybody has questions. You hear something in a sermon, and it raises up alarm bells. It could be because you are guilty of sin that the Word is exposing. You go on to resolve the dissonance between what you heard and what you are living. You have two choices: you either repent of the sin or you may excuse it away in a number of ways (dismiss it as not being sin, or as not being as bad as other sins, or as being statistically acceptable by the society at large, or that it is a rare indulgence, whatever).

The problem is that there is one mental and spiritual process that takes place before this choice. Is the preacher preaching the truth?

If you think about it, everybody loves the Bereans. In theory. Who are the Bereans?

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Acts 17:11

They are famous for excelling at this mental and spiritual process of examining the source of truth, the Scriptures, to see if what was preached to them was true.

So, before action is taken, we decide whether we are listening to the truth or not. And that is where this pesky mark of counterfeit expository preaching creeps in.

It suppresses the questions even from being asked out loud. The person who has bathed in this preaching will resort to accepting unquestionably the words preached as if they were true. If doubt arises, a spiritual problem is assumed in the hearer, or a lack of understanding or knowledge or experience. Thus, in what’s boasted of as grace, the person preaching is supposedly given honor by not asking him about it.

This is the wrong way to sort out the dissonance. If I hear something preached, and it sparks in me a conflict, I must carefully and prayerfully inquire the Word to see if it is true or if I’m being deceived. I must carefully and prayerfully make sure I understand what was being preached and how and where it came from in the Bible.

If the exposition or application are found to be consistent with the overall biblical text and the history of redemption, then I need to take action to kill my sin as I repent and find a way to restore what I have broken.

But if the exposition or application are eisegetical, or put another way, if it’s whatever the speaker wanted the text to say rather than what it says in its proper context, then we must ask questions. And we must ask them out loud. And please remember, these false teachers are often sounding like they are offering an exposition of the text. You may even be stuck in a long series that’s gone on for a few years on the same book of the Bible. Remember, the question is, does the text say what they preacher said? Does the text ask me to do what the preacher asked me to do?

Everybody loves to commend the Bereans. But I suspect that because we don’t have an instance of the Bereans challenging a false teacher in the book of Acts, we somehow have concluded that they did not confront false preaching. And maybe they never needed to do so. Yet, the whole point of examining to see if something is true is to know the truth.

This counterfeit kind of preaching requires the appearance of being a Berean while keeping any objection or questions suppressed. It paints it as taking things in the best possible light, as giving grace, as showing honor, as being godly and submissive, and teachable, as being the personification of 1 Corinthians 13. Víctor keeps no record of wrongs.

So, allow me to ask this big, takeaway question to you, What will happen when you raise your question to your pastor?

If you are afraid to ask it, that tells you a lot of what you need to know.

The pastor’s reaction will also tell you most of what you need to know.

Will you see humility even if error is not spotted or acknowledged? Will you see humility even if there is a difference of opinion that seems at least immediately not something easy to sort out? Will there be humility and true grace in the face of disagreement? Will there be repentance if sin is called out and appropriate (even public) restitution be made?

Or will you get mockery, excuses, manipulation, smooth speech, dismissive laughter, bellitling? Will the person turn the table on you and start talking about your sins? Will the person want you to see asking the question as sin, disrespect, disloyalty, ungratefulness, bitterness, unforgiveness, hardness of heart on your part? Will you start getting a regurgitation of your sins or will you start seeing a bully at work?

It is all around us. Men who are supposed to be shepherds calling sheep names, being rude and disrespectful and dismissive.

This kind of counterfeit preaching puts you in your place, so to speak, and clearly communicates (as indirectly as it does, it does so rather easily) that if you have questions, you need to trust the man up front. Asking the question will not be welcomed. It will not be encouraged. And it can be the end of the appearance of peace. It will cost you. And if you were in the circle of trust, you will be out of there.

Be not deceived, this is requiring you to lie to God and to swear allegiance to a manipulator who is deceiving the people of God and turning them away from a pure and sincere devotion to Jesus Christ.

I asked a question to my pastor this week. Not an easy one. He responded saying in clear and no uncertain terms that my questions are welcomed and that they were not received with hostility.

I felt safe. I felt cared for and shepherded for properly. I still have questions and will keep on asking them because the horror of living under counterfeit preaching that demonizes doubt and challenge is not worth it. God knows all, and “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 ESV).

If you live under this oppression, know this: we have walked this path, and we are happy to walk it with you. There is freedom. God saved you for freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

¿Y ahora quién podrá defendernos?

Victor Chininin Buele

Lo que hace al Chapulín Colorado el héroe favorito de mi infancia y la razón por la que no hay nadie en el mundo de Marvel como él es que aunque tembleque y miedoso e inútil y sencillo, él siempre respondía al llamado del deber. Muchos han dicho que la valentía no es la ausencia del temor sino que es hacer lo que se debe hacer a pesar de andar muerto de miedo.

Llegó el día. Yaku dirá por el resto de su vida que fue víctima de un fraude electoral de proporciones monumentales. Supongo que el Mashi pudiera decir algo así también. Y me imagino que el vencedor de la contienda ya no seguirá haciendo videos de TikTok porque ya obtuvo sus votos.

Usted pudo haber tenido razones excelentes para votar por Arauz, por Lasso, por el voto nulo, por el voto en blanco. Usted pudo haber tenido razones horribles para tomar cualquiera de esas decisiones.

Y usted puede pasarse los próximos años peleándose con los demás por gente que ni lo conoce a usted y a quienes las preocupaciones y dificultades de su vida en realidad no les quitan el sueño.

Pero la pregunta es necesaria. Y como el Chapulín es un personaje ficticio de nuestras infancias, la pregunta es apremiante: ¿Quién podrá defendernos?

La tristeza del sainete político que nos dio estas opciones no debe ser ignorado por nosotros. Estos falsos mesías que vienen cada cierto tiempo a prometernos la luna, las estrellas y paz en la tierra deben ser desenmascarados y mostrados por lo que son en verdad: seres humanos finitos y altamente incapaces de producir el cambio que todo ecuatoriano anhela.

Somos alcahuetes de alianzas fingidas, de matrimonios políticos por compromiso que tienen los documentos de divorcio listitos incluso antes de que podamos acabar de celebrar el supuesto triunfo.

Nos engañan porque nos dejamos engañar. Ni el hijo del mesías Correa ni el banquero del Guayas tienen la solución. Somos un país complejo y lleno de paradojas. Somos un país conflictivo y con problemas profundos.

En una canción reciente, el artista dominicano Redimi2 escribió lo siguiendo desde el punto de vista de uno de los ladrones que estaban siendo crucificados con el Mesías verdadero, obviamente modernizado y con sabor a música urbana:

Ah, ahí estás tú, el que decías
Ser el enviado, el supuesto Mesías
El que iba a destruir el templo
Y a reconstruirlo en tres días

Fantasías y sensacionalismo
Tus seguidores llenos de fanatismo
Si en verdad eres quien dices ser
Sálvanos y sálvate a ti mismo

Si resucitaste muertos con tu palabra
Si en verdad sanaste tanta gente
Cómo es posible que no puedas liberarte
Si aquí estamos conscientes de que eres inocente

Aunque pensándolo bien, eres culpable
Tu poder se hizo dudable
Demuéstrame que me equivoco
O sálvanos, que esta agonía es insoportable

Willy González, Redimi2, https://youtu.be/oLlB2jvjZHY

Ese es nuestro predicamento. La agonía es insoportable y algunos nos chuman un ratito y nos ayudan a convencernos de que todo va a estar bien y que el Reino del Cielo ya está en Ecuador. Pero tarde o temprano llega el chuchaqui y nos quejamos del dolor de despertarnos a la realidad. ¿Buscará el banquero los intereses del pueblo? ¿Cuáles intereses? ¿Avanzará causas y movimientos que se oponen a Dios o aquellos que buscan darle gloria o ninguno de los dos?

No lo sé. No confío en él. No confiaba en Arauz tampoco. Ni en Hervas. Ni en los sueños quijóticos de Alvarito. Lo que sí sé es lo que debo de hacer por Guillermo Lasso:

Exhorto, pues, ante todo que se hagan plegarias, oraciones, peticiones y acciones de gracias por todos los hombres, por los reyes y por todos los que están en autoridad, para que podamos vivir una vida tranquila y sosegada con toda piedad y dignidad. Porque esto es bueno y agradable delante de Dios nuestro Salvador, el cual quiere que todos los hombres sean salvos y vengan al pleno conocimiento de la verdad.

1 Timoteo 2:1-4 (NBLA)

Entonces debo orar y orar mucho.

En esperanza de que el evangelio penetre hasta lo más profundo de la nación: los corazones abatidos y endurecidos de una nación desilusionada. Porque cuando dejemos de seguir a estos falsos mesías y los corazones sean regenerados podremos tener esperanza duradera y podremos poner los graves problemas de la nación en su correcta perspectiva y trabajar sin cansancio esperando la redención de las consecuencias de los tristes pecados que nos han acechado.

Que Dios bendiga al Ecuador y a su nuevo presidente. Y que busquemos avanzar de alguna manera. Pero más que nada quiero cerrar con la Palabra de Dios por medio de Pablo:

“Y a Aquel que es poderoso para hacer todo mucho más abundantemente de lo que pedimos o entendemos, según el poder que obra en nosotros, a Él sea la gloria en la iglesia y en Cristo Jesús por todas las generaciones, por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.”

Efesios‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭(NBLA‬‬)

Libertad al Cautivo

Victor Chininin Buele

Un texto relacionado a la crucifixión de Cristo que quizá le sorprenda es el Salmo 69. David está cantando acerca de consecuencias muy serias que él está enfrentando por la causa de Dios. Él ha recibido insultos, deshonra, humillación, ha sido hecho un extraño, un extranjero a su propia familia, el blanco de insultos, ofensas, burlas y hasta de las canciones de los borrachos. Todo por Su causa – por la causa de Dios. Con el corazón destrozado se siente vacío y solo con esa soledad que duele hasta los huesos. Y lo peor es que no hay nadie, nadie, nadie que lo ayude, que le tenga compasión, que le dé consuelo.

I. RECONOCIMIENTO DE LA NECESIDAD DE LA SALVACIÓN (1-4, 7-12, 19-21)

1 Sálvame, Dios mío,
    que las aguas ya me llegan al cuello.
Me estoy hundiendo en una ciénaga profunda, (en el fango, en el barro)
    y no tengo dónde apoyar el pie.
Estoy en medio de profundas aguas,
    y me arrastra la corriente. (Es una inundación)
Cansado estoy de pedir ayuda;
    tengo reseca la garganta.
Mis ojos languidecen,
    esperando la ayuda de mi Dios.
Más que los cabellos de mi cabeza
    son los que me odian sin motivo;
muchos son los enemigos gratuitos
    que se han propuesto destruirme.
    ¿Cómo voy a devolver lo que no he robado?

Es aquel momento en el que usted sabe en lo más profundo de su ser que no hay otro camino, que no hay otra manera de salir de esta. Que lo único que nos puede salvar es la intervención divina de Dios para rescatarnos. Jesús conoce esta situación muy bien. Jesús conoce esta prisión muy bien. Jesús conoce ese momento en el que el cansancio, los insultos, la vergüenza, la tentación, nos hacen sentir que las circunstancias son imposibles, que no podemos cambiar, que Dios nos ha abandonado.

Este es el momento en el que necesitamos que Dios nos recuerde que aunque estemos en el lodo más profundo, en aguas que nos llegan al cuello y más allá, donde no podemos asentar el pie, donde las aguas de la inundación nos arrastran por doquier, cuando estamos con ojos hinchados de tanto llorar, sin voz para poder hablar, cansados y listos para desmayarnos, com enemigos gratuitos listos para hacernos daño, en ese momento necesitamos que el Señor nos recuerde con Su magnífica gracia que está más cerca de lo que parece en nuestra versión distorsionada de la realidad, que abra nuestros ojos hinchados para ver Su Belleza. Dios está aquí. Y nos da el Espíritu.

Imaginémonos el versículo 33 como que fuera el coro de esta canción por un momento:

Porque el Señor oye a los necesitados, y no desdeña a su pueblo cautivo.

David canta esto al Señor no sólo porque él comprende su debilidad pero porque él sabe que el Señor escucha a los necesitados y no desdeña, no menosprecia, a su pueblo cautivo.

Dios escucha.  Dios salva.  Dios está aquí.

II. RECONOCIMIENTO SOBRIO DE LA REALIDAD (5-6)

David nos muestra en este salmo un reconocimiento muy sobrio de la realidad.  David sabe quién es y quién es Dios.

Oh Dios, tú sabes lo insensato que he sido;
    no te puedo esconder mis transgresiones.

Dios sabe todo.  Él es el único santo juez.  No podemos esconder nada de Él.  Él ve lo que nosotros no podemos ver.  Él es Dios.

Y David no lo es.

Él tiene un reconocimiento sobrio de su insensatez, de su necedad.  Sin Dios, sin Cristo, somos insensatos, somos necios, ya que es el necio, el insensato quien dice que no hay Dios (Salmo 14:1).  Y aun ahora, tenemos de vez en cuando tentación no necesariamente de decir que Dios no existe, sino de vivir, de actuar como que Él no existiera.  A veces estamos ciegos y no podemos ver nuestra propia insensatez.

David tiene un reconocimiento sobrio de quién es y de quién es Dios. Dios es sabio. Por sí mismo, David no lo es. Dios es justo, David no lo es. Dios es luz y nosotros sabemos que David ha tratado de esconderse de la luz.

Señor Soberano, Todopoderoso,
    que no sean avergonzados por mi culpa
    los que en ti esperan;
oh Dios de Israel,
    que no sean humillados por mi culpa
    los que te buscan.

David está pensando en los demás.  Él está en medio del pueblo de Dios. Están cantando juntos.  Imaginémonos a este hombre cautivo cantando estos versos sobrios en la presencia de sus hermanos, cantando juntos a Dios.  Él le pide sobriamente al Señor que salva que no permita que otros, que sus hermanos, sean avergonzados, sean humillados por su culpa.

Obtenemos un mayor grado de claridad acerca de nuestra unión con Cristo en la oscuridad del cautiverio: La misericordia de Dios se vuelve más dulce, Su gracia sin límites, el sacrificio de Cristo más tangible, nuestra debilidad y nuestra inhabilidad de salvarnos se vuelve algo que podemos empezar a comprender. Es la debilidad que produce este tipo de sobriedad.

III. RECONOCIMIENTO DE MI INCAPACIDAD DE SALVARME (13-18)

David ora:

13 Pero yo, Señor, te imploro
en el tiempo de tu buena voluntad.

Al reconocer sobriamente su situación y al reconocer sobriamente quién es Dios, ¿qué hace David? Él ora al Dios soberano. La certeza que tiene que Dios escucha a los necesitados le permite a David orar al Señor y esperar el tiempo de la buena voluntad de Dios.

Por tu gran amor, oh Dios, respóndeme;
    por tu fidelidad, sálvame.

David reconoce sobriamente la generosidad y el amor de Dios y esto resulta en confianza en la oración. Yo sé que no me puedo salvar, sálvame Señor. Eres fiel hasta cuando no lo soy. Sálvame, Dios, porque eres bueno y más grande que lo que mis circunstancias han distorsionado. Sálvame, Señor

14 Sácame del fango;
no permitas que me hunda.
Líbrame de los que me odian,
y de las aguas profundas.
15 No dejes que me arrastre la corriente;
no permitas que me trague el abismo,
ni que el foso cierre sus fauces sobre mí.

Anteriormente David estaba narrando sus circunstancias. Ahora lo vuelve oración. Él no se queda estancado en una simple descripción de lo mal que le está yendo. Y es obvio que la cosa está fea, bien, bien fea. Él no se queda atrapado en la prisión – Él ora. Sácame, líbrame, no me dejes… Él sabe que Dios puede actuar decisivamente y cambiar con Su poder. Por tanto Él ora: “Líbrame!”

16 Respóndeme, Señor, por tu bondad y tu amor;
por tu gran compasión, vuélvete a mí.
17 No escondas tu rostro de este siervo tuyo;
respóndeme pronto, que estoy angustiado.

En este lamento, David pide a Dios que le dé más de Dios, de su presencia, para la corrección de la distorsión, de la mentira que Dios no es bueno, que no podemos confiar en Él y que Él no desea darnos lo mejor por su gracia. Dios, quiero saber que estás cerca. Quiero saber que estás aquí.

18 Ven a mi lado, y rescátame;
    redímeme, por causa de mis enemigos.

IV. RECONOCIMIENTO DE LA TRAMPA DEL PECADO (22-28)

Ahora la cosa se pone peor.

22 Que se conviertan en trampa sus banquetes,
    y su prosperidad en lazo.
23 Que se les nublen los ojos, para que no vean;
    y que sus fuerzas flaqueen para siempre.
24 Descarga tu furia sobre ellos;
    que tu ardiente ira los alcance.
25 Quédense desiertos sus campamentos,
    y deshabitadas sus tiendas de campaña.
26 Pues al que has afligido lo persiguen,
    y se burlan del dolor del que has herido.
27 Añade a sus pecados más pecados;
    no los hagas partícipes de tu salvación.
28 Que sean borrados del libro de la vida;
    que no queden inscritos con los justos.

Y ahora, ¿eso con qué se come? ¿qué hago con estos versículos?

Tenemos otra oración en esta canción, en este salmo.  Pero esta oración es muy oscura.  ¿Está el prisionero pidiendo a Dios que ponga en prisión a su perseguidor?

Sí.

Está orando para que sus banquetes y su prosperidad se vuelvan una prisión, una trampa para ellos mismos.
Está orando para que sus ojos sean enceguecidos, que tiemblen, para que la ira de Dios y su indignación caigan sobre ellos.  Ora para que haya desolación en sus vidas.  Ellos fueron los perseguidores de David, los que le trajeron dolor.  Él está orando que Dios no los salve, que los separe de los justos.

¿No huele esto a lo peor de la venganza?
¿No es esto completamente opuesto al evangelio?

Es una maldición. Esto es una maldición.

Cuando encontramos secciones de los salmos como esta, cuando encontramos oraciones como esta, a veces tenemos la tentación de buscar maneras de bajar el tono del texto, de inventarnos explicaciones que nos parezcan razonables. Tenemos una fascinación que nos lleva a saltarnos secciones de la Biblia como esta, secciones que no encajan fácilmente con lo que queremos que diga la Biblia.

Pero, recordemos que el prisionero, que el cautivo, está sufriendo dolor real, soledad verdadera, separación muy dura.  Él sabe que no tiene nada, que no tiene a nadie excepto a Dios y que solamente Dios puede salvarlo de estas circunstancias que parecen imposibles de resolver.

Los horrores que son perpetrados en contra del salmista gritan, claman por justicia.  Pero la venganza no es mía, no es del salmista, es del Señor. Él pagará (Heb 10:30).  Pero, ¿no somos llamados a amar al prójimo? ¿Cómo puedo orar esto por otra persona?

Tenemos que comprender que la vida es binaria – que sólo existen dos caminos: o somos salvos por Cristo o estamos perdidos por toda la eternidad. No hay más. Necesitamos a Cristo.

Cuando el salmista ora estas palabras, y mucho más aún, cuando Jesús oró estas palabras, y el Padre escucha esa oración, ¿qué significa eso? ¿cuál es el resultado de estas oraciones?

El pecado es horrible. Por eso es que esto suena horrible. La maldición es terrible. Y real. Por eso suena feo.

Y las buenas noticias del evangelio es que este pecado horrible, feo y terrible, puede ser clavado a la cruz ya que Jesús se volvió esta maldición para que tengamos vida y vida en abundancia, vida eterna. Cuando oramos esto estamos pidiendo a Dios que tome el pecado seriamente, como nuestro Santo Juez e intervenga. Y como solamente hay dos posibilidades, este pecado en todo su horror y maldición, (1) será clavado a la cruz de Jesús, una vez para siempre, o (2) continuará llevando a la persona por un camino doloroso y tormentoso hacia la condenación eterna del infierno.

¿Quiere ser prisionero por la eternidad? ¿Ver su vida convertirse en esta maldición? ¿Ver que la trampa se vuelve una horrible realidad? O ¿quiere tener vida eterna con Cristo? ¿Ver su vida ser redimida y cambiada? ¿Ver victoria sobre la trampa?

Los cristianos fuimos liberados de la prisión y podemos ver con sobriedad quién es el Dios que nos salvó y podemos orar por quienes aún son cautivos al pecado.

O puede que usted aún se encuentre en la prisiٴón en este momento.  La invitación es extendida a usted en este salmo para que confiese su pecado y lo clave en la cruz gracias a la obra de redención del Señor Jesús y que pueda recibir vida eterna.  Porque Él es el Señor que oye al necesitado y no desdeña a los cautivos. Dios puede salvarlo y lo salvará.  El no encuentra placer en la perdición de los cautivos, pero envió a su Hijo Jesús para que muera por los cautivos para que encuentren libertad y reconciliación.  Él hace que los rebeldes sean adoptados como Hijos de Dios.

El pecado es una trampa – debemos reconocerlo – y escuchar el llamado.  Si estamos pecando, debemos arrepentirnos y confiar en Cristo.

V. RECONOCIMIENTO DE LA PROTECCIÓN DE LA SALVACIÓN (29-36)

29 Y a mí, que estoy pobre y adolorido,
    que me proteja, oh Dios, tu salvación.
30 Con cánticos alabaré el nombre de Dios;
    con acción de gracias lo exaltaré.
31 Esa ofrenda agradará más al Señor
    que la de un toro o un novillo
    con sus cuernos y pezuñas.
32 Los pobres verán esto y se alegrarán;
    ¡reanímense ustedes, los que buscan a Dios!
33 Porque el Señor oye a los necesitados,
    y no desdeña a su pueblo cautivo.

34 Que lo alaben los cielos y la tierra,
    los mares y todo lo que se mueve en ellos,
35 porque Dios salvará a Sión
    y reconstruirá las ciudades de Judá.
Allí se establecerá el pueblo
    y tomará posesión de la tierra.
36 La heredarán los hijos de sus siervos;
    la habitarán los que aman al Señor.

El que fue cautivo recibe la tierra.

El cautivo, afligido y adolorido, pide a Dios que lo salve, que la salvación de Dios lo proteja.

Y la gratitud será el grito de su corazón, un sacrificio aceptable.

Dios nos conoce – conoce nuestra debilidad y nos da aliento en este salmo – los pobres verán esto y se alegrarán.

Él avivará, reanimará los corazones de los que lo buscan. Él ha dado al creyente un nuevo corazón.  Si no conoce al Señor todavía, Él le puede dar la protección de la salvación—un nuevo corazón.  Él dará libertad de la prisión en la que se encuentra y lo protegerá.  No es una falsa promesa de prosperidad inmediata, de salud y riquezas si cree en Jesús.  Es la buena voluntad del padre darles, darnos el Reino (Lucas 12:32).

Entonces terminamos con la seguridad de la presencia de Dios –Los que aman al Señor vivirán con Él por la eternidad. Eso es lo que se ganó en la cruz y la resurrección de Jesús – libertad en la presencia de Dios por la eternidad. Libres del cautiverio. Libres de las cadenas. Alejados del pecado por la eternidad. Libres incluso hoy. Libres para ser cambiados día a día más y más a semejanza de Jesús.

CONCLUSIÓN

Somos un pueblo miedoso, un pueblo temeroso, un pueblo necesitado. Le tenemos miedo al futuro, a las dificultades, al prójimo, al éxito, al presente, al pasado, a la felicidad, a la enfermedad, a la salud. Parte de ello es por qué hay tantos santos en la iglesia popular de nuestro medio—un santo para cada temor. Parte de ello es por qué muchos buscan refugio constante en el alcohol, las drogas, las compras, el trabajo, los viajes, muchas cosas.

Le pregunto a usted, ¿quiere ser libre? Verdaderamente libre?

¿O quiere seguir siendo esclavo de su terno, de su cartera, de su billetera, de su prestigio, de lo que piensan los demás, de su salud, de su enfermedad, de los que hablan mal de usted, de los que quisiera que hablaran bien de usted, de los que la ignoran, de los que lo maltratan, de su trabajo, de tantas cosas que podemos convertir en ídolos?

  1. Debemos orar. Porque a rienda suelta, nosotros nunca, nunca, nunca desearemos la libertad verdadera. Seguiremos esclavizados al pecado y al temor, ansiedad, y horribles consecuencias que acarrea.
  2. Debemos invitar a otros a ayudarnos a salir de la prisión. A veces pasamos dándole una manito de pintura al calabozo, comprando un arreglito para poner en la mesa, planchando el uniforme de la cárcel. Miremos a nuestro alrededor—tenemos hermanos y hermanas que nos pueden ayudar a salir del calabozo, que nos pueden ayudar a recordarnos el evangelio, que nos pueden ayudar a proclamar la libertad.
  3. Debemos ir a buscar a los cautivos para liberarlos. Tanto que nos han enseñado de los héroes del pasado – de Bolívar, de Sucre, de los héroes que derramaron su sangre por liberarnos en los tiempos coloniales. Juan León Mera estaba tan pero tan preocupado que seamos olvidadizos y que regresemos al yugo que escribió unas estrofas fuertísimas en nuestro himno. Por ejemplo,

“Y si nuevas cadenas prepara
la injusticia de bárbara suerte,
gran Pichincha! prevén tú la muerte
de la Patria y sus hijos al fin;
Hunde al punto en tus hondas entrañas
cuanto existe en tu tierra el tirano
huelle solo cenizas y en vano
busque rastro de ser junto a ti.”

Si nuestra independencia nacional genera semejante emoción, qué más deberemos decir de nuestra libertad en Cristo – ganada por Cristo – una vez para siempre?
“Cristo nos libertó para que vivamos en libertad. Por lo tanto, manténganse firmesy no se sometan nuevamente al yugo de esclavitud” (Gál 5:1).

Cuando Jesús fue a aquella sinagoga en Nazaret, le dieron el libro del profeta Isaías.  Él leyó:

Lucas 4:18 «El Espíritu del Señor está sobre mí,
    por cuanto me ha ungido
    para anunciar buenas nuevas a los pobres.
Me ha enviado a proclamar libertad a los cautivos
    y dar vista a los ciegos,
a poner en libertad a los oprimidos,
19     a pregonar el año del favor del Señor».[e]

20 Luego enrolló el libro, se lo devolvió al ayudante y se sentó. Todos los que estaban en la sinagoga lo miraban detenidamente, 21 y él comenzó a hablarles: «Hoy se cumple esta Escritura en presencia de ustedes».

Seamos verdaderamente libres. Hay manera de ser libres. De ser verdaderamente felices. Jesús.

(Adaptado del manuscrito de la predicación del domingo 8 de abril de 2018 en la iglesia cristiana Semilla de Mostaza de la ciudad de Loja)

When the Sleep of Jonah Is Not Passive but Abusive (Part 2)

Victor Chininin Buele

We are in the middle of a series of reflections about a certain counterfeit of Reformed preaching, of expository preaching, that causes great harm to the flock of Christ. So far, I have alluded to the Church of Christ as being sound asleep in the safest part of a ship that is in the sea in the middle of a storm of mythical proportions. Abuse is a storm that destroys sheep, precious sheep made in the image of God, and tosses them to the depths of the sea. Part of the argument is that for Jonah to be sound asleep like that, his conscience had to be hardened to such an extent that the eternal destiny of the people of Nineveh became something so repugnant to him that he would purposefully purchase a ticket to the end of the known world to avoid the call to preach to them because maybe, just maybe God could grant them mercy and repentance (and that is precisely just what God did).

In the previous article, the first mark of this counterfeit was explored: Preaching that breeds doubt in yourself and in everyone else but complete confidence in the mediator preaching.

The task today is to explore the second mark.

Counterfeit Preaching Teaches that Silence Is Grace and that Grace Is Silence

This one is pervasive. And it thrives in the uneasiness we feel at our desire to avoid sin and be respectable, God-honoring people who love our neighbor as ourselves. Let me dissect it.

This feels honorable. And we have plenty of words from the Bible to back up our action and inaction.

The book of Proverbs is a great source of wisdom, but if it’s twisted, it can be a great weapon for silencing. There are gems in God’s Word such as these: “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Prov. 11:13), ” Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler” (Prov. 20:19), or “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret” (Prov. 25:9). I don’t use the word gems sarcastically. This is wisdom–God’s wisdom. No if’s, but’s, or objections.

We saw in the last installment how the teaching that the heart is deceitful can be taken past its limits in saying and believing that all that comes from the heart of the person must be suspect, completely neglecting the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. This second mark builds on top of that. That is, when the person is rightly questioning or asking what his instinct is, it goes and adds secrecy to it. And because the words used to silence come from the Bible, straight from the Bible, they have great power.

This hermeneutic will say, “What is slander? God’s Word defines slander as the revealing of secrets. The Christian, God’s Word says, will keep a thing covered.” “What do we do with the slanderer? We must not associate with them. They’ll just publish anything you tell them, that’s what God’s Word says.” “You must argue your case with your neighbor himself, and not reveal another’s secret. Don’t talk to others. God’s Word says that. They are speaking evil.”

And here is the thing.

The Word does say that.

And it doesn’t.

A key factor is the nature of the secret we are being asked to keep. The other key factor is whose authority is it to deal with the situation, if appropriate.

The Lord Jesus asked people to keep secrets. Just one example. “And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, ‘See that no one knows about it.’ But they went away and spread his fame through all that district” (Matthew 9:30–31 ESV). Did Jesus commit some impropriety that he was coercing people to be silent about? No. Was he protecting the appearance of godliness in front of a people? No.

It was not yet time for these miracles to be proclaimed from the rooftops.

And the people couldn’t be quiet anyway. Redeemed people don’t keep their sin quiet. Forgiven people tell you all about it because it magnifies their Savior. Freedom cries out from the rooftops. It gets rid of any obstacles that keep them from climbing up there to shout about the grace of Christ in redeeming them and freeing them from their slavery to sin.

This is very important. Jesus never took advantage of Proverbs to silence opposition or to silence those who were asking questions or to dismiss correction and the call to repentance (he never sinned).

And we now live on the other side of the Great Commission. So, we don’t have a reason to keep quiet about the fact that Jesus is the Christ. In fact, it is our full time responsibility to tell every creature that Christ is Lord and to disciple them by teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught.

There are matters of confidence and discretion, and we would agree with the writer of Proverbs, that one must be able to keep a confidence and honor the person who trusted us for advice or counseling. This is part of living in community. In this way, we are guardians of stories. There are things that we will hear that we will be wise to keep in confidence. Two friends tells you they have cancer, and they haven’t shared with anyone yet. They truly need prayer. Pray. People will be making decisions that are not public yet. Yet, these are not sins we are asked to keep but confidences.

The problem comes when we equate a confidence with covering up unrepentant sin. Usually, forgiven sin is not something that goes in a vault. It comes up–as an example, as a testimony, as a praise, as a warning, as a challenge, as an admonishment. And not all stories can be kept secret. When we are told we are guardians of stories or of reputations in order to keep things quiet that shouldn’t be secret, beware of manipulation at work. There are matters that concern law enforcement. There are matters that concern the local church. There are matters that concern spouses that have been sinned against. There are matters that concern elderships. There are matters that concern the general public. There are matters that concern parents.

John Stott wrote a wonderful book Confess Your Sins that wrestles in part with the nuances of public confession. I would commend that to you for your edification. In the case of matters that reach advanced levels of church discipline, he wrote, “It is the local church which has been sinned against; it is the local church to which public confession must be made; and it is the local church which must take responsibility to administer discipline and to use its God-given authority to bind and to loose.” The abuse stories we see coming to light publicly these days show ecclesiastical systems where the local church was not involved in these matters. As a matter of fact, a mark of honor, or of fear, was to not involve them, to handle things in committees, or elderships, or in secret. Once, a saint who heard of a matter of abuse simply asked another saint, “But, did you talk to the regional director of the denomination?” And she walked away in peace. Stott’s point is essential and scriptural: this saint was sinned against as a part of the local church, but she believed this lie that her silence is grace. Reconciliation can’t really occur unless we are honest about the extent of our sins and repent of them fully. There was teaching she believes that led to this response.

The height of manipulation in this preaching is that grace is equated with silence. One day, I was in a Bible study. The teacher announced his text and started reading it. Every single attendee opened to said text and heard the dissonance between the words our eyes were seeing and the words the teacher was reading. It didn’t match up.

Yet no one said anything.

We all assumed it was grace to assume we were all wrong and not the teacher! There was absolutely no reason to be quiet about this. Somebody could have asked, “What are you reading?” Somebody could have said, “You are reading the wrong text.” Somebody could have even made a joke out of it. But, this is in the air we breath. We assume that it is us. It is our fault. That it is somehow better to be the one wrong; after all, we can recite 1 Corinthians 13. That is how abuse thrives. We think we give grace to the abuser, but we cover the abuse.

We think we give the benefit of the doubt. But we forget there is no such thing as neutrality. To be pro-something is to be against something else. Relativism breaks. And we all know it. We try to see things in the best possible light. Until we no longer can do so with a clean conscience. And then, the speech gets labeled as gossip and slander. Not because it is false but because it is uttered. Are we surprised that so many end up sharing with the mainstream media or with social media when we, the saints, those sinned against, those with a responsibility to disciple, love, and care for the sheep, chose to be silent and, more than that, went on to believe false narratives that painted the one coming forward in the worst possible light as we accused them of painting the accused in the worst possible light? I am convinced that people go public when there is no more recourse.

Do not read this wrong: it may be grace to be silent. Deuteronomy 17/Mathew 18 call us to make a diligent inquiry, to not admit charges without reliable witnesses. But once things are clear, and the right jurisdiction is identified (whether it’s a person who’s been sinned against, or abused, or a spouse that has been lied to, or the other elders, or the body of the church, or law enforcement), we can’t use grace as an excuse for inaction.

Jesus had a lot to say. And here is the thing with secrets: they are the canary in the mine. They speak volumes about the heart.

When the Sleep of Jonah Is Not Passive but Abusive (Part 1)

Victor Chininin Buele

This third installment of this series will focus on a certain counterfeit of Reformed teaching and preaching that creates and fosters cultures of shame and abuse, of self-protection and inward focus. And not just within the church but within the homes of those who sit under such teaching. In the first post of the series, I argued that the sleep of Jonah was in part the result of a hardened heart that was actually able to be sound asleep in the midst of a storm of unprecedented proportions. Abuse in the church is a storm that continues mostly undeterred. In the last post, preaching from the sleep of Jonah is what I described as the dangers of a certain counterfeit of Reformed teaching and preaching that lacks specificity and tangible application, that showcases brilliant application that is about somebody else, or about a group that is to be excluded, or it asks us to turn our eyes outwardly to others and away from our own need for Christ, or overemphasizes grace or law, or trivializes our sin (everybody sins, we are imperfect, all pastors fall short of 1 Timothy 3/Titus 1). And just in case you think this is about finger pointing, fully aware that when I do so, three fingers point at myself, the last post features the analysis of a critical sermon I preached. This is not only about somebody else.

The communication of such things, of course, is hardly ever explicit. That would be flat out heresy that nobody in these elderships, or boards of deacons, or congregations could ever affirm explicitly. It is all subtle. I have come more and more to appreciate the title of David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen’s book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

This preaching is subtle. I do not know if the people preaching these sermons are that evil. They could be. And some must be. I do not know if they just believe their own tales. They just might. Or maybe they are that good at faking sincerity and transparency. Or something along in the spectrum. Diane Langberg’s writing has helped me break free from the intellectual desire to try to understand these preachers. If Satan is the father of lies, which is true, we cannot possibly expect to make complete and perfect sense out of a worldview of lies, built upon lies, and sustained by lies.

I cried when I heard one of my pastors preach late last year. It had been rainwater in a long walk through the desert. My daughter knew. She just knew. This was different. When a seven-year-old who does not profess Christ hears and knows and articulates the difference, that’s something that caught my spiritual and intellectual curiosity.

I’m going to make four points about this counterfeit of real, Reformed preaching, though far more could and must be said.

This kind of preaching: (1) breeds doubt in yourself and in everyone else but complete confidence in the mediator preaching, (2) teaches that silence is grace and that grace is silence, (3) demonizes doubt and challenge, and (4) praises and commends homes that reflect this culture.

This installment focuses on the first characteristic of this reprehensible counterfeit.

Counterfeit Preaching Breeds the Wrong Kinds of Doubt and Confidence

A key element of this preaching that sounds so biblical and commendable is the breeding of doubt. There is a Scripture for that: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV).

A frame of reference gets built upon this that grows and grows over time: I must doubt myself. If I’m thinking x, I must account for the fact that my heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. And this line of thinking gets plenty of traction because that is precisely what we must do in Christ. In Reformed preaching, this is consistent cognitively with the doctrine of the radical depravity of humankind. We know experientially that we are not inherently good; otherwise, there would be no need for so much money and efforts and work spent in trying to persuade ourselves that we are good.

So, you get a group of people who are aware of their sinfulness and proclivity towards sin. And they may even be fully committed in an Owen-like sense to kill sin before it kills them. You add the admonition to not trust the heart. There is no “follow your heart” philosophies here. It sounds right.

But over time, doubt is planted: You are unreliable. Your reasoning is unreliable. Your interpretation of your reading is unreliable. Your understanding of Scripture is unreliable. Your emotions are unreliable. Your gut feelings are unreliable. Your motives are suspect. Your affections are unreliable.

And not just in particular circumstances but always. Your first instinct is going to be to assume you are wrong. And being wrong is taken to mean that you are sinning.

This completely ignores a critical point: while the Christian has not been fully glorified yet, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer already. Yes, the believer can sin, have sinful emotions, foul reasoning, sinful reactions. Absolutely. The heart must be tested. But is it always sinful? Not always! Not every thought, deed, impression, or emotion of the believer is to be considered unreliable. Radical depravity does not mean that everything I do is depraved. Even if I were not a believer. God restrains the worst of all of us through His common grace.

This also ignores another critical point, equally important: the believer has Spirit-empowered understanding of God’s clear, true, unchanging, unimpeachable Word. We can check our thoughts, emotions, reasoning, impressions, or gut feelings against the Scriptures. If I have a suspicion that something is not right, I must go to the Scriptures, in prayer, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to my community, check with my fellow brothers and sisters, ask questions, keep asking, keep going back to the Word.

This preaching thrives because we are golden calf makers. We will make an idol out of anything. God’s good blessings turn into our counterfeit gods all the time. Gifted communicators are no exception.

At some point, cultures where I am always assumed to be wrong and sinful will need to have one way to discern the voice of God. And the gifted communicator becomes our man, our north, our hope, our ruler, our mediator, our golden calf. We want it easy: We want to know what God says about this or that. And we doubt our ability to come up with God’s answers on our own. Should I move? Should I marry this girl? Should I buy this house or rent? Should I move to a country in the 10/40 window? Should I eat at KC Joe’s? Should I shop at Target or not? Should I wear a mask or not? Should I vote for Trump or for Biden?

And when the gifted communicator seems to be right most of the time, we make a beeline past the Scriptures and straight to him. Because he is almost always right, I will just go ask him.

And our doubt becomes full confidence in the mediator.

In my former denomination there is a practice of congregational participation, and there is a microphone open for it during the service. Because the denomination is continuationist (it believes in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our day), it is assumed that from time to time, the Holy Spirit will impress upon somebody in the congregation the gift of a word of encouragement (or prophecy since this was once called the prophecy mic and still may be in some local churches). The catch is that somehow there has to be a sifting of what’s from the Spirit and what’s not from the Spirit. And the senior pastor is usually the one who hears the impression/prophecy first and then allows or disallows the participation. Since we are golden calf makers, it becomes very easy to equate this gatekeeper with the mediator. And we start assuming that because this person said something was right, it is. Or worse yet, it is from God.

I say that to illustrate the extreme example of something that happens far more subtly in other local churches. You may not have a participation mic, or you may believe certain gifts ceased with the apostles, but pastors get questions all the time–people come and present “theoretical” scenarios or sometimes will even own up that it is from them sometimes. People come and ask us how far is too far in a relationship before marriage, or about a certain ethical dilemma, or if they should move in together (after they’ve done it), or about their addictions and secrets, or about the morality of their choices or purchases. They know that their choice was/is sinful, but what they want (what we want, I should say) is to get the “man of God” to tell us that we are in the up and up. That we are accepted. That we are justified. Even if we won’t stop doing what we want to do.

To tidy up: this first mark, so to speak, of the counterfeit preaching that leads to abuse is this:

We end up mistrusting everything that comes from us but trusting completely everything that comes from the gifted communicator. We end up doubting the work of the Holy Spirit of God in our life, but trusting it completely and unquestionably in the life of somebody who may not be indwelled by the Spirit at all.

Does this sound to you like a straw man argument? I’m sure it could. Especially if you are deep in the middle of it. And if in your situation it is not extreme (yet) but are just somewhere along the spectrum, it still doesn’t make it right. This is not to caricaturize anyone, but this is to help the church see these areas where we are vulnerable. We try to uphold right doctrine, but wolves can thrive inside precisely because of this commitment to the doctrine of the radical depravity of man.

That is, yes, our hearts can lead us astray and our thoughts are not only not always right but can be sinful. We must be aware of that. Jeremiah 17:6 is true. I must be aware of my propensity to sin. I must be aware of the part of my nature that is still prone to wander to sin. But this does not mean I must doubt everything: every thought, every emotion, every impression, every gut feeling, every concern, every joy, every affirmation I want to give to somebody.

For that we have the Holy Spirit. Trust in God, pray boldly, search the Scriptures, dialog with your church family inside and outside of the local church. Remember that the Spirit dwells in you and is transforming you daily. Remember that you have a Spirit-empowered understanding of God’s Word that is actually renewing your mind daily. And you are not alone. He placed you in a family with other brothers and sisters in Christ, and your family transcends the four walls of a church building or a given neighborhood or city.

Preaching the Sleep of Jonah

Victor Chininin Buele

The last post argued that the sleep of Jonah in chapter 1 was in part the result of a hardened heart that was actually able to be sound asleep in the midst of a storm of unprecedented proportions. It left the reader with the question: Are we asleep? Who has God called you to reach that you would rather, and literally, see burn in hell?

Today I want to try to wake up the Reformed preacher from the sleep of Jonah.

One very challenging question I have been considering for the better part of three years is this–how can it be that the resurgence of “Reformed” preaching has not decreased, but perhaps even increased, abuse inside of the church?

I had thought this was a problem of antinomianism, that is, in its most comically tragic form, a “let’s do whatever we please because we are saved” attitude. I figured legalism was far from it because legalism would be such a strict outward observance of Biblical principles (even if the heart is not engaged or willing or delighting in God) that it could not possibly be part of the equation. Sinclair Ferguson cleared that up for me in The Whole Christ showing that both antinomianism and legalism have the same root: a belief in the lie of Eden that God is not good, he is not loving, he cannot be trusted, and he is not for us. Some choose to go super strict about it–I will not even touch the tree so that I won’t be able to eat the fruit if I don’t touch it! Some choose to go super liberal about it and say, “What’s wrong about it? Go eat all the fruit you can. What’s the worst that can happen? Diabetes? Nah! There’s grace/insuline for that!”

One of the first reasons I started to ponder this question was because I had the task to restart the exposition of the book of Luke at a church that had gone through the horror of seeing her senior pastor’s sin of sexual immorality exposed. I needed to pick up the exposition in Luke 17:11-37. So I went and read Luke 1-17, but I also went and listened to the last sermon that was preached in the series and a few others.

I had preached at that church a few months earlier a sermon about the law from the book of James. I remember that the pastor cleaned up after me, so to speak, and took off the edge I purposely left hanging in there. He added grace and gospel to my message. It’s not that I didn’t preach the gospel or that I didn’t speak about grace. But the text was about the law, so there was a certain edge there that was unfortunately flattened. I told my wife about it. I felt frustrated that my point was undone, but it was not my church. Life moved on. I didn’t really ask why!

So, there I was, listening to the man’s sermons. Expository sermons. In the Reformed world, we place a big emphasis on expository preaching–preaching “straight” from the Bible where the message of the sermon is the message of the text. We even go through long series going through the same book of the Bible, verse by verse, to not miss anything. If there is a subject I normally wouldn’t want to talk about, preaching this way will force me to deal with it and not skip it. In theory, there is no way for this to fail. The preacher is to submit to the Word, find its authorial intent (divine and human), find a way to communicate it effectively and apply it faithfully.

This man preached almost 17 chapters of Luke while living in gross sin. And a number of other books prior to that.

How did this happen?

I noticed that the sermons didn’t have skin in them. The applications didn’t get to the heart. Yet, they sounded like terrific expositions of Scripture. I do not recall finding any technical exegetical errors or excursions into La La Land. I could see how a people could listen to years of that and walk away every Sunday being absolutely thankful to God for the sermon and feeling edified. I do not recall hearing of any conversions at the church from the preaching, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were. The Bible shines through as it is living and active, and it is not restrained by the sin of the mouthpiece.

But that doesn’t give us an excuse to not ask anything or, worse yet, to make this key mistake of justifying gross sin or explaining it away because of what we perceive to be the fruit of a ministry or the gifts of the minister.

These sermons did not get to the hard confrontation of calling the human being, made in the image of God, to own his sin, to name it, to reject it fully, to turn from it specifically and completely, and to live for God. In the condition of this man’s heart, there is no way in the world he could have asked these kinds of questions without being laid bare himself at the pulpit. So, he didn’t. And every Sunday, things got worse. And the church, who called him to minister to them, was asleep. Asleep comfortably in the sleep of Jonah.

When application is about somebody else, or it asks us to turn our eyes outwardly to others and away from our own need for Christ, or overemphasizes grace or law (that is, it asks us to believe the lie of Eden that God is not good, trustworthy, and loving), or trivializes our sin (everybody sins, we are imperfect, all pastors fall short of 1 Timothy 3/Titus 1), we need to pay attention. Not to the application, though. Something is wrong. Ask questions. Pray boldly. Speak frankly. Fear God and not man.

Preaching like this is a counterfeit. Allow me to illustrate:

The title of my sermon restarting the Luke series was “In the Midst of You”, and I made three larger points, three signs of the Kingdom: (1) The Kingdom enters a time of complacency and ingratitude, (2) the Kingdom brings in the outsider and shows some of the insiders to have been false sons, and (3) the Kingdom means the end of the law for righteousness. My application, very much guilty of the same style of preaching that I am describing, was this: (1) be thankful, (2) seek to identify God’s miraculous power as you go about your daily life, and (3) guard your heart against relying on the law for your righteousness.

Abstract. Abstract. Abstract.

Can you see how you could have walked away from my sermon (which in essence was no different than the previous sermon by the man preaching while living in sin) and be thankful for the teaching and inspired by the application? And yet, my application does almost nothing for you.

It doesn’t confront you with anything. Be thankful! Great. Does it actually confront my lack of thankfulness? Am I complacent and ungrateful? What specific event or presence or lack of a gift from God showed me to be unthankful or complacent? What sin is behind my response? What am I doing to hide it? This application has a point–thankfulness is the antidote to complacency. But the complacency has to be exposed and understood, confronted and challenged. I have to let the text confront me and call me to repentance. And repent! There is a way this application sounds right but does absolutely nothing for my soul. I can write down “Be thankful” in my notes and maybe say an extra prayer before a meal throughout the week but let it do nothing more in my heart. Sin loves to hide there.

Seek to identify God’s miraculous power as you go about your daily life sounds wise and deep, practical and life-changing. I even quoted Chesterton for good effect. It lacks specificity again. It does very little. And in reading the text again, I think the connection between the exegesis and this application is very thin–there was a miracle in the text; therefore, appreciate miracles.

And then, this exhortation to guard the heart against relying on the law for your righteousness also falls short. The congregation was about to start fleshing out the consequences of sexual sin that hid for a long time in their midst. It was hidden. Lies had to be told and believed. Deception took a root in people’s lives. And this application completely missed the point in light of that. A person hiding gross sin was reminded that no person can save himself by doing the right works of the law and by not doing what the law forbids. Hear: GRACE! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to translate this exhortation to: “I may be indulging in ungodly sexual pleasure, hiding it from my wife, hiding it from the men who are supposedly walking with me, but I’m good because Scripture says there is no one righteous, not even one. Praise Jesus for His grace for such a wretch as me!” This sermon completely missed the point of the text for this people in that particular day in those particular circumstances.

Preaching like this allows sin to hide and thrive. It doesn’t call us to do anything. It redefines repentance and results in such a rejection of any application that requires costly obedience and honest discipleship, that anyone who calls you to repentance turns into a Pharisee, and we know what Jesus had to say to the Pharisees! So, you can continue to walk down the wide, open road of sin, whistling and singing Amazing Grace, even receiving praise for your sermons and receiving praise from the sermons for your sinful behavior. Not explicitly, of course. That would be heretical. And when the mouthpiece in the pulpit is the one hiding the sin, manipulation and spiritual maneuvers can be very hard to identify. It is the water in which you swim.

I saw in the Twitter world something last week that summarizes the point very well: “Want to know if you have a healthy pastor? Disagree with them.”

Try it sometime, Biblically of course, it may expose what needs to be exposed.

Fellow preachers–we must repent of preaching that hides and empowers abuse. These are misrepresentations of the character of God who compassionately sent His Son Jesus to die for all our sins, past, present, and future and raised Him up from the dead to sit at His right hand and intercede for us, who sent us the Spirit that we may have life and live out the good works prepared beforehand by Him. They do not edify the sheep.

This is preaching from the sleep of Jonah. We are fast asleep in the deep, safe recesses of a study in the middle of a church that is trying to weather a storm of cosmic proportions. Wake up, fellow Jonah. Who has God called you to reach that you would rather, and literally, see burn in hell? It may look like having to get ahold of yourself, own your sin, repent of it publicly, and let somebody else preach. It may look like having to turn back on your fear of losing the congregation or not be liked by them and actually give them real and concrete applications that will help them kill sin and delight in Jesus.

Next time, I will venture a bit into another flavor of preaching from the sleep of Jonah that redefines respect and submission in ways that foster and empower abuse to be perpetuated and never opposed.

The Sleep of Jonah

Victor Chininin Buele

Thanks to the saints of the Congregación Cristiana Dios es Amor in Loja, Ecuador, I had the opportunity to prepare to study the book of Jonah with them through Zoom. A musician somewhat recently wrote in a song, “Zoom, zoom, se activó la colmena” (Zoom, zoom, the hive was activated) and speaks to the truth that one of the ways in which these times of Zoom have uniquely shown the goodness and the power of God is in activating a powerful force for the gospel not limited to physical buildings that may have been sitting empty. The gospel proclamation is advancing. The hive was activated indeed.

One of the good effects of studying the book of Jonah with the saints in Loja was that we were able to see the sovereign purpose of God in a story that is often the target and source of jokes in our secularized days. Interacting with one astute sister in the study one night, we were fleshing out the following line of reasoning from Jonah, chapter 1:

Essentially, these experienced seafarers were staring in the eye of something like nothing they’ve ever seen before. And they had seen plenty of storms in their lives. Clearly, something greater than themselves had brought this upon the sea and their ship and was threatening their very lives. This was not normal. In this display of pluralism, everybody worshiping their own gods in their own ways, they are all trying their best to appease them. Nothing works. The storm does not relent. Their fear led them to worship, to begging to their gods. These false gods proved false and failed. So, they took matters into their own hands and started throwing everything off the ship–better to starve than to die! But the ship was still going down. Death is certainly ahead. Fear is rampant.

And there is good old Jonah. Sleeping. “Fast asleep” (5).

In the study, she then asked something along these lines: Do you mean to say that God has brought about this pandemic of global proportions, like nothing we or any doctor has ever seen before, in a time of rampant pluralism, secularism, and atheism, and that we may be asleep? And that the unbelievers may actually be more engaged in calling out to their gods than us, the Christian children of God?

Are we asleep?

From the text what we do know is that Jonah was asleep, fast asleep, in the inner part of the ship that was in the worst of a storm of mythical proportions (5).

What could be the possible intended effect that the author of the book of Jonah has for us as we read the story? How are we to think about this? What are we to feel? What’s going on here?

We see in the text that God calls Jonah to rise up and go to Nineveh, a great and sinful city that Jonah has no desire to see saved. For all he cares, he wants them to perish without any opportunity to repent. His emotions and actions testify to that. So, what did he do? He got up and went not just in the other direction, but he paid the fare to go to Tarshish, the end of the known world in the other direction. He wanted to go as far as possible from those who needed to hear God’s call to repent.

The mariners want to know who is to blame for this because something greater than themselves is at play, so they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. They asked him to identify himself. His first response was that he was a Hebrew. This may be a clue that Jonah was seeing his identity as primarily national and ethnic. Secondly, he described himself as one who fears the LORD, the God of heaven. At that point, these experts in pluralism and the equal validity of all their false gods, “knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them” (10). They were even afraid to throw him overboard because they feared the LORD counting his death upon them and not rescuing them out of the storm. “They called out to the LORD, ‘O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you” (14).

The pagans were far more eager to obey the LORD than the prophet of the LORD was. The pagan pluralists were far more fearful of the LORD than the one who self-described as one who fears the LORD.

I heard a sermon not so long ago where the preacher reflected on Jonah choosing to rather sleep than to face the storm. Yes, we are in the realm of speculation. After all, we are looking at narrative not synthesized doctrine.

Yet, I don’t think from the look we have taken together at chapter 1 of this story, that this is the point. From the text, we don’t get a real answer as to the heart of Jonah. We are left with a lot of questions. We don’t know if he truly repented, or if that repentance was genuine. We could take 2:8-9 as a potential sign of repentance, but then we have his anger and exceedingly great displeasure in 4:1 at the compassion of the Lord Yahweh.

I think what we are seeing here is somebody whose original disobedience from the LORD came from deep passion against the people of Nineveh. I can almost hear him say, “I rather watch them burn in hell…” When we choose to disobey God, we are hardening our heart. We are starting to bring in the bricks and concrete to build up a wall. We know how Americans feel about walls, right? Some of the ones who want them built to keep others out don’t realize the walls they’ve themselves built around their hearts to block what God calls them to do, and some of those who don’t want them built to keep others out don’t realize that they’ve themselves been building walls around their hearts to keep God out. We can sound so righteous in both camps! Meanwhile, the wall of bricks around the heart keeps getting built. Higher and higher.

Jonah’s actions show us this. He cares a lot about the Ninevites. It’s not that he doesn’t care for them. He cares so much about them that he will go to the end of the world to avoid preaching to them, to avoid caring for them, to avoid loving them. And loving here requires a sharp rebuke. God is not telling him to go give them an encouraging, Hallmark card. God is calling him to “call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (2). One could imagine that somebody who despises the Ninevites would want to go and let it rip… But it is not so. Jonah knows that God is merciful. So, as far as he is concerned, and as far as it involves him, he will not even crack the door so that light maybe, maybe could come in. God had not guaranteed compassion upon Nineveh to Jonah. But Jonah knows that God is able to save, and that in His love and mercy, He can save anyone.

The sleep of Jonah, therefore, I propose, is the sleep of a man who has seared his conscience through hate and disobedience to such an extent that he does not care about the eternal future of the Ninevites, about their earthly good, about his ship sinking, about the storm raging. It is not that he doesn’t want to face the storm. It’s that he believes that he is sleeping in safety behind the hard wall he built around his heart. Even as the storm rages and destroys outside. He is fast asleep. Every sinful choice added a brick to the wall. It is not like Jonah just happened to be at the sea port and happened to pay the fare to the end of the world. You know how it works. You start driving by that forbidden place, you circle around, you drive away, you come back, you make an excuse to be nearby, you start lingering, you park, you turn off your location on the phone, you get cash, and then you do it. You built a wall around the heart, step by step, action by action.

Are we asleep? Who has God called you to reach that you would rather, and literally, see burn in hell?

We may not know where Jonah’s story ended. But you have a say on where your story ends. You have the choice to get up and go.

Do you want to be the one who hardened his heart against the one to whom God called you to love and show compassion?

Wake up. It’s time.

Who Is Chloe?

Victor Chininin Buele

We are cherry pickers by nature. Those cherries are always there, topping the pretty cake. And there we go, grabbing them, one and then another and then another. I do it. You do it. We all do it. We are prey for our own confirmation bias. We want to believe what we already believe. To step out of the line is uncomfortable at best.

But we don’t have that luxury with the Scriptures. That’s why we are to examine them constantly. And that’s more than daily, and that’s more than our verse of the day approach or our text from Sunday’s sermon approach. We have to be soaking in Scripture: whole books, whole chapters, reading fast, reading slow, focusing on one of the human authors, focusing on a verse, focusing on a paragraph, focusing on a genre. There are many ways we must read the text: microreading, macroreading, reading it for fun, reading it for comfort, reading it to learn, reading its history, reading it to learn its themes, reading it to summarize the history of redemption, sing it, pray it, argue with it.

I have spent months in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Why? Because Paul does this really strange thing there. He refers to a filthy people who would not pass anyone’s Christianity smell test, much like us Christians today, as brothers. The question has bothered me for all these months: why would Paul call them brothers? Over twenty times, Paul addresses them directly as brothers:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

1 CORINTHIANS 1:10 (ESV)

If you want to talk about a corrupt church, the Corinthians will provide the perfect illustration: divisions, quarrelling, boasting, sexual immorality that would have made the pagans blush, drunkenness while saying they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper “at church,” idolatry of all kinds.

Andrew Naselli says of chapter 3 the following, “Based on the way the Corinthians were acting, Paul could not address them as who they actually were. Although they were people who had the Spirit, they were acting “as” or “like” people not having the Spirit because people having the Spirit characteristically live in a certain way.” He quotes Gordon Fee, “His ultimate point is: ‘Stop it! People of the Spirit must simply stop behaving the way you are.'”

Over the course of the last several months, there is one section of 1 Corinthians that has often been quoted at me:

I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

1 CORINTHIANS 6:5-8 (ESV)

And that’s where I’ve lived for the last several months.

Let’s summarize what it is that gets communicated in various degrees of implicit and explicit communication: a good Christian should much rather get abused inside of the church and keep his mouth shut than to take this great dishonor and discredit to the name of Christ and His church before an unbelieving world. And, we must handle everything in house. That’s the God-honoring thing to do!

So, now, read the text with those presuppositions, and there it is: it would be, then, easily read that to speak of that which happens within the church before unbelievers (and mind you, we are not talking about petty offenses or things we are called in the Word to overlook in grace) would not be a good thing to do. And you can take some creative license with other texts, and you have a recipe for gossip and slander allegations that you are compelled to ignore. As a matter of fact, to ignore them is the godly thing to do!

But, I’ve asked for months before the Lord, is that what the text says?

It most definitely does not.

First of all, the Corinthian church was very corrupt in her sin, and that included her leadership. Right before the reminder of the institution of the Lord’s Supper by Jesus Himself, Paul writes this to these brothers:

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

1 CORINTHIANS 11:18–22 (ESV)

Somebody was watching this. Her name is Chloe. And her people, whatever that means, took it up to Paul. Paul was not the pastor of the Corinthian church. He was not gathering with the Corinthians at Corinth. This was definitely going outside of the local church.

For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.

1 CORINTHIANS 1:11 (ESV)

Tom Schreiner says, “He discloses that he heard about the divisions and strife from those associated with Chloe, which may designate ‘ business associates, business agents, or slaves acting on her behalf.’ We wish we had more details about how Paul received the report, but nothing more is said about it. Perhaps Chloe’s people travelled from Corinth to Ephesus and communicated with Paul. It is also possible that Stephanas and friends (16:17) were the means by which the information that came from Chloe was communicated to Paul.”

Anthony Thiselton says, “Whether or not Chloe had church connections, probably her agents belonged to the church at Ephesus and had regular links with the church at Corinth. On their last return to Ephesus, as Fee vividly expresses it, they gave Paul an ‘earful’ about the state of the church at Corinth. ‘The mention of Chloe’s people gives credence to the report received by Paul. The report was not hearsay.'”

We don’t know who Chloe is. We don’t have certainty about who her people were. Schreiner and Thiselton offer some food for thought, but we don’t need them to get to the point of the text. The text is there, and that’s what we were given.

Either a church member or a group of church members were unable to effect change at Corinth. We don’t know what they did or did not do, what they tried to do or what they failed to do. We don’t know anything in detail. We don’t know if they filed charges, to use modern polity language, and they were dismissed, ignored, or blatantly rejected. But what we do know is that the message had to get from Corinth to Ephesus, from the heat of the struggle at Corinth to Paul. It was a cry for help. And the message arrived to Paul.

First Corinthians is the response of Paul to what he heard.

Chloe is not berated by Paul for taking her business before unbelievers. Thiselton thinks that perhaps Chloe did not have church connections (does that mean that perhaps she was not a Christian but some of her people were?) Regardless, the thing is that the Corinthian sin had public implications that could not have just been contained within the fences of the local church. Their bad witness was having public impact. The Christian lives in a glass display case, I like to often say. People from all kinds of backgrounds walk to our store, to put it that way, every day and notice whether we live what we proclaim. Do we love? Do we represent Christ? Are we the salt of the earth, the city on a hill?

A whole book of the Bible is written because the matter was reported, not gossiped to Paul, nor were they false allegations, that is, slander. The matter required the apostle’s correction. And you have 16 chapters of how Paul handled a dispute of that kind. The gospel is preached. Appeals are made; entreating is the way. Parakaleo is expected of those who have the Paraclete–those who can entreat do so because they have the Spirit in them. Truth is presented. Bad doctrine and practice is discussed in the light.

To this day, the reputation of the Corinthian church is marred by these actions. And we don’t know to what degree they repented or not. But we do know what was Paul’s response to this heinous sin. And as he was imitating Christ, we are to imitate him in this.

In the Old Covenant, that is before Christ came, lived a perfect life, died a brutal death on the cross for all my sins–past, present, and future, and rose again to be raised at the right hand of the Father, the people were given the following instruction:

“If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

DEUTERONOMY 17:2–7 (ESV)

Before you freak out about the stoning, remember that’s what Christ took on the cross for you if you repent. His death is because of that. He took the stoning. Freak out now, but unto repentance. You can receive peace and reconciliation through His blood, shed for you at the cross.

In the Old Covenant, this was the means by which they kept the holiness, the sanctity, of the people of God. Evil sin was to be purged radically from their midst. In no uncertain terms. But because of that, they needed to be incredibly careful to not be swayed by appearances. They were called to inquire very diligently. And the witnesses needed to be very diligent. There is no, “You told Paul, Chloe, so we are not going to talk about this matter of the dude sleeping with his father’s wife. Until you repent of being naughty and telling on us, to Paul, there is no possible door to repentance. Don’t ever come back here.”

How much more should the church of Christ, redeemed and being redeemed now, be all the more diligent to purge the evil from her midst. No sacred cows. No preference. No hiding anything in us either. Sin must be constantly killed as any good reader of John Owen would say–“Cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

The Christian’s repentance, not afraid of shame or consequences, not afraid of appearances or implications, is a key witness unto salvation to a world that has found a way to minimize sin to such an extent that everyone can pretend with a straight face that sin is laughable, praiseworthy, admirable, and worthy of pursuit. May it not be so in the church of Christ.

When we minimize sin (https://chininin.com/2020/10/25/it-is-not-character-flaws/), let us not be surprised that we end up protecting the wrong honor and reputation, and not the honor and the reputation of the King of Kings. Don’t be swayed to think that you can protect the church. The church is Christ’s to protect, and His promise is sure: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

So, whoever Chloe may have been, if her people would not have carried this awful report to Paul, what would have happened?

Will you be like Chloe’s people or will you sit there, quote that one verse to placate your fear (I would know it–I’ve done it), and sit under abuse, sit under corruption, thinking you are doing the right thing by protecting the honor and reputation of an institution or a human? Or your own?

Yes, by all means, honor your elders, follow the polity, challenge things, ask questions, raise challenges, be gracious, be humble, listen, respond, correct. But if the thing is a swamp, not to quote the President, you may have to follow Christ and be like Chloe’s people. Do not be afraid. God put a whole book in the Bible to remind you He is with you, and nothing will ultimately defeat the advance of His precious gospel for His glory and our good.

Spread the Faith: Lessons from my Church Homelessness

Victor Chininin Buele

The President-elect has been saying that his grandmother would not tell him to keep the faith but to spread it. Now, I’m not advocating for spreading the President-elect’s faith, of course, but he managed to get inside of my thinking with that phrase.

We are multipliers. That’s our nature. The blessing at the creation, reported in Genesis, was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. There is so much to do! There is work to be done excellently, classes to be taught, bread to be baked, women to be rescued, children to be raised, a nation to be saved. We cannot possibly do it all.

I have been homeless, from an ecclesiastical point of view, so to speak, for a bit. I’ve learned a lot.

Multiplication is unavoidable. The question is what are we multiplying?

We will multiply, but if what we are multiplying is the wrong kind of leaven, the whole thing will be bad. That is, it is not just about spreading the faith but about what kind of faith it is that we are spreading.

We become what we worship. I’ve been saying that phrase a lot as I’ve been preparing a class about worship that I’m teaching. Greg Beale came up with it, of course, to summarize the biblical teaching about idolatry. I didn’t make it up myself.

So, what have I learned? Churches become what is sown in them. If you sow self-preservation, they become ingrown monuments to self-preservation. If you sow sacrificial giving, you get to watch a couple depart the comfort of a rising career in Kansas City to go serve in the east where they will very likely face severe persecution for daring to bring the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

We now know what it feels like to “date” the church as the now-not-a-Christian Josh Harris plastered in a little book once. We know what it is like to walk in and to have literally no one notice that you exist. We know what it is like to have severe reservations about something and not know how to get out. We know what it is like to raise concerns and have them shut down. We know what it is like to have your children ask you why they heard a gospel different than the one they themselves can read in their Bibles. We know what it is like to have children ask legitimate questions you have no good answer for whatsoever.

We now hope we can see the overlooked, not ignore the red flags, not fear the appearance of conflict, not confuse boldness with harshness, not confuse questions with an anti-church mentality, not disregard questions asked whether they seem thoughtful to us or not, not avoid the difficult conversations that sorrow and pain bring about.

We long to see Jesus Christ magnified in Kansas City, disciples growing and thriving, multiplying the good news of Jesus, not a message that kind of, sort of looks like him if you twist your head 63 degrees to the right, put on 3D glasses, squint real hard, and step up a ladder to see.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Christ has come. There’s work to do.

Like I heard many times coming out of that TV screen, “get busy living, or get busy dying.”