Judgment & Judgmentalism

Referees make sure the game is played by the rules which apply to everyone alike. We want the game to be fair and the judgments of the referee to be absolutely impartial.

We all make judgments of one sort or another every day. We decide things and we identify things as positive or negative, good or bad, desirable or undesirable. Most of the time our judgments involve other people. But quite often, our judgements involve our own behavior or motives.

It would be unrealistic not to assume that we want judgments in our own favor. We don't like to be wrong, and we prefer there to be enough ambiguity about our behavior to preclude any certainty that we are behaving badly. People who lie do not usually want to be called liars. In fact, it is often the case that being called a liar is offensive--even when we did, in fact, lie.

Judgments have to be made. There's no getting around it. And, frankly, we have to make judgements about people. We must judge whether a person is reliable or undependable; honest or without honor; trustworthy or risky. There is simply no possible way to function in a world occupied by other people without making judgments about ourselves and those who intersect our lives for whatever purpose.

In making judgments we are working toward a certain outcome: one that we find to be to our own advantage. Many people are okay with a little give-or-take, but we want things to be equitable. We don't like people taking advantage of us or exploiting us in ways that cost us something we value. We exercise judgement to prevent entanglements with unsavory people who can bring ruination into our lives or into the lives of those we care about. We imply must make ethical judgements based on criteria that actually allows us to assess behavior accurately, according to a standard of conduct that reliably predicts that conduct that favors a desirably outcome for us.

Judgmentalism, in contrast to exercising sound judgment (judgment that adheres to good standards), is to make a disparaging moral statement about a person that intends to brandish some sort of moral superiority at the expense of condemning someone else as morally inferior. If the only way I can demonstrate my worth is to rob someone else of their worth--well, it might make me feel superior, but in the real world, I am blind to the depravity of my own soul. I'm a hypocrite of the worst sort.

What about making religious judgments? Nothing more quickly degenerates into the hysteria of offensiveness than identifying the differences between people that are reflected in their individual beliefs and how those beliefs shape they way they live. What ethical/moral standards would you actually want to be judged by? None? If that is the case, I think you would not want to live in a world where every other person also did not want to be judged according to any moral/ethical standard!

Judgmentalism is wrong in every instance. But making judgements in the course of one's life is not judgmentalism, and it is not wrong. It is necessary and vital to all of the most important aspects of living in a world populated with other persons with whom we may have to do occasional business or enter into some sort of contractual relationship.

Making moral judgments cannot be wrong in and of itself...

More to come...

The Bible’s Story

Every story has a beginning and an ending. It is no different with the Bible. The Bible is God's story. He begins it with creation and he ends it with new creation. This is by design. It demonstrates the continuity of the story. It helps our understanding of all the details that are present in the story between its beginning and its ending.

The story begins with the account of the first creation: Genesis 1-2. The story ends with the account of the new creation: Revelation 21-22. This is not a coincidence. It is a deliberate design arranged by God himself.

In the account of the first creation, God's work reaches its climactic point in the creation of man and woman. The man is identified as Adam. The woman is identified as Eve. They are created "in the likeness and the image of God." They are created to complement each other in their appointed work of overseeing the first creation, tending the garden in which they lived, and having children who are also in the likeness and image of God. They are to multiply and fill the earth with God's image-bearers.

Created in the likeness of God does not mean that human beings are in the same category of being as God. God is the Creator. Human beings are creatures. God is uncreated. He is self-existent. He is eternally God. He depends on nothing but himself for his existence. Human beings, on the other hand, are entirely dependent upon God for their existence.

To keep the distinction between God and human beings very clear, God put a specific tree in the garden, identified by God as "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:9; 2:16-17). Adam and Eve were to eat of every tree in the garden except this tree. God will retain to himself exclusive authority to define what is good and what is evil.

What happened next answers the question of why there should be the creation of a new heaven and a new earth at the far end of the Bible's story (Revelation 21-22).

In the third chapter of Genesis we are given the account of Adam's "fall." God has an enemy. The Bible identifies this enemy as a created angelic being, the highest created being so far as the Bible informs us. His name is Satan. For reasons known only unto God (and amid much human speculation), Satan was permitted to enter the garden and have dialog with Adam and Eve. It was Satan's opportune moment. His own objective is autonomy: to rule his own existence and define his own purpose independent of God. His strategy against Adam and Eve was as brilliant as it was deadly: convince them that a superior position in creation awaited them if they threw off being subservient to their Creator and took their destiny into their own hands. Satan's strategy worked perfectly. What God prohibited (eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), they did. They ate. And at that fateful moment a form of death occurred that is far worse than the termination of physical life.

A state of alienation from God came into being. Satan (and now Adam and Eve) accused God of lying. This led to Adam and Eve's refusal to submit to God's lordship over all of creation, including them. But it wasn't just Adam and Eve who were now alienated from God. Adam's sin also effected a great change in the rest of creation. Worse, his sin would now spread from his own evil heart to the rest of humanity that would come over the long ages of world history. Adam sinned against God, against his wife, against his children, against the entire created realm. His sin brought the curse of God upon the entire world and all of its inhabitants.

Yet the story continues. A new creation is yet coming. But much must be accomplished in this present creation first.

The first movement in the Bible's storyline is creation. The second movement is the fall of humanity into sin and alienation from God. As this element of the story unfolds, it becomes painfully clear that there is nothing we can do to stop the spread of sin. No amount of human effort can reverse the effects of sin. Adam could not "teach" sin out of the lives of his first children. One of his sons, Cain by name, rose up against his brother Abel. The first murder is committed. There will be murders beyond counting yet to come. Sin cannot be controlled. Much of the rest of the Bible is at pains to make this truth abundantly clear to us. No human effort can ever cancel out sin. Our evil is both a permanent condition and an ever-worsening reality.

The story continues. Like most stories that reflect the realities of life, there comes a climactic point in the Bible's story. What humanity cannot possibly do, God does. His solution is to send a "second Adam." God himself enters his creation as a human person--human in every way with a singular exception: the second Adam uses his will to do all the will of God, to obey with joy and spontaneity, to honor God without faltering in the least of God's commandments. His name is Jesus. He is uniquely the Son of God. He is God himself in the form of human flesh and blood. His humanity is real. He is born in the same way every infant comes into this world. He grew through childhood into adulthood. Though difficult for us to imagine, in all those years he never sinned even once. The second Adam fulfills what the first Adam refused to do.

Jesus, who is called the Christ, lived his life in every way God intended for all of humanity to live. Contrary to Adam, although Jesus is "the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" (New Testament letter of Philippians, chapter 2, verses 5-11). Jesus was obedient in every way that Adam was disobedient. It has to be so if he is to be our Savior. A sinner cannot save a sinner. A sinner cannot save himself. A sinner cannot remove sin, cannot undo the damage, cannot nullify the curse, cannot return to a state of righteousness.

Sin's relentless dominion over every human life became most apparent when humanity collectively nailed Jesus Christ to a wooden cross. His was the death that every sinful human being rightly deserved. Our guilt before God is real. It is serious. The penalty for sin was spelled out to Adam and Eve as clearly as it needed to be. Knowingly and deliberately we, collectively and individually, demanded separation from God, alienation, even war against him. We demanded autonomy even though we knew it meant death. Sin's power is far greater than any power we possess in our humanity. But in the life of obedience that Jesus lived, sin had no power other than to put him to death by crucifixion. Even here, however, the appearance of his death made it seem that Jesus's life was taken from him. The truth is, Jesus gave his life voluntarily. He was not a victim.

He entered into this world and the path he choose led to the cross. He came to give is life to make it possible for his heavenly Father to cancel our sin and put an end to the alienation.

So, even in his death the Lord Jesus Christ triumphs. Death could not contain him. The power of his righteousness is infinitely greater than the power of our sin. Jesus arose from the dead. The grave could not hold him in its iron teeth and hardened chains. Death itself is put to death in the death of Christ!

What does this mean for us? It means that there is hope. There is the possibility of a real reconciliation to God. It means that there can be forever the complete removal of our guilt. It means that God holds out to you and me his welcome into the present and future reality of the new creation, the new heaven and the new earth. It is a qualified welcome.

There is no place for sin in the new creation. And there is no removal of sin for anyone who remains like the first Adam in sin. You and I, if we are to be admitted to the kingdom of God, must be united to Jesus Christ in his life of obedience, in his death on the cross, in his resurrection to new life, in his ascension to the Father, and in his return in power and glory at the end of this age and the beginning of life forever in the new creation. How is this union to be made real and made to be ours?

The answer is, by repentance and faith in Christ alone. Repentance follows the recognition of one's sin and guilt before God. When the word of God is at work in us, the evil of our sin storms into every conscious thought and feeling. We cannot do otherwise than the fall in helpless humility before God, crying out, "God, be merciful to me, and sinner!" (see Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, verses 10-18). And God will be merciful. He will save. He loves to save sinners. From the sin of Adam where it all started, to the new creation where it all comes to its completion, God the Father is devoted to what he loves to do: to save us, to reconcile us to himself, to put the righteousness of his Son upon us and remove from us forever the sin that estranges us from him.

There is no "easy" in any of this. If you want easy, you do not want what God gives. God's lordship over his creation is as contrary to our autonomy as it is absolute in its claim. It was not "easy" for God to do what he did to overcome what we did. His beloved Son died in our place because that is what divine justice requires. Jesus did die because of our sin. He bore the penalty for crimes we committed. There is nothing easy in anything he did. When sinners come to Christ, they come on his non-negotiable terms. To come to Christ is to come and die in his death in order to be raised in him to new life. This is no shallow change. Where once sinners were dead in transgressions and sin, they are made alive in Christ and adopted as children in God's family, given a new identity and a new hope: a forever dwelling place in the new creation.

Yet even now, in this present age, the follower of Jesus Christ has a new identity. The Christian life is about being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. By the working of the word of God (the Bible), believers in Jesus are becoming less and less like they were, and more and more like Christ.

It does not surprise committed followers of Jesus Christ that this new identity is antithetical to those who remain in alienation from God. The same kind of hostility that characterized Adam still characterizes those who are not reconciled to God by the death of Jesus on the cross. People who become united to Christ in salvation also share in his suffering. Men and women hated him without a cause when he walked this earth. Men and women still hate him without a cause today. Their hostility continues. The target is still Jesus. Only now, because we (who are genuine Christians) are identified with Christ, we become the target of hostility.

The Christian faith is not a journey to be taken lightly. It is not easy. Charlatans will try to make it easy. Their livelihood depends on selling their goods. Not many will "buy" something that brings on afflictions of various kinds and different intensities. So the charlatans sell a form of Christianity after they have surreptitiously morphed it into something easy, something much more palatable.

Still, the call of the gospel of Jesus Christ is sounded: Be reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn away from sin. Trust only in Jesus. Receive from him what you can never have apart from him: adoption into God's family; the forgiveness of all your sin; an everlasting inheritance with Christ in the new creation.

Looking for a church? Pt. 3

Are you looking for a church? It is amazing to listen to people relate their criteria for an acceptable church. They cite programs that are designed to satisfy their children’s requirements rather than the requirements of him who is the Head of the church — Jesus Christ.

We read recently that some church growth experts have discovered that people are less likely to visit a church a second time if two-thirds of the seating capacity was empty on their first visit. Additionally, these experts report that people are less likely to visit a church a second time if two-thirds of the seats were occupied. Apparently, empty pews means the church is of little or no consequence, and therefore not worthy of their attendance. On the other hand, people don’t want to sit too close to other people, which is impossible to avoid if two-thirds of the seats are occupied!

What seems to be of no concern to most people today is where and how Jesus Christ is integrated into the life and the programs of the church. Further, that God and his word should be the undisturbed central focus of the congregation is passé in a world where “me” now demands that place.

Do we have the courage to answer, not how we integrate Christ into our assembly, but how Christ integrates us into his kingdom?

What we are committed to at Twin Branch Bible Church is God and his glory. We are committed to his word, the Bible. We are committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ as we find it on the pages of the Bible. We care deeply about how the gospel of Jesus Christ is being adulterated and betrayed by religious charlatans looking to their own well-being at the expense of truth and biblical integrity.

We are guilty of dishonesty if we give the impression that our commitments and convictions have led us to perfection among competing churches. We are not the perfect church.

In the spiritual climate that now shapes most religion practiced in America, we would likely be regarded by others as the worst of all possible churches. What makes this so?

It is because we are bound to the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that demonstrates our belonging to him who is the only qualified Redeemer. Further, we are bound as servants to him who is the only sovereign King.

We are rooted in a fellowship that has a historical beginning, a fellowship that we did not design and we do not perpetuate. Our identity is rooted in the Bible. And it is perpetuated by the Holy Spirit who will continue to uphold the church until God the Father informs his beloved Son that the time has come to sound the trumpet and bring his people to their everlasting home.

It is the Bible that teaches us that we belong to Jesus Christ by virtue of the price he paid to make us his own possession. We are his because he paid for us with his own life — the life he surrendered on the instrument of his crucifixion. We are his servants because we love him. He chose us. And so we choose him.

Religion is quite the circus in America these days. And frankly, we are very much embarrassed by the failure of contemporary Christianity to preserve the serious integrity of the gospel. We are embarrassed by the unproved assumptions that undergird the evolution of “Christianity” from a redeemed community distinct from the world, into a benign social gathering of consumers seeking the satisfaction of their unexamined but nevertheless sovereign desires. We are embarrassed because we understand that people who are skeptical of all or most religious activity discern no significant differences between religions and the ways in which religions are foisted upon the naïve.

We are different. But it is impossible to demonstrate this as long as we are lumped together with those for whom religion is just another American business enterprise.

We are not embarrassed by our size. We have followed a course in ministry that is not only counter-cultural, it also counters the cultural entanglements between Christianity as a lucrative enterprise and the increasing secularization of American society.

In order to be profitable, the Christian enterprise needs to adapt to this secularization in ways that make Christianity as acceptable to the culture as the strip malls and eating establishments that surround both major and minor population centers in America.

We are not embarrassed by our beliefs. We have not formulated them by any deliberate consideration on our part. We believe truth is what God has revealed. The source of our beliefs is the Bible, which we hold to be God’s inspired and infallible word.

The Bible is the authority that governs us as a people belonging to God. Our autonomy is effectively negated by the authority of our King. There is nothing about this that is culturally attractive or socially acceptable. We labor in a world wherein self-rule is the most craved freedom of all. For us to believe that God alone reigns over us, that we are his servants subject to his authority alone, puts us in a “light” where we appear to be archaic and moronic to those who have no desire for the God of the Bible. But we also will appear to be archaic and moronic to the many who have turned Christianity into a religion in which desire for God is directly proportional to God’s determination to make our happiness his priority.

There is no doubt that a vast multitude of churches have greatly profited materially and numerically by being very pragmatic about the relationship between religion and society. They have sought diligently to understand the expressed desires of people, and with equal diligence they fabricate a religious experience intended to satisfy those desires. This is exactly the methodology employed by any business hoping to succeed by attracting paying customers.

Profit or no, few (if any) would walk away from Twin Branch Bible Church with the impression that we are pragmatists!

Yet by writing this post we are seeking to accomplish our mission to declare the excellencies of Jesus Christ called us out of darkness into his glorious light. And we would love for like-minded people to join us in our pursuit of the knowledge, wisdom and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

While we would have an ethical conflict with drawing people away from other biblically sound churches, we have no ethical entanglements with exposing the serious errors of churches that have adulterated the word of God, that have dis-empowered the gospel of Jesus Christ as we find it in the word of God, and have dressed up the church like a prostitute to attract people who are not attracted to the God who reveals himself in his word and in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We end this post with these words from the Bible. The pronouns refer to Jesus Christ.

"He is the image of the invisible God,

the firstborn of all creation.

For by him all things were created,

in heaven and on earth,

visible and invisible,

whether thrones or dominions

or rulers or authorities—

all things were created through him and for him.

And he is before all things,

and in him all things hold together.

And he is the head of the body, the church.

He is the beginning,

the firstborn from the dead,

that in everything he might be preeminent.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

and through him to reconcile to himself all things,

whether on earth or in heaven,

making peace by the blood of his cross." –Colossians 1:15-20

How do you tell if someone is a Christian?

Last time I looked at the statistics most people in the United States self-identified as Christian. But is self-identification the criterion by which we ascertain the authenticity of someone's religion? For most people this would be enough, and anyone who questions it is judgmental and should mind his own business.

The question does come up quite often. But is there a need to know? Religion in America has become highly privatized. What people believe about things like this should be confined to their own mind and excluded from the public arena. Public consensus seems to favor leaving questions like this one out of public discourse.

A pluralistic worldview has made significant inroads into Christianity. Now there are as many different answers to our question as their are versions of Christianity. And this doesn't seem to matter all that much to most people who would self-identify as Christian. Yet the original author and founder of the distinctively biblical version of Christianity is not interested in pluralism or public consensus. Truth interests him. And he has spoken to the question quite definitively and, I might add, quite clearly.

A Christian is someone who has been transferred from the dominion of sin and death to the kingdom of righteousness and life--Christ's kingdom. The Bible speaks of men and women as being dead in transgressions and sin. It speaks of this as a former condition when defining who a Christian is. It is out of this condition that a true Christian is taken. A new condition is established that is characterized as "the new self" or the "new creation." Indeed, the Bible speaks of old things passing away and new things coming in their place. No longer dead in trespasses and sins, the Christian seeks to know Christ, seeks to be found in Christ with no other righteousness than what Christ himself and Christ alone provides. But this isn't all.

A Christian is someone who has been united to Christ in remarkable ways, none of which can ever happen as a result of human effort. The Christian is united to Christ in his life. This is how the righteousness that is acceptable to God is acquired by someone who has no righteousness at all. The sinner is united to Christ's life of holiness and perfect obedience to God. Jesus Christ alone lived a human life with the purity and goodness that God intended and required. The sinner's union with Jesus Christ is the only way to possess Christ's righteousness without which God's acceptance is impossible.

A Christian is someone who has been united to Christ in his death.
Something must happen to our sin.
It cannot simply be ignored or brushed aside as no big deal. Sin must die. The penalty for sin cannot be dismissed. In biblical terms the Christian declares, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20 in the New Testament). It is Christ who dies in the sinner's place. Christians are Christians because they they have been united to Christ in his death to sin. Christianity is entirely unappealing if it fails to speak the truth of humanity's perilous condition and how that condition is removed.

The Christian is someone who has been united to Christ in his resurrection. This is how new life comes to defeat the old life of sin. Christianity would be a pointless waste of faith apart from being united to Christ in his resurrection from the dead. This union, performed by God according to his own grace and not according to our merit, is the only way a sinner who trusts exclusively in Christ is transferred from death unto life everlasting.

A Christian is also someone who has been united to Christ in his ascension to the Father's right hand--the place of highest honor in heaven. It is in that place where the Lord Jesus Christ now represents the Christian, intercedes for the Christian, and keeps the Christian's life "hidden in God" (see Colossians 3:1-4 in the New Testament).

The Christian is someone who is also united to Christ in his (second) appearing. The Christian is given the promise that he or she will appear with him in glory when he appears (see again Colossians 3:4).

A true Christian is a sinner who has trusted in these truths that pertain to Jesus Christ. No, I must go further: a Christian is a sinner who trusts exclusively in Christ. The Christian has forsaken all others to be united to Christ alone and Christ forever.

The sinner is brought to Jesus Christ in the hearing of his word (see Romans 10:17 in the New Testament). When the sinner hears the word of Christ and believes it, and puts his or her trust in Christ alone because of it, that sinner is made a Christian.  The Christian lives all of life in joyful submission to Christ's word. The Christian loves the word of Christ, hungers and thirsts for the word of Christ, attends to the word of Christ with joyful obedience to the word of Christ (which is the Bible). Perhaps the most objective way to tell if someone is a Christian (or to tell if you are a true Christian) is to examine the heart for the role that the holy Scriptures play in the formation of one's worldview.

The Christian is someone who has also been united to other Christians who have been united to Christ. The assembly of these persons is called the church. The Christian loves the church because Christ loves his church. The church is not a place on a map. It is a people who have been made the people of God by his own choosing of them. There is no genuine Christianity outside Christ's church. There is no acceptable worship outside Christ's church. There is nothing but spiritual death and final condemnation outside Christ's church.

This does, of course, cut to the heart of  pluralistically conditioned people. Within the boundaries of God's forbearance, people are permitted to deny and disregard the truth with all the venom they can spit. God's forbearance has lasted two millennia now. But God's word will endure. It will never change what it firmly, authoritatively, and clearly declares. God will never amend his definition of what a Christian is.

The Jesus Christ of the Bible sits now at his Father's right hand. At an hour known only to the Father, he will send his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for a second time to this earth to consummate his salvation in the glorification of his church and the creation of the new heaven and the new earth wherein only righteousness dwells. There will be billions of self-identified Christians confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord (see Philippians , but too late to have admittance to his presence. Having not been found in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, they will depart into unending conscious punishment for their sins. At that point, the question, How do you tell if someone is a Christian? will become irrelevant. Perhaps while it is still relevant, you will investigate for yourself how Jesus answers it in his word.

Looking for a church? -pt. 2

What confusion there is in the world regarding the church! To the onlooker it must seem like a hopeless array of religions represented around the world. Wars have been fought and countless lives have been taken in the name of religion. We can well understand what the history of religion has deposited on the souls of both skeptics and outright opponents of religion.

In numbers beyond calculation, men and women throughout history have raised their objections and rooted their excuses in something they see with their eyes: the conduct of other men and women who make religion taste like a bitter poison.

Tragically, all religion seems to get lumped together until the distinctions between the various religions are very hard to see. This kind of deception is actually quite brilliant--if your predetermination is to feel free of all responsibility where religion is concerned.

As there is only one God, so there is only one true religion: the religion that has this one God as the only object of worship and allegiance. Pluralists, however, condemns this notion as arrogantly exclusivist. Multiculturalists become incensed over the inherent sentiments of superiority implied by those who attach “only” to their religious requirements. But the worldview engendered by the Bible must stand apart and distinct from the worldviews engendered by human wisdom. There is no way around the truth here.

But that’s the problem. Truth. The relativist abhors the notion of the truth. Truth is culturally conditioned. It is relative to the beliefs of individual cultures and individual people within the same culture. This worldview has rained death and destruction down upon multiplied societies that can no longer make definitive judgments about human behavior. It is difficult to exaggerate the mess we began to make for ourselves the moment we made truth a matter of choice. Tragically, however, there is not the least indication that we will ever come to our senses and find our way back to the reasoning we’ve long since left behind. It would not be an evil intent to say that our stupidity will become our doom. It is nothing short of insanity to advocate for relativism as a viable worldview.

In an otherwise warm and fairly innocuous film, “Miracle on 34th Street,” the lawyer defending the store Santa Claus in a New York courtroom captures a nonsensical idea sneaking in through an emotional drama: “I would ask the court to consider what is better: a lie that draws a smile, or a truth that draws a tear.” Follow the trajectory of this infantile thinking! It doesn’t really require a keen philosophical mind.

Looking for a church?

Religion is a lucrative business in America. In some places of the world Christians pay for their faith with their blood. But not here. Here we buy religion from churches that have become retailers. It is a profitable enterprise: many people want religion; many churches sell it.

What we find disconcerting is that among all the religions available to people today, it seems only “Christianity” has succumbed to market strategies to move ahead of the competition. In every profitable business, the record at the end of the day demonstrates success or failure by the bottom line on the ledger: In the red or in the black?

A lot of churches in America ventured into the marketplace some 40 years ago. Their entire ministry was reconstructed to attain a singular goal: expansion. Part of that expansion has to do with larger facilities because of growing numbers of customers. Part of it has to do with community relations because to be successful we need to be accepted as peddling a desirable and legitimate product. And part of expansion has to do with celebrity appeal because Americans are obsessed with entertainment.

How would you answer questions about going to church if you had only the Bible as a guide? Is it even feasible that anyone could be such a purist in the post-Christian age? Does the Bible have that kind of clout anymore? The short honest answer is, of course, No, it doesn't. As an absolute authority, very few people are amicable to biblical teaching intruding into their autonomous world. The Bible has very little influence on the postmodern church. From direct observation of the religious culture in America, the Bible has pretty much been banished to the realm of irrelevance.

Whatever the Bible teaches or doesn’t teach, many (most?) churches of America are noticeably immersed in culture. The church has been secularized. Now, there is little discernible difference between churches and retail outlets. The “campus” is built to appeal to people wanting a positive consumer experience. “Events” are planned and executed to achieve a higher profile in both the proximate community and the more distant world of the Internet. Churches are competing for the prize and it keeps them aggressively reaching for the next level of the market share. But it all depends on what sells. What people want. What they're willing to buy.

And the Bible? It remains the best-selling book of all time. But it doesn’t carry anywhere close to the weight it once did. Most people who purchase a Bible never actually read it. It's more of a keep-sake from an ancient civilization. It doesn’t seem to carry much weight in most churches today—even churches that might give it some lip-service by reading it out loud (so long as only the mellow passages are selected for public reading).

No, we prefer our autonomy in all matters, especially in religion. And the idea that our postmodern minds ought to be subject to the authority of something as ancient as the Bible is, to most people, ridiculous.

Ridiculous or not, the Bible conveys the clear truth of what the church actually is according to its Chief Architect. When is the last time you heard an advertisement for the church as the gathering of committed followers of Jesus Christ  who desire above all other things to be sanctified in the truth of God's word? Interestingly, Jesus prayed for this to be the timeless characteristic of his people (see John 17:17). But who even thinks about being confirmed to the likeness of Jesus Christ as a reason for going to church or a reason to choose one church over another?

Sanctification is that activity of God the Holy Spirit by which people who are committed followers of Jesus Christ become less and less like they were before they became Christians, and more and more like what they will become when they are gathered forever in the glorious presence of the Christ of Scripture. Do you attend the church you attend because that church is centered on Christ and his word by which you are becoming less and less like the sinful world and more and more like Christ? Do you go to church to grow in righteousness? Is the church a required part of putting your sin to death in the death of Christ? Is the church integral to working out your salvation with fear and trembling? Is the church an assembly of imperfect people who are giving their all to learn to love as Jesus himself loved? Is the church the place and the people where you actively participate in this mutually edifying ministry?

While we endeavor to make our presence known, we are not part of the competition for shares in the religious marketplace. We "sell" nothing. We endeavor to serve Jesus Christ in the ways he has revealed in his authoritative word, the Bible. Our concern is not a material one. We do not look at people as potential customers. We do not look at ourselves as faddish consumers who are always looking for the state-of-the-art production.

We are sinful people, imperfect, but seeking to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. We are sinful people, but Christ Jesus has done something for us and in us that makes the world unattractive. Every time the word of God is opened to us we find Christ's beauty and glory impossible to resist--and all desire for resistance fades. We love Christ. Our souls are filled with such a gratitude that is hard to contain. Why? How? 

It is because of what God has revealed in the Bible, his word. He has make known his love and grace in his Son who bore our sins in his own body on the cross. He has made known his purpose in Christ to reconcile us to himself--we who were formerly dead in our trespasses and sins. He has made known his plan to glorify us in the presence of his beloved Son in whom we have the forgiveness of sins. At the end of the day, as at the end of earthly life, we say with the humility of a broken and contrite heart, "This one thing we know: whereas once we were blind, now we see." And we dearly want for as many as are willing to have Christ open their eyes and show them the way, the truth and the life.

We invite you to join us if this is the kind of church your're looking for.