A special thanks to Blue Shepard for allowing me to publish his weekly e-newsletter here on Vigilant Wolf. The Blue Shepard is a friend and past guest of Ever Vigilant podcast (episode 43). I personally look forward to his weekly thoughts on Christianity, Manhood, and Brotherhood and I believe you will feel the same.
I Kings 18:17-40
In the war to deliver Israel form Jezebel, Elijah is no mere Chaplain. Rather, he is an organizer; an instigator; a revolution leader. He was an obedient servant to God in every way - from speaking the words God had given him and proclaiming truth to those who rebelled, to carrying out God's will even arbitrarily. We men see something in Elijah that we like and lack.
Western society has most definitely affected our philosophies and practices of evangelism, and therefore has drastically impacted the outcome. When we look at God's express will for evangelism, we must begin at the beginning (where all arguments for or against God's design must begin). We see that chief emphasis was placed on obedience. From Adam's fig leaves to Saul's charred lambs, mankind struggles to attain the understanding that God is more pleased when we obey the commands that he has already given us than when we concoct facsimile evidence of our devotion despite our rebelliousness. As the prophet Samuel so rightly divined, Obedience is better than sacrifice.
Modern evangelicalism has endeavored with every viable effort to produce a fruit of sacrifice. Born out of 17th century Missionary Puritanism; watered in the 18th by Jonathan Edwards as he came and directed everyone to hope in Calvin and seek to glorify God by finding ultimate human satisfaction in this life through the Father (the beginning of many branches on the tangling bush of American prosperity gospels), nurtured in the 19th by the remaining generation who had sat under Whitfield's thunderous calls to abandon ritual and procession in favor of personal and intimate communion with God, and now sought to combine puritanical practice with the mammoth missionary mindset (which gave birth to the Revival Holiness Movement in the rural South which totally severed ties with their mainline Methodist parentage) and the legacy of Dwight Moody; bottle-necking into the 20th century where the majority of American protestants gave affinity to some form of evangelical denomination. The descent intensifies from here. After WWII, a "Revival of Revivalism" was born. Evangelicals began to become more organized and place greater emphasis on world missions. A growing addiction to revival statistics (i.e., the dopamine release when 200 people checked a box on reporting cards that they had accepted Christ at your revival meeting) and an enchantment with social acceptance drove this behemoth of American Protestantism to cast overboard every bit of Christian tradition, ritual and identity that was not doubly Christian and American. Terminology was cast aside without second thought. Nominalism was king. Palatability was the chief aim for our ministries. The Gospel became more and more hedonic with each generation. In the past few decades the seeds of neo-evangelicalsim and the word-faith and other charismatic movements have played into the mainline evangelical family bush.
The good news is that the Gospel is now being presented in some form or another in more and more of the globe than ever. Nations and peoples who have dwelt in darkness possibly since the beginning of time are now at least familiar with the name of Jesus. But a phenomenon is occurring with increased frequency. What many missionaries are reporting is that some of these churches which have been proselytized from their pagan gods are producing a form of religion and rule more pure and orthodox than that of their mother churches back stateside. Often evangelical missionaries will compare with dismay their American supporters to their foreign congregations and find the homeland lacking. There is something about these churches starting from scratch and being lead of the Word and the Spirit that often finds them in closer communion with the true God than those of us who are so heavily influenced by a heritage of heresies.
Those who profess to be Christ’s will be recognized by their actions. For what matters is not a momentary act of professing, but being persistently motivated by faith (The Letter of Ignatius to the Ephesians, ch. 14:2).
The obsession in American Evangelicalism with appeasing society is still present and it is more pungent than ever. Not only does the "church" face pressure form society to conform to social norms, but now increasingly form American government to discard anything that is an eyesore to this perverse generation. America is okay with Christianity as long as Christianity is okay with America. This toxic synergism has increasingly thrust the balance of influence in the direction of American Normal-ism. The evangelical church en banc has exchanged the vision of divine epiphany for the American dream. Brief radio snippets advocate emergency prayer for God to sustain us on our diet and help us find our keys. Pamphlets and devotionals teach us how to forbear persecution at Starbucks and resist the temptation to be saintly sportsmen, accrediting God's divine intervention in our menial entertainments (it is no wonder people curse God when he helps Tebow score a touchdown but has nothing to offer for their dying toddler - II Samule 12:14 KJV comes to mind). We look for every possible means of conforming our worldview and the visage of the church to be more acceptable in the world's eyes. Rather than obey the call of God, mainstream evangelicalism and American prosperity preaching have endeavored to produce a sacrifice. We insolently present the fruit of Cain upon the altar, and spark the fire ourselves, pretending to be accepted by God. Like Aaron's sons, we offer unholy fire in the sensors of the temple while we mark strobe lights, flat screens and wild thrashing altar services (more reminiscent of concerts) as signs of God's blessing on our efforts of evangelism and the presence of the Holy Ghost in our midst. This beast that is the American religion has spawned its demon seed throughout the world, leading untold millions into heresy and apostasy. How, you may ask? by offering an unholy oblation and casting aside the commandments of the Father. We have wrested evangelism out of the hands of God and commercialized it as a capitalistic entity. Instead of baptizing men in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we try to seduce them through flashy advertizements, plays on words, and trying to sensationalize men as religious celebrities. We have sold insurance from Hell's flame through forgiveness without repentance, reconciliation without atonement, and cleansing without confession.
I was recently speaking with Joe Prim of VigilantWolf.com on the subject of ministry and obedience to God. Prim says evangelism should take a more tribal approach to the world.
"We are created to live in tribes. It is not easy for an outsider to join an existing tribe for good reason. It was only possible by proving through rites or rituals that you were in fact forsaking your past in order to join a new tribe and even then you would be expected to tow the line, and contribute (i.e. show fruit). The Christian tribe should be open to all that are willing to forsake their past and take up the cross. But rather we have done everything possible to fill the seats with those that don't care for or about our tribe. Those who have no desire to be a part of our tribe. Now after so many years of attracting heathens, they have taken over, they have pillaged our Sunday school classes, worship, and teaching. Watering down the truths that many have and continue to die for, but let's not talk about our history or Saints and Martyrs, that could offend the heathens."- Joe Prim
"Step into my parlor", said the spider to the fly. But the church has been the fly who has invited the spider into its parlor, and now we find ourselves in his web. Now we and our children embrace the world's customs and traditions. We participate in secular rituals while we cast aside anything in the church that the world hisses at for being ritualistic. Is it any wonder that the common theme on the lips of worldly and heathen men is, "The church is full of hypocrites"?
It was obedience which led [Abraham] to quit his country, his kindred, and his father’s house, so that, by leaving a paltry country, a mean kindred, and an insignificant house, he might inherit God’s promises[...]We should clothe ourselves with concord, being humble, self-controlled, far removed from all gossiping and slandering, and justified by our deeds, not by words - Clement of Rome
Probably one of the most concisely compelling statements comes from Justin Martyr.
Those who are found not living as he taught should know that they are not really Christians, even if his teachings are on their lips, for he said that not those who merely profess but those who also do the works will be saved.
If a good lot of the evangelical ministers who are popular today were to witness Christ at work, they would most definitely criticize him for offending the Pharisees and many others with his hard sayings. They would definitely ask why Elijah killed the prophets of Baal when, had he spared them, he possibly could have converted them. Then there is the matter of Ananias and Sapphira. Why couldn't Peter have just offered them a chance to say they were sorry? Striking people dead defeats the purpose of evangelism and ruins the church's rapport with the worldly community.
Enough is enough. The prophets of Baal must be slain, and we must receive holy fire from Heaven. If all the fire I have is he fire lit by these heathens, let it be put out. I will do without before I accept the person of the wicked.
How, then, are we to evangelize? Because we are to evangelize. The answer is simple. Fulfill the commandment and will of God. It is not hard to do. But you have to actually do it. One extreme says, "We are better than the others because we hold to a standard", while the other side of the aisle says, "We are better than the others because we fulfill the great commission". In reality, both extremes fall dreadfully short. The standard is the commission and the commission is the standard. Fear God. Keep his commandments. Preach the Gospel. Teach men to obey the commandments of the Lord and the leading of the Spirit. Teach them to deny the flesh, reject their own wills and follow Christ. Show them why they must be baptized, both in water and of the Spirit. Teach them to walk soberly, righteously and Godly in this present world. Death to sin! Death to the world! Death to flesh! As for me and my house we will live unto God. True evangelism places the world as our object of loving concern, but never at the cost of obedience. The sacrifice of hireling lip-service will never atone for our failure to complete the orders which have been handed down to us. I am done with the games of atonement: show me that you mean business with God or stop wasting my time. Men are drawn in all directions by flashing lights and artful programs; there is one thing alone which draws men to the one true God: Lift up Christ. He said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me." Just as when Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and no one could be spared torment lest they gazed solely upon that icon of their salvation; so likewise must we hoist Christ, the cross of his suffering, bloody, the image of our own shame, pure, and totally devoid of our sinful influence, as we conform and compel others to conform to his raw image. As his visage was marred, so must the visage of the our sins be in our eyes. As he was given gall to drink, so must we poison our own pride. As his garments were stripped from him, so must we expose the nakedness of our own conceit and lust. As Elijah slew the prophets of Baal, and as Samuel hacked Agag into small pieces, and as Peter spoke death upon the deceitful couple, so the man of God must conquest every minion of hell that usurps itself against the will and word of God. That is evangelism.
Inasmuch as Sunday next is the beginning of Advent, let us stir ourselves and each other to the remembrance of our own sinfulness as we commemorate the anticipation of our savior. "[W]e hid as it were our faces from him." The King is coming; maranatha.
The Blue Shepard
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