This sermon was presented on Sunday, October 24, 2010.
Ephesians chapter 2, verse 10, a one-verse text. That doesn’t necessarily mean the message will be shorter. [Congregation laughs, because last week’s message was over an hour long.] Last week was nine verses and I thought, going into this week, “Oh, this is going to be short and sweet,” but you’re going to receive some things and learn some things today. This will be mostly a learning message, but at the end, you know, we’ll make some commitments to the Lord. But you are going to learn some things that you never heard before, and you’re going to get a full-course meal, for sure. Verse 10, this is right after it says that we’re not saved by works, so that no one can boast. [I have underlined the words which Pastor Grabill emphasizes.] For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
[Prayer] Father, we thank You for Your Word today. This verse says a lot, packs a lot in. Lord, I just pray today that You will anoint Your servant to speak, our ears to hear, our hearts to receive. I pray that You will make us more like Jesus than we’ve ever been before. We can’t do it ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit can do it. And Lord, I pray that as we learn what you want us to do in this area of good works, that we will bring glory to You in every way. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Jesus’ name. Amen, amen. You may be seated, [long pause] for hours [and the congregation laughs].
One regret–not regret—I wish all the teens were here today. There’s so many of them up in New York right now in church, coming back from Massachusetts [specifically from a retreat]. About how many are on that trip, does anyone know? Thirty-some, yeah, so I don’t know if they’ll get the CD and download it on their iPod or not. But, for the teens [who are here today], you are going to learn some things about America, and spiritual history things, and issues that you deal with in school that are going to be very, very helpful to you.
As a pastor, to the degree I’m allowed to be proud of such things, I really take great joy in young people from our congregation who accomplish things for God, and they excel in their areas, and they are a testimony in what they do. We’ve had a number, and I’ve mentioned, either here or on my Facebook [page], a few people here and there. This morning I want to mention two others. First of all, there is—can we put that up?—Innoblue at Penn State [a graphic of their web site appears on screen]. David Adewumi, from our congregation, is a co-founder of this, and it is an extensive student-led, totally student-led, initiative that a lot of the leaders in State College are talking about, that not only helps students pursue venture capital to pursue some of their dreams, innovative things they may want to do. That was kind of a dream of Keith Davis as well [Pastor Keith was Youth Pastor at State College Assembly of God from 1996 to 2006.] But it has civic areas, campus areas; it is really far-reaching, and they’ve used the term—it was the title of a book some years ago—“Doing Good While Doing Well”. And so David is involved in doing a lot of good with a lot of Penn State students.
The second one is Regular Hero, and it says, “Make things better.” [A second graphic appears for this organization with a picture of John.] This is John McNichol, who spent many years with us and now is living in Florida, about to move–if he hasn’t done so already–to Hollywood, California. John, who graduated from Penn State in religious studies, which I don’t really recommend–it’s amazing, it’s a miracle–he graduated from religious studies and he still believes in Jesus. [congregation laughs] I mean, I’ll tell you, religious studies courses are dangerous in some ways, because so often they only give one side of the story. But John has felt led to start this non-profit organization called Regular Hero. He is connected with an Assembly of God missionary in benevolence. They want to bless some orphanages, feeding programs around the world, a number of other hospitals and such, and people that buy the shirts–half the costs are met and donations are given–and when people make donations directly to what they are going to do, they are going to send 100% there, which is wonderful because so many organizations that you give to, sometimes less than half the money that you give ever gets to what they told you it was going to, because the overhead is so high. By the way, Assemblies of God Missions, the overhead is 5%, which is amazing, very efficient. So 95% of what you give actually gets to where it’s supposed to go, and you can’t expect more than that. Well, in the next couple weeks, John, through networking with some top Hollywood stars are going to be simultaneously going viral and hitting on their Twitter that you need to check out RegularHero.org, so this is going to be sent to, I guess, a few million—I don’t know—fans of these big name bands that some people know. I don’t know all the bands. Can we leave that up for just a second? Regular Hero, so you see the H and the R, [the motto] Make Things Better, they’re going to have t-shirts and all that stuff. [At this writing, both organizations are still active. Innoblue is for Penn State students only, but perhaps might be a good idea for other universities. Regular Hero is for everyone. Check them out!]
So that raises–as a pastor, that raises–a question in my mind. Is this a good thing? No one’s particularly getting saved initially out of it, and that’s what we really care about, is eternal destiny of everybody. That’s so critically important. It brings up the whole issue of good works. In our community we have been part of CityServe. [CityServe was begun by a group at Calvary Baptist Church in State College to send volunteers into the community on a weekend in April to serve, essentially to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Volunteers paint, clean, pick up trash, or whatever an organization needs. You can check it out here: http://www.calvarysc.org/cityserve] We have now Compassion Connection in our congregation, [to provide food, clothing, furniture, etc. to those in need]. And with Angel Food [a ministry begun in 1994 to provide high quality, low-cost food to poor people across the US, it ceased operations in 2011. State College Assembly of God served as a distribution point for a few years.], I don’t know of anyone yet who has come to Christ through that ministry. Maybe someone has; I’m not aware. And some of the other ministries that we’ve done, we want to see people come to Jesus. But, some of them, we are doing good but the evangelism part of it isn’t quite what we would hope that it would be. So we have Salvation Army in town and lots of wonderful things.
So how do we deal with all the “good works” thing? Those of us who were brought up in conservative churches like I was, the whole issue of social gospel makes one really uneasy. Is this a social gospel or not? We are going to get into that today. What does God want us to do in this area of good works? What we don’t want to do is end up where the social gospel takes you, and the whole issue of collective salvation. The Bible talks about individual salvation. We come to Jesus one at a time, and with our heart we commit our lives to Him, so we are not saved as part of a collective. We are individually, He knows you by name and He loves you, If you were the only person on this planet, Jesus would have died for you. Did you know that? That’s how much He loves you individually.
So we emphasize—more that emphasize, what we are about—is individual salvation. So I was thinking here recently, a lot of you do good during the week and you get paid for it, right? I’m not saying you necessarily work for a social agency. Some of you do, but maybe you’re a nurse. That’s good, right? Maybe you’re a doctor. That’s good. Maybe you build houses. People need roofs over their heads, right? You’re in construction. You’re doing good, and you are getting paid for it. So why would I be uneasy if someone does good, and doesn’t get paid for it? You with me? As a volunteer. You know, if doing good and getting paid for it is a good thing–it’s part of the economy–you are doing something honest and fair and everything. And if someone volunteers their time and does good–rake leaves or whatever–why would that be a bad thing, even if someone doesn’t get saved that day? So as I’ve been thinking about this, and this text–it’s so important that we understand in verse 10, it says: We are God’s workmanship–He has worked to make us–created in Christ Jesus, to do good works. So we are saved, not by good works, but we are saved for good works. You with me? That’s a very key sentence. We are not saved by good works; we are saved for good works.
So when you come to Christ, He wants you to do good, to manifest His name, to reach out and touch other people. Well, what is the Biblical basis for this? There’s lots of Biblical basis for what we say here. Here are some verses. In Galatians 6, which may be the same page you are looking at–you may have to turn back one page–Galatians 6:10 says: Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to–who? All people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Well, that’s as clear as anything, isn’t it? We are called to do good to everybody, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Okay? Colossians 1:10 says: And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. Jesus Himself said, Matthew 5:16: In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.
The whole book of James is about doing good, in many ways. In chapter 1, we’re told to remember the widows and orphans. True religion is doing so [James 1:27]. We have Orphan Sunday coming up November 7, for the first time in State College; that’s Sunday night. Chapter 2 says faith without works is what?–dead [James 2:17]. In chapter 5, there is a warning to the rich not to hoard their wealth but do good with it [James 5:1-4]. In fact, there is so much emphasis on good works in the book of James that Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism and leader of the Protestant Reformation, he thought that the book of James should not be in the New Testament, there was so much emphasis. But I think we need to make a distinction between works of righteousness or works of the law versus works of love, works of law versus works of love. Works of law doesn’t save you. You are saved by grace through faith. It is a gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast [referring to Ephesians 2:8,9], but works of love is what we are made to do, we are created to do. I think it’s very clear in the New Testament.
Well, how about the early church? What did they do? Well, they did a lot of good works, a lot of good works. In fact, so much so that historians debate why the church grew. Again, the question is, why did this group–this motley crew in AD 30–within less than 300 years, have a Roman emperor who is a Christian? And then another half century after that it becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire. How did they take over? Well, there are two competing theories. Ramsay MacMullen [born 1928], who is a secular historian from Yale years ago—he’s retired– wrote that it was power encounters. [See his book, Christianizing the Roman Empire:A.D. 100-400, published by Yale University Press in 1984.] It was healings and miracles, casting out demons that wowed everybody, and so they said, “Hey, your Jesus is greater than any other power. We’re going to follow Him.” On the other hand, Rodney Stark [born 1934], who is a secular, again, historian, has written it was purely–he said purely–through the compassion ministry of the early Christians that as they cared for the poor, as they took in children who were abandoned on the street, as they cared for people when the Plague hit, the more they cared, people were touched by that love and they became part of the community of faith, and he makes a strong argument that that in itself explains everything. [See his book, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, published by HarperOne, 1997.] I would say, “Why does it have to be either/or? Why not both/and?” Power ministry and the power of the Spirit–healings, deliverance and all that stuff, and compassion. They clearly both happened, so I think both is the explanation and they were doing what Jesus had told them to do.
Well, recently I was talking to Pastor Dan Nold of Calvary Baptist [Pastor Nold is a dear friend of Pastor Grabill’s, as well as a colleague and brother in Christ]. Pastor Dan is really, really into compassion ministry and doing good in the community, and they were the ones that started CityServe and so forth. And we were just talking about this, and I’ve warned him. I said, “Dan, I think you are going down the social gospel road,”–and I’ll tell you a little more about this in a little bit—“Walter Rauschenbusch [1861-1918, Christian theologian and Baptist pastor who taught at Rochester Theological Seminary, see A Theology for the Social Gospel, New York: Abingdon Press, 1917], the social gospel in the 1920’s, I’m going to grab you and say, ‘You can’t go there’.” And he said, “You know, we’ve always heard there is a God-sized vacuum in us that only God can fill.” You’ve heard that before, that only God can fill. He said, “I think there’s another vacuum. There’s a vacuum for God and there’s a vacuum for good that everybody feels a need–saint or sinner, whatever—everybody, to do good, and the only way that vacuum will be filled is by doing good.” I started to think about that. I was a little uncomfortable about two vacuums. I thought I only needed one vacuum filled [he chuckles], and I thought I had that pretty much filled and cared for, and so I started to think. I have a scientific math background, Venn diagrams. I’m thinking, are these two circles beside each other? Is one above the other one? Is one inside the other one? You know, all that kind of stuff. And I was going to talk to him again about that, and one morning as I was praying, God spoke to me. And it was a “duh” moment. It was a moment as powerful as a moment about 13, 14 years ago when the light bulb went on for me for CityChurch. [CityChurch is basically the concept of inviting all Christian churches in State College to come together for a time of worship periodically to promote unity in the body of Christ. He orchestrated several services at Eisenhower Auditorium on Penn State’s Campus and one large outdoor service in the Hills Plaza parking lot with participation from many churches and many Christians.] This one was just as powerful and God was gentle, but He was like, “Paul, this is so elementary you missed it.” Here’s what God said to me, out of the blue. I am just walking down the street, prayer-walking. Out of the blue, here is what I heard, not audible, but very clear. I knew the words of what I was hearing. He said to me, “The second commandment is not the first.” That’s like, yeah, duh, it’s the second. [spoken with great surprise] Oh my goodness! There’s two commandments. I’ve read that all my life. Love God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, you know, and the second commandment is like unto the first, but it’s another commandment. To what? Love your neighbor as yourself. [He is referring to words of Jesus found in Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31 and Luke 10:25-27.] And Jesus goes on to explain who is a neighbor and He tells the story of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:28-37], which for the Jew is like the Taliban today. You’ve got to understand that this Good Samaritan would be like a good Taliban rescuing an American or something like that. So He was saying, “Everybody is your neighbor.” I thought, “Okay, why was I uneasy about this two-vacuum thing?” Well, it’s because of history, in our country, and kind of where we are today, so let’s go there, okay? We’re going to take a trip back in time, and about half of what I’m going to tell you, you’ve probably heard in some way before, but a whole lot of it is going to be new to you.
Back to 1801. Most people in the country, in the US, are nominal Christians but the vast majority are not attending church, kind of like today. There was a higher percentage of nominal Christians than today, but a very low percentage were going to church. 1801, the Cane Ridge Revival [happened in Cane Ridge, Kentucky in August 1801], the Second Great Awakening starts. The greatest revival America has ever known was the Second Great Awakening, much bigger than the first. From 1801 to 1860, the revival across the nation is phenomenal. The Methodists were the ones who were primarily used during that time, and they grew from 65,000 Methodists in 1800, to 1.7 million in 1860. Incredible growth. Gary Wills, historian, [Professor of History Emeritus and cultural historian at Northwestern University] says that by 1860 95% of the country was evangelical Christian. Now that’s such a high percentage, that it is really hard for me to necessarily agree with.
But during this time several things were going on. Number one, as more and more people are getting saved, they want America to be transformed, and there are social ills that they want cured, the biggest of which, particularly for people in the North, was what? Slavery, kind of the original sin. Now let me stop right here because I want to make sure I don’t forget this. Some of you have heard people say, “I don’t believe in the Bible. It’s antiquated; it’s not true. Look, the Bible endorses slavery.” Have you ever heard that? “The Bible endorses slavery.” Let me make a distinction here. What the Bible endorses, particularly in the New Testament, is voluntary indentured servant. This is a person whose life is so messed up, they are so deep in debt, that they go to someone who is successful and they say, “Look, if you will take me in, feed me, give me a roof, I will do whatever you want, the rest of my life.” And they become indentured. They either receive a mark in their ear or a brand of some kind. So Paul talks about being a slave to Jesus. That’s what’s being talked about. You with me? What is not being talked about is what we had in America. Number one, it was race-based, and there is nothing like that in the Bible. Number two, it involved kidnapping, which in the Old Testament, I read you a verse some time ago, is a capital offense [Deuteronomy 24:7]. And number three, it denied the personhood of the slave. It was an abomination then; it’s an abomination now. The Bible does not endorse the kind of slavery that America had. It does not endorse slavery, period, actually. It endorses voluntary indentured servant, you with me? Now, we don’t necessarily have those anymore, but we could, but that’s by a person’s choice, that they enter into that covenant. Well, people, especially in the North, wanted to change it. There were other things they wanted to change in society, but this was the big one, the big one. Well, the problem was the preachers in the North saw it different than the preachers in the South. And the tension grew and grew, even as people were coming to Jesus. This issue began to tear at the fabric—it was already a problem, it was already a problem even when the country was birthed and people were talking about it, “What do we do with this? This is not quite right but we don’t know if we can do away with it. The economy needs it.” And this and that and the other thing. By 1835—how many are still with me? Just raise a hand, you still awake, you’re still with me. This is really important. This is really important. I know this is more history—how many hate history, by the way? Yeah, okay, unless it’s your history, right? Some of you hate your history, right? [and he chuckles]
So 1835–I want to show you something today–in 1835 the Northern Presbyterians split from the Southern Presbyterians, or actually vice versa, the Southern split [from the North]. In the 1840’s the Methodists split, North and South. And right after, about 1844 or 1845, the Baptists split, North and South. That’s why, today, the two biggest Baptist denominations are the Southern Baptists, and what’s still called the American Baptists in the North, and then you have the National Baptist Convention too, which is African American. Mark Noll [born 1946, currently Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame] is the number one historian of American religious history. I had the opportunity years ago to have a meal with him, one on one. He teaches at Notre Dame now, used to be at Wheaton [College]. He said the Civil War is a church split with guns. Think about that. When those denominations split, the Civil War became inevitable. Now in Ephesians we are going to talk about unity in the body of Christ. I have a real heart; you know I have a passion, I came to this town with a passion for unity, and God has helped me understand what He [intended for] the City Church model and so forth. But I have a passion for unity because Jesus had a passion for unity. And I want God to bless us in State College and I believe this is part of it. [Keep in mind, he is speaking to his congregation, his flock. Were he speaking to a larger body of believers—the county, the state, the entire country—his desire would be the same.] So we have these denominations. They split and they began to preach against each another, the North preaching against the South; the South preaching against the North. And things start to ramp up and up and up. They start to ramp up so much that some things are said that are really mind-boggling, to me.
Before I share that, let me tell you a couple of other things that were going on. There is also an emphasis on the Second Coming during this period of time. In 1844 the Millerites in New York were convinced that Jesus was coming, and they went out on a mountain—some of you have heard this, expecting Jesus to come, and He didn’t come. [from Wikipedia: The Millerite movement was a 19th-century American Christian sect that formed out of the Second Great Awakening. Based on his interpretations of the prophecies in the book of Daniel (Chapters 8 and 9, especially Dan. 8:14: Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed), William Miller, a Baptist preacher, proposed that Jesus Christ would return to the earth during the year 1844. The more specific date of October 22, 1844, was preached by Samuel S. Snow. Thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their possessions, waited expectantly. When Jesus did not appear, October 22, 1844 became known as the Great Disappointment.] But there was an expectation that we were winning so many people to Jesus, seemingly they were forgetting that the rest of the world needed the Gospel, but America was becoming so Christian that it was inevitable that Jesus was coming very, very soon. There was a big emphasis on the Second Coming. In fact, when Mormonism was birthed during that period of time, they had a big emphasis on the End Times and all those sort of things.
There was also kind of a new thinking of collective salvation that started to bubble up. The person who believed most in collective salvation versus individual salvation during that period of time was the man who was the most vocal, prominent man about slavery. He said, “If slavery isn’t wrong, nothing is wrong.” [from a letter he wrote in 1864] His name is Abraham Lincoln, and he is the hero of our current president, also from Illinois [although born in Hawaii, President Obama began his political career and served in several state government positions in Illinois]. Abraham Lincoln knew his Bible but he did not serve Jesus until, possibly, right before he died. He used a lot of Biblical language and he knew his Bible, but he believed in collective salvation and he believed the Union needed to be preserved for that collective salvation. So our current President is not the first one to believe in these things. This thinking is ramping up, that God will only be pleased with us and Jesus will return if we right these wrongs, no matter what we do.
During this period of time, in 1833, the British did away with slavery—William Wilberforce, the great Christian leader there, as a result of the Wesleyan revival. And the British, they paid off every slave owner to release their slaves, and it cost them less money than the Civil War cost, not just the blood and the deaths but even in money, it cost them far less in Britain to do away with slavery than it cost us in America, financially, to do away with slavery.
Some of the preachers in the North were really worked up, and they were calling for blood. Henry Ward Beecher, who was the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, said, “Give me war redder than blood and fiercer than fire.” [This was part of the sermon he delivered to his congregation on Sunday, April 21, 1861, one week after Fort Sumter fell.] Horace Bushnell [1802-1876, prominent Congregational minister, mostly in Hartford, CT], another prominent Northern preacher, seemed almost drunk on it. He said this: “Blood, blood, rivers of blood have bathed our hundred battlefields and sprinkled the horns of our altars. Without the shedding of blood, how could the violated order be sanctified?” [I could not find the exact source of this quote, though it is also probably from one of his sermons. He also wrote several books.] Well, they did it in Great Britain without shedding one drop of blood.
So here we have a mixing of this exploitation of Jesus’s Second Coming and getting rid of social ills, particularly slavery, and war. And so we have the song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” [Words by Julia Ward Howe, the melody is an American Camp Meeting tune.] Mine eyes have seen the glory of what? The Second Coming, right? [The first line is: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.] He is what? Trampling out the grapes of wrath. Where does that come from? The Book of Revelation, the grapes of wrath, Revelation 14:20: blood came out from the winepress, even unto the horses’ bridles, by the space of 1,600 furlongs [KJV]. He’s trampling out the grapes of wrath—say it with me. [and he pauses, and laughs] I lost the next line; I was looking for your help. I thought with 700 people someone could help me. [someone calls out and he begins again] “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” I should have written it down, right? “He has loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword”—that’s Revelation 19:15, the sword that comes from Jesus’ mouth. [Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.] Did we miss the trumpet there? There is a trumpet in there, which is from Revelation 10:7. [The trumpet is in verse three. He continues to quote the song] “His truth is marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah.” So this is the song of the North. It’s about the Second Coming, and it’s about killing about our brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember, if 95% are born again Christians, this is not just physical brother killing physical brother. This is spiritual brother killing spiritual brother. This is the ultimate church fight ever in history. You with me? Yeah. I mean, this is really something.
The good that came from it, of course, is the ending of slavery, but the damage was huge. In fact, Lincoln, late in the war, adopted total war philosophy, and you say, “What is total war?” Harry Stout has written about this, Upon the Altar of Blood [the book is actually Upon the Altar of a Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War, published by Penguin Books, 2006]. That’s when you are tired of fighting and you just want to get it over with and win, and you’re not just going to kill soldiers anymore. You just burn everything down, kill whomever, just do whatever you have to do to get it over with—total war. And that’s what happened in 1865. So after the war the nation is back together. Appomattox is the end of the church fight [General Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate Army, surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865, to end the Civil War].
In the late 1800’s paganism creeps back. Occult-leaning groups that were pretty much diminishing during the Revival, and were preached against and diminishing, were kind of fading away, and they crept back in the late 1800’s. But still there was a remnant, there were people in the South and the North who still loved God, but there was a whole lot of disillusionment because both sides thought they were right. Both sides thought God was on their side, and they thought they would prevail. Well, particularly in the South, a lot of evangelicals down there, it was really, really tough to swallow. And they looked at Lincoln as almost an anti-Christ figure. Lincoln suspended the Constitution. He did away with the First Amendment. He shut down newspapers that disagreed with him, in the North. He suspended Habeas Corpus; he held people without charges, and so forth.
So we have to understand what’s going on spiritually. Here we have a President of our nation who isn’t really serving Christ and he’s trying to make sense of all this, and we have a nation killing ourselves to solve this problem. We get the problem pretty much solved and then afterward, it’s like after a bad church fight. You lose the young people. I’ve seen it happen over and over again, after a bad church fight, it’s just devastating. There are percolations of revival here and there in the late 1800’s, but it’s really not until the 1900’s that things really start to bubble up.
But something bad is going on in the late 1800’s that goes even deeper, because a book was written in 1859 that shocked everybody, a book written by Charles Darwin, called The Origin of Species. And in that book he came up with a theory that we all came to be in a way that there didn’t need to be a God, and particularly in the North, the Northern elites bought into it much more than the South. And at the same time, the German theological schools start to doubt every miracle in the Bible. In fact, even a conservative, B. B. Warfield of Princeton [Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, 1851-1921, was a Professor of Theology at Princeton Seminary from 1888 to 1921 and a conservative critic of the revivalism of the times. See his book, Counterfeit Miracles, published in 1918], started to doubt that miracles were for today. He believed in the Bible, and he believed that miracles were done then, but not today. But in Germany they did away with all the miracles—the resurrection, everything, it was all a myth. That went on and on and on in Germany and we know where that took them eventually, in the 20th century.
But the elites in America, particularly in the universities, are adapting into the German model and they are being tainted by this, and particularly in the Northern churches now, the winning side, they begin to doubt the essentials of their faith. And it’s getting really bad, because a whole lot of people in the pulpit are preaching, maybe from the Bible, but they don’t believe it anymore. So in 1905, there were some Christians who got together and for a desire for unity in the body of Christ, and to save the essentials of the faith, they wrote some pamphlets that outlined what they called “The Fundamentals.” That’s where we get the word fundamentalism. [From Wikipedia: The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth (generally referred to simply as The Fundamentals) is a set of 90 essays published from 1910 to 1915 by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. The Fundamentals were edited by A. C. Dixon and later by Reuben Archer Torrey. The Fundamentals was first published as a 12-volume set, and later as a four-volume set retaining all 90 essays. The 90 essays were written by 64 different authors, representing most of the major Protestant Christian denominations.] And they said there are just five or so core issues that you have to believe to be a Christian. I still agree with those today. You’ve got to believe in the resurrection of Christ. You’ve got to believe in the virgin birth. If Jesus wasn’t virgin born, how does He get to be divine? You’ve got to believe in the miracles of the Bible. You’ve got to believe in the authority of God’s Word. You need to believe that Jesus is coming. Just core essentials of the faith.
But the now more liberal, theologically liberal, pastors in the North, particularly in New England, start to preach against the Fundamentalists, because they’ve essentially lost their faith. They have a form of godliness and righteousness, but they are denying the essentials of the faith, many of them. Well, it starts to ratchet up and up and up and up, so much so that in 1929 we have a deep chasm that happens in the Protestant churches in America. It’s called the Fundamentalist-Modernist Divide. It happened in Princeton Seminary in New Jersey, where the liberals took over Princeton, and the conservatives left—J. Gresham Machen [1881-1937], Van Til [Cornelius Van Til, 1895-1987] and others–and went to Philadelphia to form Westminster Seminary. I happened to attend both of them, and I have a heart for reconciliation, and I’m going to tell you today—we’re going to get back to good works here, but I’m going to tell you today why this is so important. Everything you see in America today is a result of that split. Just like the Civil War; that’s why I told you that whole thing. The Civil War was a church split with guns. I’m telling you today–liberal, conservative, politics–everything goes back to 1929. You can see it; there’s a divide between the churches. There is one side going one way, and one side going another.
So, how can this be healed? A lot of people over here [indicates his left side] don’t even believe in the essentials of the faith. Some of them do, but not all of them. Some people over here [indicates his right side] are really mean and nasty. Have you ever seen that Westboro Baptist Church group, picketing funerals and that? [The Westboro Baptist Church is a small group of people most known for their hate of LGBT people, Jews, and politicians. They spread their message mainly by picketing military funerals. They are unaffiliated with any other church.] That’s mean. In fact, the word fundamentalism, which was really a good word—it was just the fundamentals–came to mean nasty. And I’ll tell you why. There was a Baptist preacher in Dallas, Texas and he was leader among the Fundamentalists. He was a hard man. His name was Frank Norris. One day in his office, someone was just having an argument with him, I think someone from the church, and Frank pulled a gun out of his desk and shot the guy dead, right in the pastor’s office. [This happened in 1926. The man who was killed was Dexter Elliot Chipps, a lumberman and a friend of the current mayor of Fort Worth, whom Norris had attacked from the pulpit.] And he was very popular. He claimed in court it was self-defense, and he got off, and we don’t know exactly what happened then. But from then on Fundamentalism kind of came to mean nasty, you know, argumentative and all that. But that’s not what it originally meant.
So you have in the 1920’s, this Baptist preacher named Walter Rauschenbusch, and he said we don’t necessarily need to believe the Bible, whether it’s true or not true. Jesus was about caring for people and it’s all about caring for the poor. And Walter Rauschenbusch started the social gospel movement that continues very strongly to this day. The Conservatives said, “That’s a substitute for the real Gospel.” And the Conservatives reacted and said, “We’re not going to do compassion ministry, because that would be social gospel. That’s all you guys do over there and you have sold out the faith, so we are going to be tough. We’re just going to preach, get people saved, and fend for themselves.”
Well, the reality, over time, is the Conservatives haven’t been that uncompassionate, and here is the irony of things. Do you know that Liberals aren’t liberal? Conservatives in America are more generous that liberals. The facts are in. You even take out church giving. Conservatives are more generous than liberals. I’ll tell you what, when the Kennedys and the Kerry clans and all those others give away more than half their wealth to the poor, give me a call. [Some in the congregation laugh.] The Liberals just aren’t, and the irony is that Conservatives aren’t conservative. You say, “What do you mean?” Well, Conservative means you hold on to essentials and a lot of conservatives have left—they fight for the Bible, but what the Bible actually says, they don’t believe. They left it in the rear-view mirror. Even in America, constitutionally, they’ve left the Constitution in the mirror a long time ago. They are foot-dragging progressives. So here we have the irony. They’re both hypocrites! The Liberals are hypocrites; the Conservatives are hypocrites! We’re all sinners, and we need Jesus! We need to follow Jesus and do what Jesus said to do. [He emphasizes the name of Jesus each time he says it.] So we need to hold on fast to the Gospel and we need to love others. We are created, verse 10: we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works. [He repeats] To do good works.
I felt God told me, this is just part of who we are. We should be like a spring of water, and that spring is always running whether someone is there to drink it or not. A water fountain doesn’t do anything until there is a need, and someone pushes hard enough, and then the water comes. We are to not be water fountains; we are to be springs of living water, just flowing and giving, and being generous all the time, because that’s who we are. Well, if the Holy Spirit is controlling us and guiding us, we will do that.
Over time, we have divided as well in the theory of socialism and capitalism. Do you want to know what the Bible says about those? While we’re here, we might as well do it. This is the message, to cover all of this stuff. I’m packing it all in today. Socialism, what does the Bible say about socialism? Well, first of all, I Timothy 5, starting with verse 3—I read part of this on Wednesday night [at the State College Assembly of God’s traditional Wednesday evening gathering, for prayer, praise, worship and study]—Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
Here we have the church caring for the widows, but they have to qualify first. They need to live an exemplary life and if they have family, the family needs to care for them first. If socialism is “every problem is everybody’s responsibility”, the Bible condemns that. In fact, II Thessalonians 3:10 emphasizes the work ethic, where Paul says, If you don’t work, you don’t eat. [Verse 10: For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he will not eat.”] That includes your kids, if they are grown enough that they can do work, because everybody is somebody’s kid, right? Don’t pamper your kids. You are spoiling them. You don’t work, you don’t eat. It’s what the Bible says. So this socialism, [spoken in a whiny voice]” that someone is going to take care of me, I’m due, I’m entitled. Somebody out there needs to care for all of my needs and I don’t need to worry” [regular voice] is not Biblical.
So what does the Bible say about capitalism? Well, it has very severe warnings about capitalism, very severe warnings. James 5 we’ve already referenced, a warning to the rich. I Timothy, again—by the way, First and Second Timothy, he’s a pastor in Ephesus, and we could call First and Second Timothy “Letter to the Pastor of Ephesus” very easily. In I Timothy, chapter 6, verses 6 through 10 says: godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is. Don’t love money; use it, but don’t love it. Okay? I use a washrag but I don’t love it. [congregation laughs, and he says, tongue in cheek] I love my washrag. [Continuing to read in I Timothy, chapter 6] Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. Wow. And then it says later in that chapter, verse 17: Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Well, in the last hundred years we have seen atheistic Communism, which has pretty much gone by the wayside, and we’ve seen atheistic capitalism. I’m going to show you a book this morning that maybe you have seen people recommend; maybe some of you have read it, a book by Ayn Rand, called Atlas Shrugged [published by Random House, 1957]. I do not recommend this book, and I say that knowing there are three of you who are going to read it just because I didn’t recommend it [and several in the congregation laugh]. The Bible says rebellion is as the sin of what? Witchcraft, so you wrestle with that. [congregation laughs again. His chastening is not delivered harshly, but it is delivered.] Number one, this book has a naked man on the cover so that’s a reason not to read it right there. Number two reason not to read the book. It has 1165 pages, and I checked my Bible here. My Bible has 1048 pages. If you can’t read this [holding up his Bible], then you can’t read that [holding up Atlas Shrugged]. That’s bigger than this, amen? [Congregation applauds] So read this. [Holding up his Bible again, he accidentally knocks his sermon notes to the floor and he says] There goes my notes. How many of you said, “Praise God.” [congregation laughs] I still have a sticky here. [And we, and he, all laugh again. Then he holds up his Bible again and says] Read this.
This book [Atlas Shrugged], anyone who is promoting it, either they don’t really know what’s in it or they are manipulating people who do follow this book and they want their following and their money. This book promotes social Darwinianism, it is atheistic capitalism, and Ayn Rand believed that benevolence and altruism is the worst evil in the world. You should never help anybody, ever, that only the fit would survive. She grew up in Russia [born in St. Petersburg in 1905, she moved to the US in 1926], she came to hate Communism, but basically what she adopted would have been perfectly fit into Naziism. Survival of the fittest, period. She is an absolutist on that. You get the gist of the book in 60 pages, but I am not going to tell you which 60 they are [and he chuckles].
[Holding up his Bible again] This is our guidebook, and this book says some hard things, like if you don’t work, you don’t eat. But it says that God loves us and He will care for us, and if we will follow Him and surrender to Him, He will take care of our needs. He will. We are not into works of law, we are into works of love. It’s part of who we are! It’s the second commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves! We’re created to do good works! [his voice rises] We will do good works, and I’ll tell you what, from now on I have no hesitation whatsoever in the kind of compassion that we show, even if it doesn’t have a direct, immediate, evangelistic effect, but I will tell you this: if you really love somebody, you won’t just feed them, you will share Jesus with them, because what use is it to have your belly full and be lost for eternity! You can’t love someone without sharing Jesus. You can’t! Eventually. It may not be in the first five minutes. You may feed them first, you may care for them first, but sooner or later you’ve got to get around to leading them to the foot of the cross. Amen? Amen. [his voice softer now] We need to be loving people.
I finish with this. I am going to give you a litmus test today of how loving you are. It’s a weakness in our culture here; probably in this neck of the woods, there are a lot of kind, caring, sincere, Godly people, but you know what? We are not that hospitable, compared to other cultures of the world, compared to other places. I grew up in a home where Mom served God with all of her heart, but we almost never had anybody in for dinner. When we were in our house, it was just for our family. Hardly ever, maybe some extended family now and then, but hardly anybody ever else. Never had a friend come over and stay overnight. Mom didn’t think that way. She grew up in that culture, mostly Pennsylvania German. But when I look at the Bible, Romans 12:13 tells us to practice hospitality, I Peter 4:9, III John 1:8. In I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, it is a requirement for an elder that they practice hospitality. Let me ask you, it’s a litmus test. When was the last time you had someone in your home who wasn’t biological family? Six months, twelve months? Have you opened your home to an international student? Have you opened your home to someone who is hurting? I mean if someone has a crisis, can they stay overnight or would they mess up your house? God forbid. Jesus invited us into His house, didn’t He? Into the Father’s House. You say, “Well, I care for people all day, and when I go home, I just need to be alone.” I understand that. I’m built that way. I personally understand that, but we’ve opened our home to a number of people through the years who have lived with us. We’ve helped them kind of get back on the right track, and we’ve done our best. Have you done that, or are you stinking selfish? You say, “Well, I give money.” I’m talking about touching people. Jesus did that. He didn’t come to earth just to put money in an offering plate. He came to pull people to Himself. Good does work, and doing good is part of the Gospel. It’s a part of what Jesus came to share, and reaching out to people is an essential thing.
Now I’m going to challenge you today to work on hospitality. I think it’s a weak area, for–not everybody; don’t take it personally if you’re real hospitable. I’m not talking about you; I’m talking about overall. I think it’s an area we need to grow in, and I believe in what God has to come in this community. We are going to be known as the most loving, compassionate—believers I’m saying, I’m not just saying State College Assembly of God but–born-again believers, with loving, caring, reaching out, embracing, just like the early church. We’ll take somebody into our home, a child that someone wants to get rid of, not just adoption but other ways. We’ll reach out, we will see needs. We won’t just drive by them, or walk past them. We’ll actually have a heart for when we see a need. We’ll say, “Jesus, what do you want me to do? What do you want me to do? What do you want me to do?”
Would you stand with me this morning, please? Thank you for your patience. I’m going to be out of the pulpit for three weeks in November so I’ve got to make up for it now. I just want you to bow your head right now, and how many–I’m not going to call you forward; we’re going to pray over here in just a second. But I’m going to ask how many of you, God is speaking to you, that you need to be more loving. You need to work on that second–maybe you are pretty good on that first commandment, loving God with all your heart, but you need to work on that second one–loving your neighbor as yourself. And maybe it’s the hospitality thing, maybe it’s something else, and you would just say to God this morning, in humility before Him, you would just raise a hand to Him and say, “Yes, Lord, I hear You and I will obey. I will obey. I want to be like Jesus.” How many would raise a hand to Heaven? Yes, thank you, all over this room. Lord, help me to be more caring, more loving, more hospitable, more giving, more generous. I want to be like Jesus. If He calls us to give it all away, we would do it, because it’s not about us. It’s about Him.
[Praying] Father, bless these your people. I thank you for the flock that you have given me the opportunity to minister and to speak into. Lord, how often I pray and ask for your guidance in how to protect them from some of the false teaching out there, and even wolves that would devour them with earthly wisdom. Lord, we want to just keep our eyes on you and be like You in every way. Bless each and every one, particularly those with a humble heart who say, “Lord, I need Your help in this area. I want to be more like You.” Let’s sing together before we go. [singing] “I want to be more like You. I want to be more like You. I want to be a vessel that You work through. I want to be more like You.” [“I Want to be More Like You” by Clint Brown, 2009]