The Christian Bubble

2 Timothy 4:3 ESV

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions

Matthew 6:33 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Corinthians 11:18-19

For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it.   For there must also be heresies among you, that the approved ones may be revealed among you

I want to address an issue which I believe is quite a common occurrence amongst young Christians. I have been at university for seven years now and this post comes from observance over the seven years, but particularly I have felt the need to write this in the last few months.

We love to be around people who are like us; young, idealistic, fun and above all Christian. After all, in that environment we don’t have to address any issues such as drinking alcohol (there is no pressure to drink) or ideas which we find different from ours. We find our safe space.

Safe spaces are great; they allow us to find people who agree with us, who won’t challenge what we say. Or so we think. I believe that we often change ourselves to fit in. I don’t know about anyone reading this, but I often find that young Christians seem to almost be identical in what they listen to, what they enjoy, and the way they talk. It is all a bit weird.

I will be the first to say it; I’m not really your average young Christian. I have never found it easy to be around young Christians, and there are many reasons for that. That isn’t saying I haven’t found friends amongst young Christians, I can think of a few great guys who have been an absolute blessing to me. But I do think these cliques do not help. After all, I’m stubborn and won’t change my ways because other people don’t like it. I don’t fit into the stereotypical young Christian trope and I’m ok with that. I’m actually grateful for it. It means that for one, the focus goes to the Word, and the Lord. My Christian friends don’t make me fit a system but just want me to love the Word and Him and that is great.

You won’t find me around these guys all the time (most of them don’t even live where I live anyway). I love to spend time with non-Christians.; in fact, most of my friends aren’t believers and, as Christians, aren’t we meant to live in the world? I know Ryle argued otherwise, but I honestly believe we can play a big role in people’s lives.

And this comes to my problem with these cliques and bubbles. Apart from the fact I think they turn you into a generic young Christian (I mean literally its weird), they keep your light hidden. They water down your doctrine. I just think of the typical university Christian Union. Most treat the CU like a social club, a place to hang out, and have little interaction with non-Christians. Perhaps I am wrong but I don’t get any other impression. I have often heard the expression that the CU is a ‘home away from home’, but that shouldn’t be the case. Our churches are our homes; the CU is not a church. The ‘bubble’ means that rather than an evangelical centre and mission field, the society becomes a safe space; where they sing happy things that make them feel good, rather than sharing the love and light of Jesus Christ. Rather than standing firm in the faith, the doctrine is watered down so there are no disagreements. It is not wrong to create strong friendships in this environment, far from it, having close Christian friends is vital, but rather these friendships being a product of our labour, it is what we seek first and only.

It creates an isolating atmosphere. I know a few people know who do not go to CU because they do not fit in. If you are Reformed like myself, then I feel the CU is difficult, and personally for me, it became a no-go place. You feel as though you have to be one of them and that is just wrong. The cliques on the outside make you feel as though you miss out, that you are not part of them. If you just want to meet one of them, you find that you can’t because the rest of the clique say no or what not. Christians shouldn’t be like this. We should be accepting people, loving people, and not staying within our comfort zones.

It creates an unwelcoming atmosphere. Our churches, our societies should never be unwelcoming. Yet they are, because we prefer the safe space, rather than what is right. We water down our theology and doctrine to fit in. We keep our light hidden. Christians, we ought not to be in bubbles and in cliques. We need to be radical, be adventuresome and be courageous.

Christian Music: An updated opinion piece.

Psalm 96

Sing to the Lord a new song;     sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name;     proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations,     his marvellous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;     he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols,     but the Lord made the heavens. Splendour and majesty are before him;     strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,     ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;     bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness;     tremble before him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”     The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;     he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;     let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;     let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. 13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,     he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness     and the peoples in his faithfulness

 

Michael talking about church music, how uncommon! Well, I have been busy studying the theology of contemporary worship recently and I wanted to share some thoughts with you. I pray that you will find this a blessing and I hope we start to see a radical change amongst young people.

Don’t you just love Psalm 96, it is a Psalm full of praise to the Lord. The Psalmist has such a heart for the people of God to worship the Lord. Yet at the same time, it is a theologically rich Psalm, full of the gospel, of the Word and evangelical. It is complex like every Psalm in its own way and it’s beautiful.

Worship music is not here to fix our feelings. No, it is to feed us scripture, to help us praise the Lord Almighty, to help us memorise truth, help us see the gospel and also is a way in which we can evangelise. Imagine singing

God all keeping, omnipresent, in the passing days of man First to last, not one forgotten by his strong and steering hand He the Sovereign Lord now praise we, he the fount of Providence On his word we rest unwavering, yes his perfect word shall stand”

When you sing this for example, you are singing Biblical truth! How awesome is that. Rather than singing ‘God is good…whoop, whoop’. You are singing deep amazing truths, which edify you, others around you and stand as a witness to the non-believer! How amazing is that!

It’s not about new or old, but about God-Honouring worship

I have often talked about traditional worship versus contemporary worship, but neither is good. Psalm 96 tells us to sing new songs, as do other passages in the Bible; it is probably true that Paul quoted new hymns in the Bible as he spoke to the churches. New songs are great, but so are the old. They are timeless, they are what our spiritual forefathers sang. They helped them in their journey as they too can help us in our journey. They taught people doctrine, and they were focused on Him and Him alone. So both are great, debate settled? Well no, for me I’ve realised thanks to the Lord that this was never the issue or should have never been the issue. What is important is not new and old, but what is God Honouring. Psalm 96 tells us to sing all the aspects of the Lord, to explore Him, to praise Him and to honour Him.

Our songs must be God-Honouring. That means they must be Christ-centred, biblical, true to the Word, and that which help us grow in Him. Sadly, much of my generation do not seem to honour Him in music, and can be lost in the music of the age, influenced by churches which are not soundly biblical and it hurts me to see.

The Problem in the Modern Church

So what is the current problem? Well it is the self-centred nature of modern worship. Young people are not discerning regarding music and will listen to anything labelled as ‘Christian’ yet it is mainly focused on the self. If you count the number of times ‘I’ appears in a song, it often appears more than ‘God’. The word ‘I’ is not wrong in of itself, but it must be in relation to the Lord.

What is wrong with self-centred worship? Well its idolatry, it’s all about what God does for me. It’s all about how important I am, rather than how awesome HE is. Rather than explore the complex nature of the Lord, we want to sing about our feelings and how great everything is.

Another problem is that the theology is either heretical or just weak. God is Good, God is Love, God is Great. True themes no doubt, but there is no explanation. There is no focus on growth. In fact I argue this is a way that false teaching has gotten into the church. What better way to mislead the saints than in something that has grown into an industry and plays off our self-centred behaviour? A reading into Galatians 1:10 or 2 Peter 2 and you just get a glimpse of the Wolves in Sheep’s clothing. The bible constantly warns us of false teachers, and we must also look to our songs.

So let’s just nail down the problems:

  • Worship music is now an industry
  • Worship comes from Heretical churches such as Hillsong and Bethel (Prophecy doctrine which can also be seen in the New Apostolic Reformation as well as Prosperity Doctrine)
  • We have celebrity artists
  • We have self-centred lyrics
  • Theology and Doctrine are Missing from our songs
  • Music is not God-Honouring

These are hard truths perhaps but it is true. To be frank, I am embarrassed by my generation and I fear for the future of the church.

Just do not get me started on playing music whilst prayer is happening. It all links to what modern worship is all about, and that is emotion building; building up to a high point to get yourself into a spiritual frenzy/moment. The words actually do nothing, it’s the tune, it’s the drum beat, and it’s the changing temp. Now tunes and melodies are vital to a song, of course they are, but the Word must be central to the song and sadly it is not.

 

Songs which are God Honouring

So what is God-Honouring? Well it’s a congregational-focused worship. Paul says in Ephesians that we must sing to one another! We also need to sing as one people to Him, and not as individuals. Psalm 96 is a congregational based psalm that urges the people to Worship the Living God. That is not saying that there is not a place for the I, but it needs to be in relation to the Word and to the Lord always!

The congregation needs to be gripped with the truth of the Word. It needs to be taught through the songs we sing. Songs which honour God explore His Justice, His Omnipresence, His Love, His Glory, they turn our eyes towards the cross and towards eternity.

Songs which honour God don’t make everything out to be rosy and great. They are real. They are personal. They show sadness, questions, pain, as well as happiness, joyfulness and beauty.

Songs that honour God come from the Word. Not randomly picked verses thrown together as 90% of the music today is, but from what the Word teaches.

 

Time for action

I really do believe that we are on a clock. I think the church is in a dire situation. Some stay with the old traditional but that does not honour God as we are told to sing New songs. Many sing news songs, but are not discerning. They sing anything and have been led astray as a result. We must sing new songs but we must be discerning with our choices.

We must take a stand. We must fight for what is right. I know what damage the worship wars have done in the past, but this is for God-honouring songs and hymns. It’s about the integrity of our churches, of our theology. It is about future generations. More importantly it’s about getting rid of the wolves, it’s about coming back to what Worship really is about and that is Christ.

I want to see the church grow in faith and theology. I want to see the church love their Lord with a burning passion. I want to see Christians strong in the faith. My heart burns for Christ-centred theologically rich worship. I know that the Lord has made be focus on this for a reason. He wants his Church to honour him once more, and I intend to serve Him in doing do.

This is not about instruments, or about style. It’s about what we sing, it’s about Him and it’s about the Glory of God.

Forgetfulness – Part 2: Missing the bus

Mention ‘The End Times’ to Christians and you will get one of two reactions: a low groan — ‘here we go again’ or a heated all-night debate. I believe this is a large part of our ‘forgetfulness’ problem with regard to the Return of Christ. To cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the end-times are everything; even to greatly-blessed ministers like John MacArthur the focus on his pre-millennialism theory can be OTT. Satan can cause the best of us to read far too much into the — mostly symbolic —numbers in Revelation to find out the date that Jesus clearly states ‘no man, no angel, not even I know’ (Matthew 24:36). Superstitious nonsense that people fall for – even the elect (Matthew 24:24). Revelation is an amazing and joyous book, more about Jesus than anything else; yet our obsession with these matters seems to kill it to the point where it becomes entirely unprofitable. Some people make it seem like the whole gospel itself is hinged on the thousand years or the number of the beast… Where is Jesus? Where is the cross?

Taking a leaf out of Paul’s book

Paul’s advice to both Titus and Timothy (young pastors) was to discourage talk over such matters, that we are never likely to resolve:

“Stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” (Titus 3:9).

“Command certain people not […] to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk.” (1 Timothy 1:3-6).

That is not to say that we should not eagerly look into these things and work out our stance on these issues. Yet there is doctrine that is surely so much more important than these things — which can so often be divisive red-herrings and unprovable from Scripture. Instead we should look into what is profitable and honouring to the Lord — how about adoption, your privileges in Christ, the trinity, Jesus’ deity, etc.? — be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and check what your pastor says lines up with Scripture!

What should we do?

All the while we’re squabbling over the finer-points of the End Times in our hermit-holes, people are dropping into hell in their hundreds and thousands, every day. There’s a world dying out there!! For crying out loud brothers and sisters! Let’s get out there with the Gospel before it is too late and Jesus does return. God, in His infinite sovereign mercy has given us a role in the salvation of souls —as ambassadors of Christ  (2 Corinthians 5:20). I fear I, and perhaps others too, will have a lot to answer for on the day of judgement — ‘Why didn’t you warn people? I gave you friends, neighbours, colleagues and family to witness to, I gave you gifts to use for the work of My church; I told you to ask for more of My Spirit and I would give it you. Did I not tell you to go out into all the world and make disciples of all the nations?’

What will we say? What are our excuses now? ‘Oh I’m too busy with life’, ‘I don’t like talking to people’, ‘I’m not gifted in that way’, … There once was an atheist who said that one big reason he does not believe is because, if what the Bible says is true, Christians would be out warning everybody all the time and they’re not… — why believe a book about a man, if His followers don’t even seem to believe it?

The most selfish thing we can possibly do is not to share Jesus. The Casting Crowns song ‘Love you with the truth’ puts it brilliantly. Why has God let the world go on so long, considering His people were ready way back in the first century for His return? It’s because we know exactly when the world will end: when the last soul is saved, when the last of His flock is brought safely into the fold.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

What love!

On the last day, we will be saved ourselves yes, but won’t we miss out on so much more? Daniel 12 (see Matthew 25:21 too), speaking of the End Times, says:

“At that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” [emphasis added] (Daniel 12:1b-3).

The last part is often termed, ‘the soul-winners’ promise.’ Are we soul-winners? When was the last time we pointed someone to Christ? Let’s all cut the lukewarm cold-hearted worldly two-faced ‘Sunday Christianity’ baloney that seems to define us and pray that He will give us a glimpse of Christ, draw us closer to Himself, fill us with His Spirit and give us opportunities to witness of the Messiah. Let’s truly ‘Love our neighbours as ourselves’. What is more important than doing the Good Lord’s work?

A hymn we sung on Sunday encapsulated this brilliantly. I was only going to quote the last verse – but reading it again, I couldn’t bring myself to cut any of it!

May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of Christ dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of Christ my Saviour
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.