Posts

Showing posts from June, 2021

The sinner’s prayer isn’t proof of your salvation.

Image
Back in grad school I heard this ridiculous story from a preacher. I’ve shared it before; now again. Goes like so. There once was this Christian who felt unsure of his salvation. He hoped he was saved, but he was just so full of doubts. A little voice inside his head kept telling him, “Oh you’re not saved. Not really.” Of course the preacher assumed this voice was Satan, but considering how such baiting will simply drive us Christians to make certain we’re saved, I’m pretty sure Satan abandoned this tactic long ago as stupid. But I digress. This uncertain Christian came up with a clever plan: First he said the sinner’s prayer again. (He no doubt said it ages ago, but bear with me.) Next he made a sign with that day’s date on it, fixed it to a stake, and pounded the stake into his backyard. Now every time the voice in his head told him, “ You’re not saved,” he could look out the back window at his sign, and say, “I am so saved, devil. Get thee behind me.” Followed by a r

When the sinner’s prayer doesn’t work.

Image
Imagine you share Jesus with someone. (Hope you do share Jesus with people. But anyway.) Imagine they respond well: They express an interest in this Jesus whom you speak of. They believe you when you tell ’em Jesus saved them. They wanna become a Christian right here and now. So you say the sinner’s prayer with them. They recite all the words right after you. They feel happy about it. You feel happy about it. And there was much rejoicing. Yea! Okay, now imagine it’s a year later and you meet up with that person again… and you find their life hasn’t changed. At all. They don’t go to church; they don’t see the point. They don’t read the bible; they don’t see the point. They don’t pray; no more than usual, which is the occasional “God, get me out of this and I promise I’ll…” and nothing more. Not even religious feelings , which I admit are usually self-manufactured, but they don’t even have that . No fruit of the Spirit. They’re not any happier, any more joyful. They

The “sinner’s prayer.” And how to lead one.

Image
In the scriptures, whenever someone wanted to become Christian, how’d they get initiated? Simple: They got baptized. Right away: They found some water and baptized ’em right then and there. Acts 8.35-38 KJV 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 [And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. Splash, and you’re Christian. But by the end of the first century, ancient Christians got it into their heads there oughta be more delay than this: Too many people were getting baptized, yet didn’t continue to follow Jesus. And baptism is a sacrame

Pre-existence: Did you exist before you were born?

Image
We Christians believe in Jesus’s incarnation —that Jesus wasn’t created, ’cause he’s God and has always existed. But he’s also human; at some point in time he became human. Before that point Moses could correctly say “God is not a man,” Nu 23.19 but after that point no he couldn’t. God’s a man now . And every so often you’re gonna find some Christian who claims everybody existed before they were born. They won’t claim we’ve always existed, like God; they figure he created us at some point. Possibly at the beginning of creation. Then, one at a time, he sent all these pre-existing ghosts to earth to be embodied. Or incarnated , to use the Latin-based term. Latter-day Saints actually believe this. They claim God makes these pre-babies in heaven, and billions and billions of ’em are sitting up there waiting to come to earth and be born Mormon. They call it premortality . Now when you ask Mormons how God makes ’em: I’ve found their “elders” (which is what they call their ki

There’s evangelicals, and there’s Evangelicals.

Image
EVANGELICAL i.væn'ʤɛl.ə.kəl adjective. Has to do with the evangel, i.e. the gospel. 2. [ capitalized ] Holds to the Protestant tradition of individual conversion to Christianity (i.e. being born again). Plus Jesus’s atonement, the bible’s authority, and an active Christian lifestyle. [Evangelicalism i.væn'ʤɛl.ə.kəl.ɪz.əm noun. ] I once heard a pagan define Evangelical as “somebody who actually believes in all that doo-doo.” She didn’t use the word “doo-doo”; it was something less family-friendly, and an indication of her own unbelief in all our doo-doo. And while we do believe in it, that’s not quite the proper definition. Over the past several decades another definition has cropped up in the press: A politically conservative Protestant. It’s also incorrect, but it’s totally understandable why people might jump to that conclusion. Evangelicals are Protestant, and in the United States most white Evangelicals are politically conservative. Sometimes more so th

Searching the bible with Siri. Or Google.

Image
You know how it goes: Half a verse pops into your head, and you think to yourself, “What’s the whole verse? Where’s that located? What’s its context?” (Or at least you should be asking yourself about its context. ) So what I usually do is whip out my iPhone, activate Siri, and quote my half a verse to her. Presto, she finds it. Usually on Bible Gateway, with a link I can press to go right to it. Takes all of 15 seconds. Don’t tell me the olden days were better. They bloody well were not. If you had half a verse in your head and wanted to know where it was in the bible, you had to get out a concordance. If you don’t know what that is, God has been kind to you: It’s a big ol’ book, about five times bigger than a bible, which has every word in a bible translation listed in alphabetical order. Well almost every word; they skipped the far too common words, like and or the or in . But underneath every other word, they list every single occurrence of that word in that transla

Not yet ready for miracles.

Image
About a decade ago, a cessationist of my acquaintance, whom I’ll call Izak, wrote about a member of his church whose child had died. The member asked Izak to come pray for the grieving family, so he did. While he was at the house, Izak decided—kinda on a spur of the moment—to pray God would raise their child from the dead. Yeah, Izak says he firmly believes God turned off the miracles after bible times. He won’t shut up about this, either; he writes pretty frequently about this utter absence of faith in God. Methinks he doth protest too much, because like he said, he did decide to try to raise the dead this one time. Just in case. Of course nothing happened. And Izak likes to say, “Of course nothing happened,” because it proves his worldview: God doesn’t intervene till the End Times. Meanwhile we Christians have to believe, really hard , that miracles used to happen; that Jesus rose from the dead because of one… even though God doesn’t do such things now , and the natu

The “Early Church Fathers”: Ancient Christians. Who wrote stuff.

Image
Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament ends with Paul of Tarsus in Rome, awaiting his trial before Nero Claudius Caesar, and encouraging the Christians of Rome. And that’s it. Its author Luke never tells us what came next; most scholars figure Luke didn’t know what came next, ’cause he wrote the book while Paul awaited trial. That’s likely so. But when I was a kid, I wanted to know what happened next. How’d the trial go? And there, my Sunday school teacher was no help; nobody had told her how it went, and she hadn’t bothered to investigate. So I did. Turns out it went well. Paul was released, and went back to traveling the Roman Empire and founding churches. But about a decade later he got arrested during the Neronian persecution (and possibly wrote 2 Timothy while awaiting trial), stood before Nero Caesar again, and this time things didn’t go his way. He was condemned and beheaded. I shared this info with one of my youth pastors, who told me, “Well that probably happ

Continuationism. Because the miracles never stopped.

Image
CONTINUATIONIST kən.tɪn.jʊ'eɪ.ʃən.ɪst adjective. Believes the Holy Spirit’s gifts (particularly tongues and prophecy) continued from bible times to the present day. Honestly I’m not a fan of the term continuationist , because the default setting for Christianity is—and should be!— the Holy Spirit is living, active, and still doing as he did among the ancient Christians. As prophesied by the prophet Joel in the fifth century BC , and fulfilled 24 May 33 on the first Christian Pentecost : Joel 2.28-29 NKJV 28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” Before the church age, the Spirit’s power was only poured out like this to prophets. But now every Christian has the Spirit within us, and therefore he can empower

Your God-experiences have to jibe with the scriptures.

Image
In the year 610, Muhammad ibn Abdullah al Mecca began having visions of an angel he identified as Jibril, who’d be גַּבְרִיאֵל / Gavryél , “Gabriel.” Because Muhammad was at the time illiterate, Jibril had him memorize certain recitations, and these were later collected into the Quran, Islam’s scriptures. Problem is, Muhammad never double-checked ’em against the Christian scriptures. Even though his revelations told him to . Quran, 10 (“Jonah”) :94 So if you’re in doubt about what We revealed to you, then ask those who’ve previously read the bible. Truth has truly already come to you from your Lord. So don’t be among the doubters. Despite this instruction, he didn’t. He presumed Jibril would never steer him wrong; why would a holy angel do any such thing? Hence the Quran has a lot of things in it which contradict the Christian scriptures. The way Muslims reconcile the differences is to claim Jews and Christians must’ve twisted or distorted the bible. (Usually they figure

Jesus warns against blaspheming the Spirit.

Image
Mark 3.28-30, Matthew 12.31-32, Luke 12.10. Fairly soon after we become Christians, we hear a rumor there’s such a thing as “the unpardonable sin.” Or multiple unpardonable sins. Certain things we can do which push God’s grace to the limit, ’cause apparently it has a limit, and these sins cross it. Do ’em and you’re going to hell. Game over, man, game over. Problem is, the rumor doesn’t always tell us what the unpardonable sin is . When I was a kid I thought it was saying, “ F--- God,” and Dad had committed it a bunch of times, so he was surely going to hell. I’ve had newbies ask me whether it was murder. Or Catholics tell me it was one of the seven deadly sins, ’cause what made ’em deadly was they’d send you to hell. There are in fact multiple unpardonable sins, and today I’m get to what Jesus teaches about one of them, namely blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Turns up in the gospels, right after Jesus had to correct the Pharisee scribes for accusing him of using Satan

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Image
Our English word blasphemy comes from the Greek βλασφημία / vlasfimía —which largely means the same thing. It’s irreverence towards, and slander against, people and things we oughta reverence. We Christians tend to only use it to describe irreverence towards God (and bibliolaters to describe irreverence towards the bible), but the ancients applied it to all sorts of things. Like irreverence towards the temple, Moses, the prophets, and the scriptures. Even kings and emperors; yes you could blaspheme a king. Especially when they claimed godhood, as some of ’em did. Some blasphemy is totally unintentional, like when we claim stuff about God that’s not so. When we claim, “God will send you to hell for that,” and no he won’t. When we claim God’s secret will is for evil to happen, and no it’s not. Other times it’s totally intentional, ’cause we’re pissed at God over something he did or didn’t do, so we yell at him a bit, or otherwise throw a tantrum and say some evil things. God

Cessationists: Those who imagine miracles stopped.

Image
CESSATIONIST sɛ'seɪ.ʃən.ist noun . One who believes divine miracles and prophecy ceased in the past. (And may happen again in future, but currently don’t.) 2. One who believes miracles and prophecy never happened; that all biblical descriptions of them are fantasies, exaggerations, misreports, or lies. 3. Having to do with a cessationist’s beliefs. [Cessationism sɛ'seɪ.ʃən.iz.əm noun .] When you read the bible, y’might notice there are a ton of miracles in it. Jesus performed many. So’d the prophets of the Old Testament. Since Jesus empowers his followers with the Holy Spirit Ac 2.38-39 —same as himself Ac 10.38 and the Old Testament prophets Zc 7.12 —he told his students they’d perform miracles just like his, if not greater. Jn 14.12 Arguably his followers did exactly that, as retold in Acts . And if his followers kept that up, certainly the world should be filled with miracles—just on the basis of pure numbers, ’cause a third of the planet identifies a

The excuse of the false experience.

Image
One of the various blogs I read is by a cessationist, who insists God turned off his miracles after the bible was fully written. Y’know how sometimes names are changed to protect the innocent? I’ll change his to protect the foolish, and call him Wanjala. Wanjala claims to love the scriptures. No doubt he’s sure he does! But he simply refuses to believe ’em when they state the Holy Spirit’s supernatural gifts are meant to be the normal, everyday practice of present-day Christians. Wanjala doesn’t believe he’s ever had a God-experience, and exactly like those people who can’t bring themselves to believe I met God, he trusts his personal experiences more than he does bible. As a theological conservative he would never, ever admit to doing any such thing. But it’s precisely what he’s doing. He’s the baseline. Not the scriptures. So according to his firm belief, God Almighty is exactly like those mute idols the gentiles used to worship; 1Co 12.2 he’s not a speaking God. If we

Don’t exaggerate your testimony. Ever.

Image
It should go without saying that Christians shouldn’t lie. But we do, for various reasons, all bad. So stop. Wean yourself off exaggerating in order to make yourself look good. Wean yourself off dissembling to get yourself out of difficulty. Quit lying. Jesus is truth; Jn 14.6 stick to the truth. There y’go; your mini-sermon for the day. It should also go without saying we shouldn’t lie when we share our testimonies, and talk about our encounters with God, what he’s told us, and how devoutly we follow him. But once again, we do. Way too many of us do. It’s out of pure selfishness. We wish we had a really good God-encounter. We wish we witnessed something truly spectacular. And no I don’t mean “spectacular” as in neat; I mean in its original sense as a serious spectacle , something visible which really gets people’s attention. Like when Simon Peter raised Dorcas from the dead Ac 9.36-42 or something. We want these types of stories, because we wanna sound like we have more

“Don’t seek God-experiences!”

Image
When people wanna know whether God is real, I tell ’em to seek God-experiences. Watch him interact with people in our world, or hear him interact with you personally, and you’ll know for certain he’s real. Especially after you’ve had a whole bunch of these experiences. New Christians tend to take this advice. Longtime Christians, not so much. Because when someone’s been Christian for a mighty long time, yet have no God-experiences at all , it actually means they’ve been going out of their way to avoid any such experiences. They’ve been intentionally, deliberately staying away from any Christians who dabble in miracles and the supernatural—whom they call continuationist, ’cause we claim miracles have continued from bible times to today, unlike those who say miracles ceased, i.e. cessationists. Why do they stay away? ’Cause we freak ’em out a little. Sometimes for totally understandable reasons. I gotta admit, some of us continuationists are straight-up freaks. They bug me

Your testimony.

Image
TESTIMONY 'tɛst.ə.moʊ.ni noun . Formal evidence or proof of the existence or appearance of something. (Particularly a statement provided in court.) 2. A public statement, or retelling, of a religious conversion or experience. [Testify 'tɛs.tə.faɪ verb , witness 'wɪt.nəs noun, verb .] In the scriptures a testimony or witness refers to, duh, something you personally saw. Something you could make a formal statement about before a judge. Something that was a big, big deal if you presented a false testimony; one of the 10 commandments forbids it. For the ancient Christians, when they talked about one’s testimony, they meant what we personally saw of Jesus. 1 John 1.1-4 NIV 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, w

“How do you know there’s a God?”

Image
Every so often I’m asked, “How do you know there’s a God?” No, they’re not asking, “How can we, as humanity, verify the existence of God?” They don’t wanna go over Christian apologists’ various proofs for God’s existence. Sometimes they’ve already heard a few; sometimes they even found them reasonable. But they also found them unconvicting . They couldn’t make the leap from, “I think there’s a God out there” to “So now I’m gonna become Christian.” In fact if I started listing the proofs of God’s existence, it’d be the fastest way to annoy them. “Well y’see, I know there’s a God because the universe works on cause and effect. So if we trace all the causes back to a first cause…” Yeah, yeah, they didn’t ask for a philosophy lesson. Most folks have heard the “unmoved mover” idea before, and nontheists are pretty sure that unmoved mover is the Horrendous Space Kablooie. They don’t care about that. What they wanna know is how I , me, K.W. Leslie, the guy who talks about God