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Monday, July 25, 2011 | Comments (66)

by John MacArthur

If I could impress on Young, Restless, Reformed students just one word of friendly counsel to address what I think is the most glaring deficiency in that movement, this is what it would be: "Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature" (1 Corinthians 14:20).

I'm very glad the ranks of YRRs are growing numerically. Many good things about that movement are full of promise and potential. In order to fulfill that potential, however, this generation of Reformers desperately needs to move past the young-and-restless stage. Immaturity and unrest are hindrances to spiritual fruitfulness, not virtues.

When Paul told Timothy, "Let no one despise you for your youth" (1 Timothy 4:12), he wasn't suggesting that Timothy should forbid people in the church to disapprove if the pastor were to display immaturity, juvenile misbehavior, youthful indiscretion, or other traits of callow character.

Much less was the apostle suggesting that Timothy should cater exclusively to young people while purposely marginalizing the elderly. That, I'm sorry to say, is the kind of advice we sometimes hear nowadays from many self-styled church-growth experts: Pastors must be innovative, stylish, agents of change. You have got to appeal to young people. They are the only demographic that really matters if the goal is to impact the culture.

And if elderly people in the church prove to be "resisters," just show them the door. Give them the left foot of fellowship. After all, "There are moments when you've got to play hardball."

But for heaven's sake don't dress for hardball. HCo. clothes and hipster hair are essential tools of contextualization. The more casual, the better. Distressed, grunge-patterned T-shirts and ripped jeans are perfect. You would not want anyone to think you take worship as seriously as, say, a wedding or a court appearance. Be cool. Which means (of course) that you mustn't be perceived as punctilious about matters of doctrine or hermeneutics. But whatever you do, do not fail to pay careful attention to Abercrombie & Fitch.

I sometimes think no group is more fashion-conscious than the current crop of hipster church planters—except perhaps teenage girls.

But, someone protests, Scripture does say, "Let no one despise youthfulness."

We frequently hear that text cited to make that argument. But Paul's point to Timothy was precisely the opposite: Don't give anyone a reason to criticize you for being immature, "but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." Paul was not suggesting that Timothy should exaggerate his youthfulness or wear it as a badge of distinction; he was urging the young pastor to cultivate maturity beyond his years.

Charles Spurgeon understood the principle. He became pastor of London's largest and most famous Baptist congregation at the age of 20, less than five years after his conversion. But he consciously and diligently sought to display maturity beyond his years—especially in his manners and his approach to ministry. At age 40, he reflected on the brevity of his own adolescence: "I might have been a young man at twelve, but at sixteen I was a sober, respectable Baptist parson, sitting in the chair and ruling and governing the church. At that period of my life, when I ought perhaps to have been in the playground . . . I spent my time at my books, studying and working hard, sticking to it."

As I have shown elsewhere, evangelicalism's childish fascination with teenage fashions, milk rather than meat, and trivial entertainment rather than serious doctrine is deeply rooted in a pragmatic ministry philosophy. It is not "Reformed" in any sense but is a classic expression of man-centered free-willism—what Colossians 2:23 refers to as "self-made religion." It is the antithesis of the Bible's emphasis on the sovereignty of God and the unadulterated gospel as the power of God unto salvation. Instead, it begins with the assumption that the lost must be won by sheer gimmickry—through the cleverness of human ingenuity or the supposed appeal of worldly fashion.

That, of course, is precisely the philosophy Paul rejected and refuted in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

One might think any movement that formally affirms Reformation doctrine would be at the vanguard of opposition to the jejune faddishness that has plagued evangelicalism for the past few decades. But that has not always been the case with today's Young and Restless Reformers. As the YRR movement has taken shape, some of the best-selling books and leading figures in the movement have been completely uncritical (and in some cases openly supportive) of seeker-sensitive-style pragmatism.

Worse, the fads and gimmicks some prominent YRRs seem to want to be known for are much more sinister than the shallow diversions that seeker-friendly churches were playing around with twenty years ago. Judging from certain church websites and pastoral blogs, a sizeable core of young men in the YRR movement are perfectly happy to give the world the impression that cage fighting, beer-drinking, cigar-smoking, hard-partying, and other forms of bad-boy-behavior are the distinguishing marks of their religion. Meanwhile, many others who identify with the movement evidently think any talk of holiness—not to mention any concern for taste or propriety—is tantamount to the rankest sort of legalism.

Such an opinion reflects a carnal immaturity that must not be encouraged. When smutty talk and lascivious subject matter from the pulpits of 40-year-old pastors are routinely defended by an appeal to the "youthfulness" of the offender, someone's maturity meter is badly askew. It is a serious problem. The movement cannot survive or prosper under leaders who are stuck in perpetual adolescence—no matter how much they talk about manhood and thump their chests to demonstrate their machismo.

Those who exhibit such behavior are out of their element claiming to be Reformed. Maturity is a necessary virtue for those who would be truly effective in ministry. "Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:14). That is a desirable—and honorable—goal: Strive for it.

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way" (Philippians 3:12-15).

John MacArthur


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#1  Posted by Richard Goble  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 9:15 AM

Great point John. Right theology should lead to right application. Hopefully this movement will progress and mature.

#2  Posted by Chris Schwenk  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 10:36 AM

I think a lot of people in the Church today think that orthodoxy (correct teaching) is the only thing that matters and that orthopraxy (right practice or right behavior or methods) is not important, but Pastor MacArthur has shown us that both must go hand in hand. I wonder if this rebuke was maybe aimed toward Mark Driscoll?

#3  Posted by Josué Morissette  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 10:38 AM

I'm 30 (for a few more weeks anyways) and I have been exposed to some pastors out of that movement. While their theology sounds good and their sermons come out as well prepared, they all seem to want to church differently for one reason or another. And what ends up suffering is the worship that is mostly man centered and borders on what you see in Pentecostal churches. I have found difficult to find other people of my age group that focus every area of their lives on Christ. They have their theology right, but the application seems to be lacking. They like their worldly concerts, even going out their way not to miss a visiting artist. They like MMA and if they had a Sunday night service they would have a hard time choosing between that and a good football game.

I would like to see the traditional Church stay, if I have retained anything from reading about Church history, is that those who have ventured to change the Church have not changed it for the better. Order in the Church is very important to me, for it keeps It from slipping into all sorts of just plain weird stuff (I was raised in a Pentecostal Church so I've seen a lot done in the name of worship). Some of them are very enthusiastic about sharing Christ and are solid when it comes to doctrines, but it doesn't always quite make it in their personal lives. It appears like they don't fully trust that the Gospel is enough to attract people. They feel the need to attract people by offering a different Church experience, having 4 different services to accommodate people schedule, having a break with snacks and time for cell phone updates between worship and the sermon, etc. In itself there's nothing wrong with all that, but it's very much difficult to get ready for a sermon when the service is interrupted not by prayer but by interludes and breaks even in the middle of a sermon sometimes.

With everything being so easily available, it's easy to find good teaching materials, but nothing can replace the right application of that material other than a commitment to study the Word and a commitment to live it.

#4  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 10:49 AM

Maybe it is just because I live in Texas, but are there really "pastors" who behave and teach as if the immoral activities listed are ok or even good? That's very sad.

I would like to ask, however, is it wrong to have a "fashionable" or more contemporary style if it is genuine? If bible is being taught AND lived by those ministering, would it be 'immature' for them to have the style or fashion if it is natural to them? It seems to me that a younger generation 'dressing up' and 'doing church' to please an older generation's idea of proper is as inappropriate as 'dressing down' to appeal to younger people.

If you are teaching true doctrine and living as it dictates, what's wrong with speaking someone's cultural language? Not approving sin, that's always bad. But style and fashion-wise, why would it be wrong, especially if it tends to come more natural to you?

#5  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 11:05 AM

#3

Some of them are very enthusiastic about sharing Christ and are solid when it comes to doctrines, but it doesn't always quite make it in their personal lives.

If something is not being applied in our lives, can we really say that we are "solid"? Knowledge does not equal belief. Academically grasping doctrine is not being "solid" if it is not lived out.

... having a break with snacks and time for cell phone updates between worship and the sermon, etc. In itself there's nothing wrong with all that, but it's very much difficult to get ready for a sermon when the service is interrupted not by prayer but by interludes and breaks even in the middle of a sermon sometimes.

Style is one thing, but interrupting focus on God, worship, or the Word is simply disrespectful. However, I often hear the two being lumped in together. Like somehow a change in style is disrespectful. You commented that "in itself there's nothing wrong with all that", but I rarely hear that sentiment stated when this topic is addressed.

Taken to extremes, when addressing this sort of issue, if not careful we may end up creating arguments along the line of whether someone's really a christian if they don't stand for the reading of the bible.

#6  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 12:11 PM

R.C. Sproul is well known for his book, teachings, and conferences centering on the holiness of God. I would recommend his resources with regards to worship.

Further, worship is not designed for nor directed towards mankind. The urge to change style is, as Dr MacArthur pointed out, most likely rooted in a man-centered effort to gain an audience or popularity. God has ordained how He is to be worshiped in His Word...one good source to study with regards to this topic is John Calvin's "On the Necessity of Reforming the Church"

"The great danger the church faces today is the separation of our theology from our practice or the viewing of the Bible as somehow separate from theology." Calvin

"If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly; the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity, viz., a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshiped; and, secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained." Calvin

#7  Posted by Scott Barber  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 12:29 PM

If you're not being accused of being antinomian you're not doing grace right. Some churches don't look like your church and that is to the glory of God who takes pleasure in the catholicity of His church. Clothes don't matter, and the fact that the YRR realize this shows a great deal of maturity indeed.

#8  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 12:55 PM

"When smutty talk and lascivious subject matter from the pulpits of 40-year-old pastors are routinely defended by an appeal to the "youthfulness" of the offender, someone's maturity meter is badly askew."

Agreed. And these are the leaders who are training the much younger generation to be leaders. The much younger generation then takes it one notch (or maybe a couple) down. Or up - depending of the view of the reader. I call it "down".

"Meanwhile, many others who identify with the movement evidently think any talk of holiness—not to mention any concern for taste or propriety—is tantamount to the rankest sort of legalism."

Agreed again.

How does one approach the issue of clothing with some of the leaders without being taken for a legalist?

#9  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 12:56 PM

# 2, Chris. Is Driscoll the only one behaving this way? that should answer your question. =)

#10  Posted by Josué Morissette  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 1:04 PM

#5

I meant by "Solid" that they say the right things, but as far as doing the right things in their personnal lives that is something else, I've separated the two. Their actions are not sunful per se, but they are certainly not profitable (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Also, when I said that was nothing wrong with cell updates and snack, I meant it to say that by themsleves they are not wrong, but they have no place in the middle of a Sunday morning Church assembly.

#11  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 1:29 PM

Scott,

If you're not being accused of being antinomian you're not doing grace right.

I suppose it all depends what you mean by "antinomian" and "doing grace." I understand the concept of antinomianism (no law), but I don't know what "doing grace" means.

We all must live by law. The NT is full of imperatives to live by. Unfortunately many take "Christian liberty" to mean I can do whatever I want as long as its not explicitly named as sin in Scripture, when it really means, I'm free to live in a way that doesn't add offense to the gospel, bring reproach on Christ, and cause others to stumble.

#12  Posted by Anderson Esteban  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 1:35 PM

they in fact are part of the *emergent church* and trough the contemporary fashion they have the excuse to reach out the unbelievers specially those who are part of certain urban sub-culture.

If they for example find a Rocker their dress is likewise. Unfortunately they have in their teams a lot of young people between 15 to 25 in age with the philosophy of demonstrate that God does not demand anything but your heart, the extern things does not matter to Him.

I agree with Pastor Macarthur they won't exist for a long time because they are lacking of maturity and with such tools (being like the world is) they won't save the world.

* hard words produce soft hearts, & soft words produce hearts of stone*

God bless you

#13  Posted by Trent Whalin  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 1:38 PM

Definitely going to be printing this series out. Thanks Dr. MacArthur!

#14  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 4:10 PM

This machismo mentality really is a bit problematic to me, and highly immature. First of all, to blame women for men being effeminate is ridiculous. Here again, we see the buck being passed as it was in the Garden of Eden. And to blame men for not being nuts and bolts tough enough to man-up and be a real man, well, is utter nonsense. Christ was the manliest of all men, and He never drove a Harley, drank beer with the boys, chewed tobacco or swore like a sailor. And we all know WHO is behind in the promotion of this macho man image.

We all, BOTH men and women are being made into the likeness of Christ. The fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, forbearance, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control serve to make ALL of us one in Christ. These fruits of the Spirit do not turn men into marshmallow fluff, and if some want to add bull-dog aggression, extra strength testosterone, beefy biceps, and vulgar talk to really man-up, then that person has a very skewed view of what it means to be a real loving, Christian man. And I would even suggest, they couldn’t even begin to see the beauty of what is to be Christ-like or to envision Christ for who He truly is.

Yes, Christ will come back as a fierce warrior. He has that right. He is the sovereign King of the Universe. He will repay sinners for all their secret, untold tales of sin. Every open indiscretion and flagrant violation of His holiness will be crushed beneath His feet. His white robe will be stained scarlet red by the blood of His enemies. However, we are told, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Rom 12:19).”

There is only ONE, true hero, someone needs to stop the mutiny, and fall in line with all the rest of us meek and gentle souls.

Loved your article, Dr. MacArthur.

#15  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 4:24 PM

As I thought as a child, reason like a child. When I grew up, I put my childless things away, read it in the scriptures.

I experience a pastor try to be into the culture. Wearing jeans in church. Tossing footballs during the service, and have ice cream contest in the church during church. Throwing money and candy to the people in church to make people have a grand time.. What of God?? Leaving God out of that for a period of time is lack of maturity. Just sharing something I been through. Tks. for the post.

#16  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 5:23 PM

#14 Right on Mary. Wan't to see a man cry? See me at the Lords table. I'm busy washing His feet with my tears. He deserves better.

#17  Posted by Ty Corbett  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 5:38 PM

Im 16 but I absolutely HATE it when a "minister" sacrifices the truth, power, and sheer beauty of the Word and truth for the sake of being relative to a generation (my generation) that could care less. You can't make a goat act like a sheep. You can thank the charismatic movement for this, for the most part. When someone is using these methods for obtaining growth, they are basically saying, "God, your Word is not enough for true worship and growth. I think I'll just try something more entertaining and appealing."

#18  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 6:25 PM

Oh!...there it is. Driscoll. For those who have attended,what do you think?. fad driven or not. I am willing to be rebuked for my opinion as long as properly interpreted verses are used to oppose my view.

#19  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 7:09 PM

It's the wolves in sheep clothing, thanks for sharing, Ty.

#20  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Monday, July 25, 2011at 10:45 PM

I love Dr MacArthur's mini series “Does the Truth Matter Anymore?” A five part series you can watch at GTY. Also,Spurgeon's Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats? is so relevant today. If Spurgeon preached this in the 1800's, just imagine what he would think today!?

#21  Posted by D. Barea  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 5:34 AM

I agree with Pastor Mac. This spoke to my heart; I am reformed, 31, and have an urban background. Truthfully I can only relate to scripture, truth, the whole gospel,and a view of worship that calls for reverence. I appreciate reverence. However in regard to clothing that could a point that can be made eitherway. Now, if you are flamboyant as the Pastor described you are wrong. If you think a suit and tie means you have one up you are blind as well. The philopshy of a man wearing a good suit or the dapper appearance is rooted in the same ball park as graphic tees/ripped jeans. The world gaves us the 'rules' for wearing a suit and how and why to wear a suit. Becareful here; there was no 3 piece suits in scripture...a clean, groomed, neat, appearance is all is required for believers--DO NOT CONFORM TO THE IMAGE OF THE WORLD...I am learning this still. Pastor I agree and your timing is on time as usual. Praise the father for the wisdom he has given you to share with us young men. I appreciate it.

#22  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 6:00 AM

When "many of His (Jesus') disciples turned back and no longer followed Him," I do not hear Him say, 'Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it! Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!' Spurgeon

#23  Posted by David Smith  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 6:16 AM

Josué Morissette #3 -

With respect, I think you've fallen into the trap of assuming that what we see as "traditional" church is (1) the way it has always been and (2) the way it is in the Bible.

Your study of church history seems to have missed the reformation, when all the great reformers made significant changes to the church, and they emphasised that the church must keep reforming. My reading of the Bible is that the church met in homes, and I find it hard to imagine it was anything like what we consider as church.

I'm not endorsing YRR or anything else, but idolising the past is just as wrong as idolising the new.

In the end, the church is a community of believers, not a building or a meeting. Yes, what we do when we get together matters, and it scares me that churches are modelling their meetings after concerts or TV shows. But some of the aspects of "traditional" church should also be avoided.

#24  Posted by Brenda Kearns  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 7:05 AM

Comment deleted by user.
#25  Posted by Sarah Kearns  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 7:14 AM

I'm a YRR (22) and I've never encountered a "self-styled church-growth expert." Who is Pastor MacArthur referring to?

#26  Posted by Sarah Kearns  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 7:16 AM

#4 "It seems to me that a younger generation 'dressing up' and 'doing church' to please an older generation's idea of proper is as inappropriate as 'dressing down' to appeal to younger people."

Thank you.

#27  Posted by Brenda Kearns  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 7:22 AM

#3

Do we even know what movement Pastor MacArthur is referring to? There's no cited support for his quotes or his claims, unless I'm missing something? The single link in the quote above leads to another critical article that also quotes the same words, but no link to the original source or anything regarding the rest of the quote.

#28  Posted by Brenda Kearns  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 8:22 AM

As a Middle Age Restless Reformed who's joined the YRRs, I'd like to know where Pastor MacArthur is seeing this trend, as I'm not seeing it in the YRRs I'm involved with.

And I'm rather disappointed with the lack of citation in this article. I too would like to know who Pastor MacArthur is quoting, but there is no reference to the original source. The linked phrase only goes to someone else quoting that phrase.

Who exactly are we talking about here?

#29  Posted by Annemarie Williams  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 8:33 AM

"We frequently hear that text cited to make that argument. But Paul's point to Timothy was precisely the opposite: Don't give anyone a reason to criticize you for being immature, "but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." Paul was not suggesting that Timothy should exaggerate his youthfulness or wear it as a badge of distinction; he was urging the young pastor to cultivate maturity beyond his years."

Amen! Would that there would be more young people that saw the truth of this.

#30  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 10:03 AM

I just read an article from the GTY website; "The Christian Mission in a Dying Culture: Interview with Phil Johnson and John MacArthur". We live in a country full of diversity. Diversity is commonly applauded as a social virtue right?. Freedom is another word used as a title in which defines diversity. To abstain from all appearances of evil is defined all to often by people that do not use scripture as the corner stone. So how do we judge?. How do we define right from wrong?. Just because a large group of people choose to create their own said truth,does not make it true. In The Truth War written by John MacArthur, I spotted something. It goes something like this: "Well,this verse means this to me...". The respsonse to that was "What did that verse mean before you exsisted?". A pretty good biblical T.K.O. right there. I hope I stayed on topic here.

#31  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 10:30 AM

# 10 (Josué)

I was pretty sure what you meant, but your wording left some room for misunderstanding. If we're not careful our words can convey that don't need to "be doers of the word" or that it's possible to have "faith without works".

In general on thse types of issues, when my youth ask me "what if..." the answers always involves "what would honor God?" and "what would detract from our closeness to God?" If God is not dishonored or a stumbling block placed before us (or our congregational family), style is just style, and we have to be careful that we don't let our preferences become legalistic.

A few short decades ago having a guitar in worship would have been on the list of disrespectful behavior the young generation is embracing.

#32  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 10:37 AM

Yes Sarah, it's the heart that our Lord is after. Those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. John 4:23 NASB. At the end of the day, human pride in dress or show means nothing to God. It is the genuineness of the faith that he will stand or fall. Even those who seek to impress men with their great theological knowledge mean no more to God then a true believer with a fifth grade education. Praise God for His omniscience and knowing ones heart. Hebrews 4:13 NASB.

#34  Posted by David Smith  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 3:59 PM

#31 (Marc)

Let's think about your last point.

In themselves, both guitar and organ are machines that make music that can be used to lead singing. So basically they're the same (I know that's a huge simplification) - neither is intrinsically good or intrinsically evil.

But the argument goes that the organ is associated with church and the worship of God, but the guitar is associated with pop music and a depraved lifestyle. So organs are OK in church but guitars are not.

Now, that may have been the case 50 years ago, but is it true today? Some will say yes, some will say no. And even if it is true, should the misuse by pagans of an instrument that is related to the stringed instruments in the psalms (ie the guitar) prevent christians from using it in the Lord's service?

But what effect will the instrument have on an unbeliever who visits the church. Will they see someone playing a guitar and think that Christians approve of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll? Generally, I suspect not. They will probably notice the musicianship and the message of the songs, but I don't think they'd draw any inferences from the instruments. Obviously what unbelievers think isn't necessarily a factor, but we often feel it is relevant.

And what if I was planting a church in a place where organ music was associated with paganism, but guitar music wasn't? In that situation, the guitar might well be the best option!

What I'm trying to say is that the questions relating to things like music, clothes, and many other stylistic factors, are highly subjective and culturally dependent. The Bible has very little to say about them and can easily be twisted to suit your personal prejudices. So I think we have to be very careful when trying to say what is or isn't right.

But there are things that are definitely wrong for Christians, especially pastors, Mark Driscoll's smutty language being one of them.

#35  Posted by Chris Lemi  |  Tuesday, July 26, 2011at 5:32 PM

I pretty much despise any "church movement" that uses cultural fads ie. Mixed Martial Arts, fauxhawks, rocker clothes to make the Gospel "cool" to our culture today. Clearly Scripture teaches that those who wish to make the world their friend, makes God their enemy. Movements like these cater more to the sinful ego, than result in a God honoring pursuit for more knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

#36  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Wednesday, July 27, 2011at 5:07 AM

#34 (David)

Perhaps my simple statement wasn't adequate, but you basically echoed my own point. I live in a VERY conservative baptist town. I have seen the well intended "maturity" discussion go from needing to respect God to legalistic repression in a heartbeat.

However, I have also seen churches try to "be cool" to reach people while I have also seen churches (or groups within a church) do the same "cool" things but because it was natural and sincere for them to use that style. Having been involved with everything from a traditional Methodist church to an Assembly of God church to local baptist associational churches to "relevant" college ministry to villages in Peru and everything in between, I have seen people genuinely worshiping God and preaching the word while engaged in styles many would consider "immature."

Now in my thirties, I find myself wanting to tell younger folks they are wrong because they do something different. Like I said before ... the question needs to be, "does it dishonor God or create a stumbling block?" I say if not, go for it.

#37  Posted by David Smith  |  Wednesday, July 27, 2011at 10:13 AM

Marc,

The issue I was trying to explain is that answering your question "does it dishonor God or create a stumbling block?" is often difficult and subjective. If I went to the local Hillsong-style church, I know that they would tell me that they are seeking to honor God and remove stumbling blocks. I would disagree completely with that, but I don't think I could convince them.

I agree with you about immaturity. I've met many people over the years who have a genuine and passionate faith that is immature. And the immaturity is almost always caused by a lack of Bible knowledge. That's why we need to teach the Bible in our churches, and teach it properly. Not just in sermons on Sunday where people can sit in their pews passively, but in small groups during the week, with gifted leaders who want to see people grow in their faith.

And we do need to give our youngsters the freedom to try things and to make mistakes. That's how they'll learn and grow, not by be being lectured.

[I just thought that these two points could be seen as contradictory. But they're not!]

#38  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Wednesday, July 27, 2011at 10:43 AM

#35 (Chris)

I pretty much despise any "church movement" that uses cultural fads ie. Mixed Martial Arts, fauxhawks, rocker clothes to make the Gospel "cool" to our culture today.

While I also see no benefit to MMA used in a church, sermon, etc., what is wrong with fauxhawks and rocker clothes, IF the fashion of the people making up the congregation is rocker clothes and fauxhawks?

I do completely agree that we should not resort to salesmanship gimmicks to proclaim the gospel, but if such fads or fashions are genuinely the norm of a people group making up the church, what is wrong with them having that hair or dress?

Should cowboy churches lose the boots, jeans and guitars for suits and organs?

I understand and completely agree with the point being made: don't sell out to the word to make the Gospel more appealing. 100% agree. But if it's not a gimmick, but just their fashion or style, we need to be careful not to throw the true believers with weird style in with the gimmicky salesmanship people.

#39  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Wednesday, July 27, 2011at 11:00 AM

#37 (David)

The issue I was trying to explain is that answering your question "does it dishonor God or create a stumbling block?" is often difficult and subjective.

i think God intentionally left some things vague and subjective so we would have to work them out WITH Him instead of just following a rule book.

#40  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Wednesday, July 27, 2011at 12:01 PM

I would be less worried about dress and guitars then the filth Christians expose themselves to with FB, Youtube, Twitter and all the other worldly trash they feed their carnal side with.

#41  Posted by Chris Lemi  |  Wednesday, July 27, 2011at 4:55 PM

#38 (Marc L.)

Thanks for sharing some of your background. Like yourself, I have experienced many different types of church environments. It isn't so much the hair and clothing, but moreso that these Contemporary Christian fad type church movements are driven more by egos, displays, and entertainment rather than by a true pursuit of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Drop all the gimmicks and distractions, and I guarantee you that this crowd will be quickly on to the next exciting Contemporary fad. I've not seen one church yet, and I have been to many, that have successfully mixed the Cultural "Cool" with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All things "cool" take over, and Jesus Christ takes second place.

#42  Posted by Kerry Halpin  |  Wednesday, July 27, 2011at 9:01 PM

I wrote a response to an article a few weeks back that deals with the music issue for churches. Google "collide sacred secular" and go to the collide magazine link and read the last comments by me, (which doubtless were inspired by a teaching of John's on music in the church).

The bottom line that can apply to most of these "cultural" issues is that God is altogether holy. Remember what happened to Aaron's sons in Leviticus 10:1-3? The issue of music/clothes/language all come under the umbrella of being pure before a holy God. Not that we can ever be perfectly holy, but surely we should not endeavor to be more worldly in God's sanctuary.

Christian liberty is not a vehicle to see how well we can blur the lines between sacred and secular. I'm not opposed to guitar music as I am a guitarist, but I do realize that when guitars are involved, the music becomes less God-honoring than an organ-lead hymn. Just look at the difference in lyrics.

#43  Posted by Steve Nuhn  |  Wednesday, July 27, 2011at 10:16 PM

I've been trying to ask questions directly related to this topic for some time now, but never felt it appropriate to pursue something off topic in other important blogs. Once again I'm so grateful for the opportunity to learn from Dr. MacArthur and the the staff at GTY.

Dr. MacArthur and GTY Staff,

I too am past the YRR stage, at 40 years old and, I'm in a church of mostly people around my age who relate to that movement despite their age. My church puts on extreme teams, block parties and car shows, we spend lots of money on free food, funnel cakes, and fireworks, and we have Sunday morning praise bands and dramas all in the name of reaching people for Christ. Bible studies are poor at best and when I bring up deeper scriptural, God exalting topics I'm viewed as weird and/or confrontational.

Clearly I'm not alone in this but what do we do? Not wanting to sound spiritually superior, I've presented books, CDs and bible studies from proven teachers such as John MacArthur and Al Mohler only to be received with resistance and fear.

I agree as stated above, I don't want to appear to be passing judgement, but how are we to discern their motives? Where does our responsibility lie in defending the truth and not being decisive? There's much more I could say but I'm sure to those whom this is addresses, understand.

#44  Posted by Benjamin Booker  |  Wednesday, July 27, 2011at 11:43 PM

"Meanwhile, many others who identify with the movement evidently think any talk of holiness—not to mention any concern for taste or propriety—is tantamount to the rankest sort of legalism."~ Pastor MacArthur

Amen. Every Christian is called to a separated life. Basic. God want a separated people unto Himself, for His name's sake.

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17 (NASB95)

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world , but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2 (NASB95)

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

Romans 8:29 (NASB95)

9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation .

Honor Authority

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king .

1 Peter 2:9-17 (NASB95)

Thank you Pastor MacArthur!

Practical holiness is looked upon, often, as being legalistic.

Reformed theology without a reformed life...Matthew 7:13-27

18 But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

James 2:18-20

Thank you Pastor

#45  Posted by Cynthia Karla Altamirano Garza  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 2:34 AM

Hola Pastor Macarthur! Es un gusto saludarlo!

Yo soy una de esos tantos jóvenes reformados inmaduros =(, tengo 21 años, y estoy muy preocupada, necesito ayuda.

Soy una joven irresponsable, floja, con muy poco fruto, inmadura, egoísta, impuntual, desagradecida, inútil, inconstante....

Hace un año Dios me reformó y me reveló la verdad, pero estoy muy preocupada por que no he dado fruto, casi no he cambiado, no he sido transformada y necesito ayuda, necesito disciplina, exortación dura, quebrantamiento, me he esforzado pero no he podido madurar =(....

Muchas gracias por su artículo!, Saludos desde México, Bendiciones!

_____________________________________________________________________

I am one of those many young immature reformed =(, I have 21 years and I am very worried, I need help.

I am a young irresponsible, lazy, with little fruit, immature, selfish, ungrateful, useless, fickle ....

A year ago God showed me the truth and reformed me, but I'm very concerned that I have not borne fruit, most have not changed, have not been changed and need help, I need discipline, hard exhortation, brokenness, I have tried but have not able to mature =(....

Thank you very much for your article!, Greetings from Mexico, Blessings!

#47  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 5:13 AM

#41 (Chris)

I'd definitely say that it is very minority or unlikely group that is "cool" without it being a gimmick. But I have actually been a part of a group that would by all appearances get lumped in with the gimmick crowd. However, the leadership were Christ loving, bible teaching people with sound doctrine. The style or even unusual service weren't gimmicks. They were actually just being themselves.

That said, I do see the point of ego taking over, but if you put a pastor in robes with stained glass and a huge pulpit he might forget why the pulpit's so big and what the robe represents. Pride can take over anywhere.

#48  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 9:11 AM

From what I can gather, many are looking at externals as being the litmus test for true reformation. Scripture goes much deeper in providing us with the meat of the Word, so that we can renew our minds to make it possible to live pure and holy lives. Whether we wear this of that style of clothing is not the real, vital issue. What is the real issue is, are we changed on the inside? Do we put aside the works of the flesh? Do we put off the old man (nature) and put on the new man (nature)? Are we practicing righteousness? Are we perfecting holiness in the sight of God?

Have we put off anger, lust, bitterness, covetousness, hatred, unforgiveness and so on? The internal workings on the heart by the Holy Spirit will most surely transform the outer man in time. But just by leaving off movies rated “R’, or refusing to listen to rock music, or wearing long dresses, does nothing to show a renewed heart. Anyone can reform the old flesh; ex alcoholics do it all the time as do ex drug addicts.

The heart is the real issue. Change that and the external man naturally conforms to holiness and modest living. I know most all know this, but it seems we are focusing on the external too much. :)

#49  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 9:23 AM

Strike that extra IS, in what is the real issue is..

I wish we had an edit button.

#50  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 10:28 AM

#48 (Mary)

Amen!

While we need to keep in mind that we should be set apart and not conform to the world, we also need to realize that even our ideas of what is respectful or proper are based on cultural norms. Most of what JM mentioned above is deplorable behavior, but we need to be careful we don't throw our superficial style opinions in with the abhorant behaviors.

#51  Posted by Kerry Halpin  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 1:07 PM

#48 (Mary)

I agree that the heart is what matters most and the outside will follow, but not all in the church should be at an immature state with not-so-reformed outward appearances. The church itself, lead by mature leaders ordained by God, should maintain a mature attitude/look/environment.

If you look at the OT Tabernalce/Temple as an example of the sanctuary of God, even though nobody could be perfectly blameless before God, not even the priests, God's standard for work in His sanctuary was holiness...the sinful priests still had to conform to the will of God through cleansing themselves before service.

In the NT, Paul lays out many different regulations for the operation of the church (1 Corinthians 14, for instance) which focus on order and reverence for God, and because angels may observe the church (1 Corinthians 11:10).

The driving force behind what is appropriate in church is not Christian liberty or spiritual maturity, but rather the holiness of God. Listen to John MacArthur's teaching on how to pick a church for an in-depth take on the proper attitude/environment of a church. Alistair Begg has also done many sermons regarding the order and proper functioning of the church.

#52  Posted by steve stricker  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 2:46 PM

Hopefully they are reforming their Reformed theology to something a little more biblical..........that would be nice!!

#53  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 3:16 PM

Hi Rudi:

Glad to see you still with us. I have been meaning to get back to your comment, but have not had the time. I know what you mean about crying at the Lord’s Table, I do to and so does my pastor.

Let me give a clearer description of this machismo image of a Christian man, which is a false construct and extremely destructive to men’s souls, and actually bears no similitude with any of the fruits of the Spirit.

Some things can be very surreptitious and subliminal, and this is how Satan often chooses to work; we all know this. He chooses to operate just below radar range, so as to go undetected; much like a stealth bomber. And his goal is always to prey on the weak, uninformed and gullible.

This macho man image (and I even hate to say the words, they sound so childish) nonetheless, nothing else quite defines this current movement of Christian leaders, who possess super bravado, and Hulk-like pompous, self-confidence. The subliminal bait and hook here, is to throw enough testosterone/machismo at any given evil or problem that needs fixing, and that this self-exalting power is ALL that is needed to stamp out forest fires, save damsels in distress and leap tall buildings in a single bound. It is the stuff comic- book-heroes are made of.

This presumptuous sense of pride results in HERO WORSHIP of mere men. That is why in my last post I made mention that “someone needs to stop the mutiny, and fall in line with all the rest of us meek and gentle souls.” I believe it to be a complete, attempted overthrow of Christ’s rule and authority, that is why the word mutiny was used. An over statement? I don’t believe so. As I said, it is subliminal, but yet in an overt sort of way (ironically), because so many have seen how transparent this movement really is, while at the same time some remain so very blind.

Within this MM movement, attempts are made to appeal to the current culture, so as to garner and indoctrinate young male converts, who are ripe to fall for any chicanery or artifice that still allows them the benefit of being a non-conformist to purity and holiness, and permits them to keep both feet firmly planted in their wicked culture. It gives them a “worldly hero” to be worshipped, who puts no restraints on evil or makes any demands to be holy as God is holy. They can keep their cuss words and have their beer ready and waiting on tap.

Contrast this heroic, macho man construct, with David, who Goliath disdained “for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance (1 Sam 17:42), and Goliath was “a man of war from his youth (1 Sam 17:33), “whose height was six cubits and a span (1 Sam 17:4).”

To be continued..

#54  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 3:19 PM

Part two

David’s physical stature was no match for Goliath, nor was David’s TRUST or CONFIDENCE in himself, in the day of battle. Notice that David did not use Saul’s armour (1 Sam 17:24) and there was “no sword in the hands of David (1 Sam 17:50).” Instead he chose five smooth stones and went in the name and confidence of the LORD, (alone).

We must never forget that “Whoever serves let it be as one who by THE STRENGTH THAT GOD SUPPLIES, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (1 Pet 4:11).”

Man’s bravado, courage, self-confidence, and bombastic pride, is eclipsed by a supreme, supernatural power. That makes real heroes out of mere men, who know that when they are weak, He is strong. We don’t need a comic book hero or fairy tale Knight. We put no confidence in the flesh. That would be mutiny of the highest order. May our precious Lord keep us all sufficiently humble and as the Scripture says, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory (Psa 115:1).”

I will comment soon, Kerry and Marc, but time for a break.

#55  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 5:56 PM

My deepest concern and greatest fear is to see someone become an enemy of God. The Bible is full of warnings.

Ex. Philippians 3:17-19

"Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things."

Do not loose your first love.

#56  Posted by Eileen Harris  |  Thursday, July 28, 2011at 8:49 PM

This blog series has come at a most oppurtune time for me. About 2 year's ago I started to watch a Pastor of one of our local churchs on Sunday mornings, originaly it was because I liked the way he taught the Bible and incorporated his sermons into what was happening in the world today. I love the church I go to but I thought I was getting something additional by watching this Pastor. After about a year of watching I slowly started to notice a change in the tenor of his teaching, He seemed to be focusing more on worldly issues, sex and male and female roles. I found myself watching less and less, he never came out and outright offended me but I started to feel more and more that maybe this was something I should not be listening to. Well not to long ago I tuned in after not having watched for awhile, this time he was dicussing that Christian males were not whimps, that they did not have to get in-touch with their femine side, in fact his feminine side was, and then he said his wife's name, well the whole congregation laughed. I thought ok, then he go's on to say that he wanted to repeat something he had said the following week, even though his Mother had called him up after the program and told him that he had embarresed her, he said "Ladies, if you want your man to pay attention to you, show-up naked, carrying a tray of hot-wings, and don't block the T.V." Now this is a Pastor of a mega-church here in my area, he is not in his 30's but is in his 50's, well beyond the age where one may account his mistakes to his youth. I told my Husband and He was horrified, and needless to say I will no longer be watching him again. The sad thing is that I feel that the reason I had slowly stopped watching him was because I knew that he was not what I had originally thought him to be, but instead of trusting my discernment, I thought maybe I was making to big of a deal out of the changes. I know for a fact that I was wrong, I should have paid attention to the unease that was developing over time. I believe that there are probably some in his church that feel the same way I do, only because they are members of the church and actually go there don't know what to do.

This behavior in no way glorifies our Lord Jesus Christ, it only makes this Pastor look like a fool, and made me feel like one for being taken in by him.

#57  Posted by Joe Millard  |  Friday, July 29, 2011at 2:48 AM

#36 (Marc Lambert)

"does it dishonor God or create a stumbling block?" Is this question the appropriate way to measure the validity of a particular instrument, song or any other aspect of worship? I think that the you might want to reconsider your emphasis. Wouldn't the better question be, "what honors God the most?" Your original question is very similar to a question young people ask. That question being, "how far can I go with my girlfriend before its a sin?" The appropriate questions should be, "what does the Bible say about relationships and how can I honor God the most in this relationship?" The only reason I bring this up, is because it sheds light on an individual outlook. The first focusing on what one can get away with and the second focusing on bringing glory to the Lord.

#58  Posted by Kerry Halpin  |  Friday, July 29, 2011at 6:06 AM

#56 (Eileen)

That is such a horrible story! While I do believe that it is important to teach on the roles of men and women in the family and church, this clearly goes beyond that into male narcissism and female objectification. Sad...

#59  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Friday, July 29, 2011at 11:00 AM

#57 (Joe)

That may be splitting hairs a bit. Our actions and choices will do one or the other: honor or dishonor God. Our attitude is either humble or prideful, no middle ground. By definition, what doesn't do one does the other. However, maybe my wording was unclear.

I do get the idea that a positive perspective (trying to do A) can be more beneficial than a negative perspective (trying to not do B). The former one having a more solid focus, even if they basically get to the same destiniation.

#60  Posted by John Melton  |  Friday, July 29, 2011at 11:23 AM

Yes, "some" young reformed should exercise more restraint before jumping headlong into the hell-bound bandwagon of pop culture norms, and start setting themselves apart from this sinful world's way of doing things by taking seriously their need of ongoing sanctification, holiness of life through submission to God’s commands, and living “Coram Deo” however God would lead them to do so in their situation(me first). AND, yes, "some" of the elder generation needs to guard their minds from futile, self-righteous foolishness by thinking the old days and ways (the older, stiffer, and grayer the better) were any better when the last I checked there was no less sin nature and corruption in need of redemption per man then than now. Both of those extremes increase division among brethren while most annoyingly run good people off from churches, and quite frankly it irritates me to no end as a believer to see it. It is a shame to observe among Christians, I am picking up on it in some comments I am reading, because I have been guilty of it myself before. These verses come to my mind on this topic, because it seems to be fueled more by age biases, generational differences, and personal preferences between Christians than anything else.

"Say not, 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask this."

Ecclesiastes 10:7

"The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair."

Proverbs 20:29

"Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity."

I Timothy 5:1-2

#61  Posted by Stacey Weneck  |  Friday, July 29, 2011at 4:51 PM

I don't think its right (or accurate) to lump such a large group of people into one boat and say its sinking. I go to what some may be call a "reformed" church, that is full of younger people, a young "hip" pastor, which focuses primarily on house churches etc. At appearances I judged this church because it was "trendy." However, the more people in the church I got to know, the more I heard the messages, the more I SAW how real, growing, vivacious, and genuinely pure their behavior and activity was, the more I thanked God that He really is renovating His church. At least where I am. These are people of living active faith, who are willing to go out into the world and risk themselves to spread the gospel, to challenge each other, to believe the impossible, and make Jesus an every day part of their lives and not just a sunday occurrence. They have inspired me and challenged me. Every effort has its imperfections, but its certainly better than sitting around doing what we have done for the last 50 years, because our country is losing the battle. Time to get more "in your face" with our faith. Our church has a saying, "don't go to church, BE the church." amen!

#62  Posted by Stacey Weneck  |  Friday, July 29, 2011at 5:03 PM

On top of that, my original church (I go to two churches), which is my home church, is more of an average church with much more variety in ages and styles. The average age is probably around 40-50. I prayed for almost a year that our worship would really be transformed, that we would be closer to the Lord in worship, etc. Then about a year ago we got a new worship pastor. Friends let me tell you, we call him our resident rocker. He is so different from our head pastor it's almost comical, but they get along wonderfully. He has such a genuine, loving heart, and everything he does is clearly for the Lord Jesus. The Lord answered my prayers through him, since he came our worship is so much sweeter. He is an incredible and gifted worship pastor. We are all deeply blessed because of God's work in him.

#63  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Friday, July 29, 2011at 5:27 PM

Stacey #61

You wrote:

Every effort has its imperfections, but it’s certainly better than sitting around doing what we have done for the last 50 years, because our country is losing the battle. Time to get more "in your face" with our faith. Our church has a saying, "don't go to church, BE the church."

50 years from now, another generation will register the same complaint about your failed efforts to win over the culture.

I assume that’s the “battle” you had in mind, correct? Stemming the tide of ungodliness in our society? If that’s the case, then yes, we’re losing the battle—badly. However, Christ never invited us to fight that battle. Our marching orders are to live the gospel and preach the gospel. That’s where the true power lies to change people.

Your church motto, “Don’t go to church, BE the church” is clever, but presents a false dichotomy. Must we pick between the two?

Thanks for your comments. I hope you stick around for the rest of the series, Stacey.

#64  Posted by David Jenkins  |  Sunday, July 31, 2011at 11:45 PM

I must first say, thank God for John MacArthur. There is no other teacher whom I’ve learned more from over the last 10 years. There is no other teacher who I feel is running his leg of the Christian race with such dedication, commitment, and love for the truth. Let alone the world, the Church is hurting – the Church needs to choose this day who they will serve. Thank you, John, for helping me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling.

Now, to my question: John makes mention that to “a sizeable core of young men in the YRR movement are perfectly happy to give the world the impression that cage fighting, beer-drinking, cigar-smoking, hard-partying, and other forms of bad-boy-behavior are the distinguishing marks of their religion.” Within that context, I can see John’s position and agree with it – these should not be “the distinguishing marks” of YRR, or any Christians, to the world. The key distinction is “distinguishing marks”. But what of Christians who practice some of these things, to the point that they are not distinguishing marks? Hard-partying aside, which in any context doesn’t fit the Christian life, what of believer’s who drink or smoke? For instance, what of my favorite author, C.S. Lewis, a professed believer, and an esteemed defender of the Faith, who smoke and drank? As I say, it may just be a matter of context – these were not the distinguishing marks of Lewis’ religion.

Thanks,

Dave

#65  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Monday, August 01, 2011at 7:22 AM

@ Kerry # 51

Hi Kerry,

Sorry this is late. You said, “The driving force behind what is appropriate in church is not Christian liberty or spiritual maturity, but rather the holiness of God.”

I would be the last person to give you an argument where God's driving force (holiness) is concerned. It is ALWAYS God’s standards that are to be objectified. Holiness is never to be viewed as anything but antidotal. YET, what I was referring to concerns GRAY areas of Scripture, those areas considered to be up to ones own liberty. So, are you denying that God gives Christian's certain liberties where Scripture is not clear? For example, there is nothing in Scripture concerning women dressing in bright, beautiful, flowery colors, but some women feel this is too ostentatious and helps draw attention to oneself (this has happened believe it or not), and many would prefer that women dress like the Amish women do (a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea). This, and similar issues, we find no direct answers to in Scripture. That was my point; sorry it was missed.

My issue is that the we can fall prey to focusing on the externals to determine if one is a Christian or not, because no one can see the true heart. Anyone can wear new, clean clothes, put on makeup, disguise their true physique, and perform many spiritual disciplines in a perfunctory sort of way; this does nothing to change the bitter, hateful, covetous, slothful, and lustful nature of the heart. Far too often people think because we externalize virtues common to the standards and mores of the moral majority, that there must be something supremely good underneath all that camouflage. I have had Christian’s tell me that Mother Theresa was a true Christian, despite the doctrine she believed in, and solely based upon her many philanthropic deeds.

My point being; the heart being influenced and acted upon by the Holy Spirit WILL conform the outward man to reflect holiness. God’s Word will not return void (Isa 55:11).”

#66  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Monday, August 01, 2011at 10:36 AM

#57 (Joe)

I thought you may like to know: upon further reflection, I grow more understanding of your comments. In Sunday school we were discussing "putting on Christ." And while we as christians may need to be aware of what "thou shalt not" do, it's all summed up in the command to "love your neighbor." Fleeing sin and "putting off the old man" would be the "do not do B" perspective while "loving your neighbor" would be the "do A" perspective. While technically 2 sides of the same coin, the positive assertion perspective would lead more to maturing while simply avoiding sin could leave one stagnant in personal growth.

#67  Posted by Kerry Halpin  |  Monday, August 01, 2011at 11:32 AM

This is a post I made on another website regarding using secular music in the sanctuary, but I think most of the argument can be applied to the topic of these comments...

In Romans 14, Paul talks about the limit of Christian liberty...in summary, there are things which are not necessarily sinful, or even bad for some believers, but are to others because their conscience may direct them differently. If there is a discrepancy, it is the duty of the more liberal believer to forego his liberty for the sake of his brother's conscience. If we apply this to worship (neglecting any other arguments against secular music for the time being), this passage alone should be enough to convince you to refrain from using secular music for the sake of those who find it inappropriate.

Romans 14:13 and Romans 14:21.

Now, for a more traditional argument against secular music - the church is the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, and only believers are it's members. Therefore, a church service is held for the purpose of the body of believers to worship God in fear and in reverence of His holiness. The purpose of the church IS NOT TO CATER TO UNBELIEVERS. In 1 Corinthians 14:23-25, Paul clearly paints a picture of a church dedicated to holiness, whereby IF unbelievers are present, they may be convicted by the truth and holiness that they encounter. Clearly, unbelievers are not to be catered to or "feel at home" in a church, although they are most definitely to be welcomed in a church, and the church should evangelise to try and get people to come and hear the gospel.

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 Why should both unbelievers and believers feel "at home" in the sanctuary of God? I think using music that is appealing to unbelievers is contrary to honoring the holiness of God and the sanctity of the church.

Read 1 Peter 2:9, John 3:19-20, Hebrews 11:13.

...holy, peculiar, strangers, pilgrims, full of light that men hate...and we should endeavor to make the church more tasteful to those in darkness? I think not...

Throughout the Bible, we are given numerous examples of what worship should be - God-fearing, God-honoring, pure and holy (Psalm 96:9 "O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth"). The Psalms are definitely an example for us to follow in the worshipping of God through songs. Also see the songs of the redeemed as sung throughout Revelation. Clearly, the message of "worship" songs should be clear and direct, not neutral inspirations. If you look at the punishments for violating the holiness of God in the old testament, you'll quickly come to the conclusion that the holiness of God is not something to be taken lightly.

Romans 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world:"

#68  Posted by Kerry Halpin  |  Monday, August 01, 2011at 11:45 AM

#56 (Mary)

1 Timothy 2:9-10 specifies how woman are to dress in the church. I know of a lot of younger congregations, where teenage girls dress too provocatively and the older women are no better an example. The same argument could be made for boys/men in these same congregations, dressing too casually, bordering on disrespect to the house of God.

I do think there is some room for casualness, but not at the expense of respect to the house of God. I do not wear a suit to church, but I do where non-denim pants, dress shoes and a tucked-in polo shirt. I don't expect everyone to dress like me, but I think we all can agree that the house and presence of God deserves some respect.