An author I really appreciate is Dr. R.T. Kendall. He was the successor of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel (who followed G. Campbell Morgan). I had the opportunity to briefly meet Dr. Kendall last year when he spoke to our network of churches. Previous to that I had also received a kind rejection email from him after I asked him to read a manuscript I had written and make suggestions. He was too busy trying to catch bonefish, he said. It was something he retired to Florida to do, but never had time for. So now you’re not so impressed that Dr. Kendall is my acquaintance? Well, so much for name dropping….
Here’s what Dr. Kendall says in the Intro to his book, Out of Your Comfort Zone: Your God is Too Nice: Perhaps some people only want God to look nice. Others are embarrassed that a number of our forebears, some educated, some uneducated, stressed things about God that do not appeal to non-Christians today. Such forbears gave Christianity, it is believed, a bad name. We have inherited this, and we want to shed this image once and for all. Some theology departments and seminaries have consequently sought to turn out ministers and clergymen who will give God better press. Some Christians are also sensitive to the criticism that non-Christians may have for the Church; they want to be accepted so they say, “Hang on, that isn’t what I believe,” as if this will cause everybody to say, “Oh, good! Now I want to be a Christian.” Yet has our apologizing for the way God is perceived by many worked? Has it brought tens of thousands into our churches?
No. You know it and I know it.
I would like to think that if we stopped apologizing for God, or gave up trying to make Him look appealing, we would have greater success. Yet maybe not. But I know we would have His approval. If we will thoughtfully hold up the God of the Bible as He Himself chose to describe Himself in His Word, I believe He will honor this. I would predict that to the degree we do, the Holy Spirit will work to convert more and more people and bring greater awareness of the true God than to any extent previously seen.
Dr. Kendall always makes me think. If the excerpt above is tasty to you, you can buy the book for $0.75 at the link I provided.
Dr. Kendall mentioned how some Christians are “embarrassed that a number of our forbears…stressed things about God that do not appeal to non-Christians today…” So we feel we must apologize for them. Sometimes this can be motivated by genuine repentance on our part – though rarely, I expect. Like I am truly ashamed that my forbears used the Bible to justify owning and keeping slaves. It was pure self-serving deception. Nonetheless, usually our embarrassment about what’s gone on before us is motivated by our inane desire to be accepted by our peers and not be seen as kooks and dummies. I don’t like being thought of as a dummy any more than the next guy, I’ll admit. But before I start apologizing for, let’s say, the Puritans, I might should look a little more deeply into what they preached and wrote. I might find that they were for the most part accurately representing the God who has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. God may be far more happy with puritanical values than is today’s metrosexual dude who gets his kicks watching porn and sitcoms. He is convinced in his own mind that his worldview is superior to the puritanical version – and he feels a sense of self-righteousness in his position.
Is the real God, the God of the Bible, offensive to the typical worldling? Without exception. While there is much in the real Jesus that is attractive to sinners (who know their need), any non-believer who is not offended by some aspect of the God of the Bible has not actually been taught accurately about Him! The Gospel is a stumbling block to the pride and lusts of man. Always was and always will be. Many people come to Jesus like He’s a therapist or a career coach. They only set up an appointment when they feel like getting some input – input, by the way, that they can take or leave. But this is not the picture of Jesus from the Bible.
The essence of sin and indeed all that is in the world (according to John the Apostle) is, the sinful desires of the flesh, the sinful desires of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life… The Gospel confronts this, exposes this, and for those who humble themselves and admit their disease, and look to God’s answer in Christ, it also cures it! And may I say it replaces those fallen desires with holy ones that yield even greater pleasure?
A lot of popular church movements are based not upon faithfulness to Christ and His gospel, but on following Him from a safe distance and apologizing for those who went before us but got too close to the Fire. Fire has a way of changing things.
Again, I admit there have been (and still are) crazies who have given the church a bad name. People who hold up signs that say, “God hates fags”, for instance, are not adequately representing the God of the Bible. The problem the Pharisees had with Jesus in His own day was that they felt He was far too willing to be kind and patient with gross sinners. So yeah, there are people who misrepresent God and unnecessarily give Him a bad name. Mind you, I’m not much of a tv watcher. But some of the stuff I’ve seen on TBN over the years surely falls into the “crazy” category. There’s something about wigs that are blue and about three feet tall that turn people off! Though by looking at some of the hairdos in the mall I don’t understand why.
But my point is that the Gospel is enough to offend sinners without us having to help in the process by acting stupid. So let’s stop acting stupid. But let’s also stop apologizing for the truth of God’s righteous standards, His coming judgment, and His sure salvation for all those who truly turn to Christ.
May God help us.