Friday, March 11, 2011

Sermon One: I Am What He Says I Am. Part One.

The sermon was preached at Enjoy! Church Sunday 02.01.2011 by Shane Baxter. 

I'm not going to beat around the bush here – this talk was really bad, in fact there were very little redeeming features.

I was excited for about the first minute when he read from the Bible but from there it was rapidly down hill and was quite abysmal for the next thirty five minutes or so.

Now I don't know Shane Baxter, nor do I know how much theological training he has had.  I don't know his heart and I'm not going to judge it, but I am going to judge what he said.  He said to a church audience, and as the talk is on I-Tunes for anyone in the world to listen, it is a public statement and open to be judged, analysed and judged against the Bible and the gospel.

So what were some of the things that annoyed me?

Getting the congregation to repeat what you are saying. It sounds ridiculous and it has always been something I have hated, especially oh you can do it louder than that type theatrics.  You know it works for five year old children, for adults, not so much.

Taking the Bible out of context.  We will look at this in more detail but seriously if you are going to use the Bible use it correctly and in context, or just don't bother using it at all.  It is basically the same when you mutilate it as to not using it at all.

Ask Tony Venn Brown and Pat Mesiti they both seamlessly removed the Bible from their ‘sermons’ and preached the same message of positive life enrichment as life coaches.

If you can remove the Bible from your talk and it still makes sense then your talk makes no sense as a Christian talk it is a worldly talk.  This talk was a worldly talk.

If the talk does not point you to Jesus it is at best a Jewish talk at worst a worldly talk.  This talk was a worldly talk.

I'm not questioning where Shane Baxter stands before God, that's not my place but if this is the caliber of his preaching, if this is what he believes is Christian preaching then I have no problem in saying he is wrong and he is preaching things which as Paul said to Timothy are tickling the ears of the congregation.

This sermon totally lacked any recognition of the need to repent of your sins, of turning to the cross of Christ, of giving everything for the sake of the gospel.  Were the people that responded to the inevitable altar call truly born again as Christians?  Hopefully they will grow into Christianity because if they based their decision on this sermon they are not Christians.

So let's look at the sermon in detail.

The notes are in italics my comments follow each section.

Judges 6:11-13.

The angel of the Lord is the Lord.

Not just a little angel with wings, it is the Lord.

Firstly I would want to say I don't think the Bible anywhere has this image of little angels with wings in fact the general response to a visit from an angel was awe, fear and respect.

There is evidence that the angel of the Lord is a theophany and so Baxter’s idea here although expressed clumsily in a way to be I guess folksy is an accurate assessment.

The angel called Gideon a mighty warrior.

Gideon is not feeling that at all.

Yes he did call Gideon a mighty warrior, note it was Gideon, and he had good reasons for not feeling that at all.  He was part of a nation, Israel that was basically enslaved.

He was a nobody and a nothing.

Calling him a mighty warrior is the call of grace, it is not the call to positive achievement, it is saying God calls who he will by grace and nobody can do anything to earn this.

Remember though this calling of a mighty warrior was to Gideon.  Who?  Gideon. 

Was it to anyone else in Israel?  No.

Was it to the Midianites? No.

Was it to you and me today?  No.

So where does Mr, Baxter go with this statement.  Surely he must keep reading the passage to find out what happens to Gideon next?

No he says “you will never grow into him who is the head, you won’t become everything Christ has called you to be unless you first understand that where you find yourself today is nowhere near as important as what God is saying about you today”

Wait. What? 

Gideon.  Weren't we talking about Gideon?

Where did he go?

Was Jesus there then?

How is it that we have gone from talking about Gideon to talking about me?  Now that is bad exegesis on an epic scale.

Then Mr. Baxter says the refrain which he will repeat multiple times throughout the talk.

“The Bible teaches I am what he says I am.”

This is the Joel Osteen quote when he gets his cheesy grin going, waves his Bible around and in front of that monstrous spinning globe on the stage quotes this with the congregation before he begins to preach a message of positive thinking etc.

So is this quote true?

Well yes it is.  It is just true in a different way than Osteen and Baxter present.

We are what the Bible says we are –

We are sinners.

We are idolaters.

We are law breakers.

We are destined for eternal damnation in hell if someone does not rescue us.

There were people in this congregation who needed to hear not that they had missed of fulfilling their potential but that they were destined for an eternity in hell unless they cried out to God in repentance for their sins.

And this makes me angry.

He then goes to misquote scripture.  Baxter says “I may appear to be out of my depth but Christ says I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Really?  Can you just?

What was Paul talking about here?

Was he talking about being a conqueror?

Was he talking about positive thinking about fulfilling my potential?

Was he by any chance referring to Gideon?

No. No. No.

Paul was saying in Christ he was content.  Content when poor and hungry and content when he had enough money and food.  Why was he content?

Because in Christ he can do all things through him who gives him strength!

And no, Gideon was not being referred to here.

So then Mr. Baxter talks about the devil.  You have an enemy. He then refers to I Peter 5:8 the devil going about as a roaring lion seeking to devour someone.

And how does the devil do this devouring?  Ah the sneaky beast he makes you doubt what the Bible says you are!

So if we have established that the Bible says we are sinners, rebels against God and destined for Hell, by making us doubt that isn't this negative thought campaign actually a positive one?

Look out your brain will explode!

So then Mr. Baxter makes one of his astonishing statements.  Astonishing because they are so right and yet not backed up in his talk.

He says that is why it is so important we read the Bible.  I wonder if when we read it are we meant to go all over the place taking it out of context and let it mean whatever we want it to.

So hang on a minute wasn't this talk about Gideon where did he go to?

Oh wait on – he is back!

So we go back to Judges (briefly)

And we get the angel of the Lord talking to Gideon and Gideon says “But…” expressing his doubts.

Now we get an extended talk on ‘buts’ filled with school-boy innuendo like “some of you have your buts before you when it should be behind you”

Ho. Ho. Ho.  So this was all about not having negative thinking.

So where do we go to prove this. Well Hebrews 3:19.

Ah that great passage which refers to Gideon?

Ah no sorry no Gideon reference here.

It is a passage about how Jesus is greater than Moses and how Jewish Christians should not return to Judaism but stick with Jesus.

Isn't it?

Oh I forgot it is actually about how you should think positively. 

How God will take you out of captivity if you think positively.

How God will help you see your 2011 be a great year of promises filled.

How God will help you enter all the life he has for you.


And here was me thinking that Christ crucified had something to do with it.

Seems I must have been asleep during the positive thinking class.

I could go on, but it really is depressing the whole next section even mentions Jesus but not in terms of repentance or salvation but in fulfilling your potential.

Heavy sigh!

Finally we get back to Gideon and we hear that unbelief got Gideon into the space he was in.  What space?

Apparently Gideon was driven into a small space and had claustrophobia.   But if he only had believed what the Bible said he was then he would have had unlimited space like we can!!

Oh wow!!

But no the devil wants you to live in a cupboard.

Wait.  A cupboard? 

Yes.  Go figure. 

Then we hear about Joseph, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and then Jesus again all out of context.  All being confined to small spaces, like that pesky tomb.

Ah Jesus rose from the dead to overcome claustrophobia!!  Wow!!

Jesus blew up the space he was in (spiritually not literally he clarified) so what limitations in your life will you blow up today?

Then we go back to Gideon who apparently then decides he is not going to be limited anymore because he believes I am what he says I am.

Wow read the rest of the Gideon story yourself, surprisingly enough it goes for more than three verses and even more surprisingly the conclusion made by Mr. Baxter is rubbish!

Gideon was a man called by grace and Israel were saved by grace under his leadership.  He stuffed up at his calling, he was weak and then when he did find strength, it was in himself not God and he helped Israel move into idolatry.

So then after a bit more scripture twisting (Romans 12:2 is put through the ropes) Baxter makes another astonishing statement he says we need to grow up and stop being spiritual babies.  

So I say Mr. Baxter if you feed the congregation rubbish you will never get babies.  If you teach them the gospel you may find they grow in Christ.

Funny that isn't it!

Anyway he finishes by saying this is the year of growth.

Yeah, yeah, and then an altar call to respond to a gospel of positive thinking.

So how did we go with our ten questions?

01. Was it from the Bible?  Did he unpack the passage? – He mentioned the Bible but it was out of context and he did not unpack the passage.  0/1.

02. Could you see the gospel of Jesus in this message?  No.  0/2.

03. Did he teach us to repent of our sins? No.  0/3.

04. Did he preach a total dependence on faith in Jesus?  No.  0/4.

05. Did he preach Christ and him crucified?  No.  0/5.

06. Did he read the Bible and interpret it in context? No. 0/6.

07. Did he take a passage and go via Jesus?  No.  He took passage and went straight to us. 0/7.

08. Does the sermon lead you to Jesus? No. 0/8.

09. Can I honestly say I heard him preach the gospel? No. 0/9.

10. Are their applicable points from the gospel?  No. 0/10.

Wow.  Zero.  And if you were giving this sermon a score out of ten that is what it would score.  A zero!

Now I also made five predictions on this talk how did I go:

01. It will be based on a Joel Osteen quote – Osteen was not mentioned but it is that quote. 1/1.

02. There will be something to do with making changes in 2011. 2/2.

03. It will look at passages in the Bible about promises of God to me.  3/3.

04. It will talk about expectations and hope. 4/4.

05. It will feature an altar call for people that want to experience more of God in 2011.  5/5.

Well there you go.

I thank God that I am not hearing talks like that, and I'm not sure I have the energy to face hearing another message like that.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Introduction: My Thesis.

It's a wordy blog title but I think it will make more sense once you read the introductory thesis.
The last time I was a regular member of a Pentecostal church, and not attending any other church was in 1999.
I really have not missed it that much, but I was thinking what would I think of the sermons presented there now?
How would I compare and contrast them to the sermons I hear in my current church?
Would I like them, hate them, or be ambivalent?
Many questions, but I wanted to have a basis for which I chose the church to listen to and a basis for which I compared them.
So the first thing was to confess that like all people I am biased in some respect.
I am biased in that I hold to a reformed theology position and I believe the Bible should be preached in an expository style, which is book by book through the Bible.
I am basically against most topical sermons, and I am against hearing what the pastor/preacher is feeling at the moment.
It is my aim to try and be unbiased with the talks I listen to and take each talk individually on their respective merits.
So what church would I choose?
So it had to be a Pentecostal church.
So even though I know people who still go there I decided to listen to and analyse the sermons for the church that I would be attending had I still lived in Melbourne and been attending a Pentecostal church.
This church has gone through several name changes over the years but currently is under the banner Enjoy! Church.
Enjoy! Church – personally I hate the name.  Should we strive to enjoy church? I guess we should, but to name our church that to me gives images of being entertained and not challenged by the gospel to repent of my sins and cry out to God for salvation.
I'm sure the rationale for the name is not to do with entertainment but you know what I'm not sure what the rationale is.  However, I will look past the name, because if you know Pentecostal churches you know they have this annoying habit to have a snappy name.  I would prefer it to be Insert Suburb name – Insert denomination – Church.  So for me I attend Chatswood Presbyterian Church.
I still think the worst ever name was one in Melbourne which was called The Born Again Christian Church in the House of Prayer.  You can imagine someone saying ‘give me a T’ and the rest saying “oh shut up!”
So this is what I will do I will try and listen to the sermons from “Enjoy! Church” and fearlessly analyse them, and I will ask the following questions all of which I believe are vital for Bible talks.
01. Are they from the Bible?  That is do they take a passage from the Bible or passages and unpack the meaning of the passage?
02. Do they preach the true gospel of Jesus?  Can you see the gospel of Jesus presented throughout the message?
03. Do they teach us to repent of our sins?
04. Do they preach a total dependence on faith in Jesus?
05. Do they preach Christ and him crucified?
06. Do they read the Bible and interpret contextually correct?
07. Do they go via Jesus?  That is do they go to Jesus first or take a passage and go straight from the passage to us today?
08. Does the sermon lead you to Jesus?
09. Can I honestly say from the message I heard, that I heard the gospel preached?
10. Are there points of application from the passage which stem from the gospel and which I can make changes in my life?

Senior ministry team of Enjoy! church.
Ten questions each time and also before I listen to the talk I will make five predictions based on the title of the sermon, the date preached and the speaker.
I will be interested how close my predictions are to what will be preached.
This is not an exercise in bagging out Enjoy! Church or in fact making out Enjoy! Church to be the best church in the world.
Enjoy! Church is a large church in Melbourne, and it represents my church heritage, I am analysing where I have come from, where I am now, and what I think about what is being taught there today.
So that I think is enough of an introduction the next post will be the first talk I listened to and my summary and comments on that talk.
Enjoy the ride…