In a few days the movie based off the best selling “Evangelical Christian” book of the last decade, Heaven is For Real, debuts. Some of the truths in the sentence I just wrote frighten me and cause me to wonder if we have a biblically discerning, “Berean” culture in today’s Evangelical Church (cf. Acts 17:11). If you have not read the book, the basic premise of this supposedly true story is that a little boy is pronounced dead during an emergency surgery, goes to heaven, is revived, and recounts what heaven looks like in the ensuing months. There are all kinds of verses that come to mind that raise concern for our discernment about this story. David Platt highlights two of them while quoting John McArthur in this video clip from last year’s Secret Church
However, my biggest concern is the number of Christians who say this book bolsters their faith. These responses concern me greatly because they betray our lack of confidence in the sufficiency of the scriptures. Why do we look to a story about a boy’s “experience” with more excitement and awe than we do the Word of the Living God? But this type of demand for additional assurance than biblical truthfulness is nothing new. We have seen this before—in fact, about 2,000 years before. Jesus tells us a story about such a man in Luke 16:19-31 in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The parable is about the rich man dying and going to Hell while Lazarus dies and goes to Abraham’s side. The climax of the story records the rich man’s plea to Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead. Here is what is recorded for us in verses 28-31: “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house-for I have five brothers-so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.‘”
Christian, you do not need a dream of a 5 year old boy or someone spending “90 Minutes in Heaven” to prove to you that Heaven is for real or bolster your faith. You have the Prophets and Apostles! For 2,000 years they have been shouting to us through the Word that One came back from the dead and offers us both a resurrection like his and eternal life. Yes, Heaven is for real, and it’s a certainty for the believer. We shouldn’t garner our hope in the testimony of a 5-year-old boy, but in the power of our Lord and Christ who vacated a tomb in the Middle East and is right now at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. After all, we know Heaven is for real because in Christ we have already been raised from the dead and are right now seated in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6).
All this we know because the Bible told us so.
Post by Nate Akin, director of B21 and Pastor for Disciple-Making at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC
Pastoral Poison: Self-Glory
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been the most competitive person I know. I hate losing — I hate it more than I love winning. Besides being born a sinner, I also was born into a family where this “competitive trait” drove us all. To this day, there’s the constant competition over which family member has the most money, who has the biggest house, or what married couple has the most sex; it can get awkward at times. In recent years, the Lord has begun to show me that entering into these conversations can be a form of self-glorification as I attempt to convince others that I’m better than I really am.
I’ve recently come to realize that this isn’t just a “Chewning Family” issue, but a massive disease that is spreading throughout pastoral ministry. Actually, many of us are trained in self-glorification from the moment of salvation.
I was raised with no spiritual upbringing at all. My mom is a non-practicing Jew; my dad, a non-practicing Catholic. They divorced when I was four years old. My only memory of church growing up was being thrown out of a church basketball game because I kept using offensive language. After high school, I was recruited to play basketball at a Christian college and decided to go even though I knew nothing about Christianity. Within two months of being at school, a friend of mine shared the gospel with me off campus, and I immediately believed in Jesus and became a Christian.
Baptist21 is excited to once again host a lunch panel at this year’s SBC in beautiful Baltimore, MD. Our panelists will be discussing the most pressing issues facing the church and what these issues mean for our mission and engagement in the world.
Groups are a big part of local church ministry. Whether they come in the form of discipleship groups, accountability groups, Sunday School, or home groups, it’s clear that evangelicals believe groups matter.
For this reason, The Gospel Project is excited about hosting a discussion panel on Group Ministry in the Local Church at Together for the Gospel on Wednesday, April 9th in the zero dollar book store from 2:00-2:40. Our panelists will include:
During the discussion our panelists will explore the theological foundations (why) and practical applications (how) of group ministry. We’ll be tackling issues like:
According to the research behind Transformational Groups, the majority of church attenders don’t believe groups are that important to the church. However, a survey among Protestant pastors, 76% agree (32% strongly) that groups are the primary network to mobilize their church and its work. Why is there such a discrepancy between the church leaders and their members? Join us for the panel discussion as we explore the answers.
Some evangelicals are up in arms (what else is new?) about the new Noah movie with Russell Crowe and the Nephilim rock people because (surprise surprise) it’s not accurate to the biblical text. So, some are calling for a boycott (again, what else is new?). Shhh… don’t tell them that Jesus didn’t invent the chair like Jim Caviziel’s portrayal in “The Passion of the Christ.”
Yet, what I find more problematic than Hollywood taking artistic liberties with the account of Noah is that the church often gets its message flat out wrong. From our sermons and our Sunday School lessons you might think that Noah’s Ark was a story about family values and how Noah “got his family in the ark,” or a story about how we should be sweet to our pets. Neither of these is the point of the text; yet, they are taught in conservative churches that trumpet the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible.
No, Noah’s ark is not a sweet kid’s tale about cuddly animals, nor is it a manual on how to be a better dad. Noah’s ark is a horror story where God drowns humanity and the animal kingdom in the flood of his wrath against human sin. What we miss with the cute Fisher Price toys and the veggie tale-ish VBS lessons is that there were dead bodies floating in the water and the air was filled with the stench of rotting flesh.
God had created the world good, but human rebellion became so unbridled that God poured out His judgment in a global flood. But, not only does this story show the wrath of God, it also shows his rescuing mercy. Through the judgment of the flood, God saves one man – not because he is sinless (this is clear by the end of his life in Gen 9) – because of his faith (Heb 11:7). This is the story of a loving God who makes all things new out of judgment. The Noah story is the story of the world in miniature.
In the account of Noah’s ark, God judges the wicked world with water. Water is often the sign of God’s judgment of human sin. From the flood, to the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, to the storm and the fish that swallowed the runaway prophet, to Jesus’ statement that his cross is a baptism (Mk 10:38), water is pictured as judgment throughout the Bible. 1 Peter 3 tells the church that Baptism is the anti-type of the flood. It pictures the fact that in Christ we have been drowned in the wrath of God at Golgotha and raised to walk in newness of life. That is the message of Noah’s ark. Judgment will come, but there is a true and better “Ark” that will drown under the wrath of God outside the gates of Jerusalem gasping hour after hour after hour for one last breath. And three days later the Ark of our Salvation will stand up and walk out of the grave, conquering death because the message of Noah holds true that “God is not willing that any should perish” (2 Pet. 3).
This is the story of a God who judges and saves. That’s why Noah was also a preacher (2 Pet. 2:5). There was a global judgment coming, and he was the only one with the message of salvation, so he had to share it. We are given the same task. Jesus tells us that the final judgment will be just like the days of Noah. People will be just living life. They will be seemingly normal people – and many of them seemingly “good” people – who are eating, drinking, marrying, climbing corporate ladders, starting families, and then when they least expect it – BAM! – global judgment will wipe away every man, woman, and child on the face of the planet who is outside of Christ – the ark of our salvation!
Since we know that is coming, it is our task to lovingly warn the world through the gospel. Let’s not see this Noah movie as an opportunity to gripe, criticize, or complain. Let’s see it as an opportunity to engage. Let’s engage our neighbors who see the movie. Let’s engage our children as they play with the Fisher Price Noah who looks like Santa Claus. With tears in our eyes over the coming judgment and joy in our hearts over salvation in Christ, let’s tell them what the story is really about, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved!” Perhaps they might just seek rescue in the Ark that has already drowned in God’s wrath and come out safely on the other side.
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