The Church Is for Sinners

(The Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, Th.D.)
(10 July 2018)

In my first pastorate, a man said to me that he would not go to church because there were too many hypocrites there. I had enough rapport with the man to say: “You’re right so join us—we need another one.” Sometimes we have the idea that Church is just for those who have no problems, for those whose life is always rosy, who never have rebellious children, whose spouses are models of virtue, whose bosses love everything they do, who never have an impure thought. If that is who you think you are, you don’t need the Church; but then, you don’t need the Triune God either, or so you think.

And we Christians should be willing to admit that we have a long way to go in our growth in holiness. Pretending to be something we are not is hypocrisy, but that does not mean that we should tell everyone all our problems. Yes, we have been forgiven by God through the merits of the death and resurrection of Christ, but we are still growing. We have been adopted into God’s family, but like legal adoption today, that does not automatically make the child instantly and perfectly like his father. It does make the child an heir to our estate, and if we are rich so is the child. But it takes a lifetime to train a child and for the child to grow into the kind of person we as parents desire him to be. Likewise, God the Father adopts us into His family based on the legal attorney Jesus Christ, who puts up the bond, the surety, who is Himself our pledge, our guarantee of the adoption. This gives us a change of legal status, but inwardly we are the same as before the adoption. But the Father and the Son gave us the Holy Spirit to make us different over time—but that is the key word—TIME.

Consider that our heavenly Father is seeking to “rear” us in the faith over all our lives, that He brings about problems so that we can learn to be mature, to respond in faith and love to one another and to His providence, that His priorities are not money, farms, cars, bank accounts, though there is nothing wrong with these in themselves.

And this heavenly Father has adopted us into His family, in His Church, the bride of His Son, so that we can care for one another. And consider further that our sibling Jesus has already been through all the trials we have and knows what they are like, but also as God He gives us the grace we need to grow in the midst of those trials. We are in a family that is supposed to love its own as the badge of our relationship with God: “By this shall all know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). What do you do when loved ones are sick? You care for them.

We are called to live by a different set of priorities from the world, to consider the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to be the highest priority and church and family second. (Church and family actually go together.) Have you seen the bumper sticker that reads: “He who dies with the most toys wins”? That is the philosophy of the world, but our riches belong to another family—the Church. Our estate and inheritance are from Christ, not in pursuing more and more schemes to make money. Our security is in the Lord, not in our bank accounts that can quickly evaporate. But here is the true wealth:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 NKJ)

The world does not expect Christians to be perfect, but it does expect us to be genuine, which means we must be willing to confess mistakes when we make them and then seek to make things right. Remember the case of the televangelist caught with a prostitute? At first he was contrite, submitted to the discipline of his brethren, and agreed to the time suspension from the ministry that they placed on him. This was a good start, but then he rebelled, rejecting their authority, and put himself back in the ministry under a new church. It was a great testimony to the world to see the Christian Church at work, helping a fellow brother to grow in grace, exercising the authority of Christ, saying to everyone: “Yes, we are sinners, but we are willing to forgive when a brother repents.” Who could have faulted that? But the preacher rebelled and neutralized the great testimony.

In the early 1970s, Ruth (my wife) and I were living in Dallas while I attended seminary. W. A. Criswell was a great Baptist preacher in Dallas, TX, who loved the Lord, preached great Gospel sermons, and had a large congregation in downtown Dallas. He was highly respected in the community. Dr Criswell was interviewed on a local TV station on one occasion when I was watching. The interviewer was very caustic, and assuming all the self-righteousness she could muster, she forcefully demanded to know why it had only been in the recent past that his church had opened their doors to African American Christians. I’ll never forget Criswell’s answer, for it stopped her cold, and she stuttered for a comeback. His answer was something like this: “We sinned, and we’ve asked the Lord to forgive us. Now we are glad to have our black brothers and sisters worship with us.” That was genuineness! The interviewer changed the subject! We are not perfect but sinners, so let us recognize that! But let us be confessing sinners, not arrogant or rebellious ones. Pride will destroy us, but humility will lift us up in great favor with God and man. AMEN.

Angry Letter About My Same Sex Comments

© November 2019 Rev. Dr. Curtis Crenshaw, ThD
[This Article is longer than usual, and my Sermons on this blog are longer also.]

[This blog is in the form of a response to someone who took issue with my comments made some years ago about same-sex unions. My initials are CC, and for the writer’s initials, who is from Duke University, are OB. My letter was dated 5/7/13. I have not tried to clean up my grammar in this post, but I’ve still made it available.]

CC: Thank you for the reply. Sorry for my delay, but as dean of a seminary and pastor of a church, it is difficult to find the time. I will make some short replies. I’ll number my paragraphs the same as yours.

1. Whether people are happy or not with their transgender sexual operation is irrelevant. The question is whether it is holy, the right thing to do. In my article, I submitted that it was not right.

2. CC: I would like to see the research on some people being one gender in chromosomes and another gender in their genitals. I remain skeptical. As for being prejudiced in not wanting to attend a college where said college is justifying same-sex unions with transgender operations, that is moral discernment. I would not want my kids attending such. Conversely, why aren’t you in a Christian Bible college? You equivocated on my definitional of “prejudice.” I made it clear that prejudice, as used in our society, refers to discrimination based on color, not based on morality. Many black ministers, some of whom were in the Civil Rights movement with Martin Luther King, have reacted strongly against those they say are “high-jacking” (their word) the Civil Rights movement and applying it to LGBT. A large group of black ministers in Memphis, TN took out a full-page ad several times in the local paper in reaction to gays, condemning in clear terms same-gender relationships, saying that did NOT represent the Civil Rights movement.

3. CC: In this paragraph, you said (OB): “Yes having children is impossible at the moment for male to female [transformation]. Yes, they can adopt. To be fair I guess everyone has their own standards on who should be able to adopt a child. I guess I am just silly and weird to want someone who would love the child as if it was their own and bring the child up to be a loving and caring individual who accepts everyone for who they are…. regardless if the person doing the raising of the child is transgender or not.” Continue reading

Did Christ Function as God While on Earth?

© by the Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th. D. (Oct 2009)

In a former blog, I spoke of a Christology from above, by which we meant that it was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who was Incarnate, and that He remained God. Sometimes we don’t draw the obvious conclusion from who God is—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—to the Incarnation, that God the Son cannot change. Even those who consider themselves conservative today have forgotten the Church’s teaching that Chalcedon in 451 clearly stated about the Son did not give up His deity in the incarnation. Moreover, we must not fall prey to the maneuver of allegedly believing in His deity while affirming that He did not use His deity in the Incarnation. Notice what Chalcedon stated in A. D. 451:

In agreement with the holy fathers we all unanimously teach that we should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same Son; the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and the same consubstantial with us in manhood; like us in all things except sin; begotten of the Father before all ages as regards his Godhead and in the last days the same, for us and for our salvation, begotten of the Virgin Mary the Theotokos as regards his manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion [the two natures did not merge in some way to form a third nature], without change [each nature remained fully what it was before the joining], without division [the two natures did not constitute two persons], without separation [the two natures were in union with the Person]; the differences of the natures being by no means removed because of the union but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis [another word for person], not parted or divided into two persons but one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets of old and Jesus Christ himself have taught us about him, and the creed of our fathers has handed down.[1]

Amidst this wonderful theology, one point the fathers were making is that in the Incarnation, the deity of the Son did not change in essence or in function. Incarnation was by addition, not by subtraction. Continue reading

Preaching Jesus vs. Pleasing People

(c) 2008, The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.
(This pamphlet is free, but please look at our web
site for other publications: www.ftstl.com)

Luther Preaching the Gospel

“For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved
it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

 

(This pamphlet is free, but please do not sell it. For other free items, go to my blog at https://curtiscrenshaw.wordpress.com/. To purchase some items go to www.ftstl.com. We also have items with www.Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble (www.bn.com). At either place type in “Curtis Crenshaw” without the quotes at both places for regular books and then type in my name for kindle books (Amazon) and for Nook Books (Barnes and Noble).

Suppose you visit a church.  The sermon is about how to succeed in life.  Point one is to be kind to yourself, for Jesus said that we must love our neighbors “as ourselves.”  It is negative not to love ourselves.  Point two is to think of positive thoughts, for how can you achieve success with negativism?  Thus, believe in yourself.  Point three is to follow three easy steps to financial success.[1] After all, God wants to bless His children, doesn’t He?

If someone who knew nothing about Christianity were to visit this church a dozen times, hearing basically the same things, would he understand what Christianity is all about? Does this sort of teaching help us to know Christ?

Now suppose you enter a Mosque.  You hear: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”  You attend a dozen times, and always hear that creed and the Koran explained.  Would you know what Islam is about?

What is wrong with this picture?  Can we win spiritual battles with materialistic mantras while Islam teaches their people the essence of their faith?

At the so-called Christian church mentioned above, there is no mention of sin, no mention of the Triune God, no mention of the Incarnation, no mention of the death of Christ on the Cross for our sins, no mention of His bodily resurrection or ascension, no mention of the Bible as the Triune God’s infallible revelation of Himself, indeed, no mention of anything that is distinctively Christian.  At too many local churches, the Bible has been turned into a popular psychological manual, and Christ-centered preaching has been traded for motivational pep-talks designed for self-improvement.  God may not be glorified, but worshipers go home happy, and that seems to be all that matters.

We are told that people do not want to hear about sin, judgment, and the crucifixion, but are the congregation’s preferences relevant?  Has the Church in the past taken its message from the people’s desires or from God’s infallible Word, the Bible?  Is the pulpit determined by the pew or the pew by the pulpit?  Let us consider a few reasons why preaching must be focused on the message of the Church and of God’s Gospel as revealed in the Bible. Continue reading

Rescuing Verses . . . “Train up a child according to his own way” . . .

PROVERBS 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6 NKJ)

This is the translation that most versions give, and it has history on its side. Here is my challenge: “Train up a child according to his own way, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Now it is a warning. I have no doubt that the principle of the old translation is correct, that if we rear our children in the Lord, they will love Him. My challenge is whether this particular verse actually says that. So how did I arrive at my translation and do others support it?

I was translating Hebrew full time in the summer of 1976, and we were working on a Hebrew interlinear, putting one English word under its Hebrew equivalent. I had been working many hours on Proverbs, and when I came to that verse I instinctively translated it the way I had all the other times in Proverbs. I double checked myself, and triple checked myself. I don’t recall if my translation was allowed to stand or not, but I maintained my position. Then years later, while teaching Hebrew in seminary (over 20 years), I came across a grammar that confirmed my position: Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew, 2001. On pages 284-285, they go into the Hebrew grammar, stating that the construction in Prov. 22:6 is very similar to other places in Proverbs, which had been my position for many years.  Here are some other verses they cited along with Prov. 22:6 that give warnings about rearing children by letting them have their own way:

Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction. (Prov. 19:18 NKJ)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him. (Prov. 22:15 NKJ)

The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother (Prov. 29:15 NKJ)

Regardless of the translation of Proverbs 22:6, we definitely have confirmation from the other verses sited that we have reared a generation of brats who want their own way. In the end, unless they repent, they will perish. AMEN. Ω

Who is Lord?

31 July 2018
( by Jim Williams ©)

In 1970, a musical called “Jesus Christ, Superstar” was released. It took the country by storm, bringing in a lot of money and praise from believers and non-believers alike. Most people were really taken with its music and its pseudo-theology. Some believers saw it differently, calling it blasphemy. I’ve kept that thought in mind through the years, wondering what was blasphemous, and what made that call a good one.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice concocted a musical masterpiece, the music still sticks with me. Sounding mostly like Webber’s style, it has some memorable melodies in it, for sure. But there is this question, the asking of which explains itself: “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you, what have you sacrificed?” Good question! Jesus polled his disciples the very same first question in a conversation with his disciples: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13-17).

Peter answers the question correctly, and Jesus commends him, adding that Peter knew that because the Holy Spirit had told him so, not people. People didn’t know! Many years after the play was released, there was an interview with Tim Rice, one of the collaborators.

He explained that the piece was written from Judas Iscariot’s perspective. THAT EXPLAINS THE QUESTION! Judas had been the treasurer among the disciples, removing him from suspicion as being the betrayer, even at the Upper Room discourse. Jesus made him treasurer, so he was never thought of as not having Jesus’ best interests at heart. The disciples would have prevented him from betraying Jesus at the slightest thought of it, but as Jesus himself said, he did it “so Scripture could be fulfilled.”

We hear Yvonne Elliman singing the lyric “he’s just a man” in her song. THAT was the thought about him among people in His day, except those who had been forgiven and healed. The world refused Him as He presented himself, as Lord. To this day, the TV networks forbid the mention of His name in reference to God in their programming, because they go along with the idea.

Jesus being Healer is an easy concept to grasp, but healer BECAUSE he is God? That takes the Holy Spirit to say in a heart. It only happens when the heart is willing to accept it. The world never will, count on it. Peter, the character in this play, sings a whole litany of reasons and insights why Jesus as God didn’t make any sense, in that time, or this. “Israel in 4BC had no mass communication” is one line that sticks in memory. His manner and methods were madness to the world. The character and chorus sing out the question out of pure exasperation, coming from their logic as they do—”Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you? What have you sacrificed?” They call him Superstar, because Lord was not a term they would accept for him. It rendered them accountable to give Him his due, and they knew it. Despite His miracles and His claims, they still would not go there.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a magnificent expression of worldly acclaim, because he was only a superstar to them. So, who is HE to you?

Rescuing Verses . . . Woman Caught in Adultery

© Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw (3 September 2018)

After 40 years of ministry in various churches, I have often heard people say that Jesus changed the law regarding the penalty for adultery. Here is the passage:

3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:3-11 ESV)

The passage is not in the earliest manuscripts. There are over 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, though most of them are short and do not include the whole New Testament, and 900 of those manuscripts include these verses.

If the woman was caught in the act, so was the man. How could the woman be judged and not the man? Of course, that did not mean the woman was innocent. We hear constantly on the news that Hazel Woman or Jack Man was caught doing something but only one was charged. The conclusion often is that if both are not changed then both go free. But that is illogical to the core. If three men murder someone, but only two have sufficient evidence to be charged, does that mean the two should go free also? Should we let the two go free because we cannot find enough evidence to convict the third one? If we cannot convict all, does that mean we must not convict any? That is ridiculous on the face of it.

Others say that Jesus relaxed His Old Testament law. The Old Testament required execution for adultery in some cases: “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20:10 NKJ).

Moreover, the Old Testament law is a revelation of the character of God and cannot change: “You shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44-45; 1 Peter 1:16; NKJ). It is clear, therefore, that if God is unchangeable, and the law is a revelation of His holy character, then His law cannot change. But that did not mean that every case of sex outside marriage required the death penalty (see Deut. 22:13-30).

Notice that Jesus did not challenge Moses’ law, its holiness, or the penalty for adultery; rather, He supported it. He instituted formal proceedings against her when He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Here is one passage He probably had in mind: “The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you” (Deut. 17:7 NKJ; see also Lev. 24:24; Deut. 19:18-19; 22:22). We see that Jesus, in keeping with the law given above, required the witnesses to cast the first stone. This would make them back up their testimonies to death. Being a witness was a very serious matter.

Again, the witnesses were required to be innocent of the sin they were accusing someone else of committing. It was not any sin that someone must be guilty of but the sin in question, in this case, adultery. If being sinful of any sin whatsoever disqualified anyone from being a witness, no one would ever be such, for all humans are sinful.

When Jesus carefully applied the law, He saw that all the accusers had gone. Since there were no witnesses innocent of the same crime, the formal procedure had to stop. Jesus said,

9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:9-11 ESV)

There could be no formal accusation and no conviction if the witnesses were gone! The sin she was not to commit anymore was adultery.

 

Conclusion

Assuming John 7:53-8:11 is genuine (and I do), we see that Jesus followed the law. He could not compromise His own holy character by saying, in effect, stoning for adultery was too harsh in My law; therefore, I’ll lower the standard. There shall be no more stoning for adultery. He required the witnesses to be innocent of the same crime and to demonstrate their innocence by throwing the first stones. Let us NEVER put a division between the Old Testament and the New Testament as if there were two gods, an Old Testament one who was harsh and a New Testament one who was loving and kind. That would be idolatry. AMEN. Ω