Tag Archives: idolatry

“Christian Atheists” – Guest Post by Frank Reed

Hopefully some of you have already read this. Several days ago Frank Reed wrote this piece on his blog, Biblical Brethren Fellowship. I asked him if I could re-post it here, since it connects so well with several of my recent posts, including yesterday’s, which prompted my busiest-yet day on this blog.

Who is Frank Reed? Here’s how he described himself just yesterday on his blog (in another post well worth your time):

I am a committed Anabaptist. I have sought and obtained training in Bible and church history so as to better serve my people and have neglected personal life and business to serve the community. I have served as teacher and administrator in various areas of Mennonite and Brethren education.

I know Frank from his involvement as a teacher at Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute and from listening to several talks he gave at Anabaptist Identity Conferences. We’ve only met briefly a time or two, but Frank has my respect and the respect of others I respect. I know that he loves the Lord and that he loves people (what better reputation could one want?), including the youth he has taught for many years. He also deeply loves the church of Christ—deeply enough to take risks for her good, as you will soon see.

One more thing before I share Frank’s post: I encourage you to subscribe to his blog. You will find Frank a worshipful, insightful, and seasoned voice. Frank has been blogging there since 2012, and I think he just might be entering his best blogging season. This winter his life was nearly taken in an auto accident, and now Frank is speaking with new urgency. Listen, pray, and act.

Christian Atheists
(by Frank Reed)

What is Anabaptism when it is not cloaked in Mennonite or Amish or Hutterite or Brethren cultural dress? In other Words, What if we could separate our current cultures from the earliest Biblical/Anabaptist concepts? What would our churches look like then? Would there be enough Biblical content in our cultures to continue to exist as churches?

That is a legitimate and important question. That is the question that many people (especially youth) are asking. That is the question that most church groups are not answering.

Most church groups are insisting on their view of Anabaptism or Pietism while ignoring their Biblical heritage – ignoring it to the extent of marginalizing those who deviate from their specific definitions.

So, whether it is the church rules or the minute book or the denomination or anything else, groups are insisting on their specifics and labeling others as disrespectful of authority. This is essentially idolatry. We have come so far from our Biblical heritage that we now have adopted our own version of culture as god.

This has resulted in a long-term selection process. Compliants are retained while leaders are eliminated. Group maintenance is the primary objective. The group has become god and when you challenge god you are an atheist.

Christians in Rome were called Atheists. Atheists? How could Christians be atheists? All you have to do to become an atheist is to deny god. The Christians denied the god(s) of the Romans and so Rome would not tolerate the Christians.

If you do not do obeisance to the denominational gods of today, you will not be tolerated. I know.

The only choice we have is to change our gods. There is only one God and He will not tolerate rivals.

For the sake of the next generations, I beg of you, we are running out of time to change our gods…

The Bible says:
I am the LORD,
That is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
Isaiah 42:8

What about you? Is your heart right with God or are you dependent on a cultural system? It is possible to worship idols with a clear conscience. Many people in this world do exactly that.

Examine the Word of God and hear what He says to you through the Holy Spirit. Only then can you be sure that you are a Christian who rejects the gods of this world for the one true God who will tolerate no rivals – not even good cultural rivals.

Frank doesn’t have a comments section on his blog, but you can find his email there if you want to message him privately. He might enjoy hearing from you, but I think he’d be most honored if you simply stop right now and open your heart honestly to the Lord about whatever you’re thinking after reading Frank’s words.

Ask for renewal in your heart and mine. Ask for a deeper work of the Spirit of Christ within our churches.

Also feel free to comment here if you wish. Thanks for reading!

For Christ and his Church,

Contentment: “Whose God Is Their Belly”

Now that it is summer, I spend my Saturdays at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market, selling baked goods for my brother-in-law with Mast Family Farm. The best part of market is interacting with customers. I hope we bless them, though I am not always sure we do.

This past Saturday a frequent customer walked up to me at the pie stand. As he approached, I noticed that his shirt was bulging out over his belt. He patted this bulge rather tenderly as he neared the stand, and immediately Paul’s words flashed through my mind: “Whose god is their belly” (Phil. 3:19 NKJV).

I know, my mind isn’t always kind. But that’s the way it sometimes works. And the way the customer patted his stomach did indeed look like he was expressing devotion to his god. More importantly, the way he bought two pies and deliberated about a third suggested that his god has grown because he as been feeding it. (If you struggle with weight gain despite valiant self-control, as many do, please know you have my sympathy, not my condemnation.)

I don’t enjoy selling pies at such moments. As I said, I hope we bless most of our customers.

“Whose god is their belly.” I thought of these words again this morning in Sunday School class, when we were talking about Paul’s example of contentment. Paul said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

The Sunday School quarterly suggested that the kind of contentment that Paul was writing about was the kind where we “limit our desires or actions.” I think I understand what the quarterly writer meant, but I’m not sure that definition of contentment captures the full picture of Paul’s testimony.

What enabled Paul to be content in all circumstances? How did he “learn” contentment? Did he simply learn to limit his desires? Was Paul a closet Hindu, believing that the key to escaping suffering is to escape desire? I don’t think so.

I think the real secret of Paul’s contentment is found in the fact that he was devoted to the right God. In the first chapter of Philippians Paul recounts how he is in prison, and how some envious rivals are taking advantage of his imprisonment by doing some preaching of their own, hoping in their selfish ambition to add to Paul’s misery. But Paul doesn’t mind, as long as they are preaching Christ. “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Phil 1:18, emphasis added).

Christ was Paul’s God, and as long as Christ was being exalted, Paul was content. As long as Christ was being exalted, Paul rejoiced.Yes, and I will rejoice,” Paul continued, “for… it is my eager expectation and hope that… now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:18-21, emphasis added).

Rejoice in the Lord,” Paul told the Philippians. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” And again: “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Phil. 3:1; 4:4, 10-11, emphasis added).

How did Paul learn contentment? I think one way he learned contentment was through suffering. Each time Paul suffered—and he suffered a great deal indeed—each time he suffered, he grew even closer to his Lord, the one who had born the cross for him. Suffering for his Lord drew him closer to his Lord, causing him to rejoice ever more deeply and exclusively in his Lord.

Paul was not content to remain in his current state of spiritual maturity. He was pressing on to share more fully in the cross of his Lord, in order that he might also share in the resurrection of his Lord (Phil. 3:7-16). But Paul was content with his God—content with and eagerly anticipating the appearing of his Lord Jesus Christ:

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. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Phil. 3:17-21, emphasis added).

When your mind is on autopilot, do you think of earthly things or heavenly things? When your hands reach out for something to pat, what god do they serve?

If you want real contentment, don’t focus on renouncing your desires. Get a real God. Rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some of you have learned contentment in ways I still have not. How have you learned to rejoice single-heartedly in Christ? Share your insights in the comments below.

PS: For similar thoughts on how good desires are the key to overcoming evil desires, you might enjoy reading an old essay by Thomas Chalmers entitled “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” See here.