Tag Archive | Christianity

13 Contrasts Between American and Biblical Christianity

By Joseph Mattera

It has been evident to numerous Biblical scholars that often (if not most of the time) believers (including preachers) interpret the Bible through the lens of their culture. This has resulted in many beliefs, doctrines and practices prevalent in the church that are not in accord with the clear teaching of Scripture. Sadly this is the often the case with the evangelical church in the United States.

Since the United States is so influential, American evangelicals have exported a gospel replete with an American cultural paradigm that is not in line with the Hebraic paradigm of Scripture. Consequently, sometimes in the U.S. pulpit, preaching can come across more like the “American Dream” than sound, biblical teaching.

The following are some of the contrasts between American Christianity and biblical Christianity:

1. American Christianity focuses on individual destiny. The Bible focuses on corporate vision and destiny.

Most of the preaching in today’s pulpits in America focuses on individual destiny, purpose and vision. However, a quick look at the Bible shows us that in the Old Testament the emphasis was always on the nation of Israel, and in the New Testament the emphasis was always on the church. Every promise of God in Scripture was given to the community of faith as a whole. Hence if a person was not flowing in the context of the church, or the nation of Israel, they would have never even known Scripture since the average person did not own a Bible and only heard the Word when they assembled with the saints on the Sabbath. Of course, believers had to apply the Word of God as individuals, but they could not conceive of doing this if they were not part of the corporate body of faith. In the Old and New Testaments, there was no such thing as “individual prophecy” since every prophetic word given to an individual had to be walked out in the context of their faith community and/or had to do with the life of their community.

2. American Christianity focuses on individual prosperity. The Bible focuses on stewardship.

Much American preaching today focuses on “our rights in Christ” to be blessed. However, in Scripture the emphasis regarding finances has to do with being blessed by God in order to be a blessing by bringing God’s covenant to the Earth (Read Deut. 8:18; 2 Cor. 9:10-11). Jesus promised material blessing only in the context of seeking first His Kingdom (Matt. 6:33).

3. American Christianity focuses on self-fulfillment and happiness. The Bible focuses on glorifying God and serving humanity.

The Great Commandments are to love God and love our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40). It seems to me that much of the focus from the American pulpit has to do with individual fulfillment and satisfaction.

4. American Christianity appeals to using faith to attain stability and comfort. The Bible encourages believers to risk life and limb to advance the Kingdom.

Much of the preaching in American churches regarding faith has to do with using faith so we can have a nice car, home, job, financial security and comfort. The biblical focus on faith is on risking our physical health and material goods to promote God’s Kingdom (read Phil. 2:25-30). Most of the original apostles of the church died as martyrs as did the Apostle Paul, and the hall of faith shown in Hebrews 11 equates faith with a life of risk and material loss for the sake of Christ. Much of the preaching on faith in contemporary churches would seem foreign to biblical prophets and apostles.

5. American Christianity usually focuses on individual salvation. The Bible deals with individual and systemic redemption.

Jesus’ first sermon text in Nazareth was a quote from Isaiah 61 (read Luke 4:17-19). American preachers usually interpret these passages in an individual manner only. However, when you read Isaiah 61:1-4 you will clearly see that the gospel not only saved and healed individuals but also transformed whole cities! The biblical gospel deals with systemic sin not just individual sinners.

6. The American apologetic focuses on human reason. The Bible’s apologetic focuses on the power of God and experience.

Americans have been trained to defend the faith utilizing scientific, archaeological and linguistic historical proofs to validate the resurrection of Christ and the historic accuracy of the Scriptures. This is because the Enlightenment trap that promotes human reason as the highest arbiter of truth has captivated the American church. However, when we read both testaments, we see the prophets, the apostles and Jesus never based the propagation of their faith on the latest scientific research or human reason but on the anointing, authority and reliability of God (1 Cor. 2:1-4; Heb. 2:1-3).

Of course, biblical faith is the most rationalistic, reasonable faith in the world since it comports with reality more than any other philosophy or religion. However, if the foundation of your faith is human reason, then the first person that has more knowledge than you in science could talk you out of being a Christ-follower. Truly, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, not human reason (Prov. 9:10; 1 Cor. 1:17-23).

7. American believers have a consumerist mentality regarding a home church. The biblical emphasis is being equipped for the ministry.

Americans shop for a church today based on what meets their personal and family needs the best. It is almost like a supermarket mentality of one-stop shopping. While it is good if churches attempt to meet the practical needs of families and communities, the focus should be upon equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). God may lead a family to a new church plant instead of a megachurch even if the megachurch has more programs to offer. Biblically, it is all about assignment and equipping. If a person is doing the will of God, they will be fed by God anyway (John 4:34).

8. American Christianity promotes a culture of entertainment. The Bible promotes the pursuit of God.

In the typical growing American church, there will be an incredible worship team, visual effects and great oratory. Consequently, we are often catering to the American obsession with entertainment and visceral experiences, which can promote a culture of entertainment instead of cultural engagement. Biblically speaking, some of the greatest examples we have of intimacy with God come from the Psalms in which the writers were in dire straits, with no worship team, and alone somewhere in the desert (Psalm 42 and 63).

Biblically speaking, we should not depend on a great worship experience to experience Yahweh, but we should have intimate fellowship with Him moment by moment, way before we even get through the church doors!

9. American Christianity depends upon services within a building. The biblical model promotes a lifestyle of worship, community and Christ following.

Most of the miracles in the book of Acts and the gospels took place outside a building in the context of people’s homes and in the marketplace. In Acts 2 and 4, the churches met house-to-house, not just in the temple. The man at the gate was healed before he went into the temple (Acts 3), which caused an even greater revival to take place.

10. American Christianity is about efficiency. The biblical model is about effectiveness.

Often, the American church is modeled more after the secular corporate model rather than the biblical model. The church is not an organization but an organism that should be organized! In many churches, every aspect of the service is timed to the minute, and there is no allowance for the Holy Spirit to move. What good is an efficient service if people leave congregational assemblies with the same brokenness they had before they came in?

11. In American Christianity the pastor is elected. In the biblical model God calls the pastor.

Many American churches are run more like a democracy than a theocracy that is under God and Scripture. Hence, many denominations vote on their pastors and elders. However, there is not one instance in the Bible where God allowed the people to choose the leader of His people.

The example some use to justify congregational votes for pastors is in Acts 6. However, this passage has to do with the people electing deacons, not apostles or church overseers. However, in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1, years later, after the church was more developed, Paul instructs his apostolic sons (Timothy and Titus) to choose the deacons and elders themselves (no congregational vote here).

12. In American Christianity the individual interprets the Bible. In the New Testament the hermeneutical community interprets the Bible.

In the New Testament, when they were grappling with Scripture, they called a council and had dialogue to discern what the Spirit was saying (Acts 15). Paul went to the Jerusalem elders (Peter, James and John) to make sure what he was preaching was of God (Galatians 1 and 2).

Often, American preachers get unique interpretations of a passage and come up with a different angle on Scripture based on their own subjective paradigm and/or spiritual experience. Most of the time this turns out OK, but sometimes (as in the case of some like Bishop Carlton Pearson, who preaches a form of universalism and ultimate reconciliation of all) this can have heretical effects.

13. American Christianity trains its leaders in Bible colleges. Biblical Christianity nurtures leaders through personal mentoring.

Biblically, leaders were not sent outside of the context of a local church to be trained for the ministry. They were nurtured personally in the context of congregational life by church leaders acting as mentors (as the Apostle Paul did with Timothy; as Aquila and Priscilla did with Apollos in Acts 19; and as Barnabas did with John Mark in Acts 15).

Unfortunately, the American church attempts to nurture its top leaders by sending them outside of the local church to a theological seminary, which can only equip/grade them on an intellectual level.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The above article, “13 Contrasts Between American and Biblical Christianity” is written by Joseph Mattera. The article was excerpted from: www.chrismanews.com web site. August 2014

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

Posted in AIS CD - Featured Stories, AIS CD - Pulpit Resources0 Comments

Why Christians Are Called Salt Of The Earth

By: Norman L. Shoaf

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus took his closest disciples to a secluded place on a mountainside. There he personally taught them the way of life that leads to true happiness.

In the course of his teaching, Jesus told the disciples (and us today): “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and
trampled under foot by men” (Matthew 5:13, New King James throughout).

What did Jesus mean, “You are the salt of the earth”? What can salt teach us about the qualities a Christian should have?

Used Sparingly

Salt occurs commonly in nature. Various industries put salt to about 14,000 different uses. But only 3 percent of the world’s salt production is used in the home. Think of the small amount of salt you use to season a meal. Just a dash – a few grains – makes a big difference.

In Jesus’ day salt was not as readily available as it is now. Salt was once so valuable that it was used to pay the wages of Roman soldiers. We get the English word salary from this ancient practice of paying with salt.

Salt was also used as payment in buying and selling Greek slaves; today, people sometimes ask whether a person is worth his salt. The disciples would have understood the value and rarity of salt. So what did Jesus
Christ mean when he called his disciples salt?

For one thing, committed Christians are rare. The people of God, in whom the Spirit of God resides (Romans 8:9), are sprinkled across the earth like you would sprinkle salt across food – sparingly. But what a difference they make!

Salt Is Pure

Salt, besides being used sparingly, is pure. Germs cannot live in it. The spiritual analogy should be clear: God’s people are to be pure.

According to Leviticus 2:13, salt was to be a part of all grain offerings. The salt, at least in part, was needed to symbolize that the sacrifice was pure.

Christians are to present themselves to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). We, as the “salt of the earth,” are to be just as pure.

If we are pure, the work we do is right (Proverbs 21:8). Our hearts should be pure (I Timothy 1:5), as should our consciences (I Timothy 3:9), our thoughts (Philippians 4:8) and our religion (James 1:27).

To be spiritually pure means to be unadulterated with the wrong ways of this world, with false philosophies, dishonest ways of doing business, selfish desires.

As we continually repent and dedicate ourselves to live God’s way, we are washed from our impurities, our sins, by the blood of Christ (I John 1:7-9). We are to come out of this world (Revelation 18:4) and live our
lives in devotion to God.

Spices or Flavors

Probably the majority of us most commonly come in contact with salt as a condiment for our food. We know how salt, used properly, can add taste, and thereby pleasure, to a meal. The patriarch Job said: “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” (Job 6:6).

Salt, then, is symbolic as a spice or flavoring. Christians should add flavor to other people’s lives.

Is your life as a Christian dull, tedious, a heavy burden, something bland and uneventful? If it is, it shouldn’t be.

Just as salt adds a wonderful dimension to the taste of food, the Christian life should be filled with interest, zip, hope and excitement. Joy is, after all, one of the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

If you are just enduring and not enjoying your life as a Christian, ask God for more of his joy to flow through you and out to others. Be as active as possible in service to everyone around you.

It should be a pleasure to be around God’s people. We, as the “salt of the earth,” should be positive, turned-on people. Just as salt gives a zest to food, we should help others find zest for life through the power of the
Holy Spirit.

Creates Thirst

As Christians, we are to set a good example for the world around us. Just as salt produces physical thirst, we should produce in those around us a spiritual thirst.

People are to “see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven,” as Christ said in Matthew 5:16. By our example and the message we preach, we create a positive impression of God’s way.

Is your personal example creating in people a thirst for more of God’s knowledge? Or do they look at you and say, “If that’s Christianity, I want no part of it!”?

Other Meanings

As an essential article of diet, salt historically symbolized hospitality. Christians should be the world’s most hospitable people.

The Old Testament uses the phrase “covenant of salt” (Numbers 18:19; II Chronicles 13:5). This phrase described an unbreakable alliance between friends.

We have the privilege of considering God our friend. Our covenant with God to commit our lives to him should be “of salt” – unbreakable.

Let us grow in the grace and in the knowledge of God’s word, and truly become the “salt of the earth.”

SALT CAN LOSE ITS FLAVOR

In the same sentence in which he instructed his disciples that they were to be the “salt of the earth,” Jesus warned that they should not lose their flavor. (Matthew 5:13).

Salt without any flavor is, indeed, good for little. But how does salt lose its flavor? And what does this warning mean to Christians?

Salt is an enduring mineral. It can last a long time and undergo a lot of pressure before its quality diminishes. The deposits in salt mines are thousands of years old. Yet the flavor or taste is still there.

Even refined salt can be stored for extended periods and retain its flavor. Though the salt may grow hard or lumpy, its salty quality remains. Salt cannot spoil.

Dissolved in water, salt disappears, but its quality remains. Taste the water and you’ll find that the salt is still there.

Salt can also be subjected to extreme temperature. Even at 801 degrees Celsius (1,474 degrees Fahrenheit), the temperature at which salt melts, it still retains its particular chemical composition.

So how can the flavor of salt be compromised or destroyed? Only if it reacts chemically with some other substance – if it is, so to speak, contaminated by some outside influence. Can you see the implication for
Christians?

Jesus said that though we must be in the world, we are not to be of the world (John 17:15-16).

Choked by the “cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in,” Christians can become unfruitful, (Mark 4:19). As the “salt of the earth,” we can lose our unique flavor, and
are thereafter “neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill” (Luke 14:35).

On the other hand, faithful Christians do not allow themselves to be contaminated by this world. They are the “salt of the earth”- and they don’t lose their flavor.

(The above material appeared in the September 1992 issue of Plain Truth Magazine.)

Christian Information Network

Posted in AIS File Library, BS - Bible Studies, BSMS - Miscellaneous Bible Studies0 Comments


Log in / Logout

Subscribe Today!

Options

CLICK TO VIEW ISSUE 30-10

Archives