Modern can mean a lot of things in many contexts: modern art, modern living, modern styles, modern technology. It all has the sense of newness and is connected to contemporary living and thought. Recently, I was in a discussion about a situation involving a young lady who was searching for a “modern Christian” church because she had a falling out with her current one. Her current church wouldn’t allow her to lead a couples Bible study because she was living with her boyfriend. That church seemed too behind the times for her and her living situation.
While she called it “modern Christianity” that she was looking for, the proper term is postmodern Christianity. Without potentially boring you with the details, postmodern Christianity is the acceptance of emotions and subjectivity over the absolute truth found in God’s word. It’s a Jefferson Bible.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Thomas Jefferson’s Bible is the physical representation of today’s “Christian” culture. He literally removed all of the verses he disagreed with by cutting them out. He fashioned his theology around picking and choosing what he felt was a better picture of God then how God has shown Himself to us in His word. But all Scripture is from God.
Are you creating a god for yourself?
We may not be cutting up our Bibles, but the same issue that Jefferson faced faces us daily in many practical ways. Like the woman searching for a “modern Christianity” where her sin is acceptable because it feels right and society accepts it, we must choose where we stand and on whom we rely for truth.
She was wrong. She is living out a lifestyle of sin incompatible with Christ. The law of God explicitly forbids such living, labeling it sin. But she chose to rely on man’s acceptance rather than God’s word. It’s believing the lie of Satan. It’s been the same lie since the beginning: “Did God actually say … ?” (Gen. 3:1). Surely God wouldn’t keep you from enjoying something so enjoyable as an intimate relationship. Surely God wants you to be happy.
The reason why it’s a lie is because it twists the truth. God absolutely loves for us to be in intimate relationships and to be happy. And God has designed us to be truly happy in Him. So when He says that intimate relationships and happiness are found in faithful marriages where sacrificial love and respect are present, that’s exactly where and how happiness can be found. Obedience to God leads to joy. Obedience to God leads to joy even when persecution is present. That is because God is joy.
When we create our own version of a god with our figurative cutting out and disbelieving of God’s promises and words, then we actually forfeit joy. So what is Scripture? It is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction,and for training in righteousness. And that leads to joy.
Truth has to be absolutely true in order to mean anything.
The subtle argument made by Jefferson and this woman at her church is that some of the laws are outdated. In one sense, that could be seen as true. Christ has fulfilled the law of God. He bridged the gap. He ended the need to follow the religious practices and civil laws found in the Old Testament. We can gain a lot of wisdom from those practices, but they are ultimately no longer binding.
However, the moral law of God is still very binding. So binding that Jesus taught them to the disciples when he was on earth. It’s recorded in the gospels. So to say like Jefferson, “I can’t imagine a God who would show wrath towards anyone” and alter the word of God is a denial of the gospel. And to deny the gospel is to deny the saving work of Christ, saying that it wasn’t necessary.
You see, it all unravels. And just like the woman in the story at the beginning of this post, we face our emotions and desires on a daily basis. The question remains: “who will you believe?” You can either believe your desperately sick heart (Jer. 17:9) and sin-filled society or you can choose to believe the truth of God that never changes. If truth is relative for each person, then God is not God, sin is not sin and Jesus Christ is no longer needed.
But truth is very needed.
How does the truth of the gospel change everything?
It doesn’t take long to recognize sin in the world. Bad stuff happens all the time. Horrendous acts of evil fill the news every evening. That is something that everyone believes is absolute truth. And we need to recognize that there is a greater, transformative truth as well. The truth of Jesus.
Jesus, the Son of God, came to live a perfect life as the God-man, die a cruel death on the cross, bear the wrath and punishment for sin, pay for a penalty he never deserved, be buried in a tomb and rise again to conquer sin and death. The horrendous acts of evil are dispelled by the cross of Christ.
Why? Because when we believe this absolute truth of the gospel, it changes everything, starting with our hearts. We are no longer stuck in sin (though the struggle is real some days). We now have the power of the Spirit of God in us to fight against sin. But we are definitely called to the standard of God’s word. There is no room for “modern Christianity” or our own figurative (or literal) Jefferson Bibles.
There is only room for Christ. And when we fail, God gives grace so we can keep running to Him. It’s like the love of the father picking up that toddler when they fall so they can keep walking and wobbling back to him as they learn to walk … all with joy in their hearts because we are found in God’s truth.