Following the Party Line


Are you a faithful follower of the Word of God or are you a supporter of the party line? In the first case, you’re a pursuer of Christ, and in the other you’re a partisan following the group. I suppose I’ve never met a Christian who didn’t believe he or she followed was the former rather than the latter. But the far-ranging views out there today proves more are a hanger-on of a particular religious group than they would like to admit.

Though my background is in the Baptist world, I’ve seen this plague many denominations and groups. To make the problem even worse, many groups splinter into several smaller groups with their own unique set of beliefs. While we might find the presence of sin in our world as the cause of this problem, we should still pull ourselves away from it and go ever back to the Bible.

This problem begins innocently enough. At some point, we try to draw our beliefs from the Bible. Because the Lord has designed that we live in the local church setting as a group, we will also at some point decide what we believe together. So far, so good. But something changes after a time. We fall into the lazy habit of just believing what the group does. We reason that since they sought the Bible in the beginning they can always be trusted to follow the Bible now. Then, another problem arises. New issues arise that we hadn’t thought of, or at least hadn’t thought of how to make an application of the Scriptures to it, and so we specify exactly what we mean to keep our original set of beliefs.

Again, the whole process is one of well-intentioned purposes, and yet we get off track. Our current set of beliefs have been revised several times since our original digging into God’s Word. We now are 2 to 3 steps away from the Bible while thinking we are still firmly in its boundaries.

I’m quite the inferior carpenter, but have been around the process enough to know one mistake we shouldn’t make. If we are going to need several boards of the exact same dimension, we should carefully measure out the first one and cut from it. When I was a boy, I can recall my Daddy taking a pencil and making a mark on the carefully measured board to distinguish it from the others. I can remember from way back then that he told me not to pick up the boards cut from the original to cut other boards. Though it technically should have been the same dimension, he told me it’s easy to get off more and more by that process. I believe this is what we have done in our Christianity.

As you may have noticed, groups tend to get defined by their unique differences rather than what they have in common. That perspective incurs great cost for Christianity. If the error was not bad enough, the Christian divisiveness is catastrophic. Because of our warped egos and general depravity, we fight for those differences, at times, even more than we do for the great trues that we hold in common, such as, the death, the burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As is often the case, we judge each other by the wrong board. We become quite bombastic, cry separation, and criticize our brothers or sisters in Christ relentlessly. In many cases, we are convinced that we are standing for the Word of God. Our motives likely began as a desire to faithfully follow the Bible, but now the results are far below the motives.

We would all do well to stop and ask ourselves when was the last time we checked the Bible for our deeply held beliefs. To be sure, we must carefully check those Bibles as our casual reading just regurgitates without thought was someone else decided we believe the long time ago. If you haven’t carefully verified the beliefs you loudly proclaim, then put yourself down in the category of one who spouts the party line. When you spout that party line, you are saying that where the belief came from doesn’t matter as long as the party says it is correct. Why does what scares us in politics not even phase us in our own Christianity?

If we allow ourselves to follow the party line, we are only sycophants carrying someone else’s opinions. Even worse, if we attack and criticize where they tell us to, we are their henchmen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a mere follower of the party line when I have the opportunity to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

Schizophrenic–A New Book Diagnosing The Independent Baptist Movement


Can you believe it finally happened? Someone deep in IFB culture wrote addressing the critical issues facing the movement. Tom Brannan was raised in an IFB home and has pastored IFB churches for several years. This book is unique in that though others in the Independent Baptist world (including me) have written on these issues, Mr. Brennan is the first writer to stay within the standards that some of us believe are beyond Scriptural requirement to do so. I applaud his efforts and imagine he will reach an audience no one else can.

In Book One he addresses what he feels is right in IFB churches. Though I could not agree with all his conclusions, he wrote in a calm manner that would be a model for some others from the same background.

In Book Two he writes on what is wrong in those same churches. I thought he candidly addressed many of the issues others of us would label as the problem. He rightfully began with pride. In his chapter on “We elevate young men” he explained how young men get the positions in Bible colleges because complete agreement outranks depth of thought. In other chapters he explained how loyalty could be taken too far. He actually gave soul liberty its props and he wasn’t afraid to say “we cover up sin.”

I especially appreciated how he addressed the quality of both preaching and study and admitted it was often woefully inadequate. He didn’t dodge how separation was out of hand in many cases. He looked at several other issues and even dropped the truth bomb: “Pharisee”. He ended his book politely calling for reforms.

There may be some who completely write him off for Book One while others will do the same for Book Two. I would suggest the former give him credit for doing what no one else around him is doing and the latter for being the first of their number to say what needs saying. I recommend the book and am excited for those he will reach that no one else can. I just pray he doesn’t get thrown under the bus in the process.


My writing on the same subject can be found in The Truth Revolution series here.



A False Liberation (IBTR #77)


Have you ever seen someone run from such a bad, or legalistic, church or family that they ran headlong into some other oppressive situation? Have you, by chance, been that person? Have you seen someone who now loves to hear Bible criticism, or bad news of Christian’s failing, or approval of things clearly defined as sin in the Bible? I wonder if it is now epidemic to see such things.

C. S. Lewis says for some “it can be liberating to lose a faith based upon guilt, not grace.” For some that is such the case they can actually be glad to hear information apparently discrediting of Christianity.  This fact suggests three important things to us that affects differently across the spectrum:

1. It is truly liberating to leave a faith based on guilt.

Bondage forces us to crave freedom. It is quite perplexing when you are convinced that God demands the guilt as the way to Him. When you realize, however, that religious men have hoisted that system upon your back, you will likely run like a small child to a freshly-cleaned room to pull all the toys back out. It is liberating as grace delivers where nothing else will and it only dwells in the calming, safe region of the Lord.

If you have ever stumbled into the dark world of performance-based Christianity with its heavy, guilt-laden load, you will feel like you walked from the shivering cold into warm sunrays when you make your escape. It will be one of the greatest things that ever happened to you. The only danger is where you run to in your escape.

2. You don’t want to be a pastor, church, or Christian who puts people in this position.

Why be a recipient of grace and peddle bondage? Why pile burdens on people’s backs when you were called to proclaim a gospel of deliverance? It could be that we have drunk the Koolaid ourselves and are only passing it on because that is what the one who passed the Koolaid to us said to do.

We should want to see people run from the bondage of sin, but we should be horrified when their liberation came when they ran from us! This is simpler than we think. People will run to us if all we have is Jesus to give, but they will sprint away when we offer the cumbersome package of Jesus plus something else. We will hate to come to the end of the way thinking we propagated Christianity only to find we sold the cheap substitute of religion.

3. You don’t want to be the person who runs from legalism to some other bondage.

Some have their epiphany and run from a faith based on guilt, but they run the wrong way. It’s like they are attracted to grace but run right by it. In fleeing the grasp of legalism they fall in the clutches of licentiousness. We were not given grace that sin might abound. Some in casting off the legalistic rules men added to God’s Word throw out His actual commands too. Talk about throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water!

You see it so often. One throws out the man-made regulations on clothing, but throws out God’s command for modesty too. One leaves a pharisaical rule that you can’t go to a movie, but then goes and watches one that is truly vile. The list goes on and on and stretches the meaning of “grace” past recognizable forms.

Faith based on guilt should be replaced by one based on love of Christ. That is more than a hairsplitting, far more.  To be compelled by love rather than guilt is a polar opposite. To believe that grace rendered God morally neutral is a mistake. Grace is the loving path God brought me around the mess of my sin, not the path that brought my Lord into the sin with me.

This error of thought can spiral to taking people away from the Lord. When we run by grace rather than into it, we will find our new Christianity as unfulfilling as our old one. Then in a second foray into warped Christianity we want little to do with Christianity altogether.

So praise the Lord if you escaped legalism! But don’t run into another oppression. If you do, you will only have a false liberation.

Find all articles in the series here.

History Repeating Itself (IBTR #76)


The old adage that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it shows up in ever unexpected places. Perhaps you are like me and lament the ugly bickering and outright attacks so prevalent in the Independent Baptist world today. I still find people expecting me to spew out current names in this series where I have decided to only write about issues because that is simply what is always done. What names I do want to mention here are Baptists who lived in the 1800s whom I have just discovered blazed a trail we regretfully have followed.

Reading a book to review as I often do, I stumbled upon the life of James Robinson Graves who had a pronounced influence in the early days of the Southern Baptist movement. I assure you his impact upon Independent Baptists today is equal to that upon Southern Baptists.

He is known for being the founder of Landmarkism. That teaching involves a belief in Baptist succession and a corresponding strong denominational identity. Though there are several points of his teaching that I would strongly disagree with, that is not the trail he blazed that I want to address except in one specific way.

It was his deciding what was Baptist and his relentless criticism of those who disagreed with him. Though he had a few short pastorates and did some evangelistic work, his career was defined by his publishing of Baptist periodicals where he strongly sought to sway Baptists to his way of thinking. While some good things have come out of Baptist periodicals, can you imagine the character assassinations and rank sin that has also been propagated by that method?

Perhaps his greatest contribution was championing the Baptist foundational thought of the autonomy of the local church and soul liberty that, though it sounded at times like a Jeffersonian republicanism or even a Jacksonian populism, still resonated truth springing from the priesthood of the believer. Strangely enough, his overboard attacks on those who disagreed with him was a direct denial of that soul liberty he at times articulated so well.

His battles consumed his ministry. He was engulfed in a battle with his pastor at the First Baptist Church of Nashville, who strongly disagreed with his Landmark teaching, and it turned rather ugly. Neither he nor the pastor looked very Christian by the time it was over. Finally, he was churched and left and started a church with a few others that he said was the true First Baptist (so much for church succession!). It is always surprising what we can throw out the window in an ugly battle and be so blinded to our own contradictions.

He sank into criticism. He tried to uphold truth with the unworthy tool of scorn. He attacked everybody who disagreed in any way. He attacked the Catholics. Then he attacked the Protestants as if they were no better. (Really?) Finally, and inevitably, he attacked other Baptists derisively calling them Pedobaptists. Catholics, Protestants, and other Baptists all equally corrupt because they did not agree with him on every point!

So, see what I mean? I won’t mention any current names, but Mr. Graves appears channeled in the breast of several others today. Just because we claim an issue is life and death and requires unquestioned acceptance does not make it so. I couldn’t help but notice how Mr. Graves proclaimed that he was being true to God’s Word without actually showing us. It certainly does not legitimize our pathetic unchristian behavior toward one another either.

Carry this historical tale to its end. History still loves to repeat itself. The Civil War came and his publishing business crashed. It could never get back to where it was before the war after hostilities ended. Ever notice how so many of these men or cliques crash before their ministries actually end? They seem to fragment, if not disintegrate completely. Check the periodicals, etc. of the 1970s, 80s, or 90s. See a difference? What do you suppose will happen in 10 or 15 years? Probably some new Independent Baptist will pick up the mantle of Graves while some others fade stage left.

Will we ever learn? If not, history stands ready to remind us.

Find all articles in the series here.

The 5 Key Issues Facing The Independent Baptist World Today (IBTR #75)

key issues

So what are the main issues facing Independent Baptists today? Sometimes people ask me when they see the number of articles in this Truth Revolution series if I think there are really that many problems. They invariably add that if there are that many problems then I should leave. Were that the case, I would be forced to agree with them.

It is not that there are 75 problems, but a handful of distinct ones. Even these distinct ones are not across the board, but only in pockets across the country. Many are changing. The plethora of articles here are because no one post by me could satisfactorily address the individual issues. Even the Bible addresses various issues several times from various angles!

Here are the 5 key issues that have hurt the Independent Baptist world in some cases, as well as greatly damaging the lives of some believers:

  1. A Failure To Adequately Preach The Bible

When our preaching goes backward, the whole apple cart rocks and soon turns over. Yelling, storytelling, and moralism replaced proclaiming simply what God has said. How the Bible ever came to be boring in some of our minds, and in need of help in making it interesting and relevant, is beyond me. The Word of God throbs with life, drama, passion, and excitement. The only problem the Bible ever has are its preachers making it unnecessarily dull.

Expository preaching has disappeared from some of our churches. We have preachers who, I fear, don’t even know how to put one together. Too many forget that a sermon must find itself springing from what the text has actually said in order to be a Bible sermon. Some say we have switched to topical preaching, but I really must disagree with that too. A topical message should take its source from various Scriptures across the Bible (many can handle the many Scriptures part) of passages all taken in context (that is where they fail to even qualify as a biblical topical sermon).

Our other problems stem from this one because as the Bible becomes more obscure and unpreached we find ourselves more easily susceptible to error.

  1. Pastoral Abuse

When the Bible falls back from its rightful place as an infallible authority in our lives, it is tempting for a pastor to step into the vacuum that is created because we yearn for a true word of authority to bring peace into our troubled lives. It is tempting for the pastor to take on that role, and unfortunately, it is tempting for people to let him.  This error corrupts the beautiful thing called the local church that the Lord has given us. This robs the role of the Bible being our guide, as well as the Holy Spirit Who takes it on Himself to guide us on what the Scriptures say.

When pastoral abuse finds acceptance, then abuse grows throughout the church.

  1. Legalism in a Pharisaic Style

As we move farther from God’s Word, the accepted abuse requires a need for control. An ever expanding set of rules becomes the goal. It is claimed to be about honoring Christ, but it is about control. Some Independent Baptists try to dodge this issue by claiming that legalism is only about requiring non-biblical things for salvation. Still, it is a spirit of legalism that adds non-biblical things for pleasing God, or even earning His love. There is a little Pharisee in all our hearts and this can easily spread like an out-of-control wildfire. People are confused because in their hearts they know they should live in a Christ-honoring way. Of course we should! But that must be defined by what the Bible has actually said (See why #1 is the core of our problems). Where the Bible is silent, the Holy Spirit reserves the right to speak individually to each believer. He has never abdicated that right and given it to pastors.

  1. Overly Aggressive Separation

When legalism takes hold, many start reducing the Christian life to a set of standards proscribed by leaders. From there pressure is brought to bear to separate from those who fail to toe the line. While separation is taught in the Bible in fundamental areas particularly involving Christ and His plan of salvation, this runs to minute points of difference. This is how the Independent Baptist world has, in some cases, splintered into dozens of little groups who compete and little like each other.

  1. Lost Perspective and Weird Issues

Finally, we lose the sanity to differentiate the critically important from the not-so important. We end up in embarrassing debates and kooky issues. Some of it is so bizarre that people are arrested and it makes the evening news. Issues that are important like the inspiration of Scripture, and ones worth looking into like textual issues (I use the KJV), disintegrates into extreme and strange KJV points that are presented as life and death. There are many such disintegrations of issues out there.

These are the five key issues facing the Independent Baptist world today. I pray these things can change in many more local churches and individual lives (The places where change counts). I realize that this little off-the-radar blog can’t make that much difference, but I still believe many little voices can make for a loud conversation.

The truth is if these five issues were thoroughly dealt with we could see phenomenal change akin to revival. Actually, radically fixing point #1 would probably fix the whole mess. We need the Word of God back in its proper place.

Find all articles in the series here.

Do You Have Your Own Spiritual Litmus Test? (IBTR #74)


Sometimes we must turn around the things we despise in others and see if we are likewise guilty. We all hate people forcing their preferences on us. Even the most strident legalist hates seeing judgmental barbs flying his way.

Earlier in this series, I wrote on Spiritual Profiling and that we are so quick to size up others based on some crude criteria. Beyond the pain of others unfairly sizing us up, and beyond the crime of us sizing up others, there remains one other similar error that may greatly affect us–using a litmus test to size up ourselves.

Such lists are easy to throw together–attend church, read my Bible, wear the right clothes, avoid certain activities, only listen to approved music, and –Presto– I am a good Christian. At this point, the issue is not even if the Lord actually asks for everything on the list, though we often have the Pharisee’s penchant for going beyond Him, but our underlying thinking that says these things make me spiritual.

Am I the aggregate of what good things I do plus the sum of the bad things I do not do? Is it really that simple to gauge spirituality? Or is this even the gauge at all?

I am far enough in this journey that there appears to me to be little help for the dyed-in-the-wool legalist–his litmus tests will always be with us. I join you in disliking when someone foists his litmus test upon me. But I must ask: how is it any better when I forge a litmus test to prop myself up?

Could this be me creating my own smokescreen before the Lord? If I rapidly throw my fine little list together perhaps I can drown out what He really might want to talk to me about. It might not be something I can proudly point to on my list to you. It might be something so deep inside that you could never know. The ultimate point of my litmus test is, I suppose, that I simply don’t want to go there with the Lord. If that is the case, then my pretty little spiritual litmus test might just be one of the most unspiritual things in my life. It’s worth thinking about, wouldn’t you agree?

Find all articles in the series here.

Sola Scriptura–Is The Bible Our Only Guide? (IBTR #73)


Sola Scriptura–By Scripture alone! That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? To that I give a hearty Amen! In Baptist churches that I have been around we have worded the same idea a little differently–The Bible is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. To my ear that has a nice ring as well. Sign me up–It’s what I believe.

Sometimes what we profess to believe is not what we actually believe. That is called hypocrisy. But that does not exhaust our error. Sometimes what we think we believe is not what we actually practice. That is misunderstanding that requires we face it so our heads can catch up to what we thought our hearts championed.

Early in this series I wrote on “We Preach The Word Of God! Really?” and went hard after something I feel passionate about: Biblical (Expository) Preaching. As I argued there, despite our claims, there is a dearth of it in the Independent Baptist world.

Strangely enough, I had an unusual experience preaching last Sunday. I preached on “He Added No More” from Deuteronomy 5:22. It was an exciting passage to study and preach. It was Moses recounting the giving of the 10 Commandments 38 years after the event happened in Exodus 20. The phrase is key because had it only meant “He was finished talking” it would not have even needed to be said. Whether it be the 10 Commandments, the Law of God, the plan of salvation, or the Bible itself, He gave all we need. It is complete and permanent. He gave it and “He added no more”.

A lovely couple was visiting from out-of-town and as they were leaving they were complimenting how much they enjoyed that Scripture. The lady told me that she had spent her life in Independent Baptist churches and it had been her experience that the sermons so often added more. So much, in fact, that she could not find what she heard in Scripture! The Lord may have added no more, but the preacher sure did in many experiences she had apparently had.

I need not rehash that refrain so common from my lips. Yes, we who preach God’s Word must hold the high standard of preaching God’s actual Word. Oops, there I go again!

But it does suggest another issue as well. Whether the preacher we are listening to actually sticks to the text or not, we are still responsible to the text. Sola Scriptura is not lived by proxy. The Bible is not only the final authority in matters of faith and practice for a congregation, but for me individually.

What does that mean? I can not turn over my understanding of God’s Word to someone else. If it works like it is supposed to, your pastor can be a great aid to digging out God’s Word. But if he fails, you are not off the hook. You are responsible.

It goes farther. You can not allow some man to make all the decisions for your life for you; not while you hold that wonderful Bible in your hand and have the Almighty God waiting to be sought by you so as to guide you.

There are some preachers who are a shame to the ministry, and others who are an embarrassment to those who love the Bible, but they do not absolve me from letting the Bible be my guide. This is the other side of the truth we must all remember.

Find all articles in the series here.

The Priority of Bad News (IBTR #72)


Bad news can get out of hand. We can get a little addicted to it. Life has plenty of it and yet we always come back for a little more. In the last month it seems it has come as an avalanche. Perhaps we finally have more than we want now, but it is here in the extreme.

Still, I have learned an embarrassing lesson of late. At least three or four fake stories have come along among all the horrific stories out there and I have fallen for them like a careless novice. I should know better and that news stories are best verified before being believed or repeated. I’ve kept up with news all my life and have striven to not be naive. Somehow I have made what seems like rookie mistakes.

I suspect part of is that there has never been a month like the one we have just gone through and being shocked became a daily occurrence. Does that sound like an excuse? It is, even if it is true. I think a more accurate reason was my getting carried away with following these stories, yet lazily getting many of then from my Facebook news feed. Not all news stories on Facebook are created equal– no matter if they were shared by someone you respect (others can be fooled too), or if they come from what sounds like a conservative news source.

So I have scolded myself. I remember now than con artists will even try to sound like a reputable news source. Other sites hold to conservative principles but as “hits” are the name of the game in the internet world, they give way to sensationalism. Wouldn’t you agree that there is enough bad news in the world that we need not add to it by falling for fake stories? Wouldn’t you also agree that exercising caution in passing along accurate information even if hitting the “share” button is so easy is also in order?

So what has this to do with this Truth Revolution series? I mean beyond the obvious “truth”?

We have been so careless with what we do with bad news in our Christian circles. We are careless about making sure a story is true. If it is about someone failing, and so many fail, it must be true, right? Especially if they don’t agree with us on some little pet issue?

We repeat stories too. At least some of the stories in current news, were they true, could affect our lives. In Christian circles we often pass along junk that will never affect our lives personally. But bad news is such deliciously good conversation, isn’t it?

I scolded myself, as I said, over falling for a few political news stories where I should have known better. I wonder if it is time that we all scold ourselves over stories among Christians too. What do you think?

Find all articles in the series here.

Is This Really The Time For A Witch Hunt? (IBTR #71)

witch hunt

There is nothing quite as unnerving as something coming back as a boomerang and smacking you up side the head. I fear that many may be having that experience already. It will only get worse. Every group that gets carried away with its demands of holding the party line to points of minutiae has such potential in changing times. This series has highlighted many such points among Independent Baptists, but I imagine these have not been dominating thinking as much as it did only a few days ago.

The change is shocking; its pace alarming. A mere two months ago I wrote an article in this series entitled “Where Will Independent Baptists Be In 10 and 25 Years?” I am no prophet, though I feel more sure about those predictions now than I did when I wrote that piece. It was almost surreal to reread what I myself had written–not because it was particularly brilliant, but because things tipped over so quickly. I did not see that coming!

Shootings, flag debates, racial wars, and especially, homosexual marriage legalization, and the general mood of the country–no, I did not see it coming in a few days, even if I thought it would over time.

Do you feel as so many Christians do that we are the subject of a witch hunt? It may sound dramatic, but have you had your visions of them coming for you?… Did you refuse to perform that gay wedding? Are you intolerant? How dare you discriminate against me! I feel marginalized by you! Something needs to be done about you!… Pessimists never had it so good. Fearmongers look like brilliant scholars. These are the days to make crackpot predictions because you may look like a genius tomorrow.

There is new material to work with every day. Today, for example, I read of a Baptist Church in New York City that is taking major flak for merely passing out VBS invitations. People in that community said it was discriminatory because of the church’s position on gay marriage. They also said it was offensive because the church workers were white and the community is predominately black. See where that could go? Or think about the Confederate flag debate. Every argument made against it could also be made against crosses–remember the KKK used to burn them in the yards of innocent Black folks. See what I mean?

Now let’s come back to the issues that have plagued the Independent Baptist world for several years and the subject of this series. Do you suppose some folks have felt the victim of a witch hunt for a long time? The very way we all feel now? You know, scanning Facebook pictures for pants, or trying to find your music playlist, or looking for information that you visited an unapproved church or listened to an unapproved preacher, or you were disloyal in some way to our exalted group. Many have told me that they almost live in hiding because they so fear the backlash from family or churches.

Can the recent days finally make us empathetic? Will changes in our country finally make us realize what some of us have done? Can we finally see how we have made some others feel? Think about our country and world today. I assure you that some other Independent Baptist with a different standard is not the enemy, nor is some differences in worship styles, etc., our big problem today. We do have some problems today…big ones ( we still have our hope too), but these decades-long issues in some of our churches are not it. Read the news today and answer me this: Is this really the time for a witch hunt?

Find all articles in the series here.

A Sword Or A Club? (IBTR #70)

sword club

Well, they are quite the different weapons. With skill, the sword can be used for precision cuts. But with a club, all you can do is bludgeon. With a club you can forget precision too as the questions are only what is broken and how much blood is on the floor.

As Christians we have a weapon and it is precise. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the heart.” Now that is a weapon!

It is a powerful weapon—I can actually think of none stronger. It is two-edged for the height of precision. Its precision goes where none other can go. If its precision to cut perfectly the joints and marrow was not enough, it can slice between our souls and spirits. It turns out that its work exceeds cutting and actually discerns hearts. Its greatest feature it that it is “quick”, which means “alive”. Where other weapons excel in death, it distributes life. No wonder we are told that “…the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.”

So it is clear what the Sword of the Word of God is. But we have a problem. Some wielders of the sword confuse it for a club. They see it as a traditional weapon, which, of course, leads to death. This error raises its ugly head all through Christianity, and Independent Baptists have often followed suite. They are quite clumsy with a club, but who wouldn’t be if your club is actually a sword?

There are a variety of damaging moves with the club. Some take God’s Word that is meant to bring life and take those abused by sin and abuse them more. Where God’s Word brings guilt to see our sin only to later remove both the sin and the guilt with its Gospel message, some explain the sin and bring on the guilt only to leave you broken and bleeding from its blow. Some then run from the Word for relief when only the Word can bring relief because some silly Christian soldier thought his sword was a club.

All of this is not to say that God’s Word doesn’t convict or tell me what is wrong. It tells reality in a Holy God’s Universe. But when its precision cuts tell me what a rotten sinner I really am, the grace of God springing from the blood of Jesus Christ comes surging over me. Here is where club users go awry.

I read that the legalist wants you punished. Apparently, the delirium that comes from club swinging makes one forget that Christ took the punishment. We proceed from there. The legalist wants you to pay where Christ has already paid it all. Lest our discussion get off track, let’s remember that is as true years after I’m saved as it was the day I got saved.

If we get that messed up, we speed down the slippery slope. First thing you know, some club gladiator with a Bible in his hands tells some battered woman in the throes of physical abuse that she must stay and submit. Or next we’re told we can’t report a church member for molesting a child because we can’t our take brother to court. The Bible was referring to civil cases in that instance, but a club is not, as we said, an instrument of precision. None of that is “quick”, or life. It sounds like death to me. It may not be a bludgeoned skull, but it is a butchered heart and life.

It is time to lay down our clubs. We are not even trained or called to use them. But let’s take the Sword of the Word of God into our hands as it is the answer for us all.

Find all articles in the series here.