What is the answer to Nominalism? – 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5

Today is Friday, April 24, 2020, and I am Pastor Kim Alexander and you are listening to COVID-19 Connection Series # 33

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Today our WORD from the Lord comes from 2 Timothy 3:16-17-4:5,

   16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

4 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

What is the answer to Nominalism?

 Do you recall my definition of Nominalism from yesterday? Nominalism defined by P.K. – Knowing truth and refusing to live it out. As if truth doesn’t really exist. English definition for nominalism – Anti-reality.

What is the answer to nominalism? Here are the answers we see in today’s Christian communities – in churches around the world, and right here in our own backyard. I want us to consider seven possible answers. They are:

  1. The Spirit Answer: Pentecostalism /Charismatic

Since the 20th century there’s been a rise of Pentecostalism in world Christianity

We especially see this on the landscapes of Africa and South America. These places have been caught up with the Pentecostalism movement, and the Charismatic movement.  We can really see it in the names of churches in Africa. Here are a few of the names:

  • Deeper Christian Life Ministry – William Kumuyi, 1982
  • The Lord’s Chosen – Lazarus Muoka, 2002
  • Living Faith Church (also known as the Winners’ Chapel) – Bishop David Oyedepo (worth 150 million).

   Like U.S. televangelists, Winners Chapel preaches the “prosperity gospel” that faith in Jesus Christ lifts people out of poverty, and that message partly explains the explosion of the Pentecostal movement in sub-Saharan Africa, where misfortune and poverty are often seen as having supernatural causes.

  • The Synagogue, Church of All Nations – T.B. Joshua (worth 10-15 million).

Churches in Europe and North America have been affected.

Churches in our own country – Bethel Church out of Redding, California.  It’s the home of strange and weird things. For instance:

  • The Glory cloud appearing in the auditorium
  • Gold dust falling on people
  • Grave sucking – laying on graves of saints to receive their unction.
  • The school of miracles, signs, and wonders

Many of these Christians think the answer to the church the nominal Christian lies in rediscovering biblical teaching of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Many Pentecostals teachers speak of the experience, which includes speaking in unknown tongues, which they say, signifies conversion. They teach that true Christians speak in tongues. What did Paul say?

Many newer Charismatics say baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second experience intended for every believer after conversion. But the Bible says that the Spirit is not given by measure. We either have the Spirit at our conversion, or we don’t.  

These leaders say that Christians baptized by the Holy Spirit would replace the dull witness of too many Christians and their congregations.

  1. The Size Answer: Every Member/Small group/Home church

Some believe that rediscovering small groups is the answer to nominal Christianity

  • We are seeing a rise in small groups meetings – churches taut how many small groups that have in their town.
  • There is a rise in cell churches
  • House church movements are springing up – their thought is that the institutionalized church has it wrong, and we can do it better.

Some even advocate that churches should number their size and once they reach a certain size that they should split and start another church.

  1. The Substitute Answer: Parachurch/Missional centered

Still other Christians have given up on the traditional local congregation all together. This despair or rejection can be observed in the growth of the philosophy that recommends forming whole congregations around a single vision statement.

  • Having a single mission
  • Seeking to reach a certain subculture
  1. So Long Answer: Individualism

Some who called themselves Christians look at the state of many congregations and have concluded that the organized congregation simply should be rejected. This rejection can occur publicly, as with radio preacher Harold Camping who pronounced that Christians should desert the churches because the church age has ended.

Some Christians just simply and quietly ride off into the sunset and disengage in any and all church participation.

Many times nominalism and hypocrisy in churches are used to justify noninvolvement.

I’ve also heard Christians say,

  • There just a feeling I don’t like when I attend church
  • People here are not serious about the Lord
  • I face enough problems at work, why face them at church
  • People in the church are not what you think, I’ve seen them…
  • The church is filled with hypocrites

There answer is simple – walk away. They think they can do church all by themselves. It doesn’t work! I have seen this tried.

  1. The Sales Answer: Excitement, Give them what they want, Pragmatism, Marketing, Consumerism.

Others placed the churches hope for recovery in recreating excitement. Make the church like Disneyland. Make it a fun place to attend.  It shouldn’t be convicting.

I literally had a person walk up to me one day before I preach (in another church) and asked me, “Do you preach positive message?” I asked them why they would ask me that, and their response was, “I am in Amway, and I can only be around positive influence. I can’t have negative in my life or I won’t succeed.”

For many the church is a place to go for entertainment, it is a theater. I attend hoping that it will be of interest to me. If not, I can sit there and wait it out.

Some say that people want to be entertained so give them entertainment.

I wonder though how many people will laugh themselves to hell.

  1. The Sacramentalist Answer: High church alternative services, the emerging church, the Great Traditions

And there are some who believe that the problem in church stems from the wrong (or at least unnecessary) focus on the subjective appropriation of the Christian faith by individuals.

   In response they advocate refocusing on the objective ordinances, or sacraments, of the church, not on individuals’ responses of piety (holiness). Such sacramentalist responses can be found in great variety.

  • Alternative High church services – excitement reigns
  • Looking in the past at earlier movements in church history – earlier Christian practices – Meditation, silence, night watches in prayer.
  • Replacing doctrine with tradition

  What we are looking at here is RELIGION – man’s attempt to find favor with God. It won’t satisfy.

  1. The Biblical Answer: The church created by God’s Spirit through his Word in the shape of His church.

To these and many other punitive solutions to current problems in the churches, recourse must be relentlessly taken to scripture.

A clear understanding of the gospel is foundational for any genuine renewal in evangelical churches. Scripture Alone!

Solutions treated as normative, but which are not found in scripture must be rejected as latter-day tradition that lacks the authority of the apostles.

Ecclesiology cannot be reduced either to evangelism or to self enhancement.

In the Christian Church the reigning consumer must become the repenting Sinner – John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles all called man to repentance, and the Church must do the same.

It is a shame that people are being saved today without transformation in their daily lives.

The Christ-ordained sacraments are better not received than being received without personal faith – 1 Corinthians 11:30

God creates his church by his Spirit through his Word (Romans 10:17). All other answers to the lack of discipleship in too many of today’s churches compound the problem they intended to address.

If we stick with the Bible and we seek God’s interpretation of the Bible, we will not go wrong.

Remember, I am in touch, so you be in touch.

And as always, as Dr. Robert Cook from the King’s College used to say, “Walk with the King today and be a blessing.