Millennial Pastor Seeking to be Relevant Becomes Irrelevant
The greatest threat to the church is coming from inside the church. The Apostle Paul made this clear in his parting instructions to the elders of the church at Ephesus:
“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).
It’s easy to spot someone trying to undermine the church who’s an outsider. We don’t often expect one of our own to be subversive.
The problem is how to spot the wolf. A wolf in sheep’s clothing does not reveal himself as a wolf. It’s even possible that a sheep doesn’t know its spouting wolfish propaganda. I believe Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church located in Alpharetta, Georgia, is the latter. He thinks he’s being consistent with Scripture, but he’s off base. Anyone familiar with the Bible would see the problem when he says the Ten Commandments are “the old covenant” and no longer apply to believers.
Really? How does someone read the New Testament and come to this conclusion?
“[I]f we’re going to create a monument to stand as a testament to our faith, shouldn’t it at least be a monument of something that actually applies to us?”
“Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles,” wrote Stanley. “Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
This new commandment is “a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the big ten,” he maintained. “Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments.”
How do you know when you are loving someone like Jesus loved someone? What standard did Jesus use to love someone? John, the Beloved Disciple, wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
Those who promote abortion believe they are loving their neighbors by defending the legal right for them to kill their unborn babies. Homosexuals define their same-sex relationships as “love.” Unless there is an objective external/eternal standard, love can mean anything to anyone.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Love is defined by commandments: “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” (14:21). We show our love toward someone by not stealing, murdering, committing adultery, and not bearing false witness, to name just four of the outdated Ten Commandments.
If what Stanley says is true, then why does the New Testament refer to the Ten Commandments? Jesus certainly referenced them in His reply to the rich young ruler:
A ruler questioned [Jesus], saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother'” (Luke 18:18-20).
Instead of the Ten Commandments, Stanley said we should consider making monuments dedicated to the Sermon on the Mount. Has he read the Sermon on the Mount? There’s a great deal of law in it. How about this one:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matt. 5:27-30).
Andy Stanley is trying to be relevant to a modern-day audience. I get that. There’s a great deal of irrelevancy being preached from the pulpits in the United States. I love relevancy. But claiming that a Christian or anyone else is not bound by God’s law is the height of irrelevancy.
The Chinese government understands the relevancy of the Ten Commandments, especially the first one, on which all the other commandments hinge:
Chinese authorities have ordered a church to remove the First Commandment from a display on the grounds that it contradicts the policy of China’s President Xi Jinping.
According to Bitter Winter, which reports on religious freedom in China, about 30 officials in Henan Province’s Luoning country conducted an inspection at the church and wiped off the commandment from a display on the wall.
The commandment says: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’. (Christianity Today)
The following is from the film The Ten Commandments:
I wonder if Andy Stanley noticed that the Apostle Paul quotes some of the Ten Words (the biblical name) in various places as well as other irrelevant Old Testament laws. How could he miss this?:
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).
He might say, “See, we’re called on to love our neighbor. Loving our neighbor is the fulfillment of the law.”
Does he know that Paul is quoting an irrelevant and inapplicable law from the Old Testament?
“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18).
If Christians are not bound by the Ten Commandments because they are part of the Old Covenant, then what about loving your neighbor since that’s a law from the Old Covenant?
Andy Stanley might respond by saying that Leviticus 19:18 is repeated in the New Testament. So is the Fifth Commandment and executing rebellious children:
“For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death'” (Mark 7:10)
Let’s get back to Romans 13:8. Did you notice what follows?:
For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (13:9-10).
Once again, love is measured by the Law, in particular, the Ten Commandments. There are other places where laws from the Old Covenant are quoted or referenced (e.g., Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 5:1-2). Note how the law and the gospel are not mutually exclusive in the following:
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted (1 Tim. 1:8-11).
By following the commandments of God we exhibit love toward our neighbor. Love isn’t a “feeling to be learned,” it’s an act of obedience to an objective standard.