Have you noticed the newfangled Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers in restaurants? They allow you to mix your own concoction of soft drinks with the click of a button. I have stood behind kids whisking through the screens combining a host of different drinks to create something weird and new.
I usually just stick with Dr. Pepper.
But thinking about these dispensers made me realize what is happening in modern American Christianity.
Many people are mixing their own theological concoction of the Christian faith to suit their own liking.
Jumping from YouTube video to YouTube video, website to website, cable show to cable show, preacher to preacher, commentator to commentator, talking head to talking head. Soon you have your own unique combination of dispensational, postmillennial, Pentecostal, political, prophetic, apocalyptic, gnostic Christianity and you don’t even realize it.
But you take a big ol’ gulp of your new Kool-Aid.
And it gives you a serious case of theological heartburn. In some cases, it can kill your faith.
Let me give you an example.
Recently someone sent me a YouTube video of a Christian preacher that they wanted me to watch. They loved his message. It was bold, in-your-face, and politically-charged. When I am sent a video like this, I often wonder if the goal is to say something like, “Hey, pastor, maybe you ought to preach more like this.”
But as I watched the video, I noticed that something was a little off. I did a little research about him and his church and realized that they held a postmillennial reconstructionist theology.
What does that mean?
Basically they believe that the church will change the government and society and eventually bring in the kingdom age. Christ will come back at the end of this millennium of peace ushered in by the church.
Postmillennialism expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of human beings to salvation in the present age. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of people and of nations. (Kenneth Gentry)
The postmillennial conception of victory is of a progressive cultural victory and expansive influence of Christianity in history. (Gary North)
The reconstructionist part of the theology is that the church should be actively involved in politics so as ultimately to bring the nation under the law of Moses.
It’s a unique view that has been around for awhile. Many early believers in America were postmillennials who felt like America would play a role in bringing in the kingdom on earth. Many people like postmillennialism, and there are some theologians who argue for it, because it is a positive view of the victory of the church in this present age.
But what was ironic in this case is that the person who sent me the video would fit in the dispensational, premillennial category believing that the world will get worse and worse, Christ will rapture His church, the world will go through an intense time of tribulation, and then Christ will come back to set up His kingdom on earth.
So why did she like this postmillennial preacher who would be antithetically opposed to her view of eschatology? Presumably because she liked his bold attack on present-day politics which, in his mind (unbeknownst to her), is necessary for the church to take over the government and usher in the kingdom.
Here’s another recent example.
Someone in my family was telling me about a cable TV show that they were watching on the end times. I decided to watch an episode to see what it was all about.
It had cool graphics and a set designed to look like a newscast. The man sitting behind the news desk (while continually holding his new book towards the camera) proceeded to talk about Great Britain, America, Germany, the European Union, the Berlin Wall, the beast of Revelation, and all kind of other apocalyptic details. He was so sure of his interpretation of Revelation 13 that he didn’t even pause to defend it. He spoke with certainty as if he had discovered the secret that no one else had ever seen in this prophetic book. And he threw out a random assortment of news headlines to prove his point.
At the end of the TV show, he gave you a gracious opportunity to buy more of his books and DVD’s to find out exactly how all the events happening in America today are fulfilling biblical prophecy.
I decided to look up this guy and find out what he believes.
He is a Oneness Pentecostal who denies the Trinity and believes that to be saved a person has to believe in Jesus, be baptized by immersion in the name of Jesus only, and show evidence of the Spirit by speaking in tongues. (You can buy his four-part DVD set to learn how to get saved.)
He has also made a boatload of money by selling his unique view of prophecy at prophecy conferences and on his cable TV show. He doesn’t pastor a church, have any theological training, or have any accountability to a governing board. But he is a supposed expert on the book of Revelation. And he has an eager audience ready to drink in his unique, absolutely certain, American-centered prophetic pronouncements.
Again, what is ironic is that my family member is a Trinity-believing, gospel-centered Baptist who would not even be saved according to this guy on the cable prophecy channel.
Now let’s throw in bunch of other ingredients to our concoction.
The polarizing politicization of everything in our culture, separating people into firm categories labeled the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”
Modern-day “prophets” proclaiming political prophecies primarily centered around Donald Trump. These are not just prophecies about him winning an election but they often go much further, even into scary heresy.
As I was praying today I saw a vision of DJT seated on a throne holding a golden scepter. He also had a golden crown on his head. This, I was shown, is his PRESENT status from heaven’s perspective. Heaven does not recognize JB having any scepter nor wearing any crown. …DJT was called and anointed by God to lead our nation and the world into a new era. (Johnny Enlow)
QAnon conspiracy theories that claim to have the “secret knowledge” (like the Gnostics of old) of what is really going on in our government and in our world.
End times predictions that see almost every news headline as having some kind of prophetic meaning that can be found in some obscure verse in Scripture.
None of this is really “new.”
Scripture warns about conspiracy theories.
Do not call everything a conspiracy
that these people say is a conspiracy.
Do not fear what they fear;
do not be terrified.
You are to regard only the Lord of Armies as holy.
Only He should be feared;
only He should be held in awe. (Isaiah 8:12-13)
Scripture warns about false prophets.
The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and My people love it this way. (Jeremiah 5:31a)
Scripture even tells us that no one knows when Christ will come back.
But as for that day and hour no one knows it—not even the angels in heaven—except the Father alone. (Matthew 24:36)
When the disciples peppered Jesus about the timing of His coming kingdom, He replied:
“It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)
Yet history is filled with false prophecies and false predictions of the end times. Here are just some of the dates predicted to be the end: AD 70, 375, 400, 482, 500, 793, 800, 847, 1000, 1033, 1260, 1335, 1504, 1524, 1528, 1555, 1648, 1658, 1688, 1697, 1736, 1794, 1836, 1843, 1847, 1914, 1918, 1936, 1941, 1967, etc.
Just in my own lifetime, I have seen 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Come Back in 1988; Mikhail Gorbachev identified as the Anti-Christ (and Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama too); Saddam Hussein, the rebuilding of the city of Babylon, and the start of the Iraqi War as the sign of the end; Y2K; the Mayan Prophecy; the Four Blood Moons; and a whole host of other “end times events.”
Yes, I believe that Christ is coming back…and probably soon…but Scripture has not given me permission to try to nail down the date or spend all my time trying to figure out how every news event fits into the prophetic calendar.
This can be big business and attract large audiences but it is not to be my focus.
But why does any of this matter? What’s the big deal?
The Bible makes it clear that behavior flows out of belief. How you think shapes your life. An incoherent belief system leads to an incoherent lifestyle.
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7)
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
In practically all of Paul’s epistles, he teaches us doctrine before he tells us what to do. We are sanctified by the truth (John 17:17). It is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).
It is sound doctrine…healthy doctrine…that leads to a healthy life (Titus 2:1-15).
If you spend all your time drinking the world’s Coca-Cola concoctions, then it may give you a temporary sugar high but it will eventually rot out your teeth and seriously impact your health.
You need something better to drink.
Start with the pure milk of God’s Word.
In a world where evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, I am to anchor myself firmly in the truth of Scripture. (2 Timothy 3:13-17)
This means that I need to study Scripture, understand it in its context, stay humble, stay accountable to other believers in a local church, be discerning, be wise, be sober-minded, live faithfully, and fix my eyes on Jesus alone. His return may be today. His return may be 100 years from now after I am gone.
What makes our present-day so dangerous is that we have never been exposed to so many various viewpoints by various people on various websites and various TV stations without any direct contact with who they are or any accountability for what they teach.
Jesus said that we are to judge false prophets by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20)
But it is hard to evaluate their fruits when we only see them on a computer or TV screen and know nothing else about their theology or their lives.
That’s why more than at any other time in history, we need to stay grounded in the truth. And we have to know our theology. We cannot indiscriminately combine dispensational, postmillennial, Pentecostal, political, prophetic, apocalyptic, Gnostic beliefs just because they seem to tickle our ears with whatever personal opinion, prophetic pronouncement, or political perspective that we want to hear.
So skip the world’s freestyle make-your-own sugary soda dispenser.
Order the water instead.
The living water that only Jesus can give.