I’m Retiring “Post-Christian” from My Vocabulary

I have been using the phrase “post-Christian” in sermons for a while now to try to help my congregants navigate our society. But I have decided to retire it. I had been using the term because it does accurately capture the loss of a “center” in American culture. This center consisted of concepts such as the existence of God, the moral nature of the universe, and the need for personal virtue as expressed in classic Judeo-Christian ethics such as the 10 Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount. The younger generations have been robbed of these foundations, leaving the secular gods to battle it out for dominance. So “post-Christian” captured that. However:

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“Post-Christian” is not accurate because nothing can be post-Christian.

Christianity will be the only religion standing because Christ will be the last one standing: everyone else will be kneeling. Like all generations we can only see backwards in time from our place in history, so we tend to view ourselves as indicative of how things are going to go: we have never learned the lesson of Ozymandias. But God is the God of the unexpected. The God who sees the end from the beginning. The God who humbles empires and exalts the humble. The God who directs the progress of His great salvation like a river through time. The eschaton towards which we are inexorably marching is an eternity of God pouring out His love on us through Christ Jesus, and there is no end to this marriage feast. There is nothing on the other side, so nothing is truly post-Christian.

“Post-Christian” is not accurate because the fundamental nature of the world has not changed and only Christianity can account for it with any sort of philosophical coherence.

The world is constantly trying to progress with no clue what it is they are progressing towards. Invariably, the world winds up producing philosophies that cannot account for the way the world actually is, and so they have to fall back on pretending the nature of the created world is different than what it is. This is why worldly philosophies are schizophrenic. Nietzche promotes the superman but he is a sickly little fellow. Cultural Marxists desperately acquire power while maintaining that the powerful are ruining the world. Post-modernists boast in the axiom that there are no axioms. Materialists claim there is nothing but matter and yet have invented gender. Only the unexpected contours of Christian doctrine trace the strange contours of the world in which we live. So the world God created will always be best described by the Book that God wrote.

Third, “post-Christian” wrongly implies that the best times are behind us.

It implies that Christianity had been tried and discarded as somehow unsuitable.

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

GK Chesterton

The thing about discarded religions and philosophies is that they become paragraphs or chapters in academic works, whereas Christianity is constantly being reborn from generation to generation. If you want to learn about Stoicism then you’ll have to pick up a book; if you want to learn about Christianity you go to a church. It would be more accurate to say that our current world is a Pre-Christian world. And because of this, we have hope that the younger generations (like the Millenials and the I-Gens) will turn to God in greater numbers and with greater passion than we expect.

Losing Your First Love

Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:1-7

Somewhere in my memory of a homiletics class there was a young man who chose to sing “You’ve lost that loving feeling” as the opening for his class sermon. I don’t have the temerity to do that this morning, but the lyrics are at least reminiscent of our text in Revelation 2. We want to consider this text this morning in light of the strangeness of 2020. The message of Christ to the church at Ephesus is book-ended in a format that will be repeated in the messages to all of the churches. This morning we will just consider the message itself, which breaks out into 4 components.


Christ commences his message to this church with a commendation for their faithfulness and endurance. Ephesus, like most of the ancient word, was not an easy place in which to be a Christian. Nevertheless, the believers there endured and did not faint. Furthermore, they were known for their labors. This may have included ministering to the sick and poor, evangelizing Jews and Gentiles, and caring for other believers in personal ways. On top of this, Christ commends them for knowing the truth well enough to be able to identify and reject false apostles. These commendations are all highly desirable for a church today.


Nevertheless, Christ says, he has something against this church: they have left their first love. The word “left” has a broad semantic domain, so it could refer to something as innocuous as leaving a bag, or it could mean something as purposeful as forsaking a spouse. It seems more likely, given the commendation they received, that this church continued to do the outward things of Christianity but somewhere along the way abandoned the love they had at the first.

Mankind is prone to initial bursts of emotion and adrenaline, but as any married couple could testify, love must be maintained. Jude commands believers to keep themselves in the love of God. Paul prays for the Philippians that their love would abound more and more. There is no excuse for loving God less as time goes on.


The severity of this criticism is indicated by the consequences it will have. Christ promises that He will remove their candlestick, no doubt referring to His presence in their midst as evidenced by the filling of the Holy Spirit. If the church continued to operate without genuine love for God, they would become a shell with no life. They would have the motions of a religious organization, but God’s spirit would no longer be present.

Jesus taught that loving God is the greatest commandment, so it follows that a failure to love God is a great sin. Many people today have adopted the identify of a victim. They feel as though things in their life have gone badly and that they haven’t had the advantages that others have had. This is a false narrative. The true story of every individual is the story of God pouring out His love to a world that by and large spurns it. This is exactly what happened in the Old Testament when God commanded Hosea to take a wife and love her, only to have her commit countless adulteries. Then, when she had fallen so low that she wound up in the slave market, Hosea was to go and buy her back and love her. The real story of life is the story of God’s relentless compassion towards those who have rejected Him.


What do you do when you “fall out of love”? Since the world does not understand love, the world has no good answer for this. Maybe many Christians don’t, either. Christ’s cure for their lack of love is that they should repent and return to the works they did at the beginning. Failure to love is not an emotional failure but a moral failure, and so it can and must be repented of.

Love and hard work are not mutually exclusive. I saw an advertisement for a marriage seminar that said, “Is your marriage hard work? It doesn’t have to be!” I rather disagree with that (although it’s hard to know precisely what they mean), but certainly there is a labor involved in love. We don’t love in word only, or in feeling only, but in deed and truth. Love lifts heavy burdens and love makes long journeys and love is active. We love primary by doing, not by feeling.


It is necessary for all believers to periodically evaluate ourselves and make sure that our love is waxing, not waning. The goal is for the most aged and mature among us to love Christ the best.

God’s Grace to Noah

Sermon Text: Genesis 6-9

Foundation #4 – God will not allow the corruption of the wicked to overflow His plan of redemption.

In 1953, Martians invaded planet earth and wiped out a large portion of the population. In 1959, a nuclear war wipes out the majority of mankind leaving only a few, who are soon to perish from the radiation clouds. In 1979, a worldwide famine results in a dystopian world run by rival gangs. In 1996, a virus wipes out the human population. In 1997, two volcanoes cause chaos. In 1998, planet earth was twice saved from the total ruin asteroids would have caused. In 2004, global climate change results in a deep freeze killing off most of the northern hemisphere. And in 2012, the Mayans turn out to be right as the world as we know it comes to an end and only those who escape in giant “arks” survive.

What is it about cataclysmic events that so captures out minds? One possibility is that there is psychological relief in playing out our worst fears in stories. But another possibility is that there remains within the collective human psyche memories of a day when the earth really was destroyed by a cataclysmic flood. The likelihood of this is actually quite high as we find flood epics lodged in various cultures around the world. Not only that, but the idea of a flood is buried deep in the linguistic lines of varied cultures. For example, in kanji the word for “boat” is composed of 3 distinct shapes, the one on the left being a bi-level structure, and the 2 on the right being the number eight over the symbol for mouth: boat = 8 mouths to feed.

Of course, the narrative of Noah and the worldwide flood has been the subject of scathing criticism by many, and I do not plan on addressing these criticisms today. I plan on making the biblical case and then you can follow up as you see fit. In today’s sermon, I’m going to try to explain the text before us and then as we get toward the end I will introduce the foundational truth which we are addressing.

In Defense of God

One way of misreading the Old Testament is to see God as a spiteful and petty deity who snuffs out those with whom He is displeased in a somewhat arbitrary fashion. When it comes to the narrative before us today, nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible makes it quite clear that God has allowed mankind to exercise some level of autonomy for several generations, and mankind has only used that autonomy to progressively delve deeper into depravity.

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 6:5

We see God attempting to limit the extent of the damage sinful man could cause His creation in verse 3, where man’s days upon the earth are limited to 120 years. But the final nail in the coffin is when the group of people known as the “sons of God” marry with the “daughters of men” and produce offspring who are mighty men of renown, and yet wicked. For a full explanation of this text, watch the video below:

The only way to read this narrative in a truthful manner is to understand it primarily as a story of salvation. It is true that mankind is worthy of punishment, but through these early days of our ancestors God showed a remarkable amount of restraint in His dealings with them. He does not act until the very future of humanity is put at risk, and even then He preserved Life. To this day, God continues to show a remarkable amount of restraint so that many will experience His salvation:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 

2 Peter 3:9

The choice of Noah, while an act of Grace, is consistent with the dichotomous family tree of Adam and Eve that split into the line of Seth and the line of Cain. Noah is described as a righteous man, perfect in his generations, and we ought to take that at face value without feeling the need to perform too many hermeneutical acrobatics around the concept of Total Depravity. In saving Noah and his family, God preserved the human race from absolute corruption – that is, a corruption from which even Redemption could not Redeem.


As we endure afflictions as believers, we must keep in mind that God often has us “in the fire” for a purpose and that our deliverance may simultaneously occur with the judgment of the wicked. God allows His children to experience suffering and persecution at the hand of unbelievers, sometimes to the point of death. When this happens, we need to remember that God would not leave us in the midst of persecution unless our salvation were already secured. But because our salvation is secure, God allows us to share in the sufferings of Christ as a testimony to the lost.

Sin is Crouching at the Door

Text: Genesis 4

Foundation #3 – Adam fell and now all humanity lives under the curse of sin.


On Thursday we had an opportunity to take our little camper out for the first time. We went down to Roaring River State Park and had a great time with the kids. As night descended and we were trying to get them to sleep, I emerged from the camper to find Katie shining her cellphone flashlight into the brush behind our camper where we could hear something stalking us. I got out the larger flashlight and shined it into the brambles, attempting to get the critter to run off. Finally, the beast emerged into the clearing: it was the largest armadillo I have ever seen. Well, not really. It was just an armadillo. It finally toddled off the other direction, probably looking to nab some food. Today, I want to preach on the subject of sin, and remind you that sin is no armadillo.

Over the last 2 weeks we have looked at the Fall of man in terms of How it happened and the Extent to which it affected humanity. In today’s sermon, we see a very early picture of sin’s effects upon mankind in the narrative account of Cain murdering his brother Abel. In it we see all the effects we talked about last week: man’s separation from God, man’s separation from man, and man’s separation from himself. Let’s examine the text together.

Outline and Commentary of Text

Genesis 4:1-5 – The Contention between Cain and Abel. This was a result of God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering and His rejection of Cain’s offering. While the Bible is not explicit about the grounds for rejection, there are 2 possibilities. The first is that Abel brought a blood offering and Cain did not. This would be a very early evidence that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” I personally do not think there is enough evidence for this, and take the second option, which is that Cain’s offering was unaccepted because Cain’s worship was unacceptable.

Genesis 4:6-7. God warns Cain about the sin that is crouching at his door. Several things are indicated from this. First, this was during a period of time when God continued to commune directly with humanity. Second, that God had no bias against Cain but rather wanted him to do right. In God’s warning to Cain, He attempts to get Cain to “own” his sin and thus be able to limit its affects in his life.

Genesis 4:8-9. Rather than exercise self-government and take responsibility for his personal failures, Cain chose to take out his anger in bitter vengeance on his brother, murdering him in the very field where food was grown to sustain life. In the place of fruitfulness there was death. Just as Adam and Eve instinctively blamed others for their moral choices, Cain first diverts his shame into murderous envy and then denies any wrongdoing before God.

Genesis 4:10ff. The rest of the chapter is dedicated to the disastrous consequences sin has on Cain. First, there is the punishment from God, in which we see that the punishment has some level of continuity with the sin. Abel’s blood cries out from the ground, so the ground will no longer yield its bounty to Cain. Cain slays his brother in the place where civilization is to grow, and so he will be driven out to be a stranger and a vagabond. But there are natural consequences for his sin, which include the worsening depravity in his descendants culminating in the strange song of Lamech regarding his own murderous conduct. According to the last verse of this chapter, none of Cain’s line called upon the name of the Lord, so the Lord blesses Adam and Eve with another son, Seth.

Sin is like a predator

It is always an enemy. Sin cannot be domesticated. There is no such thing as a “pet sin”. Sin is against the soul of humanity just as God is for the soul of humanity, and once this reality is discarded mankind is helpless. Sin is a parasite that relies on something living to sustain it. It is always a corruption…never original.

It is always lurking, seeking an opportunity. There is no vacation from the dangers of sin. We may leave work behind, or family behind, or friends behind, but we take our hearts with us. Sin lurks at the gate of the monastery just as much as it lurks at the den of vice.

It is overwhelming in its violence. It is true that sometimes sin grows slowly, but it equally true that sin can suddenly overwhelm a life. This is particularly true with sins like envy and anger, as evidenced by Cain.

It is devastating in its consequences. Joseph’s brothers brought the bloody coat of many color to Jacob and we can only imagine the mental images that haunted the doting father for following decades. Sin is like this..it rips and shreds and destroys in bloody messes. We see this in the brokenness of relationships in the world around us.

Hope for the Believer

In the face of this reality, what hope do believers have? Our hope is two-fold. First, we have hope that God has begotten us again (we are new creatures in Christ Jesus!) so that there is now more living inside of us than just the flesh. Second, we have confidence because our loving Shepherd does not put us in situations that are beyond us. The way of escape may be some inner strength, but in may also be the ordinary means of strength that come to us through Scripture, prayer, fellowship with the community of Christ, confession, and wise decision making.

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 

1 John 3:9

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

The Long Way Down

Foundational Truth – Man is fallen and now lives under the curse of sin.

Text: Genesis 3

In last week’s sermon we looked at the conditions that made it possible for man to fall: his moral nature and the presence of a genuine moral choice. In this week’s sermon we will look more closely at the extent of the Fall. The Bible makes it clear that mankind still retains the image of God. It is also abundantly clear by comparison to the other creatures of our world that man is superior in rationality, linguistics, imagination, creativity, art, and a host of other areas. If this is true, what were the effects of the Fall on Adam’s race?

On March 9, 1945, Allied forces planned a bombing raid on Tokyo of an unusual sort. Because most of the buildings in the city were made of wood and paper, the goal was to start a firestorm that would become self-sustaining and far more devastating than a standard bombing would be. The raid resulted in the destruction of almost 16 square miles and the deaths of between 80,000-130,000 civilians – more than were killed by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and almost as many as were killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

But humanity was not “burned to the ground” like the buildings of Tokyo when Adam sinned. Humanity looks more like London after being on the receiving end of Luftwaffe bombing raids for years: the buildings can still be distinguished but they are bombed and damaged. I think it was Barnhouse who proposed the image of a 3 story building. The top story represents man’s spirit and is completely caved in with pieces crashing into the second floor, which represents the soul-ish aspect of man: his intellect, imagination, motives, affections, and desires. The bottom floor is man’s body and, while still functioning, will inevitably be brought to final ruin given enough time.

Man Separated from God

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee” wrote Augustine of Hippo, and these words are true. The Bible describes mankind as dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2). This death is a spiritual death and means that we are cut off from communion with God because of sin. This leaves man unable to experience the fullness of humanity, and so we are like an amputee who senses something that is no longer there. Eternity is set in our hearts, but we can no longer search it out. This is spiritual death.

Man Separated from Man

Another effect of this devastation is that man can no longer look at his fellow man “face to face”. We can only see in part and we only want to be seen in part. We hide, we keep secrets, we don’t let others fully in. The longing to be “understood” becomes a complaint of hypocrisy as we are not only misunderstood, but we fail to understand others. Even in the closest of relationships there are places of distance. To complicate this even further, our competing desires lead to wars and fightings among us (James 4). These are the sociological consequences of sin.

Man Separated from Himself

But as if being cut off from God and from others is complicated enough, we must further acknowledge that man is separated from himself. The unity he is meant to be no longer functions as a unity, but man will act in a way inconsistent with his own principles, or speak in a way inconsistent with his own feelings, or present himself in one situation in a way inconsistent with the way he presents himself in another circumstance. One way to describe the effects of sin on man is to acknowledge that he is a fragmented creature, no longer able to summon the prerequisite morality to be a true unity.

But God

In salvation/redemption, God restores the fellowship between man and Himself by 1) pardoning the breach of sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ and 2) giving redeemed man a new spiritual life through regeneration. This is followed by the restoration of the soulish aspects of man, including the redemption of the sociological consequences of the Fall (the Church as the community of the Redeemed) as well as the redemption of man’s intellect, affections, desires, etc… This process is called sanctification and it is a process in which each individual must participate by exercising the new spiritual life within him in seeking after God and righteousness. The final stage of this plan is for the body of sin to be destroyed and the building to be resurrected in perfect righteousness, which is glorification.

Implications and Applications

Since there is a universal recognition that we live in a messed up world, it isn’t surprising that the world creates solutions. Because the world refuses to acknowledge that man is fundamentally sinful, these solutions never solve (of often even attempt to solve) to moral nature of man. So some will say that bad environments are the cause of problems in the world. But if we follow this to its logical conclusion, we see that the current generation has been raised in a world with more education, more money, better health services, and more liberty than any previous generation. Despite that, kids in $200 sneakers are throwing rocks at police so that they can create a more just world. Others attribute the problem to nature and attempt to solve it with various medications. But carried out to its logical conclusions is the moral evil of eugenics sponsored by people like Margaret Sanger, whose organization is still the largest abortion provider in our nation. Now we can acknowledge that there are benefits to improved environments (for example, a nation of just laws is preferable to a nation of lawlessness). Nevertheless, the final salvation of mankind can never be accomplished by any means other than the salvation of God. So while we should seek the betterment of others in every way we can, our ultimate hope is not in politics, education, etc…

This leads us to the conclusion that any hope of creating a Utopia on earth is bound to fail, because Utopia cannot exist when it is populated by sinful people. In fact, the quest to create a Utopia has probably caused more unnecessary death and pain than anything else in the last 100 years. In order for there to be a heaven, there must be a people fit for heaven. And only God can make a people fit for heaven.

The Fall of Man

Text: Genesis 3

Foundation #4 – Mankind has rebelled against God and now lives under the curse of sin.

Introduction: In the 1967 film El Dorado, a gunfighter named Cole Thornton (played by John Wayne) helps his old friend Sherrif P Hara (RObert Mitchum) defend a family’s ranch from a merciless competitor. When Cole returns to town with his new friend Mississippi (a very young James Caan) he is surprised to find the once proud sheriff to be a drunken mess. When he asks a mutual friend what happened, she responds, “What always happens: a woman.” That somewhat tongue in cheek line would fit the stereotype many people have of our text today in Genesis 3, but in a more thoughtful way we certainly could ask regarding humanity, “What has happened?” Clearly something has gone wrong with the paradise that God created for us.

All people sense that in some way life has gone wrong, but it is Christianity alone that has a cogent explanation for the angst we all feel concerning what is wrong in our world. Genesis 3 tells us that mankind has fallen from his original state and that the perfect world God created in now marred and occupied by a sinful humanity. Over the next two weeks we will look at how this happened and the extent of the damage. First, how is it possible that the good world God created fell into corruption?

God made man as a moral agent.

Just as there are physical laws governing our world and physical things are subject to those laws, so there is a moral law to which moral agents are subject. If we take an extreme example of murder, which almost all people would acknowledge to be “wrong”, we have to ask the question why it is wrong. When someone shoots another person, they are not violating any of the physical laws of our world. Rather, they are taking advantage of things like velocity, combustion, physics, biology, etc… in order to achieve a specific end. And yet the vast majority of people would agree that there is something wicked about the act of intentionally killing another human being. This betrays that we are all aware that human beings, unlike other living creatures in our world, live not only in a physical cosmos but in a moral world where choices can legitimately fall under categories such a good or evil, righteous or wicked, holy or sinful.

When Adam and Eve disregarded the words of God in favor of the words of Satan doubted the goodness of God in the face of personal gain, they made a moral choice with real consequences. Their fall is a pattern that has repeated itself throughout human history. Adam failed to lead, protect, and speak, choosing instead to follow. Eve chose to believe the words of a liar over the words of God.

God put man in a place where moral choices were required.

Some have wondered about the presence of the tree and the presence of an enemy in a place that was considered paradise. The reason for the tree is that in order to exercise a moral nature, a moral choice needed to be present. Without the presence of the tree the moral nature could not actually be used. The presence of the enemy, whom we identify as Satan, allowed an equal case to be made for violating God’s command. In this way the moral nature could really be put to the test, not in the sense of a temptation but in the sense that a runner’s speed can be put to the test. The moral nature needed to mature just as the intellect of man needed to mature.

God restrained judgment and acted in mercy towards His fallen creation.

Despite the failure of Adam and Eve to act in righteousness, God restrained His judgment. This is not to deny that life under the Fall is vastly different than life in Eden, but we see how God does not pour out the fullness of His wrath on his creation in a variety of ways. First, we see that Adam and Even can each fulfill their creation mandate, although it will be far more arduous. Eve will continue to fill the world with image bearers of God, although that process will now include the physical trauma of chidlbirth as well as the psychological pain of knowing that the child will live in a cruel and unjust world. Adam’s mandate to exercise dominion is still possible, although the work will be painful. Adam and Eve will still live together as husband and wife but now they can no longer live “face to face” but will be caught up in the tumultuous relationship of power, fear, shame, and dominance. God’s mercy is also seen His willingness to appropriately clothe them so that they could be safe from the elements, which are now hostile to them. But in order to clothe them, God had to take the life of another of His creation. There is something paternal in God’s willingness to rob of His world in order that His children could continue to live. And finally, there is the promise that one day the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. In this we see that great hope of redemption as God’s hand of judgment was stayed and passed over Adam and Eve and hundreds of generations of humanity before finally falling on the only morally blameless one who had ever lived, His own dear Son.

Implications and Applications

The story told by moderns that man has climbed out of the primordial soup and is gradually improving has resulted in the myth of progressive inevitability. Christians should not be guilty of worshiping the past, but modern philosophies that worship the future (as they think it will be) have probably created more injustice by trying to usher in a Utopia.

All are sinners through Adam. We tend to blame our moral failings (ie sin) on things around us just as Adam and Even tried to blame their sin on others. There were 4 moral agents present in the world in Genesis 3: God, who is confirmed in Righteousness; Satan, who is confirmed in evil; Adam and Eve, who had a choice. Adam chose to blame God and Even chose to blame Satan. But the reality is that they were 100% culpable for their moral choice.

All moral choices have consequences. Adam and Eve’s sin has resulted in devastating consequences for the created world. Nevertheless, we would be fools if we judged their moral choices and failed to take responsibility for our own.