Friday, April 15, 2011

Sunnyside Theology

Beware! Down the street there is a beautiful childcare facility. They have everything. The biggest jungle-gym sets, the coolest spiraled slides, swings, and an amazing, but safe, water fountain. Oh, and the best rubber mulch for safety.  You walk in the front door and there are the most amazing murals of jungle animals that not only go up the walls but hang over you on the ceiling. You can tell that they got into the heart and mind of a child when designing this place.  The center of the main entry sports a little cabana that you can find animal crackers, goldfish crackers, and little peanut butter and jelly sandwich wedges in the shape of a heart; enough to spoil every kid’s appetite for mom’s labored over lasagna for supper.  They thought of everything when it comes to childcare.  Changing stations, plenty of hand sanitizer, toys galore, nap zones, and Baby Einstein DVDs.  It’s impossible for a child to resist this place.  To drive by this place one needs a portable DVD player with the latest Pixar movie in play to act as a sort of shielding smoke-screen. 
Beware! It’s almost as equally challenging for a parent to resist considering that they have the most innovative tools to for fine motor skills training along with the expertise of a fine staff of teachers, therapists, and counselors. It’s like a family there.  They are all parents first and professionals second.  Who wouldn’t love it?
Beware! The best thing about it, at least for lots of people around here, is that it promotes Christianity. Every worker and volunteer says they’ve “asked Jesus in their heart to be their Savior.”  They have children’s Bibles available. The average person on staff would say they view themselves more as a missionary to spread God’s love to the children of our area. They don’t hide behind this; Luke 18:16 is on the front sign and the website as well.
Beware! Outside of the Baby Einstein DVDs and Dora the Explorer the volunteers usually sit around on the clock to watch MTV’s the Real World, Grey’s Anatomy, and Desperate Housewives.  After a few hours of playing Bible song CDs you will hear staff favorites anywhere from Hank Williams, Jonas Brothers, Lil Wayne, to Lady Gaga. It gives them a glimpse into the world around us from a safe distance; a way to look in the world but not be of the world. The staff’s mission is different from most Christian parent’s way of doing things, but we shouldn’t judge them. After all, so many churches in the community stand behind them and even make up the majority of the volunteer staff. This place is not afraid to promote Jesus Christ to the community, has brought more jobs, raised property value, and I wouldn’t have my child anywhere else.
The place mentioned above does not exist…as far as I know. But it’s not too far off from some of the “greatest” churches in our land. “Beware” is a Biblical word said often by Jesus. Does it mean anything to us today? Are we fearful of standing up against the amazing childcare facility because we would sound intolerant, hypocritical, or like it’s my way or the highway? Are we afraid of being labeled judgmental toward the owners and staff because regardless of their claim to be “Christian” or having the support of so many local churches they are placing the toxic messages of the world into our impressionable children’s minds? It’s hard for me to believe that any Christian parent(s) would fall for such deception and would subject their children to the peril of such an environment.
You’ve Got a Friend in Me
It reminds me of Sunnyside Daycare in Toy Story 3. Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear wasn’t all he seemed to be either. On the outside he was a big huggin’ bear who smelled like strawberries, but on the inside he was nothing but fluff. There’s plenty of self-professing evangelicals like that as well who are being promoted by the Christian bookstores, have venti-sized congregations with their very own Starbucks, get all the media attention, give the world lots of hugs, smell like strawberries and are full of fluff. Beware! Having a large congregation with a Starbucks isn’t bad. But a big crowd, lots of books, a cool website, sweet building, and Christian bookstore promotion doesn’t always equal true Biblical Christianity. A great sermon, or “talk” as some would prefer, wrapped in a trendy wardrobe, creative illustrations, Bible degree, from a pastor, preacher, or visionary-casting speaker, who speaks about Jesus and the Bible doesn’t mean that he knows Jesus and the Bible.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
The same God who said, “beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female” (Deut. 4:16), also said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). The same God who said, “Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations” (Deut. 29:18), also cautioned His disciples and said, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15).  The apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:3-4,
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.” (Italics and underlines mine, ESV)
Beware! Don’t take these warnings lightly.
Regarding 1 Timothy 6:3, John MacArthur states, “Paul identifies 3 characteristics of false teachers: 1) they “advocate a different doctrine” – a different teaching that contradicts God’s revelation in Scripture; 2) they do “not agree with sound words” – they do not accept sound, healthy teaching, specifically the teaching contained in Scripture (2 Peter 3:16); and 3) they reject “doctrine conforming to godliness” – teaching not based on Scripture will always result in an unholy life. Instead of godliness, false teachers will be marked by sin” (MacArthur Study Bible).
When referring to false teachers, don’t be na├»ve, Paul speaks of the “false brethren” in Galatians 2.  Jesus speaks of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). This is not a difficult matter to find references for in the New Testament. We’re not just talking about avoiding the snake-handling church on the back road.  We are saying to avoid, beware, be cautious that they are not in your midst leading you! They could be leading you, not within your own church family but through their books and/or television “Christian” programs. Scripture makes it clear: When you see a sheep with sharp teeth…it’s a wolf rockin’ a sheep’s fit! Don’t just get away from them – warn everyone else to as well! Stand up, point and yell, “FIRE”! Grab somebody and run for the exit sign, put the book down, turn the program off!
Don’t be afraid to hold the pastor’s and/or author’s doctrine to the fire of the infallible word of God. It is unchanging. 
When you hear or read of new “truths” and special “revelations”…BEWARE!
When you hear the health, wealth, and prosperity preachers preaching…BEWARE!
When you hear them talk about “seed money”…BEWARE!
When you see the self-help books, heaven and hell revelation books, Your Best Life Now books on the shelves in the Christian bookstores…BEWARE!
When it’s a church or preacher who carries the label of “emerging” and “emergent”…BEWARE!
Just because a man, or an angel, calls it the gospel and uses the name Jesus doesn’t mean it’s the same gospel and the same Jesus…BEWARE!
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).
Band of False Brothers
Don’t be afraid to say names.  It’s not judgmental; it’s Biblical. I don’t just say to my children, “Beware of the kids who are rebellious toward their authorities, who do drugs, sleep around, etc.”  I say that, and if I know one, I’ll call them out by name.  Watch out for that specific person because they will hurt you, they will lead you astray, etc. Jesus did it.  He called the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes and Herod out. Beware of them, He said. Paul did it. He called names. Know what you believe and watch out: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," (2 Tim. 2:15-19a). Phygelus and Hermogenes turned away and Paul let everyone know (2 Tim. 1:15). Demas left in love with the world and Paul let everyone know (2 Tim. 4:10). Why would they do this? The same reason we say don’t listen to so and so’s CD or don’t watch any movies with so and so in them. They are toxic to the health of your faith in Christ. 
Do you know what the word “beware” means in the Greek?  It means, “BEWARE!”