The Most Masculine Thing Ever

I come from a world of strong men.

Bold men. Brave men. Men of courage. Men of valor.

Warriors.

Fire-breathers.

Many nights, I accompanied such men as we descended from the black onto the unsuspecting heads of the enemies of righteousness, those who would tyrannize their fellow man with whichever brand of wickedness.

These are strong men, men who stare Death in the eye and unflinchingly demand, “Here am I, send me.” I can think of few things more manly, more masculine than closing with and destroying the enemy in battle…

…well, maybe one.

Masculinity Corrupted

Our nation starves for masculinity.

Amid the tumult about ‘toxic masculinity’ resonates a deep misunderstanding masking a deeper need. The term itself is an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or French resistance or democratic socialism.

By definition, masculinity could never be toxic. From the curse of the Garden, men stray from the azimuth of masculinity in one of two directions, becoming one of two caricatures:

Caricature 1 (Brash Man): Brash Man takes the perceived characteristics of masculinity and magnifies them. Absent the foundation of these characteristics, Brash Man becomes defined by these same characteristics.

Brash Man exudes self-confidence. Manliness governs his actions.

My upbringing was defined by the action heroes of the 80’s. Think Arnold and Rambo. If you tell me Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, I’ll impugn your manhood right now. “Yippee-ki-yay,”—okay, I’m a pastor so don’t expect me to finish the quote.

          “Well, you gonna do something or just stand there and bleed.”

          “Remember when I promised to kill you last…I lied.”

          “Go ahead, punk, make my day.”

Brash Man exults in conquest, sexual and otherwise. Women swoon, men admire. Brash Man bends others to his unflinching will. Brash Man is capable. He can replace your alternator as easily as he can slap a mean rear-naked choke on your candy rear-end. Brash Man is what you want to be, until you don’t, or can’t.

We thrash young men with this caricature of who they ought to be, exposing deep perceived inadequacies. Some embrace it and pursue, others recoil and become…

Caricature 2 (Neutered Man): Again, from the Garden, Neutered Man simply yields.

Neutered Man gazes upon the worldly connotations of masculinity and rejects them wholesale. He yields his God-given role as the leader of the family and the church, surrendering them to the usurping woman.

Neutered man stands hapless as all that is righteous is stripped away.

The greatest treason of Neutered Man comes in his denial of the existence of his very masculinity and his championing of those who do the same. Gender-bending, gender-fluidity, trans-gender: these are all issues symptomatic of legions of men who’ve lost their way.

So Neutered Man meekly tucks his testicles between his thighs and does the only thing he can. He stands aside, lest he offend anyone with even a hint of testosterone.

Masculinity Demonstrated

I was reading, in the Bible, about the 30 and the Three.

King David had a crew of 30 mighty men, 37 actually, who fought for him, men of extreme valor and reckless courage. From within the 30, three stood apart.

Jashobeam, the chief of the three, killed 300 men at one time, with only his spear. Eleazar stood alone against the charging enemy as everyone else fled. Shammah too, stood strong against certain death as others fled. (2 Samuel 23, 1 Chronicles 11) These were men of renown, men of conviction.

David himself stood astride the fallen giant and removed his head with his own sword and then brandished the head for all to see. An emboldened army charged as the vanquished army fled. (1 Samuel 17)

So don’t hear me minimize courage or valor or strength or conviction. These characteristics ought to resonate from our masculinity.

Yet, masculinity is seemingly so much less than this, but really infinitely more.

Masculinity Defined

If you think you’re church is jacked up, read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church!

In his lengthy exhortation about how the church ought to run, Paul gets to a peculiar section on love, chapter 13, the love chapter.

           Love is patient and kind.

          “Love does not envy or boast.”

          “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Common to see these verses on Hallmark cards or quoted at a wedding. Yet, this is an exhortation to the church. In the middle of directing church-members how to conduct church, Paul exhorts them to love in this way, sacrificially and unconditionally. He concludes this section with one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Paul tells us that the business of a man is to love, sacrificially and unconditionally. Okay, yes, apply it to everyone in the church, but who elsewhere is commanded to lead the church and the family, to set an example but, the man?

It is the child who maintains concern for himself. It is the child who does not love in this manner. It is the child who demands the rights to himself. This is not the business of a man.

The real definition of masculinity resides in self-sacrifice on behalf of love.

This is the business of a man.

Masculinity Exemplified

As always, we find in Christ our perfect example.

Christ defines masculinity.

Consider. The Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Firstborn over all creation, the image of the invisible God, the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah…willingly and humbly went to the cross to save sinners, those who would otherwise hate him.

This is masculinity exemplified, sacrificial love.

There is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Jesus exemplifies the words of Paul to the church at Corinth in His willingness to suffer on behalf of others, even those who would hate him, that they might live. Jesus epitomizes masculinity. Forget closing with and destroying the enemy. Forget cutting the heads off our enemies. Forget a thousand other images of manhood, some biblical, some not.

Self-subordination, the relinquishment of self to others on behalf of love, this is the mark of a man, masculinity, as seen in the work of Jesus on the cross.

Masculinity Demonstrated

O’ man, what do you fence off for yourself?

To which part of yourself and your own desires do you cling?

Have you set aside your childish ways and loved like a man?

Very few of you will ever close with and destroy the enemy in battle, even those of you in the service. Some of you don’t know which end of a screwdriver to hold, much less how to actually work on a vehicle. You can’t tell a truss from a rafter. Maybe you’ve never even (gasp) fired a gun in your life. You’ve never killed anything or even been punched in the face.

Maybe you’re a mid-level office-worker with a boring job and no upward mobility. Life hasn’t turned out how you thought it might.

Guess what? You have an opportunity every single day to be a man of renown, a man of courage and conviction, even valor.

Pour yourself out for those around you, your wife and your children. Give to them what they need and quit worrying about what you need. Find that in Christ and in Christ alone.

Turn off the video games. Cancel the golf outing. Drop out of the fantasy football league.

Quit worrying about “you” time and collapse into bed each night from exhaustion…with nothing left to give, nothing left to offer. Be willing to suffer in love, to relinquish your needs, on behalf of those God has entrusted to you.

Be every bit the Firebreather—this is God’s call in your life, as a man.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford’s third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

FOLLOW THE 413!

Save the American Church—Elect Pete Buttigieg

Maybe VP Biden would work, as a nominal Catholic. Infused grace is no friend to imputation, as history aptly demonstrates.

Senator Booker’s liberation theology could do the trick.

Kamala Harris married a Jew and was raised by a Jamaican Christian and a Hindu mother from India. We should shy away from her as she seems to lean baptist, though her ecumenical roots could push her in a useful direction.

So, let’s stick with Buttigieg. As a married homosexual and avowed member of the ‘religious left’, Mayer Pete is probably the American church’s greatest hope for revival…but maybe not how you think.

The western church needs revival.

Every year, the western church cedes a bit more.

Each year, the American church ebbs further into irrelevancy.

The only western churches growing are the large churches, the megachurches. Call it the Walmart effect. The large churches offer programs, resources, facilities, shiny objects, whatever, things that your typical smaller church cannot.

Hundreds of smaller churches shut their doors each year.

Each passing generation becomes more unchurched. Most Americans still identify as Christian, but very few are active in a church in any way. Few ever attend a Sunday service, the most basic of all Christian activities.

Look no further than Europe to see the brimming cesspool of a dead church, a church with no life, a church with no mission, no witness, no Spirit.

“We need revival!” you’ll hear some proclaim. Well roll out the tent, get the praise band fired up, and get to preachin’! If you’re not picking up on my sarcasm, please forgive me. Haven’t we tried this?

The western church needs…something. But what?

The church was born of blood.

The blood of Christ, specifically.

The Gospel has always been accompanied by bloodshed. To the unregenerate man, the Gospel message is a message of death, either way, so why wouldn’t he hate the message as well as the messenger?

History bears this out.

Stephen, standing before the high priest and shouting, “Brothers and Fathers, hear me,” (Acts 7:2) before proclaiming Christ and Him crucified and being summarily stoned to death, Stephen stood first in a long line of those chosen to die for their faith.

Saul went about “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” (Acts 9:1) He literally went door to door, dragging men, women, and children off to prison and death for being followers of the Way.

John the Baptist – beheaded

James – killed by the sword

Peter – crucified

Paul – beheaded

The list goes on. Despised and hated by both Romans and Jews, Christians wore a target squarely on their backs. The general persecutions of early Roman emperors gave way to the Great Persecution of 304-05 A.D. Christians were burned, stoned, crucified, and yes, thrown to the lions in the arena and amazingly…

…the Church exploded across the Roman empire.

Consider that within a generation of the Resurrection, there was a functioning church in Rome, the very seat of persecution.

Consider that the only thing that distinguished Christians from Jews, to the Romans, was the Christian refusal to rebel or resist. Rebellion doomed the Jews. Their third rebellion, the Bar Kokhba revolt, turned into a practical genocide.

Consider that the more Rome tried to annihilate Christianity, the faster it spread.

Consider that Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D., shortly after the Great Persecution, forbidding all forms of persecution against Christians. In 380 A.D., the Edict of Thessalonica established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire. That turned out to be a nearly fatal blow to the church, but the point is, the harder Rome tried to kill the church, the more it thrived, the more it grew.

Persecution purifies the church. Persecution strengthens the church.

It’s always been that way.

Christendom is the enemy of Christianity.

Liberty, though a great blessing, always leads to collusion. The sinful hearts of men guarantee it. Coerced virtue is not really virtue, especially virtue coerced at the hands of government or perceived benefit from that same virtue.

Western Christians revel in luxury.

We benefit from a society founded on Judeo-Christian principles, a society and culture, until recently, largely in cahoots with the Christain faith. A majority of Americans still identify as Christian though the fastest growing demographic is the ‘religiously unaffiliated’.

I may say what I want, preach what I want, proclaim where I like…for now, anyway, and what is the yield?

Comfort. Contentment. Inertia. No urgency. The religious equivalent of a 98-pound-weakling cowering in silence while the bully kicks sand in our face and steals our girlfriend.

The western church is persecuted subtly.

Peter describes Satan as a lion, prowling around to see who he might devour. (1 Peter 5:8) A Lion does not always charge right in for the kill. Sometimes he stalks his prey, encircles it, leads it unwittingly into a favorable position. Sometimes he works in a team.

Satan steadily, obscurely, tightens the noose around the collective neck of the western church.

Daily we feed our children into the fires of ungodly and intentional indoctrination that are our public schools. We send them to the university where the conversion is complete. Young people abandon the faith in droves.

We drown in cultural wickedness, swim in licentiousness.

Much persecution in the west consists of reviling, as the enemies of God leverage LGBTQ+ issues, women’s reproductive rights, and other issues to mischaracterize Christians and slander the Lord. A Christian today can expect to be categorized as hateful, mean, bigoted, spiteful, close-minded, narrow-minded, and discriminatory. The enemies of God will even use our faith against us branding us Un-Christlike, Un-Christian, Hypocrites even.

They grow in their audacity daily as reviling leads to social, political, cultural, and inevitably, legal ostracization. Look no further than to our friends to the north to see into the future of religious liberty in our nation.

At some point, you will be forced off the fence. You will have to pick a side. They will demand it.

And perhaps that is exactly what we need, maybe the sooner the better.

I pray for revival in the western church.

Maybe we need a good dose of hardship to get us there.

I hesitate in saying we ought to pray for persecution.

I pray that we’d utilize the liberty God has afforded us to continue the work of our fathers before us. I pray that we’d embrace political freedom as a tool of spiritual freedom, a means to proclaim truth. In military terminology, we’d use the freedom of maneuver afforded us in the west to advance the Kingdom of God.

It seems like we’re moving in the opposite direction. Chinese Christians, under great duress, literally cry upon receiving the privilege of owning a Bible, the very word of God. Most American Christians would have to blow the dust off of theirs.

God will build His church. Jesus promises it. I believe it.

It’s always been watered by the blood of the martyrs. Why would today be any different?

Maybe Trump has been good for the nation. Perhaps. Perhaps Clinton would have been better for the church, or Kim Jong Un. Perhaps we could’ve moved past collusion and into obvious opposition, which maybe, just maybe, is exactly what we need.

Okay, okay, I don’t know if Mayor Pete would get us there. I don’t know if he would institute outright and obvious persecution against the church, but it’s coming. It’s coming here in the west. Make no mistake. The nets are drawing up around us, even as we speak.

And though I don’t anticipate it, perhaps a healthy dose of hardship and persecution is exactly what the western church needs, to filter out pretension, burn away the chaff, and usher in revival.

Are you ready?

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford’s third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

FOLLOW THE 413!

Jesus is NOT your homeboy…

Who is Jesus?

This is the most important question you’ll ever have to answer. Silence speaks volumes.

Who is the man, Jesus the Christ?

From prison, John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19) Before his beheading, he sought clarity on the most important question a man may ask.

Each man must answer for himself. Jesus demands it. His existence requires it. No one may answer for you, not a parent or a preacher or a spouse.

          “Who do you say that I am?” – Jesus (Matthew 15:15)

Casual Jesus

“I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.” – Cal Naughton, Jr. (Talladega Nights)

Though a silly quote from a blasphemous movie, this line epitomizes the western church’s casual view of Jesus. I can picture Jesus any way I like and I like him casual. Casual Jesus suits my needs.

Jesus is your friend, maybe your best friend. He is friendly and approachable, non-threatening, always smiling. He loves children, probably dogs too. He loves to walk around cradling a lamb, a gentle smile gracing his pleasant countenance.

Jesus is my homeboy.

Casual Jesus spawns a casual God. He is the Big Man upstairs. The Big Guy. You know, me ‘n God, we’re real tight. God is demoted to a grandfatherly type character who just wants us young people to have a good time.

Casual Jesus makes we want to vomit in my mouth.

Immediately following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the church was inundated with false teachings concerning Jesus. This was the spirit of antichrist. (1 John 2:18-23) The tradition of people teaching false things about Jesus continued throughout the centuries. Gnosticism, modalism, Arianism, just to name a few, all slandered the reality of Jesus.

In response, Paul tells the church in Corinth to destroy strongholds, arguments, and every lofty opinion that teaches false things about Jesus. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) Destroy them. Don’t acknowledge them. Don’t validate them…destroy them.

Today, shades of these heresies persist. We get casual Jesus.

Let us demolish casual Jesus.

The most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament is Psalm 110:1. God the Father, speaking to God the Son says, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.

The Lord Jesus is presently sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and He is about the business of putting all things in subjection to Him. At present, we do not yet see all things in subjection to Him, but they are, and they will be.

Jesus will…

…“shatter kings on the day of his wrath,”

…“execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses.” (Psalm 110:5-6)

Jesus is not my homeboy. Nowhere in Scripture is Jesus referred to as my friend. He is not my buddy or my chum.

He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and one day, every knee in heaven and on the earth will bow before Him, either in submission or subjugation, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Who is Jesus?

          “Truly this man was the Son of God!” – centurion (Mark 15:39)

Let us bow before Him in reverence.

Tolerant Jesus

You’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve said it.

“Quit being so darn judgy. Jesus would never judge like that. Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

Besides, Jesus hung out with sinners, eating and drinking wine. He was the life of the party. Just for the love of God, quit being so judgmental!

Please allow me to destroy the latter half of this fallacy first.

Jesus did not “hang out”. Jesus, God incarnate, existed in the flesh to accomplish the will of the Father, to redeem a people for Himself. Yes, Jesus went where sinners and tax collectors were. He dined with them. He lodged with them. He spent time with them…for a very specific reason, to call them to repentance, to call them to faith. This idea that we should just hang around ungodly people just because that’s what Jesus did is anathema to the Christian ethic and if we’re honest, it’s merely an attempt to justify our own desire to continue sinful living.

By all means, be like Jesus. Go to sinners and tax collectors, but go in the name of Jesus, preaching and proclaiming the Gospel of salvation.

And quit marking out entire passages of Scripture to forge a Jesus of your own understanding, one who would readily overlook a man’s sin, and again, if we’re honest, overlook your sins.

Yes, “judge not”, comes from Jesus. He’s talking about hypocrisy and judgement with a right spirit. Don’t be looking for the sin in others. Examine yourself first, remove the log from your own eye before you are concerned with the speck in another’s eye, and then you will be able to take the speck out of your brother’s eye, to restore him from his sin. (Matthew 7:5)

Tolerant Jesus is the Jesus we want. He is the Jesus we seek to invent. He is safe, friendly, and married to casual Jesus.

Scripture knows nothing of this tolerant Jesus. He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42) One day, all men will stand before Him.

But, who is He?

          “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” – Nathanael (John 1:49)

Let the reality of Jesus drive us to our knees.

Pitiable Jesus

I hate pitiable Jesus the most.

From the cross, Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

From this, people feel pity for Jesus. They feel sorry for Jesus. Poor, poor Jesus…and this becomes a theology of a pitiable Jesus, a weak Jesus, a neutered Jesus…a pleading Jesus.

He’s yearning for you and he’s standing impotent, gently knocking on the door of your heart, begging you to open it and invite him in. He is a gentleman. He never forces himself upon anyone.

Please.

Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, a psalm of trust that the Pharisees would have known cold. It triumphantly concludes that all shall bow before Him, that posterity itself shall serve Him, that His righteousness will be proclaimed to the people yet unborn!

One day, every tongue will confess that He is the Lord. Do you really think He needs your pity or even, gulp, your cooperation?

          “You are the Christ, the Son of God,” – Martha (John 11:27)

Liberal Jesus

Just as the religious right slaughters the person of Jesus, so too does the left.

They’ve invented a liberal Jesus to shame us religious zealots. Jesus was a brown-skinned rebel, an iconoclast, a socialist. He preached love and acceptance and tolerance and rebellion against authority.

I’ve come to hate this caricature of Jesus as much as pitiable Jesus.

Jesus is so much more than any of this. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Colossians 1:15) He is the radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint of his nature. (Hebrews 1:3) Upon witnessing the reality of the glorified Christ, John “fell at his feet as though dead.” (Revelation 1:17)

One day, He will destroy any doubts. One day, He will return, in glory and power, and He will strike down the nations and rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. He will judge and make war! (Revelation 19:11-16)

He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

          “Who do you say that I am?” – Jesus

           “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” – Peter (Matthew 16:16)

Let us surrender to Him today.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford’s third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

FOLLOW THE 413!

Sadly, Most American Christians Do Believe Good Works Will Save Them

It’s frustrating.

I didn’t want to believe it at first. I still don’t.

But me wishing it weren’t true doesn’t change the uncomfortable fact. Many American Christians remain imprisoned by the very idea Jesus came to demolish…

     …that we they may somehow earn the favor of God, our way into Heaven.

In recent weeks, I’ve become much more aware of the prevalence of this misconception. Rather, I’ve become personally aware of it.

It’s become personal.

What I’ve Seen

Photos of Jesus with KidsI’ve been blessed with wonderful church experiences.

I’ve been a member of three fellowships (two churches and the chapel while I attended Command and General Staff College). What I heard was faithful, biblical exposition. All three fellowships were led by faithful men of God who preached the full counsel of God’s word. They did not shy away from hard truths or tough topics.

At some point, I came to know the doctrines of grace, the beautiful and blessed doctrines that reveal the character of God, the heart of the Lord. The doctrines of grace describe the mercy and love by which a holy and righteous God saves men from their sin.

God saves sinners—the crux of the Gospel.

Once I came to know them, my desire to proclaim the Gospel, the true Gospel, became a blazing furnace in my soul. I could nevermore keep silent upon knowing and understanding the saving grace I had received some years before, though at the time of my conversion, I could scarcely fathom the depth or the source of the grace I had received.

Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – Jesus (John 3:3)

Jesus uses an appropriate metaphor to describe the new birth that is necessary for salvation, for seeing the kingdom of God.

Birth requires nothing on my behalf. I did not decide to be born. I did not seek to be born. There are no steps given to being born again. It happens completely independent of me. I am a recipient of birth. I am acted upon in birth. I am born or, in this case, reborn. This is the regeneration, the giving of the new heart, prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel centuries before.

God removes the onus for salvation entirely from human hands. It has to be this way. It’s supernatural. It doesn’t make sense to us, but my total depravity demands it.

The unregenerate heart hates it.

The idea of surrendering every shred of ability to save myself or even participate in my salvation grates against my human spirit. I’m sorry masses of evangelicals, but I don’t even participate 1% or .05% or less. You get the idea.

I am a corpse, was.

God breathed life into me. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

No dead man has ever willed himself to life, but that is exactly what many church-attenders believe.

What I Hear

I have not personally observed this, but I hear anecdotal accounts and it’s disturbing.

As we live in highly-transient military community, people ‘passing through’ frequent our congregation. By the time they get to us, many have visited numerous churches and the reports are similar. Watered-down, sugar-coated preaching. Shallow theology. Topical messages of personal empowerment.

You are enough. You are better. You deserve. You are powerful. You are worthy. And worst of all…you can and you will.

Be good. God would never condemn a ‘good’ person to hell. You know ‘good’ people. You are a ‘good’ person. You pay your taxes. You help people. You’ve never murdered anyone. You try to do ‘good’ things. You have a ‘good’ heart.

Why would God condemn someone as sincerely ‘good’ as you?

This is practical universalism and everything I hear tells me it’s growing in prevalence. The numbers back it up.

What Reality Says

Decades ago, the second best-selling book in the United States, after the Bible, was The New England Primer. From this short text, all children learned to read and write, but really learned the truth of the Gospel, reinforcing that which their parents were already teaching them.

Consider some of the sentences they had to write:

     – God having out of his mere good pleasure from all eternity elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of a state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation by a Redeemer.

     – We are made partakes of the redemption purchased by Christ by the effectual application of it to us by his holy Spirit.

     – The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

Children once learned to read and write by reading and writing the doctrines of grace, the truest expression of the Gospel message. In this way, they hid the sacred words of Scripture in their hearts.

The average Christian today could not articulate what these sentences actually mean. Biblical literacy declines continually as biblical error proliferates and perhaps the greatest error of all, a lie straight from the pit of Hell, is that a man can earn his way to Heaven or even that he must or may cooperate with God in that salvation.

False religions (all religions apart from Christianity) have this as the central tenet of their doctrine. I have to do things and once I do things, I may attain things such as the favor of God, even Heaven.

This teaching is anathema to biblical Christianity.

Yet, the numbers demonstrate a troubling trend. Increasingly, professing American Christians believe these lies:

     – Reincarnation.

     – Many different roads can lead to Heaven, including other religions.

     – If I do enough ‘good’ God will let me into Heaven, even without Jesus.

The last one, it’s what I want to believe, in my flesh. I want, at the very least, to have some say in my salvation. The idea of complete surrender of the rights to me and my livelihood is unsettling.

And the church cooperates in the propagation of this tragic misinformation.

Who I Know

A family member I love is caught in this trap.

I had suspected this relative of only being a church-attender for some time. Whenever he spoke of his faith he spoke of ‘it’, as in religion, instead of ‘him’, as in Jesus.

He is a good man. He helped build the new fellowship hall. He played in the worship band for years. He helped out whenever possible. He worked in the community on service projects. He attended, religiously.

He could not articulate the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.

This man had been a regular church-attender for the last thirty years or so and He could not tell me the first thing about grace and mercy. He felt no burden of sin. He saw himself as a ‘good’ man, a righteous man. He saw the sins and shortcomings of others and declared, thank God I’m not like that other man.

In short, He doesn’t know Jesus and as he is nearing 80 years of age, time is of the essence. He articulated to me the gospel of the western church when he said,

     “I try to be a good man. I try to do good.”

     “I feel like it [religion]  has made me better.”

For over two hours we talked and I shared Christ with him in any way I could. If nothing else, he heard the Gospel at least once but how could a man attend the same church for thirty years and at least not understand the grace of God on an academic level?

My spirit tells me this is far from unique to him.

This is the new/old norm, the elevation of works, even if in a seemingly minor way, that slanders the grace of our heavenly Father. May the true Gospel demolish these strongholds in our nation. May we repent of allowing this false gospel to flourish.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

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