Official Blog of Author & Speaker Frank Viola. Digging below the surface and moving beyond the shallows in today's Christianity. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply so they can experience real transformation and make a lasting impact.
Quick Update:Episode 11 of the Insurgence podcast is live. In it, I discuss the mark of a false teacher, the mark of a true disciple, the humor of Jesus, and the carnage that comes from the hands of “Christians” every day. (You’ll need a sense of humor to get through the episode.)
Surround sound trumps (no pun intended) stereo.
Stereo systems contain two speakers. Surround sound contain five to seven speakers that surround the listener.
So the audio comes at them from different directions, blasting out highs, lows, and a spectrum of sounds in between.
Throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus coming to people in surround sound.
He’s authoritative while gentle. Strong while meek. Somber while joyful.
This stands to reason since Christ is both Alpha and Omega, Lion and Lamb, Priest and King, Master and Servant, simultaneously.
Consequently, if you only hear, see, experience Christ in one way, you’re not encountering the Christ of the Gospels. Nor the Christ of Colossians, Ephesians, or Romans.
He is the Absolute Paradox.
This is why no theological system can contain or explain Him.
This is why His disciples were constantly puzzled by His words and actions.
This is why the religious leaders couldn’t figure Him out.
He is Life and “life always finds a way” out of the boxes we mere mortals construct to comprehend Him.*
Here’s the delta: If Jesus isn’t surprising – or disappointing – you, there’s a good chance that your Christ is too small, and you’re not really growing in Him.
For He is both sorrow and joy, death and resurrection, suffering and triumph, somberness and laughter.
Christ doesn’t come to us in mono or even stereo. He reveals Himself in surround sound.
He doesn’t present Himself in black and white, but highly-saturated Technicolor.
This is why those who bear the testimony of Christ’s fullness will often puzzle, confuse, disappoint, startle, and even offend people eventually – especially those who have too small a view of Jesus.
Christ is simply too big, too paradoxical, and too vast to be contained in any limited theological box or doctrinal expectation.
Jesus is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”*
One of the best indicators of where a person hails from is how they talk.
I’m not only referring to their accent, but to the way they pronounce certain words. And even certain phrases they use.
In the same way, the way a person speaks reveals which kingdom he or she belongs to. Either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness (the world system).
This insight leads into the thorny matter of using profanity, vulgarity, cussing, swearing, and cursing.
Having been a follower of Jesus for decades, I’ve observed three different attitudes on the subject among Christians. They are:
1) It’s wrong to cuss for both children and adults, so don’t do it (without any explanation of why or even what constitutes a “cuss” word).
2) There’s no problem with it. Cussing is like eating liver. God doesn’t care if you do it or not. It’s up to one’s personal preference.
3) Then there are those who have never thought about it and assume it’s normal and fine.
But does Scripture address the subject? And if so, what does it have to say about it?
Suppose that God condemns the use of profanity. If that’s the case, what do we make of Christians who freely drop f-bombs and s-bombs, but then angrily condemn others for sins they hate (whether it be consuming pornography or drug addiction or greed, etc.)?
This would make profanity another example of the sin metrics game where some Christians get very angry with other Christians who sin differently than they do.
Or is swearing/cussing/cursing the moral equivalent of wearing a baseball cap in public?
In our most recent episode (Episode 10) of the new Insurgence podcast, John and I tackle this issue head on and add some thoughts on it that are not commonly discussed.
It’s short, but you’ll want to listen to the whole thing.
Certain words are offensive in the hearing of much of our culture. Before someone pipes in and says, “but swear words aren’t offensive to the culture,” think again. I was a high school teacher for many years and there were words that were “offensive” and couldn’t be used by the students nor the teachers without rebuke. That hasn’t changed in most public school systems today.
Further, many parents don’t wish their children to use certain words (you know what those words are). If such words aren’t offensive to a sizable portion of the culture, then why tell children and students not to say them?
So the fact that certain words are offensive to the culture – in general – is without dispute. The question that is in dispute is: is it acceptable for Christian to use such words? We are living in a time where there is less of a consensus among Christians than ever. For instance, I’ve seen arguments condemning and approving the following behaviors by Christian people:
*watching R rated movies
*having premarital sex
*listening to “secular” music
*supporting gay marriage
Swearing/cussing/ profanity/vulgarity, etc. is another topic to be added to the list.
Let’s reframe the question. Instead of looking at it through a legal lens – right vs. wrong – let’s put the question on a different mountain. Is the use of certain words that are considered profane/vulgar by the general population a help to the gospel of Jesus Christ or a distraction from it? To put a finer point on it, here are five questions to ask yourself within your own heart that may help you to navigate the issue:
Are you addicted to using profanity? A Christian should not be in bondage to anything (see Romans 6).
For some people who are in the world system, using profanity gives them the impression that you are no different than they are. I’ve heard people make this case all my life. “Christians are no different than us. They cuss, talk bad about other people behind their backs, gossip, slander, back-bite, and chew up their own. I don’t see anything that sets them apart from me, so why would I want to join them?” Is it possible that any of your friends or coworkers feel this way when a Christian uses profanity/vulgarity?
Do your spiritual instincts tell you that profanity/vulgarity is wrong? Before you answer that, determine if your conscience is operating or if it’s seared in that area. (A person’s conscience becomes seared when they keep ignoring it when it nudges them about something that’s not in line with the Holy Spirit.) One way to determine this is to ask if it ever bothered you in the past.
The heart is connected to the mouth. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Do you think that profanity/vulgarity in your own life reveals a problem with your heart?
Does your manner of speech violate either of the following texts?
Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Ephesians 5:4 – “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
Here are four more texts that relate to this business of swearing (using profanity/cursing/cussing).
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 – What comes out of your mouth is what’s in your heart. So if you are using profanity, your heart is inclined toward dirty things. Interestingly, many swear words have to do with intimate acts (the f* word is an abused word that degrades the act of sex which God created; the s* word refers to what happens during a bowel movement — a highly private act. Other swear words refer to the sexual parts of human beings, which God created).
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:9-10 – In James 1, the writer makes the point that if you cannot control your tongue, neither can you control your body – “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Note that swearing (profanity) is also called “cursing.” Cursing actually brings curses, and not blessing, upon one’s own life. Profanity, therefore, isn’t an insignificant matter. It points to issues that are far more serious than the words one uses.
“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk [filthy language] from your mouth.” Colossians 3:8 – Obscene talk is a clear reference to profanity and vulgarity.
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Exodus 20:7 – Isn’t interesting that when people curse, they will often use the holy name of God to do it. They don’t use the name of Alla, or Muhammad, or Buddha, or Confucius. No, they use the name that is the highest and holiest name of all – Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:9). To say “Jesus Christ!” or “For Christ’s sake!” or even “God damn!” as a curse or swear word is to misuse and degrade the holy name of God. While this is common for the world, it should not be so among those who follow, love, and honor the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, I’m not asking you to answer this question on this blog. This is for you to examine when you’re alone with the Lord.
Two further thoughts:
Some argue that Paul used profanity in Philippians 3:8 saying that the word “skubalon” is the equivalent of “sh—” today. That’s debatable. The word has a broader range of meaning. For instance, BDAG: useless or undesirable material that is subject to disposal, refuse, garbage [in var. senses, ‘excrement, manure, garbage, kitchen scraps’]. Some translations have “rubbish.”
Some argue that Paul allows just about everything in his statement, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” However, most scholars agree that the phrase “all things are permissible” is a slogan that the Corinthians were waving around. Paul quotes them, and then responds with “but all things are not beneficial or edifying.”
In summary, if you can answer a resolute “no” to the above five questions, you probably feel free in the Lord to use profanity/vulgarity. If you cannot answer “no” to them all, then you may wish to reexamine your speech before the Lord. For “in His light we shall see light” (Psalm 36:9).
A Final Word
It’s part of our culture that is engrossed by the world system to use profanity. It’s in the drinking water of all media, which leads to brainwashing the masses, especially our youth. A disciple of Jesus belongs to another kingdom which has it’s own values, culture, and way of speaking.
I’m writing this email on a Tuesday, two days earlier than usual, because my newest book — ReGrace: What the Shocking Beliefs of the Great Christians Can Teach Us Today – just released.
Let me say a few words about the book before I tell you how to download the first 5 chapters and get the book on discount.
It’s the funniest book I’ve ever written. The entire volume is peppered with humor.
It’s short. Less than 200 pages if you don’t count the endnotes.
If you like church history, you’ll find it fascinating (I expect, anyway).
A Quick Word About Rick Warren
Like all Christian leaders who are making an impact, Rick Warren has been unjustly attacked and lied about for years.
Case in point: Someone mentioned my new book the other day on the viper pit called “Facebook” and a professing Christian — who I don’t know — publicly attacked Rick with outrageous lies. The person spread horrible rumors about him that were debunked years ago.
This was both ironic and disturbing for three reasons:
ReGrace was written to expose and correct this kind of obnoxious behavior, showing it to be sinful and contrary to the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Rick didn’t write one word of the book. He just asked me to write it. So even if he were the Antichrist or the spawn of Satan, it’s ludicrous to cast aspersions upon him when the book is mentioned.
I’ve written extensively over the years about the Holy Spirit-grieving sins of slander, gossip, and rumors. Yet some “Christians” still traffic in them without wincing.
While Rick and I don’t agree on every point of theology (what two people do?), he’s a genuine brother in the Lord whom God has used to bring thousands of people to Christ. And he’s done far more for the kingdom than his blue-blooded critics have.
Slander is abuse, plain and simple. In fact, it’s so heinous that Paul says it’s a sin worthy of excommunication (1 Corinthians 5:11). So I have no tolerance for it, and neither should you.
That said, ReGrace deals with how Christians routinely mistreat one another over alleged doctrinal and political trespasses. And how we can change that.
Its message highlights an important aspect of the Insurgence.
ReGrace is available in paperback, Kindle, Nook, and ePub. The audio version isn’t available yet, but it will be in the future.
“Our son had done well. He went to good schools and graduated with accolades. He also served in the military for a time. He had a very promising career ahead of him.
Unfortunately, he has joined an eastern religious sect. The members of this sect call upon him continuously. They have given him a new set of strange friends, a strange new vocabulary, and, well, he’s just different.
He spends most of his time with the people in this sect, and he regards them to be his new family. He is closer to them than he is with his own flesh and blood.
They are constantly sharing their bizarre beliefs with anyone who will listen. He spends his time with the worst kind of people: criminals, addicts, and the homeless.
He’s sold many of his possessions and he lives very simply. He tells us that he and the others in his religion share their possessions with each other and they also give a great deal to the poor.
He broke off his relationship with his fiancé and ended many of his friendships, all because of his new beliefs.
He has also lost his ambition to be successful.
He no longer joins us to celebrate the holidays. His entertainment choices have changed too, and he’s renounced the religion we raised him on. In addition, he no longer loves his country as he once did.
His new way of living goes against everything we taught him. We are heartsick. We’ve lost our son.
He’s a failure now, lost to a strange cult and we don’t know what to do about it.”
Now who wrote this letter?
Answer: The letter wasn’t penned by the parent of a Moonie or a Hare Krishna or a member of the Heaven’s Gate cult.
Rather, it’s a letter compiled by aristocratic Roman parents who lamented that their children had become Jesus-followers. It was taken from letters and documents from the first, second, and third centuries.*
The letter describes those who have joined the Insurgence – both yesterday and today.
The gospel of the kingdom that was preached in the first century has been lost to us, and it’s high time we reclaimed and recovered it.
By the way, original Christianity is Eastern not Western. (Our Lord came from the Israel, which is in the East. Jerusalem is east of Constantinople.) Later, when Rome made it the official religion, Christianity became Westernized. But that’s another story for another day.
* Tim Oslovich from The Deeper Christian Life Network assisted me in crafting this letter. I first read it at the 2017 DCL conference and its part of the Everlasting Domain Master Class, which is available on the Network.
As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, kingdom citizens don’t think, react, or live like the world. However, it’s essential that we are continually reminded about who we are and the kingdom to which we belong.
This year, I created 6 spiritual affirmations that I read every morning.
These affirmations ground and center me as a kingdom citizen at the start of each day. I even printed out several copies to place in different parts of my home, just to “refresh” my mind in the afternoons and evenings.
1) Let go of how life ought to be and find joy somewhere in whatever your life currently is.
2) Ruthlessly eliminate all expectations of how your day should be.
3) Receive everything that happens today as passing through God’s sovereign hands before it gets to you.
4) All things that take place today – including the irritations and disappointments — will work together for your good. Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible.
5) You can’t control what others do, but you can control what you do and how you react.
6) Shift the responsibility on God to change the things you cannot. It’s His worry, not yours. 1 Peter 5:7 is still in the Bible.
Feel free to use these yourself. Or adjust as you see fit.
The Bible talks an awful lot about “renewing” our minds. Affirmations like these are part of that renewal process.
And no matter how seasoned a person is in the kingdom, we’re never beyond being reminded of who we are and where our allegiance lies.
So all the content on that website is under our domain. We have full control over it.
In the same way, this world’s true King – Jesus Christ – has a domain in which He has total control.
Satan also has a domain. It’s the world system. And the world system is under Satan’s domain.
If you have given your allegiance to any part of the world system, you are not under the domain of Christ. And Satan has ground in you because you’re in his domain.
Jesus knew this well, for He clearly acknowledged that Satan has his own domain.
If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom (domain) stand?
~ Matthew 12:26
Satan’s domain is temporary. It will come to an end one day. But the domain of Jesus Christ is an Everlasting Domain that has no end.
My exhortation to you today: Leave Satan’s domain, every shred of it, and come under the domain of Jesus Christ. In so doing, you will begin a new journey into the kingdom of God and all that it holds for you.
Put another way, don’t make the mistake of settling with the world, which is to live beneath your privileges in the everlasting domain of God – His glorious kingdom.
P.S. Here are 5 ways I’m helping others on the deeper journey:
1. If you’re a pastor or teacher who is preaching/teaching the gospel of the kingdom, attend MinistryMind 2019 – my Mastermind gathering for leaders. Registration just opened, so don’t delay on the application form.
I’m currently writing a series of new articles that I plan to send you in future editions of this Thursday email list. But they aren’t ready just yet.
So today, I refer you to Episode 3 of the new Insurgence Podcast. I have a new partner for this episode. I believe this episode meets a need that’s been ignored (by and large) among Christians today, especially leaders.
The podcast will feature a new episode every Tuesday.
I have two conversation partners for the podcast.
Partner A appears in the first two episodes.
Partner B will appear in episode 3.
Then each episode following will switch between partners A and B.
You can listen to the podcast through the following mediums. Be sure to subscribe as we cover the waterfront on the gospel of the kingdom — beyond what’s in the book and the Everlasting Domain Master Class.