Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Laboring for the Sake of God's Elect

It is easy to get scatter-brained in ministry. It is easy to get tired in ministry. It is easy (due to the scatter-brained fatigue) to forget why you do what you do. But then, God in His mercy, brings you to texts such as Titus 1:1:
[1:1] Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.
I have spent a great deal of time pondering evangelism lately. I've wondered at how I can be better at intentionally evangelizing. I've thought "How can my fellow elders and I mobilize our people to evangelize better?". And at the core of all of these thoughts and questions is one HUGE thing to consider: Why should we evangelize? What should be our goal?

This opening text in Paul's letter to Timothy offers the perfect answer to such a question. We labor "for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth." There is an apparent order here. First, the elect must have faith. How does that happen? And all the Calvinists answered "God grants them faith". And we would be right in saying so. However, that doesn't answer the question of how that is played our physically. Too often we give credit where credit is due to God in His work in saving souls while neglecting what we are to do in accordance with His work. The only way the elect will come to faith (not because it is the only way possible, but because this is how our sovereign God has ordained it to happen) is by the proclamation of His Gospel.

As we proclaim this Gospel, two things should be at the front of our minds at all times. 1) God's glory in His work of salvation. We must remember, in order to maintain our sanity, our humility, and for God to be most glorified that He does all the work in the actual saving of an individual. Everything else is simply a response to the work He has already done. 2) We must keep in mind who we are seeking to reach with our message. We must keep in mind what we labor for. Paul says it this way in Colossians 1:24 "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." Paul was well aware of why he labored and why he suffered. We too should be aware of this. We labor for the sake of the faith of the elect. We labor for the sake of the Church! My brother-pastor, Phil Fletcher once commented boldly on this passage in a sermon proclaiming that this is why he spends "day-in and day-out in 'ash and trash' (he was misunderstood by some): for the CHURCH!". If we do not have a desire to see the elect brought to faith, to see souls saved from the wrath of God, then why even bother with the name 'Christian'? Why waste our time professing to believe this Gospel if we are not going to share it with the lost, in hopes that God in His mercy might grant us a part in bringing His elect to faith? Oh! What a joy to be called to such a beautiful calling!

Secondly, the elect, once having been granted repentance and brought to faith must grow in their "knowledge of the truth". My favorite part of the Great Commission is after Christ has told the Apostles to make disciples of all nations, he follows up with another part to the work He was calling them to by saying "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you". (Matthew 28:20) Upon conversion, all believers are to be taught the deeper truths of God's word. Christ wasn't satisfied with mere professions, so neither should we be satisfied with mere professions; but we should earnestly desire to see men and women who are growing in their knowledge of the truth of God's word. It is by this deeper knowledge that even more converts will be made! Think about it. If Christians know more about God's word, will they not be more bold about teaching it to others? Will they not also know more their responsibility to share the truth with as many people as possible, in the hopes that God might save some? This is what will take some of the load off of the pastors in our churches. Pastors/Elders should not be bearing the weight of evangelism alone! But they should be teaching their congregation to grow deeper in their knowledge of the truth.

Paul goes on to say that these things "accord with godliness". Time does not allow me to type, nor you to read all the things we could say about godliness, so I will restrain it to this simple fact. When we labor for the sake of the faith of God's elect and they grow deeper in their knowledge of the truth, we are practicing godliness and godliness will be seen in them. Godliness could be equated to the biblical teaching of holiness, and the author of Hebrews tells that without holiness, no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14). Therefore we should strive to be holy and we should push our people to be holy. As we labor for the sake of the faith of God's elect, and for their knowledge of the truth we should strive to see godliness poured out in their lives as well. If we do not, we are wasting our time.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

10:50 P.M. and I'm getting old in my young age

[33] Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
[34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
[35] “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
[36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

Can't Sleep...

Seeing as how I'm getting old in my young age (22), I'm usually in bed and asleep by 9:30. But not tonight. Why? Well here's the deal:

My wife and I enjoyed a nice evening out in Little Rock. We are simple people. Let us go to Mardel, the mall, grab a bite to eat, and then Barnes & Noble and we are satisfied. We often enjoy more of the conversations we have than the things we do, so it's best to do things that don't require a lot of our attention. I love my wife and I hang on every word coming out of her mouth when we get into discussions concerning anything that she's passionate about. She amazes me because behind that quiet, sweet demeanor is a woman who is more than capable of holding her own in a tough conversation. We arrived back to our humble abode at about 9:30 (please note that this is usually when we would both already be asleep). We put away our findings from our journey, then laid down for the night. But I couldn't even get close to sleep.


Because I preach tomorrow. I always get jittery the night before a Sunday when I'm preaching. I love the Word of God so much! And I love His Church so much! My deepest desire in life is to know God more and make Him better known to those I have the opportunity of knowing. We are currently journeying through Romans in our local assembly. The book of Romans is heavy. And here's what's funny; it's not the text that I'm preaching tomorrow that is keeping me awake. Not that it's not a huge text. And not at all that I'm not trembling at the fact that somehow God is going to use (or not if He so decides) to help His people better understand Romans 4:13-25. It is no doubt a weighty text and one that should bring us great joy and hope. But the text that is keeping me up is still MONTHS away. It is the text quoted above.

This night I am in awe of God! This night I marvel at how He decides to work and how in His working He tells me to either speak highly of Him or to SHUT UP! If the words that flow from our mouths do not proclaim God's excellence, then we are wasting perfectly good air that someone else could be using to speak highly of the Most High. God's ways are so deep! So rich! So wise! He knows ALL! But yet, we sometimes think that we have things to add to His perfect articulation of what He purposes to accomplish and how. We are such fools!!!

His judgments (what He decides to do and how) are so unsearchable! We could spend eternity trying to figure out what in the world God is doing and why and how but we would still only scratch the surface of the tip of the great iceberg that is God.

His ways are INSCRUTABLE. If the human race could only begin to understand what this word means when it is used to describe God's ways. Literally it means that His ways are IMPOSSIBLE to UNDERSTAND. Oh how joyous! That all of us arrogant, pompous fools have met the great impossibility of being able to understand what God is doing. All of you who "disprove" God with you logic and your scientific or philosophical arguments are left completely and utterly stupefied by Him.

No one knows God's mind. Nobody gives Him counsel. And no one has a gift to offer Him that He should owe anyone anything! Because, from Him and through Him and to Him is everything! Surely to God be the glory alone!

So in the morning, when you wake up and have your morning routine (or lack thereof for some of you) whatever that looks like: consider this passage of Scripture from Romans 11:33-36. Consider what this means. Consider how it should shape your worship. Let it move you to earnestly desire to feel His presence in your Sunday gathering. Let it move you to use your spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ. Let it cause you to be humbled before the God of Heaven crying out "Holy! Holy! Holy! is the LORD, God Almighty!". When the music director leads in song, SING at the top of your lungs, regardless of your "musical abilities" (whatever that is suppose to mean anyway!). When your pastor stands up to bring the book (hoping for his and the churches sake that he does so), seek to actually follow along in your Bible and seek to understand the passage of Scripture laid before you. Seek to actually WORSHIP during your "worship" service. If these things don't happen, I'm sorry to say that you most likely have a jacked up view of God and who He is, and what His Church is purposed to do and how and you need to seek Him out in the Scriptures, get on your knees and trust Him to teach you because you are in great peril!

So to God, maker of Heaven and Earth, sovereign over all things, be all the glory, all the power, and all the honor forever and ever! Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Trusting God's Sovereignty in Discipleship

Discipleship can be one of the most frustrating parts of the Christian walk from both sides of the spectrum. On the discipling part, your disciple can frustrate you and sometimes make you want to quit. On the disciple side, your discipler can at times seem too hard on you and make you feel like they are never satisfied. Both of these feelings are perfectly understandable. But here's a question: How can we apply the Gospel of Grace to both sides?

Here Are My Thoughts...

Too often, as "disciplers" we go into discipleship with this illusion that we can bring about the changes that we desire to see in our disciples. This illusion begins at the early stage of discipleship, evangelism. We can not preach the Gospel of Christ expecting that the fluency of our speech, the eloquence of it, or the passion we use to change our hearers. Only the power of the Holy Spirit moving through the clear, articulated words of the Gospel can bring about any kind of change. We have no control over the effect.

In Christ's command at the great commission to "make disciples" there is an implication that is breathing heavily down the neck of the text for the readers to embrace. That implication is that part of discipleship is evangelism. The reason for saying that evangelism is part of discipleship as opposed to separate is that upon making the disciples, Christ says to baptize them. For them to be baptized, they have to be believers! For them to be believers someone has to preach the Good News to them! Before we can begin our weekly Starbucks meetings with our ESVs and John Piper books, we must begin on the streets, at our jobs, at school and at home, proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that we are all totally depraved in our sins and lost in our sinfulness; that He came to save sinners and in His death on the cross He offered up the perfect sacrifice for those who would believe in Him, and that the only proper response to His sacrifice is to repent from our sins and trust Him to save us!

For those who "confess with their mouths and believe in their hearts" Scripture says that they "will be saved". From here, we can move into the weekly Starbucks meetings. Once we get to this point, however, we must still guard against the "control illusion". Our regular, continual pouring into of a redeemed individual is no different than our Gospel presenting, urgent pleading for their conversion. It must be done with complete confidence in the Sovereign Lord, God to do His work.

In Philippians 1:6, Paul puts this concept forth when he says that he is "sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Paul expresses his confidence in God from beginning to end in the changing and perfecting of the hearts of his disciples. We must learn to have this same confidence in our discipleship. Without it, we will fail.

This is not to deny our responsibility to think deeply about what the men/women we meet with need to hear; and this based on what they are dealing with personally. A helpful discipline in discipleship is to know your people. Know the way they think, the way they act, and their tendencies to respond in certain ways to certain things. In doing this, we will serve them better.

This also is not to deny the responsibility of a disciple to be willing to submit to their "discipler", to be flexible enough in their schedule to make time to meet, and to take what they learn and strive to actively apply in their day-to-day life. Both of these things; the discipline of the teacher and the commitment of the student are necessary to the success of discipleship. But we must understand that both of these things will come through the Holy Spirit working in individuals.

Some Practicalities...

Teachers: Be patient with your disciple. Don't expect immediate change. Don't expect them to always think and interact with you on the same level. If they were doing that, then your job would be complete. Give them time to soak up what you say and to ponder on what you have for them to learn. Let them see you struggle. It will remind them that you are human and at the same time, teach them humility in your allowing them to see you struggle.

Pray diligently for the Lord to reveal what your students need to learn. Pray diligently for Him to make changes in their hearts. Trust Him to do these things, and be satisfied for Him to do them in His timing.

Lastly, but of utmost importance, pray for yourself; that they Lord would sustain you and protect you from burn-out. Discipleship is hard work, and can take a toll on your mind, body, and soul.

Students: Be patient with your teacher. Don't expect them to always have the answers to every problem.  Remember that they are human just like you. Remember that they have lives outside of you and that they get tired, saddened, and stretched. Don't feel like a burden when they are struggling, but rather use it as an opportunity for you to learn humility from them in their allowing you to see them struggle. Ponder on what they teach you. Listen openly to their teaching, while at the same time, testing it against Scripture.

Pray diligently for the Lord to reveal to them what you need to hear. Pray diligently for them to be strengthened and to not lose heart.

Lastly, but of utmost importance, pray for yourself; that the Lord would sustain you and protect you from burn-out. Being a disciple is hard work, and can take a toll on your mind, body, and soul.

[12] Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why the zeal?

My previous post dealt with "what I (as well as you) can do" to see Christian Boys become Godly Men. In this post, I want to deal with why I have this desire. And the explanation is a complex one. Because it is not merely due to the teaching of Scripture, although that is a huge part of it. But, it is also due to a lot of things that I see in life, in homes, and in churches; and practical observations I make as I see these things.

A blend of the practical and biblical reasons I desire to see this is explained here, by my friend Gage Jordan.

As I look out in the world I see a lot of boys disguised as men and a lot of men acting terribly like boys. I see boys who talk about being a man. They sadly, actually think they are a man. But what the God of the universe considers to be a real man, looks nothing similar to their portrayal. I see men who don't work and let their wives provide for their families [I understand there are varying circumstances] with no effort to chip in at all. Within their marriage they don't get a wife. They get a babysitter, a mom, and a prostitute all in one package.

Just as bad as these boys/men outside of the church, are those inside the church. Now, within the Local Church men may pay their bills, not cheat on their wives, and participate in their local gathering; but this is only scratching the surface of what a Godly man is.

So why the passion? Why write about being a Godly man? And the answer is two-fold and simple. First and foremost what I see in Scripture is God calling men to be faithful towards Him in ALL aspects of their lives, and to seek Him with blood, sweat, and tears each and every day! Secondly, is my experience of what a man who diligently seeks the LORD in all of his ways does for his family and the Local Church.


[2:1] You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, [2] and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. [3] Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. [4] No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. [5] An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. [6] It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. [7] Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
(2 Timothy 2:1; 2 Timothy 2:2-7 ESV)
We've already covered verse 2 in previous posts. But let's take a moment and walk through this text, verse-by-verse and hit on each point that the Apostle Paul makes.

  • Verse 1: Paul urges Timothy to be "strengthened" by the grace that is in Jesus. Imagine the implications! The Greek word Paul uses for "be strengthened" is a present passive imperative; meaning three things for Timothy. (1) Be strengthened NOW. Do not wait. (2) He is commanded by his teacher and Father in the Faith to be strong. He has apostolic authority directing him. (3) Timothy cannot do this on his own, but his strength must flow from Christ!
  • Verse 2: This verse is the second command for Timothy from Paul. The phrase "what you have heard from me" would have encompassed EVERYTHING that Paul had taught directly to Timothy as well as the things he had observed from Paul's teachings to others also. Timothy was to do the same Paul had done for him for and with others who were capable of carrying the same load. 
  • Verse 3: Paul commands Timothy to suffer. Weird right?! But suffering is a staple in the Christian life. It is through suffering that we are strengthened by learning to rely on Christ. It is through suffering that others observe the Gospel in our lives. It is often times through suffering that the glory of God is proclaimed! So we are to suffer BECAUSE we are good soldiers of Christ. To not suffer, would disqualify us for this honorary role.
  • Verse 4: The Christian is compared to a soldier. This makes perfect sense with how Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12 to fight the good fight and how he says of himself later in 2 Timothy 4:7 that he has fought the good fight. We are not distracted by secondary issues. This example is given to expand on Paul's previous comment about suffering. Our sufferings and others sufferings are not to distract us. They are to push us harder to the throne of God!
  • Verse 5: The Christian is compared to an athlete. But not only an athlete, but a winning athlete. Paul gives one condition for the athlete being crowned. But another is simply implied. He must WIN! But not only win, win with honor; win having competed according to the rules. Who makes the rules for us? The Lord! The rule referred to here, however, is again the rule of suffering. Paul is emphasizing yet again that suffering is a must, not an option.
  • Verse 6: The Christian is compared to a farmer. Farmers were and still are hard workers. And in the farmers hard work, he reaps many benefits. What benefit is in it for us work hard? "The crown of righteousness" that Paul mentions is 4:8! The Christian is redeemed of God, fight's the good fight, runs the race, works HARD and reaches glory all for and through Christ Jesus!
  • Verse 7: The Christian is to think over these things. We are to ponder the commands of God. In this pondering, God will give us understanding. Oh, how beautiful a thing it is do more deeply understand God!

Compared to many, I have not been on this earth long. I'm only 22 years old, and for some, that might disqualify me to speak on this subject. But what God calls me to, I cannot deny. And I will not let anyone despise my youth. Being a "Timothy" myself, I have a "Paul". Actually I have many "Pauls". Some of these men might put themselves on the same level as me. But I'm here to say that I have learned much from them and am thankful for their diligent service to the Lord.

  • Dad: I am blessed to have been born in a Godly family. They were not always perfect, nor have they all been Christians my whole life. But for me, I cannot tell the difference. The love for God that is in me speaks to me as if I had lived my whole life under Paul himself. My dad, despite his faults, is a man who loves the Lord, loves his wife, and has loved me the way a Godly father should. He struggles for the sake of Christ to see a dying church grow, and is humble enough to come to his son for help, despite our age difference. For this man, I am forever grateful. 
  • Grandpa: My grandfather is by no means the most theologically sound man. As regards formal education, he knows little. But as regards how to stand for the Lord and how to teach a young man the ways of life, he knows much more than most.
  • Phil Fletcher: No pastor, outside of my dad, has ever given me such a chance to grow. When other men looked at me and saw nothing more than an overzealous, loud-mouthed Calvinist, Phil gave me a chance to grow in the grace of Christ. He trained me, he taught me how to love my wife, he commissioned me, and he wisely and humbly was aware of his own limits and placed me in the position I am now at my local church. There are few on earth who I respect more or am more thankful for (actually only two, as seen above).
  • Gage Jordan and Brian Kingston: These guys have to go in the same category because not only did they come into my life at the same time, but they both taught me very similar things. They accepted my zeal. They sought to teach me during my freshmen year in college. But most of all, they've been faithful friends and brothers in the faith. It's good to know that I have guys fighting the good fight beside me as faithful as these two men.
  • Cory Nelson: This guy doesn't think he belongs here. And that's okay. We can fight about it later. Cory has taught me how to keep my mouth shut. He has taught me, through his example, that a love for Christ does not always have to be displayed with outward, loud, in-your-face ways. But that it can just as passionately, just at glorifying to God be done in a quiet, humble way. Without Cory, I would be very tired, still trying to fix everything wrong in the world and by now would have lost my voice from shouting from the rooftops "repent!". For him as well, I am very grateful.

If you are a Christian, and you are not seeking to glorify God in EVERY aspect of your life; if you are not watching carefully how you walk in ALL parts of your day; if you are not making disciples for the sake of Christ, get to work! There is no time for little boys in the church of Christ whom He shed His blood to obtain. If you are a husband who is treating his wife like a housekeeping prostitute rather than your own flesh, wake up!

[12:1] Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, [2] looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It Started With Earl

I picked up an excellent book at a used bookstore here in Conway a few weeks back, and just recently cracked it open. It is titled "Disciplines of a Godly Man" by R. Kent Hughes. So far, the book is great. But greater than the book, is the reminder the Lord gave me through reading what I have to this point. He reminded me of my desire to see Christian boys grow to be Godly Men. He reminded me why I desire this, in what way I can take part in this, the time frame for this happening (explanation pending), and what brought me to this point. With all of these considered, this post and the following three will explain each of these reminders. I hope that it stirs men and women alike to take part in discipleship within the Local Church and to not let social norms keep them from reaching out to the "undesirables".

Keep in mind, as you read this story, that I was much younger and immature at the point in my life that is being portrayed. I'm not proud of every method or word-choice that was used at this time, but the point of the story is what God was teaching me through this experience. Enjoy.

It started with Earl...

I started college at Central Baptist College in Conway in August of 2008. Upon my arrival, one of the first individuals I encountered was a misfit, seemingly slow [emphasis on "seemingly"] guy whose hair ran "to him and away from him, at the same time" (Gage P. Jordan). I didn't pay this guy any mind because he reminded me greatly of an annoying kid from high school that I had vowed to never come into contact with again. (Did I mention I was a christian?)

I succeeded in not having to talk to him much, but with C.B.C. being the small college that it was/is, it was impossible to avoid catching facts and vibes of how people felt about this guy, and who he was. His name was Richard Earl Rogers. He was a missions major whom apparently made not just me uneasy, but others as well.

Come to find out, Richard lived three doors down from me in William's Hall. Needless to say, it was going to be hard to avoid him forever. Our paths would cross from time-to-time but I managed to keep the conversation limited to; Me: "What's up Richard?" Richard: "Oh, not much." (in a coarse southern accent not unlike Carl from Slingblade). I kept this pace up for a couple of weeks, but little did I know things were about to change drastically, for the better.

During this time, I had become pretty good friends with my roommate, Brad. Brad was a preppy kid, which definitely didn't meet my typical "social standards", but he was the most normal guy I had met at this point. Soon I was connected with a youth pastor named Gage [quoted above]. Gage didn't quite meet my "social standards" either, but we shared very similar ideas on discontent with the state of churches and the way ministry was being done across America [because we really had a firm grasp on the situation].

Suddenly I was spending night, after night down the hall in Gage's room, discussing theology, and church, and making gay jokes. (We were keepers) I was so glad to finally be able to talk about the things that had been heavy on my heart for quite some time with someone who felt the same way. A brotherhood was established.

One night, in the middle of a Mark Driscoll podcast, there was a knock on Gage's door. Figuring it was just a student needing Gage to let them in their room (he was an R.A.) I walked to the door to let them in. When I opened the door, there stood Richard, with a goofy smile on his face. "What's up Richard?" I inquired. [We still weren't passed that point.] He then proceeded to step into the room, uninvited, and plopped down at the foot of Gage's bed. He spent the next hour pouring his heart out about not liking who he was, how people thought about him and how he didn't like it when we cussed because his mom told him that it was bad.

After listening to the whole bit, Gage and I went into discipleship mode. [We had no idea that's what it was at the time.] Gage gave Earl [We didn't like the name "Richard" so we started calling him by his middle name.] a great deal of good advice on his point of view of a lot of things. Me, being the more practical one who desired instant results, I waited for Gage to finish then grabbed Earl and took him to the bathroom and told him to sit down in a chair, and wait.

I went to my room and grabbed my hair trimmers, then to Earl's room to lay out his outfit for the next day...

That night, Earl received a complete dude makeover. His head was buzzed, his eye-brows were trimmed, and he had a fancy chin patch for a beard. The next day he wore the clothes that were picked out for him and followed the strict orders of "Do not look at anybody, unless they speak to you. Do not speak to anybody unless it is to be polite. Do your best to keep you conversations limited to 'Hi','Yes ma'am','Yes sir', 'No ma'am', and 'No sir'." Earl finished up that day overjoyed with the way people reacted to him. And from that day forward, I had a younger brother in the faith, and he an older one.

Today, Earl is continually growing as a Godly Man. I have grown, recognized some failures I made in my leadership with him, and repented. He has graciously forgiven me where I have failed, and done his best to trust me and listen to me, while above all, trusting and listening to Christ.

Here's my point...

I don't intend for you to think that I think that forcing someone to change their clothes, looks, and habits is discipleship. But I do intend for you to realize that there are times when that can be a part of discipleship. You see, we have this idea that discipleship is all about teaching the Bible to people on a scheduled rotation between our busy lives outside the church and our pathetic lives inside the church. But it's so much more than that! Christ tells us that as we make disciples, we are to teach them to "observe all that [he has] commanded [us]". (Matthew 28:20) And the Bible speaks to much more than our knowledge of what it says. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) Notice the phrases used in this popular text. Do you see how they all relate to more than knowledge. This passage tells us (along with many other things) that the Word of God really is what man shall live by alone. (Sola Scriptora) It tells us that as we follow 2 Timothy 2:2 we are, in addition to teaching scripture in word, we are to also be teaching scripture in deed. We are to be leaving an example for our disciples to follow.

And lastly, we are NOT to think, as Christians, that we are to good to love anyone. Christ proves that in the Gospel. The fact that he was willing to leave glory, to come here with and to save us filthy, sinful, unrighteous people should compel us to love the unlovable. It should cause us to desire to teach the unteachable. And most of all, it should cause us to guide the unrighteous to righteousness through Christ. The Gospel affects everyone. It is for everyone because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and therefore all are sinners, and "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" We don't know the elect of God, so let us proclaim boldly and scatter the Gospel seed faithfully! Let us make disciples of all nations and not fall into the lie of showing partiality. Because in the Gospel, there is no partiality.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Church and Your Demon Faith

In my previous post ( ) I spoke pretty boldly concerning those who do not see a need for the local church to be deeply involved in their lives. So it only seemed fitting that I defend, from scripture, WHY it IS so important.

So we will string together a few texts: first James 2:14-26
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Without being exhaustive, James' obvious point here, is that you will produce works if you have true faith. To have faith apart from works, James implies, is to have a "demon faith". So your works are proof of a true faith, and works and faith are inseparable.

So now that we have established that faith and works must go hand-in-hand, what does this have to do with the Local Church? The author of Hebrews answers that for us:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
(Hebrews 10:19-31 ESV)
 Verse 24-25 is the third "let us" phrase used in this text. And it is interesting how the author links these three phrases with "sinning deliberately" in verse 26. The Local Church IS necessary to hold YOU accountable for your sins! The Local Church is necessary for you to be stirred towards "love and [the] good works [ that prove you do not have a demon faith]"!

So how does the Local Church do this? First, we cannot "neglect to meet together". The Church must regularly gather together in order to stir one another.

Second, we MUST be involved in one another's lives. How can we "stir one another" if we don't know one another? And how can we know one another if we are not around one another on a regular basis. You might ask yourself,"What's so bad about that?". And I would say, "Nothing...on the surface." But many times, this is where it gets messy for people. This is where they get nervous. "The people from the Church actually knowing all my mess?! No way!" But it's necessary; practically and biblically. It is necessary.

For you to claim faith in Christ and not be established in a Local Church that is continually investing deeply in your life, is to have a demon faith. For you to neglect meeting regularly with your local church is to have a demon faith. And for you to run when things get hard, or shut down because you're not comfortable with the church knowing you on a deep, intimate level and not being willing to work through that is to have a demon faith.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

For the Sake of the Church

Let's clear the air. The Church Universal is an undeniable force in Scripture. I know that God is omnipresent and all, but do we really think that Paul was referring to the multiple bodies of Christ in Ephesians 4:4? Did Christ's blood only obtain one local gathering in Ephesus? (Acts 20:28) Did Christ only have in mind one local gathering that "the gates of hell" would not prevail against? (Matthew 16:18) And what local church gets the honor of being the one that John saw coming down out of heaven? (Revelation 21:9-10)

The evidence of the universal church is irrefutable. But it doesn't end there.  The Church Universal is displayed in local assemblies across the earth, that gather regularly to worship the LORD in loving community together. The Universal Church is no substitute for this biblical reality in the lives of believers.

And this is where "the rubber meets the road". This wonderful thing has been laid out in Scripture. It sounds real good. But what does it look like? Sadly, the answer to that question; the display of the Universal Church in local assemblies is THE hardest part of the Christian walk. You thought it was your sanctification: You're right. You thought it was defending your faith: You're right. You thought it was evangelism: You're right. You thought it would be covenant marriage: You're right. You thought it was raising your kids in a Christ-Centered way: You're right. And these things are summed up in the Local Church. Without it, these things have no foundation, with Christ as the cornerstone.

So why this topic? Because "christians"  today are neglecting the Local Church in pursuit of their own agendas. Sure, they may be committed to something that claims that it is a local church. But is it functioning in a God-glorifying way, dictated by the Word of God? No. The Church that people actually want exists only in the world, not in scripture. People want a church that doesn't disciple; that doesn't hold them accountable; that doesn't preach the hard parts of scripture FAITHFULLY; that doesn't get involved in their lives in a way that pushes them closer to Jesus and away from sin. Now, everybody would say that this is what they want, but when push comes to shove, they're scared, timid, and too weak to handle it. So what do they do? They run or shut down. Then the question arises, if you have no desire to truly be involved in a local church, how can you know you know Jesus? And the truth is, you can't. Because all the fruits of the spirit can only be lived out in a local church setting. Without it, you have water, but no vessel to drink from.

So wake up "christians". Wake up "church". Wake up "pastors". Let us not be deceived. Let us "Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming [and is here] when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4:2-4)